Celebrating women voices for peace

Sunday 8 March 2015 is International Women’s Day. Women in conflict is a topic that gets much attention – often for the disproportionate effects that war, violence and conflict have on women as victims. But this is not the only story. While it is true that women are often disproportionately affected by conflict, they are also some of the most powerful voices for peace.

gulalai-sqSunday 8 March 2015 is International Women’s Day. Women in conflict is a topic that gets much attention – often for the disproportionate effects that war, violence and conflict have on women as victims. But this is not the only story. While it is true that women are often disproportionately affected by conflict, they are also some of the most powerful voices for peace.

Gulalai Ismail was just 16 when she set up Aware Girls, a peacebuilding organisation that runs programmes and services to foster peace and counter radicalisation in one of the most conservative regions in Pakistan. In Gulalai’s own words: “Women are not only victims of conflict, they are drivers of peace. Women’s voices must be heard if peace is to last.” Gulalai is a powerful example of this.  Her organisation trains young people as peace activists, builds partnerships with schools and universities to prevent young people joining extremist groups, and has developed a teaching curriculum for conflict analysis and resolution. It has grown to be so successful that it has expanded across the border to Afghanistan.

Dishani Jayaweera co-founded the Centre for Peacebuilding and Reconciliation (CPBR) in Sri Lanka to work with young people and religious clergy to overcome post-war tensions in their country. Her work has won prestigious peacebuilding awards and her Young Visionaries programme has trained over 200 young people to overcome ethnic divides in their communities. Her most recent project highlights specifically the role of women in Sri Lankan society. In this project, groups of women can make films to make their voices heard and to increase participation in local decision-making processes. The first theme, ‘Women in our Village’, portrays women in everyday situations, documents their experiences of war and loss, but also captures their grit and resilience – and highlights their hopes for a peaceful future. The projection of these voices, from the local village to the national stage to the international arena, is what will create lasting change.

These are just three examples of peace built by women, with women and for women – but which benefit entire societies. It is this inclusive approach, based in grassroots change, that makes their work so successful. We are very proud to be working with these powerful voices for peace across the globe. They are an example of strength, courage and determination for women living and working in conflict everywhere in the world. And we are proud that we can share and support their incredible work.

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