Celebrating female peacebuilders: Rasha’s story

On International Women’s Day, we spoke to the coordinator of one of our local peacebuilding partners, Rasha Ahmed from Collaborative for Peace in Sudan (CfPS), about why women’s participation in peacebuilding is important, and what International Women’s Day means to her.

Why is women’s participation in peacebuilding important?

In Sudan and in Africa in general, war disrupts the lives of women in many ways. There are risks to life and property. They are subjected to gender-based violence as a weapon of war. The number of female-headed households has become so huge (some estimates place it at around 50%) that they are visible everywhere, from courts of laws to the streets where they sell food and tea to provide for a family whose male providers disappeared due to conflict.

I believe women’s presence in peacebuilding is important because they hold the keys to the whole community and are thus the best entry point for any intervention. Women in my country make it easier to open channels of communication that pave the way for building a popular base for peace.

“Women’s presence in peacebuilding is important because they hold keys to the whole society and are thus the best entry point for any intervention.”

Poverty, insecurity, deterioration of environment, death and injury, bad governance, disruption to the provision of basic services, disrupting the social fabric  – to other causes of conflict, all work against women. Women are the real beneficiaries of peace and its sustainability and are therefore the most likely to fend for it.

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

To me, International Women’s Day is a reminder for all to do what they can to truly make a positive difference for women. It also is a global day to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. As we work in the NGO world to help seed a culture of peace, I believe no peacebuilder could be neutral about the philosophy of celebrating a women’s day.

Coming recently from a business trip in rural areas, I saw how women suffer from the issues which remained with us for over 60 years: poverty, lack of development, conflict, irresponsible political elite (overwhelmingly male, of course) and bad governance. I saw them walk several miles to fetch water and firewood. I heard their sad stories of how many abortion incidents affected friends and relatives. I wondered about the primitive healthcare facilities.

As a female peacebuilder, I think of how peace and women are related. Women win when peace is established. Socio-economic and cultural development occurs so women can prosper.

“On women’s day, as a female peacebuilder, I think of how peace and women are related. Women win when peace is established. Socio-economic and cultural development occurs so women can prosper.”

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