Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Diplomacy And Peace-Building: Women’s voices must be heard

Written by Astghik Injeyan, Armenian Atlantic Association

Do not look at us as victims, but treat us as guardians of peace and harmony…

Women suffered greatly during the wars, where their children and husbands were killed, they were raped, tortured, left homeless and abandoned. But even in such circumstances women didn’t lose their hope and fought for their families, for people they didn’t know and for their nations.

There is a monument in Yerevan, the city where I am living, called Mother Armenia, which represents a woman warrior with a sword in her hands, watching the city from the high point. Inside this huge monument there is a military museum: “Armenians in the World War II” and “Artsakh War in 1988-1994”. This monument symbolizes Armenian women protecting their children and values with arms on their hands while husbands and sons fighting for their families and homeland.

We are, arguably, a nation nurtured by women. The most touching last paragraph of Yegishe’s History of Vardan and the Armenian War[1] describe Armenia depleted of its men and soldiers, and action of women in this tragic reality. “The bridal chambers of young girls became empty, the widowed became again as virtuous brides, and even the noble women of Armenia, who had been brought up in luxury and petted in costly clothing and on soft couches, went untiringly to the houses of prayer, on foot and bare-footed, asking with vows that they might be enabled to endure their great affliction“.

It was the principles and stories of our ancestress that the new generation of Armenian men was raised on. The Armenian mother, remaining pure and untainted at home, was charged with giving the future generation the gifts of our culture in order to protect from the mixture with non-religious nations. Apparently, the lessons Armenian mothers taught their kids were not forgotten through the years.

Time passed and Armenian women saw lot of suffering. During Artsakh war there were women who forgot everything and rushed to join their brothers in the border.

The story of our women has a paradoxical narrative. On the one hand, they have been subject to backwardness at best and violence at worst, and on the other hand, the monumental role they have played in our nation’s life has always been applauded.

International organizations are slowly recognizing the indispensable role that women play in preventing war and sustaining peace. On October 31, 2000, the United Nations Security Council issued Resolution 1325 urging the secretary-general to expand the role of women in U.N. field-based operations, especially among military observers, civilian police, human rights workers and humanitarian personnel. It is important to mention that NATO and its Partners are taking concerted action to support implementation of UNSCR 1325[2].

Women universally bear the burden of taking daily care for their families and communities and they are the primate stakeholders with interest in community stability, so they play important roles in peace-building in unofficial ways. Some women are peace activists advocating for non-violence, others are mediators, educators or facilitators of capacity-building. Women often bridge divides across traditional ethnic, religious and cultural divisions, coming together on the shared concerns about practicalities of life.

The security has become a key area where NGOs, Think Tanks, civil society and donors can engage Government on issues pertaining to the empowering women. Women are crucial to inclusive security, since they are often at the center of nongovernmental organizations, popular protests, electoral referendums, and other citizen-empowering movements whose influence has grown with the global spread of democracy.

Women are active in Track Two diplomacy[3], informal peace protests, community dialogue, promoting intercultural tolerance and in practical peace initiatives. However, they are absolutely deprived from participation in formal peace negotiations. One of the key issues in Armenia and in the entire region that requires consistent efforts of the governments, civil societies and development partners, remains the involvement of women in conflict resolution and peace process. Many power-driven projects are initiated where women are actively involved. However, women remain alienated from the real decision making processes. These projects generate huge amount of important ideas and results, which are diminishing, as they are not used and heard. That’s why it’s time to stream the results of Track Two into Track One diplomacy[4]. Women can play significant role of the agents for change in their societies in conflict for transformation, confidence building and reconciliation.

Bringing women to the peace table and including them in formal processes is a must. There is strong need to engage women in Track One Diplomacy and increase the number of women at decision-making levels in national, regional and International institutions involved in preventing, managing and resolving conflicts.

Women’s voices should be heard in important decisions; they should be given opportunity to use their experiences to help prevent future generations from suffering the same issues.

As part of the Alliance’s comprehensive approach, there is a need to seek maximum cooperation with all involved International actors, particularly in the area of training and education.

Being the educators of their children, women must be empowered, as they are growing our future and successor generation, with understanding of moral values within the home, in their communities and in society.

Women need to be secured, in order to give birth and grow up our future generation.

[1] Eghishe (AD 410 – 475) Armenian historian. He was the author of a history documenting the successful revolt of the Armenians in the 5th century against the rule and religion of the Sassanid Persians.

[3] Track 2 diplomacy is a specific kind of informal diplomacy, in which non-officials (academic scholars, retired civil and military officials, public figures, and social activists) engage in dialogue, with the aim of conflict resolution, or confidence-building.

[4] Track 1 diplomacy- official diplomacy


Kristina said...

Kristina said...

DBennett said...

After Tirana it seems that your desire for greater female representation is being realized in our generation, at least in the Atlantic community. I think the YATA delegates were split about 50/50 men/women. I'm not sure what the statistics are in Europe, but in the US you can expect to see more women in decision making positions in the coming decades. Around 60% of college graduates are women and the same is true of young professionals