By Kathe Schaaf and Kay Lindahl for The Interfaith Observer
We can’t help but notice that the world seems to have suddenly ‘discovered’ the value of women. After thousands of years living in the shadow of the masculine, after being pushed into the margins of power and leadership, after being silenced in every cultural institution – including most of the major world religions – the media today is full of messages that it is time to listen to women’s wisdom.
Women’s leadership styles are being acknowledged widely in diverse segments of the global media:
- Research articles from the field of neuroscience suggest that women’s brains do indeed work differently than men’s, giving us more capacity for the kind of functions required to address the complex issues facing our planet: multi-tasking, integration, cooperation, and contextual thinking.
- A headline during the recent budget impasse in the U.S. Congress declared “Women Lead While Men Bicker.”
- Micro-lending programs in Africa and Asia frequently identify women as key to their success; not only are women more marginalized in poor countries but they are also more likely to make decisions that will benefit both family and community.
- Even the world of religion has begun to acknowledge the importance of women’s voices and leadership. Pope Francis recently called for a “more incisive female presence” and a broader application of “feminine genius” in the life of the Church.
- Sojourners recently launched a Campaign for Women and Girls that supports the equality of women in ways that are both practical and theological. The cover of their January 2014 Sojourners magazine boldly states, “Twisted Theology: Churches that still treat women as inferior are distorting the image of God.”
The Divine Feminine Rising
While all of this sudden attention on women, leadership, and feminine spirituality is exciting, it is important to pause a moment and listen deeply for the heartbeat of the Divine Feminine guiding, informing, and inspiring this complex global movement. The Divine Feminine is indeed rising, despite all the jagged history which repressed Her and despite the reality that women have been offered little legitimate space in which to practice feminine ways of being and doing. She rises in individual women and in the thousands of organizations they have created around the world. She rises as women struggle to bring a different style of leadership – and a new matrix of assumptions and values – to the institutions, initiatives, and corporations which shape our culture. And many believe She rises now on behalf of this troubled planet.
Kathe Schaaf is a Trustee Emeritus of the Parliament of the World’s Religions and Co-Founder of Women of Spirit and Faith. Kay Lindahl is on the Ambassador Advisory Committee of the Parliament of the World’s Religions and Co-Founder of Women and Spirit and Faith
Heshima Kenya Showcasing Somalian Women Humanitarians at Chicago Premiere Screening (Parliament Sponsored Event)
Via Heshima Kenya:
The acclaimed documentary, Through the Fire, will premiere at the Lake Street Screening Room in Chicago on Monday April 7th. Hosted by the Dr. Hawa Abdi Foundation and Heshima Kenya, the screening will be followed by a Q&A session with Dr. Deqo Mohamed, CEO of the Dr. Hawa Abdi Foundation and daughter of Dr. Hawa Abdi.
After over two decades of war, Somalia has been portrayed internationally as a lawless state marred by piracy, conflict, and famine. However, Through the Fire presents a different side of Somalia, telling the stories of three courageous Somali women who never gave up on their country. The three women, Dr. Hawa Abdi, Dr. Edna Adan, and Ilwad Elman, are icons of strength and resiliency.
- Monday, April 7, 2014
- 7 :00 p.m.- 9:00 p.m.
- 70 E. Lake Street Suite 1604
General admission is $20.00 and $15.00 for students. Tickets will be sold at $25.00 at the door. Only 40 tickets are available for this exclusive screening, so buy now as they are anticipated to sell out quickly.
Funds raised from the screening will go directly towards supporting Dr. Hawa Abdi Foundation’s work in Somalia. Additional donations are welcomed at the event.
About the Speaker
Dr. Deqo Aden Mohamed is the daughter of Dr. Hawa Abdi. She was born in Mogadishu, grew up feeding the refugees her mother was harboring, and earned an MD in Moscow in 2000. She was an OB-GYN resident in Russia up to 2003. She continued to go back to the internally displaced camp, which hosted up to more than 90,000 people at one point, to work during her holidays. She came to America as a refugee in 2003 and gained extensive experience working in healthcare. She became a naturalized American in 2008.
Today, she works full time on the ground in Somalia. She leads all operations in the Hawa Abdi Village in Lower Shabelle, while ensuring the safety of the 300 families who have found permanent shelter in the community. She leads the 400-bed Dr. Hawa Abdi General Hospital, the Waqaf-Diblawe Primary School, a women’s education centre, and a smart farming agriculture project. She simultaneously manages the administrative aspects of DHAF as CEO of the organization in the United States.
Besides her work, Dr. Mohamed regularly attends conferences and speaks on behalf of DHAF, her mother’s lifework, and on Somalia. Recently, she was invited as a guest speaker at the World Forum on Human Rights in Brasilia, Brazil, and participated in a ceremony on kidney diseases in Chennai, India. Dr. Mohamed has been featured on media outlets such as TED, the Leonard Lopate Show, and the Daily Beast.
A few days ago I joined with about 30 other students and staff members from Luther Seminary, and carpooled over to the Minneapolis Convention Center where we had the great joy and privilege of hearing His Holiness the Dalai Lama speak live at the Nobel Peace Prize Forum.
The event was well worth the effort- and the long security lines provided the time for a lengthy conversation with a Chinese colleague and her teenage son. We sat together throughout the event- and it was fascinating to see my friend’s own joyful and passionate spirit connect with the joy that seems to emanate from His Holiness. Having come from a culture in which he is portrayed as a criminal, I can only imagine what was going on inside of my friend during those two hours.
Interestingly, the beautiful ceremonial Tibetan dancing and singing which opened the program provided a point of connection for her. Though the art and culture of the Tibetan people has been much suppressed, yet she was able to recognize – through the music and dance – a culture that was connected to her.
In preparation for the Dalai Lama’s visit, a number of us seminarians read his book Toward a True Kinship of Faiths: How the World’s Religions Can Come Together (Harmony, 2010). The discussion groups around this book study produced fruitful ground for conversations. In one discussion I was at a table with two Ethiopian students and a student from Liberia. We pondered the Dalai Lama’s own testimony of how, through his forced exile, he was placed in a religiously pluralistic culture (India) and thus was forced to confront his own assumptions regarding the superiority of his Buddhist faith. Through meeting spiritual people of many faiths he reached a place in which he is firmly convinced that respect for all religions can be found in a shared commitment to compassion.
For him this position is not in conflict with a profoundly deep commitment to his own faith. In fact it is only through his own deep experience with the divine that he is able to relate to another’s experience of the divine. Thus he states that the “naïveté [of his youth] could be sustained only so long as I remained isolated from any real contact with the world’s other religions.”
The Dalai Lama’s insights into interfaith dialogue rooted in and flowing from relationship spoke powerfully to me and my African colleagues. Together we explored questions of how our religious convictions often become linked to assumptions of accepted conflict and presumed enmity.
How can religions possibly work together in contexts in which the only picture we have of the other is one of extreme violence? Some of the Christians around the table had witnessed churches burnt at the hands of Muslim extremists. How, we asked, could dialogue and peaceful coexistence ever happen in the aftermath of violence?
Could the Dalai Lama be right when he suggests that we human beings are fundamentally “wired to love?” Could he be right in his insistence that “compassion— the natural capacity of the human heart to feel concern for and connection with another being—constitutes a basic aspect of our nature shared by all human beings … [and that] in this respect, there is not an iota of difference between a believer and a nonbeliever, nor between people of one race or another[?]”
It was wonderful to spend time with His Holiness, to witness how he embodies and emanates compassion and peace in his words and through his being. But perhaps, for me, the even greater value of his visit was that he spurred a new conversation in our seminary community, and opened up new possibilities for relationship in real and tangible ways in our context.
In Seneca Falls, a “mecca for women’s rights advocates,” the Women’s Interfaith Institute is breaking new ground.
By Allison Stokes
Ambassador, Parliament of the World’s Religions
It seemed like a good idea at the time. The church in Seneca Falls had a For Sale sign in front with a “Price Reduced” banner across it. The structure, built in 1871, stood next door to the Women’s Rights National Historical Park, which was established to commemorate the first women’s rights convention in 1848 and to preserve the Wesleyan Chapel where the gathering was held.
This church would be an ideal location for calling public attention to the pioneering leadership of women in the Interfaith Movement. So it was that leaders of the Women’s Interfaith Institute incorporated as a non-profit, educational organization in New York State in 2002 in order to raise funds for a deposit to purchase the late 19th Century Wesleyan Church.
An appeal letter went out to potential donors, and their response was heartening. Many agreed that the site would be perfect for an organization whose mission is “Women supporting women of diverse faiths in generating spiritual leadership, scholarship and service.”
Contributions large and small came in, and in 2003 we purchased the church. As far as we are aware, the Women’s Interfaith Institute’s home in Seneca Falls is the only structure in the U.S. dedicated to promoting women’s interfaith (or multi-faith) efforts.
Seneca Falls draws visitors from all over the country and the world; because it is a destination for persons passionate about women’s rights and human rights, it provides an ideal context for the Institute’s work of bridging boundaries– whether religious, racial, ethnic, cultural– that have traditionally divided people. We seek a more inclusive human identity.
During our ten plus years of programming, we have offered a variety of lectures, seminars, films, workshops, retreats, and celebrations as we endeavor to “bring peace to life.” Most recently we have been focused on learning about Islam and bringing Muslims and persons from other religious traditions together.
Programs breaking ground then and now
A grant from the New York Council for the Humanities made it possible for the Institute to break ground last spring (2013) in offering a “Muslim Journeys” reading and discussion group. We chose five books with stories about and by young Muslims: How Does It Feel to Be a Problem? (Moustafa Bayoumi), Acts of Faith (Eboo Patel), Persepolis (Marjane Satrapi), Minaret (Leila Aboulela), and Broken Verses (Kamila Shamsie).
Ten women gathered in six monthly sessions to share comments, questions, insights, reflections, personal stories, and (at the close of every meeting) refreshments. Because we came from different faith traditions, including Quaker, Baha’i, Muslim, Jewish, Protestant, and Roman Catholic, our sharing was rich, and our learning from one another profound. We especially valued the perspectives of Busaina and Musawar, a Muslim mother and daughter in our group, who are from Pakistan.
This year in March, Women’s History month, the Institute joined with another non-profit in Seneca Falls, the Women’s Institute for Leadership and Learning, to offer a unique dialogue. The event, featured Buffalo attorney Nadia Shahram, an author, activist, and Muslim women’s rights advocate, in dialogue with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, a convenor of the first women’s rights movement. Stanton was portrayed by Dr. Melinda Grube, an historian and adjunct professor who has studied Stanton’s works and life extensively, and uses her knowledge to bring Stanton seemingly to life. This remarkable discussion, entitled “Declaring Equality: Renewing a Legacy,” crossed religious traditions (Muslim and Christian), cultures (Iranian and American), and even centuries (19th – 21st).
Institute board member and former mayor of Seneca Falls, Diana Smith, observed that the remarkable conversation was between two legal minds though generations apart. Diana noted,
Both shared surprisingly similar stories of childhood experiences which served as inspiration to effect change, including the motivation to learn the law. Stanton was especially angered by the unjust treatment of women who came to her father for legal counsel, only to find that the law provided little protection or regard for women.
While Shahram’s legal expertise helps women improve their lives through the judicial process, Stanton suggested that in the mid-nineteenth century, that would not be possible. She said her father likely pushed her to learn the law not to practice it, but rather to help her identify how to change it.
The Institute’s upcoming program, to be held during Seneca Falls Convention Days on July 18th and 19th celebrates the first 1848 convention. Highlighting Muslim women’s experiences, the Saturday events have been conceived and planned by attorney Shahram and some her law students in Buffalo. The focus will be unveiling of “A Declaration of Equalities for Muslim Women” written on the model of the Stanton’s original “Declaration of Sentiments.” Nadia writes,
This document is a list of demands and sentiments that aspire to identify and amend laws which are discriminatory, oppressive, and prejudicial towards women in many Islamic countries. We are insisting on reformed legislation that is consistent with equitable human rights for women. Through these actions, we hope to contribute to the efforts of numerous individuals and organizations dedicated to the ongoing battle for progress and fair treatment of women throughout the world.
A detailed listing of the many and varied Convention Days 2014 events is in development – watch for a complete schedule soon to be posted on the official Convention Days website.
From the Ashes of a Fire, Interfaith Family in Seneca Hills Stands Tall
A number of the Institute’s programs are being held at the National Park next door, whose hospitality we gratefully appreciate. This is because five years ago, in March 2009, there was a fire above the ceiling in our Great Hall (former church sanctuary), immediately after renovations were completed. Caused by old, live, electrical wiring, the damage to the roof and building wasn’t so much fire damage, as water damage, necessarily caused by the fire fighters.
The challenge of recovering from this devastating event has sometimes been overwhelming. The donations of volunteer help, especially from Hobart and William Smith Colleges students, and of contributions to replace a roof that was only 5 years old, have been heartening. We are particularly grateful for a generous donation from the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States. With this we were able to complete the roof repair in August, just as President Obama stopped by to visit the National Park. (Secret Service agents ordered roofers OFF the roof during the duration of the President’s visit!)
When the challenges we face seem particularly tough, we recall Elizabeth Cady Stanton, her sister suffragists, and the obstacles they faced. Few lived to see the passage of the 19th Amendment, giving women the vote. As Stanton wrote, they were “sowing winter wheat,” not necessarily expecting to see the fruits of their labors.
We in the Women’s Interfaith Institute are inspired and encouraged by these pioneering foremothers, even as we feel that in similar, though different ways, we are breaking new ground ourselves.
Allison Stokes is Founding Director of the Women’s Interfaith Institute. The organization was incorporated in the Berkshire Hills of Western Massachusetts in 1993, and continues there. This article profiles the programs and founding ten years later of an affiliate, Women’s Interfaith Institute, a sister group in the Finger Lakes Region of Upstate New York.
Parliament Women’s Task Force Announces Tibet House Partnership Presenting Multi-Religious Speaker Series
The Parliament of the World’s Religions Women’s Task Force is excited to announce its participation in the Multi-Religious Speakers Series on the Sacred Feminine and the Vital Nexus of Religion and Women’s Issues organized in partnership with the highly esteemed Tibet House in New York City.
Program speakers featured in the series will be accessible to women around the world through the Parliament Webinar Series later in 2014.
The series will premiere with Ukranian spiritual teacher Nadia Reznikov hosting an advanced Tantric and Shamanic workshop for women at Tibet House April 4 and 11.
Nadiia Reznikova or Nabhasvati (“Shining”) is an extraordinary spiritual practitioner and teacher from the Ukraine who is making her first appearance in the United States at Tibet House. She has developed a system of tantric, shamanic, and psychotherapeutic practices for women which can produce immediate and dramatic improvements in emotional balance, joy, relationships, physical health, and inner and outer beauty. The practices are designed to naturally and powerfully elevate mood and energy state, enabling even new students to manifest desired changes within, as well as in their relationships and environment. These simple, daily practices have been proven effective tools of spiritual transformation for women of all walks of life and in all areas of life. Her shakti energy has been found to be directly transformative by many, and at the same time Nadiia teaches daily practices which may be done by students on their own.
Via the Parliament Women’s Task Force/Women of Spirit and Faith:
PLEASE JOIN US IN PRAYER, NO MATTER WHERE YOU ARE IN THE WORLD - MARCH 11:
Even if you cannot be in New York for our prayer event at the UN Commission on the Status of Women on March 11, you can join us in prayer wherever you are. We invite you to light a candle and offer your own prayers on behalf of the women and girls of the world that day. You might even gather in circle with women from your community.
Remembering the Sacred Heart of Your Activism: An Evening of Prayer, Reflection and Inspiration
Tuesday, March 11, 2014 | 5:30 – 8:00 pm
The Hospitality Space – Episcopal Church Center
815 2nd Avenue | (between 43rdand 44th)
New York, NY
FREE AND OPEN TO ALL
RSVP required to womenofspiritandfaith@
Co-hosted by the Parliament’s Women’s Task Force, Women of Spirit & Faith, Gather the Women Global Matrix, Millionth Circle, We Are Enough and United Religions Initiative, and more!
The Parliament of the World’s Religions recently welcomed Ermolina Galina of Siberia to the Ambassadors program. The following reflection shares the story of her interreligious community in Novosibirsk, Russia, observing the United Nations Interfaith Harmony Week.
The world we live in is overloaded with hatred these days, and religious conflicts bring us to disasters. What we need today is to change the paradigm of thinking from confrontations to understanding that we belong to one world, to one planet, to One God, whoever God is for each one of us.
My friends and I- being very much concerned about the situation- made attempts to find a possibility of cooperation between representatives of some religious institutions in our city, Novosibirsk, Western Siberia, (Russia).
In the beginning, I would not say we were very successful. Like anywhere, some religious representatives here are not yet able to speak cooperatively about different religions.
So when news came that the United Nations proclaimed a Week of Inter-religious Harmony from February 3 up to February 9, 2014, we decided to participate in a cultural excursion program organized by one of the public organizations working for peace in our big city since we had done events together in the past.
The purpose of this project was to get acquainted with representatives of the religions, to learn more about their unique qualities, so that it would become possible to start mutual cooperation of understanding and sharing on the basis of the Golden Rule.
Every day of the week, a group of people interested in the subject planned to visit this or that religious center, or church, or cathedral, following the list:
- Bate Menahem Synagogue
- Catholic Cathedral
- Church of Jesus Christ (Mormons),
- Christian Church and Center of the Vedic Culture (Krishnaits)
On one of the days, a concert for veterans was performed by the student-volunteers of the Federation for Peace.
I managed to visit three events of the Week: Bate Menahem Synagogue, Church of Jesus Christ (Mormon) and Center of the Vedic Culture (Krishnas).
Personally, I have already been aware of diversity in interfaith relations because I have been many times during the last ten years in the Interfaith Community of the great Saint Baba Virsa Singh in Delhi and Punjab, where I have been significantly trained and acquired experience on the subject. Also, I have tried to stay active over the last three years as a member of the United Religions Initiative.
At the end of the week reflecting on the events of Harmony Week I have come to the conclusion that the event was not only interesting for the participants, but we learned a lot and gained new experiences in relations between the people of different religions. We hope that managed to make new friendships, for almost everywhere we were welcomed to come again.
“Unity in diversity” is one of most important slogans in the world, and we had an opportunity to see it in practice. Unity and oneness was manifesting itself in the warm hospitality, peaceful atmosphere of the meetings everywhere.
However, when our group approached the Russian Orthodox Church, we were given a chilly reception with the comment that special written permission was needed. Unfortunately, many of us have faced difficult policies and responses, and this may be one of the reasons for us to join the Interfaith movement.
It was such a disappointment for all, and the situation was saved somehow by one participant who suggested to go the very special Exhibition “Holy Religious Places” of Siberia, situated quite nearby. The exposition was created by Dmitriy Dobryi who started this project a few years ago after the vision of Saint Princess Olga who told him to collect paintings, photos and other artifacts of Churches and other religious institutions of Novosibirsk region in one place for the people to see them. He himself made an incredibly beautiful embroidery portrait of St. Olga.
People like Dmitriy are those fanatics who are devoted to the values of religion, which means “connecting with the Highest.” The fact that this exhibition exists and works is a miracle itself, for there is no financial support from officials, either church or civil.
Coming back to the issue of diversity I would say that have come to the comprehending the method which every religious institution applies to attract people to their congregation.
Belonging to Synagogue, first of all, one feels protected in the midst of the surrounding world, one feels being a member of one powerful community, where one can get help if needed. It attracts even the people belonging to other religions due to the nationality or native traditional religion.
We didn’t feel any attempt to woo us into converting to this religion. Even if one can have different points of view on some fundamental things, but one can admit and accept those values which are strong within Jewish Community.
The visit to the Mormon Center was a pleasant one as well. Most of the missionaries are young smiling people from the USA speaking good Russian. From the speech of the center leader we received a lot of information about the origin of Mormon movement, its history and the development of the movement today.
We were given some materials to read at home as well. Even though the Mormon Teaching itself is difficult for me to follow, our event was devoted not to discussions or disagreements, but to finding the things which we all have in common, which can bring us to cooperation.
The Golden Rule says: “By thy God”, not by mine. It is important to Mormons to proclaim love to Jesus and God.
The last event, visiting Vedic Center was quite different from what we have seen before. Most of the people present there were young, and some come with children. I have been many times in India, and at some moments felt as if I was again there. The highlight of that evening was a presence of Indian Swami Ji, who had been touring through Russia for more than a month. He addressed the audience with a nice and wise talk, speaking about love and harmony between people, despite difference in religions.
Of course, he said much about Krishna and Krishna movement all over the world. That Swami Ji is a good example for spiritual leaders; he managed to connect vedic knowledge with every day life challenges in a good, not scholastic way.
I asked him a question what way would he suggest to stop violence in the world and the answer he had given made me happy, because it completely coincided with my thinking:
we should begin with changing the way of our thinking, with cleansing our mind. That’s what Baba Virsa Singh used to say again and again.
Bombs and bullets will not change the world,at any rate –to a better world.
It is known that “joy is a special wisdom,” and appeared that the Vedic group of people sincerely follow this rule through ritual dancing and singing. I don’t want to say that this is an example for all to follow, but they enjoyed that evening.
After talks and dancing, everyone was invited to have traditional vedic food, of course vegetarian. One of the guests belongs to the Orthodox church and came out of curiosity.
In a way the events and experiences of our project was a reflection of the situation between religions today.
In two days we came together to share experiences, reflection and for planning our future cooperation with the religious institutions of the city, taking into consideration the experiences we had during the Harmony week.
The Parliament wishes to share congratulations on the unanimous resolution voted by the City Council of Atlanta, which became official on February 12, 2014, declaring:
“…BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT THE CITY OF ATLANTA IS DESIGNATED A COMPASSIONATE CITY.”
This encouraging progress for the Charter for Compassion comes this week from the Parliament’s Faiths Against Hate partners in Atlanta, championed by by Chair Emeritus Rev. Bob Thompson and a collective of three major interfaith organizations in the greater Atlanta area.
After launching the Compassionate Atlanta campaign to create a compassionate circle of cities February 2 at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Center, the Atlanta City Council passed the following resolution, and is encouraging surrounding municipalities to follow suit.
The principles for the Charter for Compassion stem from the very elements of the Golden Rule, which is endorsed through the world’s traditions in the Initial Declaration Toward a Global Ethic drafted in collaboration by the planners of the 1993 Centenary Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago and the daring German Theologian, Hans Kung.
Seeing the progress of the Charter sway governments and transforming global society city by city is a sign of a changing world. It is of the utmost importance for all invested peacemakers to capitalize this spirit in the work to heal hate and advance a more peaceful, just, and sustainable world.
Congratulations to the city of Atlanta and each campaigning locality being bold, brave, and visionary.
We salute you!
The North American Interfaith Network invites proposals for the 26th annual Connect conference hosted this year by the Interfaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit, August 10 – 13 at Wayne State University.
Programs should explore how uniquely interfaith work can bridge borders and boundaries; best practices in interfaith work; unique community challenges that interfaith work has overcome; how interfaith work could transform the civic community; how does interfaith work meet the challenges of segregation and a racialized society? Proposals are invited for workshops and panel presentations. Each workshop/panel presentation will run for 90 minutes. The proposal deadline is Wednesday, March 5. Program confirmation will be made by Friday, April 18.
Via Rosalee Laws for Women’s History Month , Parliament of the World’s Religions Ambassador
I have had the pleasure of witnessing many women and women’s groups involved at all stages of peace work, from prevention to resolution. When I define peace work I mean it in a broad sense, not just the absence of war, but living honorably, dying in peace, having basic human needs met, and post conflict resolutions.
Amid 39 active conflicts over the last 10 years, few women have actually been at the table of peace negotiations. Out of 585 peace treaties drafted over the last two decades, only 16 percent contain specific references to women. Furthermore, around the world 1 in 3 women are subject to “non peaceful” or violent situations, including sexual and physical abuses.
Since it is quite obvious that women are very affected by “non-peaceful” situations, and they are 50 percent of this world’s population, isn’t it quite obvious they are a critical voice in the building of peace?
Inequality in Leadership Roles
It goes without saying, men tend to dominate the formal roles in the current peace-building process. Male peacekeepers, male peace negotiators, male politicians, and male formal leaders all take the spotlight. Power is unequally distributed between men and women and the majority of women do not have a voice in any local or national decision making processes. Such inequalities cause formal peacebuilding activities and policies to suffer from insufficient understanding of the diverse communities in which they are representing. Not including women in decisions making processes towards peace often means that female concerns are not addressed. Experiences and insights of both men and women during conflict and peace need to be represented in order to encapsulate all dimensions for holistic solutions.
The landscape of women’s participation has experienced significant change mostly in the area of awareness. All of us, men and women alike, have gender roles firmly embedded within us. The more we all try to pretend they do not exist, the less conscious we are of our own behaviors that promote inequality. Discussion of these issues openly is a first step to dealing with them and getting more women involved in the process of peace.
Getting Out Of Our Own Way
Many women’s groups that are advocating their participation are siloed in existence to their peers. Most of the groups that exist have great broad ideas with lack of tactical implementation skills. Many current women’s movements and formal policies do not have established mechanisms to monitor and evaluate the progress of their work. Even at the international level, it is very upsetting to see how programs and policies lack in operational guidance, program implementation, data monitoring and evaluation, knowledge and resources. There is also a huge gap in knowledge for most organizations on how to harness technology resources such as social media that have the influence to mobilize millions all over the world in minutes.
The Women’s Leadership Ambition Gap
A bigger part of the problem is not just allowing women to come to the table, it is that women often themselves de-value their role as peacebuilders. So many women, despite their amazing achievements, feel like impostors and do not necessarily recognize the important roles they can play in both building peace and as leaders. Women need to recognize that within themselves they have attributes, valuable insights, and experiences, that NO ONE else has. Women embody the maternal gifts as caregivers, focus on the family, and resolving violence without conflict. Women of faith, in particular, are well suited for participation in peace efforts. They transmit peace values over generations and are already promoting critical values to the world.
What Would Big Change Look Like?
Big changes would happen if we first, could ensure that women play a key role in the design and implementation of peacebuilding activities and give them a confidence to do so. Second, we need to support and strengthen the already established women’s organizations that are currently working in their peacebuilding efforts. Finally, systems need to be established for enforcing and monitoring all efforts on a global scale.Women have such untapped potential to be effective participants, key-decision makers and beneficiaries of peace.
They must unravel the potential that exists within themselves to create a more peaceful world. Discovering their own voices. Find the courage to step up. There is a place for all women at the podium for peace.
Rosalee Laws is the CEO of R.O.S.E. a company that offers online development programs to business owners and organizational leaders. A passion for interfaith work that stems over a decade, Ambassador for the Parliament of World Religions and Founder of “women leadership” on reddit and the invite only “women in leadership” group on Linkedin. Rosalee has had experience in over 29 industries some of which include, working with the Secretary General at Religions for Peace, with United Nations entities, Disney Films, and the Associated Press. You can find out more on rosaleelaws.com.
Resources / Supplementary Information
The International Violence Against Women Act (I-VAWA) (S.2982, HR. 4594). Amnesty International Issue Brief No. 2. March 2010.
United Nations Security Council, “Resolution 1325 Women Peace and Security,” (2000).
Posa, Swanee Hunt and Cristina, “Women Waging Peace,” Foreign Policy, no. 124 (2001): 38-47.
Anju Chhetri, “Women’s Intervention in the Peace Processes,” Nepal Samacharpatra, August 29, 2006.
UNIFEM, “Securing the Peace: Guiding the International Community Towards Women’s Effective Participation Throughout Peace Processes,” edited by Camille Pampell Conaway Klara Banaszak, Anne Marie Goetz, Aina Iiyambo and Maha Muna (New York: UNIFEM, 2005),
United Nations, Women Peace and Security (2002)
Lisa Laplante, “Women as Political Participants: Psychosocial Postconflict Recovery in Peru,” Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology, v. 13 no. 3 (2007).
Jackie Kirk, “Promoting a Gender-Just Peace: The Roles of Women Teachers in Peacebuilding and Reconstruction,” Gender and Development 12, no. 3 (2004):
Madeline Storck , “The Role of Social Media in Political Mobilisation:a Case Study of the January 2011 Egyptian Uprising” 20 December 2011.
Report of the Secretary-General on Women’s Participation in Peacebuilding (A/65/354–S/2010/466)