Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Working Toward Equality – The Groundwork

“Peace means different things to women and men because of their unique experiences as a result of the war, and as a result of how society is structured,” says Estelle Nelson, Founder and President of Liberia Women Media Action Committee.  Womankind Worldwide, an NGO based in the UK, released an executive summary which includes the peace building roles of women in Afghanistan, Liberia, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sierra Leone.  Living a peaceful existence may mean access to education and healthcare to women whereas a definition of peace according to men may mean an absence of war.  Research conducted by  Womankind Worldwide discovered that women’s focus on peace is related to individual rights and attaining peace on a household level.  Dissimilarly, men have an inclination to consider stability in government as a definition of peace.  The focus of this executive summary of Womankind Worldwide is on women building peace from the grassroots levels in these 5 countries.
Peacebuilding in Afghanistan, Liberia, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sierra Leone is met with many obstacles. Women who try to build peace in these countries are trying to build peace between men and women.  Social norms that do not accept women as equals block women from participating in peace building. When women try to take a more active role in public society, they may suffer from intimidation and threats or worse. Also, violence against women and girls is still not met with justice. Women do not have economic control in their household mostly because they are expected to take care of the domestic responsibilities. For the same reasons, women are not educated. However, many of the men are not too highly educated themselves and it was noted that women have skills in conflict resolution that do not require high levels of education. Another issue could be that women themselves  seem to de-value their own roles. Organizations that strive to help women be heard sometimes face their own financial challenges and cannot endure. These challenges create a complicated scenario that Womankind Worldwide is trying to assist.
According to Womankind Worldwide, creating  the environment for  equality can transpire.  NGOs working on the local level can help empower women. Long term, sustainable support, just and fair laws to protect all citizens,  and creating a place where women can share ideas and build community are only just a few recommendations made in the executive summary by Womankind Worldwide. All of these actions begin on the local level and can change what is socially accepted and lead to greater change.
Womankind Worldwide was represented at the Commission on the Status of Women 2013 by speakers Leeda Yaqoobi (Afghan Women’s Network), Dorcas Coker- Appiah (Gender Studies and Human Rights Documentation Centre) and Durga Sob (Feminist Dalit Organization).  The presentation was chaired by Jackie Ballard (Chief executive Womankind Worldwide).

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