Women for peace and security / Sarit Bloom

In 2000 the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1325 which stresses the importance of women’s participation in centres of decision making in order to advance solutions to violent conflicts. The background to the Resolution is the understanding, based on studies and examples from around the world, which shows the influence women’s participation has on the negotiation process, leading to a much greater chance of long lasting agreements.

In the next two years, under the umbrella of this Resolution, nine women’s seminars will be held in Israel as part of a new and unique project. Some 500 women from diverse Israeli groups and sectors, women of different backgrounds presenting a variety of voices will be gathering together at these seminars which aim to provide a platform for the exchange of ideas concerning peace and security. The organisers hope to stimulate a discourse from which women are usually excluded. The objective is to allow this dialogue to continue long after the seminars have ended by the initiation of public and communal activities to stimulate women’s participation.

The organisations taking part in this project are –

ITACH مَعَ كِ – Women Lawyers for Social Justice who work to advance women’s rights and to encourage women’s voices in the public and legal domains.

ADAM Institute – a national educational organisation working towards the advancement of democracy, peace and respect of human and citizen rights.

Women Wage Peace – a field movement voicing women’s concerns and calling for a political peace solution.

This May, this year, 50 women gathered at The Zipori Centre in Jerusalem for the first seminar. We arrived full of anticipation, enthusiasm and a strong wish to study, to understand and to find a way forward in order to change the political agenda and the public discourse within it. We were warmly welcomed – coffee and cakes waiting for us.

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It was a unique encounter of women from the north and the south, from cities, villages and kibbutzim, secular, religious and Arab women, from the left, the centre and the right of the political spectrum, women who brought with them an array of professions and knowledge. Our discourse was earnest, open and encompassing. The workshops introduced us to new information, historical events, information on the conflict and its origin, on peace and equality. Mainly, though, it presented us with different points of view, some original, some fascinating and sometimes challenging. The feminine perspective took centre place, highlighting the need to think about those different to us, about civil rights, freedom of movement and freedom of choice and to understand what issues need to be tackled when the discourse is around the subject of Peace.

The expectations from us, the participants, and from the organisers were high and the will to act even higher. The subjects discussed were weighty, such as the end of the occupation, the improvement of Israel’s democracy, healthy sex education, bringing together Israelis and Palestinians, self-empowerment, influencing the lack of tolerance in Israel towards opinions which are not the accepted norm, improving Israel’s image, citizens’ rights, learning Arabic, improving  public information [Hasbara] and abolishing racism.  In short, getting out of the rut in which the country finds itself at the moment. But not everything was solemn – the social evening drew on the participants’ humorous side and we all laughed and had a good time.

We heard some interesting lectures. The lawyer Netta Levy – responsible for the advancement and implementation of UN Resolution 1325 – spoke about the Resolution and the need to involve women in the process of peace and security. Resolution 1325 supports equal representation of women from different groups in all centres of decision making, especially where foreign and security policies are made. It supports the protection of women from all kinds of violent acts and encourages the inclusion of gender perspectives in all decision making processes when trying to prevent conflicts.

In light of the on-going Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the low women representation in centres of decision making, Resolution 1325 is extremely relevant to Israel today. A step towards implementing the Resolution in Israel was initiated by Itach movement in 2012. The plan, which was presented in 2013, includes the representation of various women’s groups in government offices and inside the different bodies whose work relates to security and foreign issues, the absorption of gender analysis in all centres of decision making, protecting women from all types of violence both in the private and the public domains, preventing violent conflicts and abolishing racism.

Over the years women’s organisations have managed to make some headways towards improving women’s representation in centres of decision making, but there is still a lot of work to be done in order to achieve real change and progress and long lasting peace.

Tammi Molad Hayo – a journalist and social activist – spoke about using media for advancing peace. She stressed the importance of having clear mutual goals, a common vision and common messages and, what’s more important, in my opinion, how crucial it is to identify others’ barriers to accepting our opinion and to learn how to tackle such barriers.

The weekend was inspirational. I believe the participants came out with the feeling that we are not alone. There is much willingness amongst many women to bring about change and to improve our own lives and the lives of our neighbours. I believe that if we were to harness and channel this energy, this willingness and the knowledge we have, we could turn the little ripples, which each of us can create in her immediate circle, into a vast tsunami wave which will bring about the change for good in the country we all wish to live in.

                                                                                          Sarit Bloom

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