Posted by Peace Direct on
Image credit: Photo from Afghanistan Youth Leaders Assembly.
Since the onset of the global pandemic, we have supported local peacebuilding groups to take their work online, awarding over 230 grants as part of a Digital Inclusion Fund. Many of these grants went to women’s groups. This International Women’s Day, we celebrate the female peacebuilders who have kept their work going through challenging times.
In many places, the impact of COVID-19 has made conflict worse. Women survivors of war face increased emotional stress and economic strain. When schools and businesses closed, many women and girls found themselves confined with their perpetrators. During periods of lockdown, cases of domestic violence rose around the world.
Despite the added challenges to their work and their lives, female peacebuilders have continued their work, often in trying circumstances.
This International Women’s Day, we celebrate the achievements of female peacebuilders.
Local organisations are using technology to support survivors or violence, uphold women’s rights, fight against gender-based violence, and raise awareness about the role that women can play in peacebuilding.
Here are five organisations choosing to challenge and call out gender inequality and violence against women and girls:
With support from the Digital Inclusion Fund, a women-led network in Israel called Women Wage Peace brought together over 170 female activists of different faiths, cultures and nationalities online. They all shared a common aim: non-violence between Israelis and Palestinians. The fund enabled them to purchase a new laptop, and Zoom accounts to connect and keep working.
One of the organisers said:
“We were supposed to have a face-to-face meeting during March, but had to adapt it to Zoom. It was very challenging, but we made it happen, and since then we had countless meetings. We are determined to keep waging peace even during COVID-19 times. We are not stopping!”
In Haiti, the Haiti Adolescent Girls Network (HAGN) are working to make peace inclusive. Their focus is on building girls’ skills in preventing violence and conflict in their communities, especially those with disabilities. COVID-19 meant that weekly visits were restricted due to lockdown, and group meetings were discontinued. This interruption in face-to-face activities threatened the safety of the young women HAGN is working with, and halted training opportunities to learn about peacebuilding.
Thanks to the Fund, they have been able to provide remote support and weekly group meetings online. Thanks to phones purchased through the Fund, 15 girls with hearing impairments were able to participate remotely in HAGN’s activities. Using sign language, many of them said that the phone they received made it possible for them to see themselves as normal people. Now, they can communicate with their mentors when they want, and won’t miss out on the messages that are intended for all girls participating in the program.
In Cameroon, Hope for a Better Future (H4BF) conducts community awareness work on gender-based violence, peacebuilding, and health. With their grant, they were able to purchase sound recording instruments to produce their programmes in local languages to be played on local radios. This has drastically reduced production costs normally spent on expensive recording studios, and made this work safer for women. Female staff used to travel long distances in the middle of the night to record in commercial recording studios, often on dangerous routes. Their community awareness work now continues safely.
One of the HFBF team described the young people they work with:
“At H4BF, they are empowered by building on their optimism and courage and helping them find their voice and passions. We encourage them to give back to their communities and to stand up for those in need. Above all, they are taught to follow their own paths, and that even the smallest acts can make the world a better place. Our graduates spread our mission to be a force to unite people for peace and a sustainable future.”
In 2020, the Afghanistan Youth Leaders Assembly (AYLA) supported training opportunities for emerging leaders in different parts of Afghanistan. In July, they conducted a two-day Peace Summit on Zoom for 50 Afghan Women. The women were able to get set up with internet packages to participate in the summit.
One participant of the virtual summit said:
“I’ve learnt so many things from guest speakers regarding peace and the roles of women in peace process and all the aspects of life. I know that peace won’t come from either Americans or from theTaliban. We can bring it. altogether So, we must keep up the good work as always. I’m impressed that I could hear even one word from these outstanding guest speakers and wonderful participants…This precious program was effective for us, and I’m eagerly waiting for your other programs to raise Afghan women’s voices high.”
In Nigeria, the United Network of Youth for Peace and Diplomacy (UNYPD) works with young people to prevent violence. In 2020, they offered peacebuilding training, human rights training and activism training, but COVID-19 put a stop to their in-person activities.
According to one of the organisers:
“The Funding was really helpful to my organization. Due to the Coronavirus, there were restrictions on physical gatherings…Through the funding, my organization was able to purchase a Zoom subscription to virtually launch and mentor volunteers for the Young Women Teaching Peace program for one month which we had planned earlier before the outbreak of Coronavirus in Nigeria. The funding supported us to purchase data for internet access which we were seriously lacking at the time.”
Since their training, four volunteers have used the skills and knowledge developed in the Young Women Teaching Peace program to start their own peace clubs in their communities. They now organize their own monthly peace club meeting to empower young women and girls. During the sessions, they discuss women’s rights, the prevention of gender-based violence and the role of women in peacebuilding.
This International Women’s Day, we celebrate all the women building peace around the world. These five groups are choosing to challenge inequality and injustice. You can do the same by supporting the lifesaving work of peacebuilders with a donation today.
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