"It is now more dangerous to be a woman than to be a soldier in modern wars." These are not the words of a woman who has faced the violence and ferocity of conflict, but words of Major General Patrick Cammaert, who served as the Deputy Force Commander of the United Nations Mission to the Democratic Republic of Congo. The nature of modern conflicts has changed: almost 90 percent of casualties are civilian, of which the most vulnerable are women. As witnesses and victims to conflict, they are overlooked as participants to peace processes. They are too often sidelined in dialogues and negotiations on peace and security, arenas still seen by much of the world as the domain of men, with the association of guns, money and power.
What is often disregarded is how much women know about conflict, and therefore how much they can contribute to peace. Women experience war differently than men. They are victims of sexual violence, often used as a systematic tool of war, which has lasting impact on their lives and the lives of their families and communities long after the war is over. Women can bring new understanding of a conflict, and with it, insights into the causes and possible solutions. Women as survivors of conflict, as witnesses to violence, as mediators to ending persistent disputes, as guardians of their social community mores and providers for their family when a conflict is raging, all have huge contributions towards breaking the vicious cycle of conflict.
At the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), we initiated the N-Peace campaign that supports this very notion that women matter for peace, and without them, long-term peace is not viable. We have seen that while women are often at the front lines of dealing with conflicts, they rarely make the headlines. For the past three years, N-Peace has provided a regional platform -- through an extensive online network, in-person training, seminars and conferences -- to identify and recognize the leadership of women in conflict-prone and high-risk areas in Asia.
Today this expanding group of women (and likeminded men) support the N-Peace campaign and promote women's voice and participation for peace.
Using the social media channels of the campaign, we are calling on supporters to join us online to help change minds, where we see women not merely as victims of conflict, but as key catalysts for peace. Nominations for the campaign have been received. You can view nominations and vote, show your support by liking us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and watch our documentary series to learn more about the role of women in building peace on YouTube.