«Women Lead to Peace Summit» Round Table in the run-up to the UN Peace Talks on Syria

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The experience of women in war has been documented, reported, and acknowledged but still they are largely forgotten when it comes to discussing peace and the future of the state. This is a pattern which repeats itself in the Syrian conflict and which many, including some member states, are trying to redress.

As in all conflicts, the perspective and contributions of women are essential in any effort to end violence and promote a sustainable resolution and a democratic and just peace for the country.

The goal of the «Women Lead to Peace Summit» was to explore the realities of war with its gendered dimension and to find out what it meant to include the concerns of the communities most affected by the war.

Nobel Laureates Shirin Ebadi and Mairead Maguire, and Cynthia Enloe, renowned writer on gender and militarism spoke about  Liberia, the Balkans, Colombia and Sri Lanka as well as Northern Ireland, and of course Syria.

Director for UN Relations Carolyn Handschin with delegates from the National Union of Saharan Women

UN Director for UN Relations with delegates of the National Union of Saharan Women

The discussion was divided into three different parts:

  • «From war to a treaty and holding on to peace»
    Participants: Luz Mendez (Guatemala), Visaka Dharmadasa (Sri Lanka), Chaba Siny (Western Sahara), Mairead Maguire (Northern Ireland), Ann Patterson (Northern Ireland).

This first part was about exchanging experiences of the past. Luz Mendez told the audience about her experience being the only woman at the table with 35 men after the end of the revolutionary fights in her country. She pointed out very clearly, that although women have strong leadership positions in the state and government, violence against women is increasing, and impunity of rape, trafficking or even femicide is still quite common.

Another impressive witness was Visaka Dhamardasa from Sri Lanka, one of the 1000 PeaceWomen. She facilitated Track II dialogue processes in Sri Lanka, bringing together influential civil society leaders with military representatives, working to end the civil war, which has had a stranglehold over Sri Lanka for many years.

Chaba Siny from Western Sahara expressed her displeasure that the women as a whole had been forgotten during the peace talks and that the National Union of Saharan Women wanted to be heard.

  • «The realities of war: experiences of conflict and its gendered assumptions»
    The panel included Rim Turkmani, Wafa Khouri, Hala Kutaish and Lina Toutoungi.

This second round table was more related to the current situation of Syrian women. Dr. Rim Turkmani said that she was taken aback by the fact that the UN is not sending mediators.

  • «The participation of women in Geneva II peace talks and beyond: modalities of how to break the confrontational narrative»,
    Participants included Madeleine Rees (WILPF), Lena Ag (Kvinna till Kvinna), Ann Wright (CODEPINK), Marie-Aude Carrier (Femmes Internationales – Murs Brises), Cigdem Yorgancioglu.

The last part focused on the participation of women in the Geneva II peace talks. Mouna Ghanem, part of the UN-Delegation that was invited to participate in the peace talks, gave an impressing insight of a road map of 7 points, being worked out at a conference with sixty women at the Al-fardous hotel in Damascus. It is fundamental to her that women have to be involved in discussions of peace keeping policies and gender sensitive capacity building.

Author: Meike Sahling, Director of PWAG

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