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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.”
  4. Women have been using consensus-based approaches to interactions for centuries–millennia.
  5. 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


Lynn C.
Lynn C4 years ago

thanks for the good comments!

Dave C.
David C4 years ago

Personally I think if more women were leaders we would have more peace, but not all women are perfect either.......

Valentina R.
Valentina R5 years ago

Janine H: "both, men and women can be very violent, greedy, egoistic,..."

True, but it's usually the males who are more violent and evil. Fact. See everything, from animal to domestic abuse and war. We don't often hear about a woman raping a man, do we?

Richard Zane Smith

I might add,
though wendat had skirmishes with neighboring tribes(Iroquoian) that sometimes led to some wounding some violence,and occaisional death, it was NEVER massive killing sprees until europeans came and spread the infection of greed and the weapons in which one could kill at a distance. Skirmishing was used to train men to be alert,brave,and fearless,the kind of leaders a matriarch looked for in representing her clan. in the village and national meetings.
With some exceptions Wendat were mostly traders with all the smaller tribes that surrounded them and often these algonquin tribes would winter with the wendat in their larger villages.

Richard Zane Smith

In the 1600s There were distinct roles of the sexes. Women were the core of society. Men(taking advantage of an aggressive nature) were their spokesmen,their defenders and the hunters.
so men were the protective "skin and skull" around the "brain". Because this system worked so well and villages solved their own conflicts,there was rarely any feuds ,and NEVER imprisonments.
I'll stop here, but i think its time to look at the older more sustainable life ways as we redesign the future and progress from more violent conquest based patriarchalism.

Richard Zane Smith

thanks to Jytte,
for letting me know about this discussion...and though its from last year the issues are obviously not going away and need continual discussion.

Coming from an ancestry of Matriarchal lifeways that existed for hundreds of years,if not thousands as our elders say...it might be time to look at matriarchal systems closer.

Our Wendat(Huron Confederacy) was organized by a clan system, each clan was headed by matriarchs. These women were not RULERS as we might assume....but they had power unlike any systems that exist today. Each villages clan mothers chose the men who would represent their clan at all meetings. If the man was representing well his particular clan, he continued. If he failed at this duty ,a clan mother could remove him from office and appoint another.
(I think this is important, and it assured that the PEOPLE were always being represented)

Women OWNED the fields, village site, the longhouses, basically all property. THEY worked those fields, did an amazing amount of physical work, AND of course they were the Life bearers of the village, their nation and the confederacy of nations.(the "Huron" Confederacy)

even in our language everything is described using the feminine Zoic, the feminine Indefinite, the non-masculine, and then there is the masculine. feminine describe all nature,unless one was referring to a specific male (ex. a male bear)

In the 1600s There were distinct roles of the sexes. Women were the core of society. Men(takin

Janine H.
Janine H6 years ago

both, men and women can be very violent, greedy, egoistic,...

"Only when the last tree has been cut down; Only when the last river has been poisoned; Only when the last fish has been caught; Only then will you find that money cannot be eaten."
(Native American proverb)

"We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish, but we have not yet learned the simple art of living together as brothers." (Martin Luther King)

Charles Webb
Charles Webb6 years ago

Women can be more brutal and back-stabbing than men. I said CAN BE.

Catherine G.
Past Member 7 years ago

No! Remeber Margaret Thatcher and the Falklands war, the poll tax, the miners strike etc

larisa g.
Past Member 7 years ago

Look at the history... do you really believe that female leaders were less involeving their countries in the wars? Nope!