Peacebuilding is women’s work too

Peace Exchange often posts about heartening efforts towards peacebuilding, and   the creative and grassroots resources harnessed in the process.

However, Peace Exchange will also at times highlight important gaps and shortcomings in this process, too.

One such shortcoming is the ongoing dearth of women at the official, visible levels of Cyprus reconciliation efforts.

So far, while there are some women represented on the Working Groups and Technical Committees, more needs to be done to involve more women – and at higher levels.

In the words of Magda Zenon, of local NGO Hands Across the Divide:

 Everything in Cypriot society is viewed within the narrow focus of “the national problem”, and all-important issues in daily life, including health, education, women’s development and gender discrimination, do not get the attention they deserve or are marginalized.

This identification with the national problem and with specific ethnicity in a patriarchal society such as Cyprus deprives women of other choices in relation to their self-definition as individuals or as a part of a gender group.

It is thus not surprising that gender inequality has never been addressed as a social and political issue. The conflict is viewed as genderless, implying men’s and women’s experiences of the conflict are the same, or if they are seen as different, only the official male discourses are heard.

Hands Across the Divide has previously sent letters to the community leaders highlighting the importance of women’s involvement in peacebuilding processes – an effort which has continued with each peace negotiation process.

Thus far, the current conditions have effectively sidelined women when it comes to the official discourse on  reunification.

Meanwhile, Cyprus continues to be one of the UN’s members that have not yet formed a National Action Plan to implement United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325, passed in October 2000.

The video above effectively illustrates the need for UNSCR 1325, the key points of which are:

  • Increased participation and representation of women at all levels of decision-making
  •  Attention to specific protection needs of women and girls in conflict
  • Gender perspective in post-conflict processes
  • Gender perspective in UN programming, reporting and in SC missions
  • Gender perspective & training in UN peace support operations

Yet while UNSCR 1325 is binding on all UN member states, it continues to be neglected in implementation in Cyprus.

This is part a worldwide shortcoming to include and give prominence to the input of women in peace efforts, as highlighted by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon last year during the 10th anniversary of UNSCR 1325.

At the end of the day, women have a different experience of conflict.

They and their children are always the most affected groups during a conflict, and can therefore offer a fresh perspective and alternative ideas during conflict and post conflict situations.

Women have made great strides in all walks of life; however, they are still not included in such platforms as the peace process in Cyprus.

And it is sobering to note that this year’s Nobel peace prize winners – President Sirleaf (Liberia’s first elected female president), Leymah Gbowee (an activist recognized for uniting women against Liberia’s warlords) and Tawakkol Karman (a Yemeni journalist)  – join only a handful of fellow female peace prize laureates.

Meanwhile, UN Women, “widely hailed as the best hope for significant action globally on women’s rights, is falling short of both money and power as it limps toward its first anniversary in January”, reported a recent Nation  magazine article.

Small wonder then, perhaps, that Cyprus’ women have so little say in official reconciliation efforts.

Nonetheless, without their involvement, the process cannot be considered as having taken into account all the voices of Cyprus.

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