Want peace? Add women.
by Molly Mayfield Barbee, Executive Director, Peace X Peace
For those of us prone to anxiety, during times like these, it might just be best to look away from the news. With international financial markets nearly collapsing overnight, crude oil still spewing into the Gulf of Mexico, and the second bomb scare to clear Times Square in a week–it’s hard for me to imagine conditions that would raise my hypertension levels any higher. (And if you can, please take pity, and hold your tongue. I’ve had enough for today.)
The world is not in balance. The truth is: that’s not new. Today’s headlines reinforce something those of us working for justice, peace, and positive change know well. We are vulnerable. We are connected. On this small blue planet, one nation’s — one person’s — tragedy can affect us all. So what’s a well-intentioned, but stressed-out and worried-about-the-state-of-things, woman to do?
For starters: breathe. All the bad news won’t go away even if I throw myself 110 percent into trying to make it stop. What I can do right now, though, is take a breath and get centered. Peace starts within.
Once I’ve calmed down enough I usually remember that I’m not alone. Not only am I not alone in my neuroses about the state of things, but I’m not alone as a person who cares and wants to make things better. Peace grows in person-to-person connections.
As much as it gives me comfort to read and hear the voices of other women who share my concerns and have ideas and solutions to try, I know that my voice also matters. To bring the world back in balance, we need a balanced movement — a swelling, a wave, that lifts up perspectives and experiences from people at all levels of society around the world and highlights solutions that otherwise would go unheard, unheeded. Each voice matters.
It’s right about then the little voice in my head pipes up again, ‘But women have been silenced! They’ve been ignored. Decision-makers at the international level are overwhelmingly male and historically, they have not accounted for women’s unique needs or contributions.’ And the little voice is right, of course. Women have not achieved parity with men in any country in the world. United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 acknowledged in 2000 that, in addition to inequality in peaceful times, in conflict, women and children suffer most. They are the first to lose, and the last to gain.
It stands to reason, therefore, that women have a particular stake in building peace. Not only that, women are uniquely positioned to contribute to sustainable peace:
- Women influence their households. They are often the driving force behind major decisions in families regarding societal and political choices. The stories they tell their children can perpetuate conflict, or perpetuate peace. They can choose to foster a culture of peace at home.
- Women persevere at the negotiating tables, even after their counterparts have long since given up. Fatima Gailani in Afghanistan and Leymah Gbowee in Liberia are examples of tireless women making substantive change.
- Women have a tendency to “tend and befriend,” expanding our initial hypothesis that when faced with a conflict, humans will always have to choose between “fight or flight.”
- Women have been using consensus-based approaches to interactions for centuries–millennia.
- Feminine and masculine attributes are present in each person, each group, each society. Women alone do not hold a magic potion for peace; but they can teach others to value both sets of attributes, and in that way, they hold the key to finding balance.
So in times like these, I take heart that despite the chaos and violence around me, there are solutions to the world’s problems out there. They’re out there, and in here! And women have been using them in their local communities since the beginning of history. But they’re not yet being heard, represented or valued. At least not yet enough.
There can be no peace without women’s active participation in the processes. At Peace X Peace, we’re raising women’s voices to build cultures of peace. Our network of more than 17,000 member/subscribers in 100+ countries is a community of peacebuilders bringing to light those stories, lessons and ideas that have been overlooked in traditional peace processes. We’re delivering those experiences and perspectives to a global audience through online publications, e-media and networks. We lift up those who didn’t know they had a say — and amplify their voices to the world. Peace multiplies through platforms for connection and communication across cultures.
What’s your take? Mainstream news getting you down? Where do you go to find those ‘good news’ stories? What’s your opinion on what women have to do with peace? Please share your PEACE in the comments section of this post.
photo credit: thanks to Eddi 07 via flick for the image