‘No Women, No Peace’ Campaign Launches

This evening I attended a panel discussion at the House of Commons on women, conflict and peace-building to mark the parliamentary launch of the No Women, No Peace campaign. Launched by Gender Action for Peace and Security (GAPS), the campaign brings together various NGOs (including ActionAid, Oxfam and UNIFEM) to push for a greater involvement of women in the peace-building process.

It has been 10 years since the UK  government pledged its support for the UN Resolution 1325 – which recognises that women are uniquely devastated by conflict, whilst also being an immense untapped resource for buliding peace – but now, a decade later, little progress can be seen. During this anniversary year, No Women, No Peace aims to reaffirm the importance of involving women in peace processes and turn promises into action.

The panel discussion began with Chair Deborah Haynes (Defence editor at The Times) ruminating on this meeting happening so soon after on the tragic death of aid worker Linda Norgrove.  Haynes expressed her sadness at the news but reminded us that, whilst Norgrove had chosen to work in the unstable environment of Afghanistan, many women have no choice but to find themselves impacted by violent conflict.

Gender based violence is, sadly, all too commonly used as a weapon of war – In Democratic Republic of Congo, rape, displacement, torture and humiliation are common experiences for women. In Sri Lanka, women (the primary care givers) have been left without support after community services have been destroyed. In Afghanistan, widows face extreme stigma and poverty. Yet, whilst women may be harshly affected by conflict, they often remain excluded from peace negotiations.

Baroness Nuala O’Loan, Ireland’s Roving Ambassador for Conflict Resolution, pointed out that many women in conflict will work for peace long before NGOs get involved; “Their primary need is for security,” she said, “That is more important to them than food and water.” Once security is found, everything else falls into place – which is why women will create support structures within their communities, looking after the children, minding each others market stalls and sharing clothes and provisions. Still, even though women prove themselves to be brilliant stabilising tools for their communities, they are not invited to express opinions in development forums. O’Loan put this down to such areas being predominantly ”patriarchal and have no experience of dealing with women on equal terms.”

Also on the panel were Kate Allen (Director, Amnesty International UK) and Wazhma Frogh of the Afghan Women’s Network, who expressed sorrow over the news of Linda Norgrove’s death and declared gratitude for the work done by her, and others like her. Frogh stressed the importance for “the UK government to ask the simple question ‘where are the women in your programs?’” when it came to working with peace building programs around the world.

The Foreign Secretary, William Hague, was also in attendance. “It remains an appaling fact…that the burden of war falls disproportionally on women and children” he said, but encouragingly listed the ways in which the government is striving to bring women into more powerful peace-building roles world wide; “We now have women heading 31 of our missions overseas,” said Hague, “I want many more.” On the stigma that women often face when standing up in their communities Hague admitted “We face a lot of cultural battles”, but emphasised that empowering women in their own communities would create faster progress in development.

Finally, Hague was presented with Asako Yanagita’s brilliantly clear design for the campaign (above, which won the campaign’s poster competition). His response? “Right, this will have to go in a prominent position in the foreign office!”

It was incredibly heartening to attend the launch of this much needed campaign, and to hear about all the positive steps being made to include women in an area that they can clearly enrich. As No Women, No Peace so rightly say; ‘You can’t build peace leaving half the people out!’

To find out more about the campaign, head here and don’t forget to follow No Women, No Peace on Twitter!

By: Sarah Barnes, 11.10.2010 | Comments (1)
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Stop Sex Trafficking with The Body Shop

I’m all for incorporating a good cause into my beauty routine, which I was able to do this week with The Body Shop’s new campaign to stop the sex trafficking of children and young people. The campaign web page feature some shocking trafficking statistics, as are detailed on the above advertisement. There are more slaves today than ever before in human history, and tragically, the majority of human trafficking is for sexual purposes.

1.8 million children embroiled in this inhumane industry are too many to be ignored. And so, a long standing pioneer in the fight against many social injustices, The Body Shop have launched their new campaign (in collaboration with ECPAT UK) in order to bring government attention to the need for a guardianship system for trafficking victims. As is detailed on their website, this would mean that all child victims of trafficking would:

- have someone with parental responsibility to care for and support them

- be prevented from facing further exploitation and harm from their traffickers

- receive the educational, medical, practical and legal support they need to help rebuild their lives

By signing The Body Shop petition, you can help make a difference. This can be done online or in-store, as can treating yourself to the fabulous new ‘Soft Hands, Kind Heart’ hand cream for just £3.50, £2.06 of which goes straight to ECPAT UK. Other ways you can help include cross-posting this article (or the Body Shop link), tweeting for the cause, or linking on Facebook, all of which can be done via the What can I do? link on The Body Shop website. You can also write to your MP calling on them to sign EDM 513, a proposal asking the government to introduce a system of guardianship for child victims of trafficking, here. At the time of my writing this article, the petition has 237, 591 signatures, please add yours today.

For more information on the Trafficking Industry, please refer to the following charity links.

Amnesty International

The Poppy Project

Unicef

By: Yasmin Eshref, 27.07.2010 | Comments (1)
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