Over recent months, the world has witnessed a number of significant events unfold in rapid succession, leaving us with a feeling of uncertainty about the future. Nevertheless, during these momentous and transitional periods, we must remind ourselves of the core values entrenched in non-violent peace movements: "be the change you want to see in the world" (M. Gandhi). In these times, we have been inspired by the persistence and momentum of non-violent speakers, preachers and practitioners. WILPF members and projects continue to provide an alternative movement of women for peace.
Since May 2, 2011, the international media has been consumed with the death of Osama bin Laden, which took place in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Despite its significance, this event will not change the reality of women affected by war in Pakistan or Afghanistan. This ENews focuses on the region, particularly Pakistan, from an overlooked perspective – a women's rights perspective. Read more in WILPF's statement on the killing of Osama bin Laden.
We feature news articles focusing on women's rights in Pakistan. First, we highlight Mukhtar Mai, a rape victim who became an international figure in the fight for women's rights. Mai pressed charges against the men who gang raped her in 2002 but failed to find justice when Pakistani courts overturned the death sentences for the 5 men, citing lack of evidence and reducing one perpetrator's sentence to life in prison. Second, we focus on the recipient of the International Women of Courage Award in Pakistan. Through her experience and struggles, the recipient realized that education was the only medicine for women to fight against harassment and inertia. As a result, she started the Marvi Rural Development Organisation (MRDO) in 2001 to empower women living in rural areas. Today the organisation is working in 500 villages in interior Sindh.
This past March WILPF held its annual seminar in Geneva, Switzerland. During the seminar, Sameena Nazir, director of the Potohar Organisation for Development Advocacy (PODA) in Pakistan, presented on the reality of militarisation and internal insecurity in Pakistan, including its impact on women and the fight for gender equality (Read more in the Conference Report). WILPF stands in solidarity with our sisters in Pakistan who work to improve and protect education, and the rights and livelihoods of women. PODA's work includes capacity building training for rural women teachers, mobilization and facilitation for women in rural areas seeking a national identity card, and more recently PODA participated in a rally to show solidarity with Mukhtaran Mai. PODA also joined the National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) to issue a statement about the case.
Information can be transformative. The use of technology, including social media and the internet, has become a strong feature in the revolutions of the ‘Arab Spring' for awareness raising, advocacy efforts and collective action. As a project of WILPF International, PeaceWomen has been committed to the power of information and awareness-raising for 10 years. Since we re-launched our website platform one year ago, we have had visits from over 220 countries/territories and more than 405,527 page views. We have also recently launched the first ever Women, Peace and Security iPhone application based on our Security Council work.
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Name: Stephanie Bloom
Position: WILPF, PeaceWomen Project Intern
Stephanie Bloom is originally from Wyckoff, New Jersey, a small suburb outside of New York City. While she always considered herself politically and socially conscious, it was not until she attended college that she became completely impassioned by global affairs. After taking “Critical Issues in World Politics” and “Women's Studies” her first semester of university, she was instantly enthralled. Soon after, she began to draw connections and parallels between women's interests and international affairs. Stephanie received her Bachelor's Degree (B.A.) with honors from Skidmore College in Government and Women's Studies, with a concentration in comparative politics. She is currently attending Columbia University, where she is working towards her Masters Degree in Human Rights, with a focus on women's rights in sub-Saharan Africa. She is most interested in how development policies impact women on the ground, and in turn, how women can influence the ways in which local, state, and international policies are conducted. She became interested in the African region after she studied abroad in South Africa her junior year of college, which also afforded her the opportunity to travel to numerous other African countries in the region.
She recently earned a fellowship to travel to Ghana this summer, where she will be working on a community development project that combines women's empowerment with sustainable environmental practices. Stephanie has been working at PeaceWomen since September 2010 and credits PeaceWomen and WILPF for strengthening her interest in women in conflict zones, and teaching her so much about global governance, the United Nations system, and the unique, important, and surely indispensable, role that women play in international peace and security. She hopes to one day work for a development agency or do advocacy for an international women's organization, much like PeaceWomen.
This year's spring has meant full activity for us at the WILPF Sweden section. April was initiated with an ATT seminar at the parliament. It was a unique event, since it gathered representatives from government, business and civil society sector. Our Secretary General Petra Tötterman Andorff was one of the panel speakers, and she contributed with a gendered perspective on disarmament issues. She raised the question whether security within the ATT context should be thought of as military or human.
Women, Peace and Disarmament (WPD) day takes places on May 24th – WILPF Sweden will be organizing a reading of the famous play “Seven” which portrays the experiences of seven women's rights activists from different cultural backgrounds. One of the women is Inez McCormack, who has been working with the advancement of women's rights and social justice issues since the early 60's in Northern Ireland. She will be visiting Sweden a week prior to WPD-day. The office will be hosting a dialogue between Inez McCormack and the Swedish author Louise Boije af Gennäs, who will portray the role of McCormack in the reading of “Seven”.
The office is preparing for the political week in Almedalen. It is an annual political gathering that brings politicians and civil society together through seminars, speeches and other political activities. Last year they arranged a seminar between WILPF's Secretary General Madeleine Rees and UNSRSG Margot Wallström, among others. Almedalen week is a very important forum in Swedish politics and the WILPF Sweden section participate in collaboration with several other political actors by organizing “Security Policy Summer Forum”. This year's seminar will focus on armed violence against women. Please click here view the seminar online.
Reaching Critical Will
The UN Disarmament Commission 2011 session closed on 21 April without any substantive recommendations. Find out what happened wih the RCW blog. Also check out statements and papers. Reaching Critical Will co-sponsored an event on NATO and nuclear weapons with IKV Pax Christi on 3 May at the Church Center for the United Nations in New York.
From 9 to 13 May 2011, states will gather for the first time in an open-ended meeting of government experts (MGE) to address key implementation challenges and opportunities in the UN small arms process. This particular MGE will focus on the marking and tracing of small arms and light weapons, in accordance with the International Tracing Instrument. Check out the UN official page and keep up with NGO monitoring on RCW's site.
This month's upcoming Open Debate that will be monitored for Women, Peace and Security themes is:
To view the full calendar for the Security Council, please visit our Monthly Calender
Under Security Council Monitor, we have created a new sub-section "About Women, Peace and Security agenda in the Security Council" to provide some further background information.
Please visit this section:
About Women, Peace and Security agenda in the Security Council
UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet
Democracy & Gender Equality Roundtable in New York – 4 May 2011
UN Women Strategy
This month, UN Women released their Strategic Plan. The final draft of the plan must be finished by May 16th in order to be translated and go to the Executive Board meeting the last week of June for its approval. This is the framework of the global strategic plan and civil society can expect that the regional and national level plans for UN Women will begin to be developed around July-September. Read more on GEAR website >>
During Nigeria's last leg of elections on April 26th, UN Women monitored the polls for violence against women. UN Women, in partnership with the Institute for Democracy in Africa (IDASA), has been following such violence in Nigeria since the start of the elections process in 2011, in which more than 500 people have died as a result of electoral violence following the country's presidential elections earlier in April.
On the 28th of April, UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet delivered a speech at the Women's Foreign Policy Group Luncheon. In her speech, she referred to the new UN Women Strategic Plan which identifies women's economic empowerment and women's political participation and leadership as part of their main priorities in addition to ending violence against women and girls by engaging women fully in peace and post-conflict processes and in national development planning.
The Democracy and Gender Equality roundtable took place on May 4th in which Ms. Bachelet delivered a speech. In her speech she reminded the audience of the 1970's slogan: ‘personal is political'. She stated that this slogan reflected the fact that inequality in the private sphere undermines equality in the public sphere. Her concluding words suggested that based on the recommendations from the roundtable, UN Women would hope to enhance their democracy assistance. The following quote exemplified her sentiment regarding the current agenda.
UN Women will be hosting several events at the Least Developed United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDC) from the 9th – 13th of May in Istanbul, Turkey. The purpose of the conference is to asses the results of the 10-year action plan for the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) adopted at the Third United Nations Conference on LDCs in Brussels, Belgium, in 2001. In addition to adopting new measures and strategies for the sustainable development of the LDCs into the next decade.
The following events will be hosted by UN Women:
Panel Discussion: Integrating migration and remittances into LDC national and regional development planning, including through a gender perspective. (Please click on the links for the Agenda & Concept Notes).
On 7th March, 2011 the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) held a seminar on the occasion of the
2011 International Women's Day. This is an extract from the Report from that event.
Perspectives from Pakistan
Sameena Nazir, director of the Potohar Organization for Development Advocacy (PODA), gave a speech on the links between militarisation and women in the current situation in Pakistan. In the past 20 years, Pakistan has been the battlefield for both national and international ideological, economic, and strategic interests. Due to the conflicts the region, Pakistan and Afghanistan in particular have become heavily militarised. The issue of women's rights is particularly alarming as women bear the greatest risk and impacts of militarism. The increase of domestic violence is directly linked to insecurity and the accessibility of small arms and light weapons. Ms. Nazir emphasised: “There were more women killed in Pakistan by domestic violence than in accidents or floods”. At the same time, women are systematically excluded from all forms of decision making, particularly in disarmament and small arms proliferation agendas.
The intensification of war in the region and the militarisation of Pakistani society have resulted in 60 percent of the Pakistani population being under 25 years of age; the majority of suicide bombers are less than 16 years of age. Media plays an important role in the creation of a militarised culture, as does the glorification of suicide bombers and politicians stating that “either you are with us or against us”. What we see in Pakistan today is a highly patriarchal, masculine, and nationalistic society.
In 1998, Pakistan demonstrated its nuclear weapon capability in response to India's nuclear weapon tests. Women's rights groups have pointed to the increased “defence” budget in Pakistan as a factor of instability when advocating for focus on a peaceful discourse. A lot of resources currently going to the arms trade and the maintenance of nuclear weapons could be diverted to economic and social development. Decreased investment in public services exposes the most vulnerable populations to even greater risk. As such, these populations, including women, are affected disproportionately by the consequences of instability and insecurity.
Pakistan's Education Crisis Inspires a Woman to Act