Today is International Women’s Day, an opportunity to celebrate the role that women have played in shaping the world. Often conflict disproportionately affects women, as they are targets for sexual violence or are left without support if their families are killed. But this is not the only story.
Women are also powerful promoters of peace. Their voices and actions are driving peaceful solutions to conflict all around the world. Today, on International Women’s Day, we take a look at how women are building peace in their communities, and how we can support them.
In Zimbabwe we work to establish female-led community groups. These groups, in turn, train local leaders and the police force to resolve conflict peacefully in order to reduce violence in their communities. For largely female-led groups to gain the respect of local figures of authority and educate them on the benefits of peace is an incredible achievement. An achievement which is making a real difference to the lives of women and men in the villages. Through this female-led and community-based approach we are making strides not only in reducing and stopping violence, but in ensuring gender equality.
For over ten years, Dishani Jayaweera has been overcoming the inter-religious divides that have previously led to war in Sri Lanka. She has been gathering priests and monks from the divided Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim and Christian communities, getting them to face each other and recognise their common humanity. In doing so Dishani and her team have built trust and peace between previously divided communities. She has also set up multi-faith groups across Sri Lanka and works with women and youth to secure a more peaceful future. From small beginnings, Dishani has worked with determination and perseverance to build successful projects. Her tireless work is emblematic of what one female can achieve.
In DR Congo, we support women who have lived and suffered in war so they can build a tomorrow that’s brighter than today. Elodie’s story illuminates just how crucial women are to building a better future.
Elodie is raising three daughters in a village in the forests of DR Congo. The area has suffered from civil war for many years. Her husband was once a fighter in the bush. Afterwards he couldn’t get work and she was worried that poverty and a lack of jobs might lead him to re-join militia groups.
To keep her family together, Elodie started a small business from her home making and selling oil to her neighbours. But it wasn’t easy. Then she heard about a project that we are funding – a loan scheme for the wives of ex-fighters.
She borrowed £65 ($43) – a small sum to us, but a lifeline in Congo. She invested this in her business and it grew. Today she still works from home, but now she knows she can pay the rent, feed her family and pay for her children to go to school. Her husband delivers the oil, and together they dream of buying a piece of land to build their own home.
Championing women driving peace
These are just three inspirational examples of the crucial role women play in driving peace around the world. But there are so many more. Let’s take today to praise the work of inspirational leaders like Dishani, champion female-led groups and reflect on the story of Elodie. We should all recognise the huge impact women have on peace in their communities, and use this opportunity to reflect on what we can do in our own.
This International Women’s Day how will you champion the women who are building peace around the world?