Women in the Process

January 22, 2007 at 8:40 am 1 comment

The first event I attended yesterday was

Peace Women across the Globe:
What do we want from the World Social Forum?

Speakers from different continents agreed on the problem:

‘War is a result of the global economy, which is the biggest fundamentalism of all: the focus on profit rather than people. And too many people believe there is no alternative to greed.

But there is an alternative. For women of peace, this violent world is not ours. We, who are the custodians of life, are already living another world. We need to deliver that vision to everyone, we want to see a completely different mindset.’

‘We want to establish a broader definition of peace, not just ‘the absence of war.’ Peace includes women’s rights, justice, health, education, governance, cultural expression and more.’

The discussion, organised by Peace Women Across the Globe and the Coalition for Peace in Africa took place in an open tent. There was no microphone and women’s words were sometimes carried away in the wind.

Yet as a process it worked very well. It was facilitated by a young Muslim woman wearing the hijab. There were rousing chants from time to time to energise us. Kenyan women from grassroots communities and minority groups had the confidence to stand up and make comments in their own language. The speakers, who had only recently met at a preparation workshop in Delhi, embraced each other. In the middle of the session, a delegation of women from the Great Lakes region approached with their banner, singing a song against the evils of war, and joined in the debate.

I noticed there were some men in the audience. It transpired they were interpreters (English-Swahili-French-Spanish) who sat beside participants to help when needed. They were obviously very engaged in the issues.

The session also came up with concrete suggestions. They intend to lobby the World Social Forum to adopt the first principle of Security Council Resolution 1325: equal participation of women at all levels of decision-making.

There is still a long way to go. Conflict and violence affect the lives of many women and their families in Africa. ‘Men also suffer, but their suffering has an additional impact on women.’ And 2007 is election year in Kenya: local women are afraid this will turn nasty. ‘How do we organise ourselves better to prevent it?’

There are a number of women’s peace coalitions at the forum and their sessions will culminate in collective action-planning on Wednesday. Despite the scale of the task, there is a sense of passion and energy – and hope – in this connection between peace women across the globe.

As women, we feel that food should never be traded

In contrast at the event run by Friedrich Ebert Stiftung on gender, food, agriculture and trade, there were microphones to pass round so that everyone’s comments could be heard. I missed the presentations, but the discussion was wide-ranging and pointed, with contributions from both women and men (there was a 50.50 audience).

One participant put up an argument for including governments and international finance institutions like the World Bank in these dialogues – since it is they who call the tune.

Women from Africa and Central America highlighted poor development decisions made by donor-government partnerships – which adversely affect people’s livelihoods, with resulting polarisation between government and civil society and increased state violence.

Unfortunately, when the panellists came to sum up, there was not much to suggest as regards practical action, apart from social mobilisation against adverse policies.

While the German speaker claimed that ‘Germany takes the WSF very seriously’ he held to the position of major donor strategies, such as alignment with national government priorities. He did not seem to have considered what participants were saying about their own experiences and had not recognised the question posed earlier: ‘what is Germany’s interest here in relation to her own trade liberalisation?’

In the end, although the exchange of experiences was useful, this session went around the status quo in circles, rather than visioning the future.

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Entry filed under: Human rights and dignity, Peace and justice.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. David Winsor  |  January 22, 2007 at 12:38 pm

    i like the fac there is a woman related blog you dont often find them. no more war!

    Reply

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