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Guest Voz: It’s Time Women are Recognized for Skills They Have to Build Peace

By Benita Ferrero-Waldner

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Benita Ferrero-Waldner is European Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy. On March 6, 2008, she addressed a group of over 50 women, including leaders, foreign ministers, lawmakers, first ladies and top European Union and U.N. officials at the International Women’s Day Conference in Brussels.
Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner believes women need to be given a larger role in helping solve global conflicts. In the following speech that Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner shares with Latina Lista readers, she outlines her vision for the future role of women in global security.

We are here to draw the world’s attention to the link between security and women’s empowerment.
Women are often the most vulnerable members of society, subject to discrimination and abuse like harmful traditional practices or punishment by stoning. And they are at disproportionate risk from the security threats facing humanity. That holds true not only for the traditional security threats of poverty, conflict and disease, but also for the ever-expanding range of non-traditional security threats such as climate change, terrorism, religious extremism and international crime.
Violence against women is often a deliberate tactic in conflict. The horrific stories emerging from places like the Congo of systematic rape and families too afraid to send their daughters to school or their women to work in the fields shock us all. And at times of crisis women bear the brunt: as I saw for myself when I visited Sri Lanka in the aftermath of the Tsunami or we are currently seeing in the Middle East.
But our focus today is not only on women as victims. Women also display the most extraordinary strength and resilience in conflict and crisis. They hold the social fabric together when other ties fray and have a particular talent as peace builders. They are improving human security through innovative and courageous activities in some of the darkest corners of our planet.

The courage it took for the Kenyan “women-in-white” to surround the hotel where peace talks were being held and vow to remain until the men inside reached a peace settlement is quite remarkable.
Women also have added particular value to peace negotiations; from Aceh to Guatemala to Northern Ireland women successfully advocated for greater attention to key social and economic concerns in peace accords.
These are inspiring examples, and you will doubtless speak of many others. But too often women’s potential as peacemakers, as mediators, as the re-builders of shattered communities, is not harnessed.
All humanity loses out if women are not empowered to play their part in building stability in our insecure world. The challenges to human security cannot be tackled without the contribution women make.
That is where we, as women whose voices count, have a role to play. We must rise to the challenge and push for change – for if we don’t, who will?
There are three main issues on our agenda for today:
1) How should we address the impact on women of the new threats to security we face, from climate change, environmental degradation, international crime, religious fundamentalism and terrorism?
2) What concrete steps can we take to increase women’s contribution to human security at a local level and to expand that contribution to regional, national and international spheres? The glass ceiling is still in place in as we know all too well.
3) How can we do more to tap into women’s contribution to conflict prevention and resolving crisis situations like in Palestine, Iraq and Sierra Leone?
In today’s world good mediators are more vital than ever; we cannot afford to ignore this potential source of expertise. Women should be empowered to make their full contribution at the peace table and in post-conflict reconstruction. And how can we reinvigorate the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325?
I know the collection of brilliant women in this room will be brimming with ideas for how we can address these issues.
Let us not forget the burden of responsibility we hold – to give voice to those who would otherwise be voiceless, to give power to those who would otherwise be powerless, and to protect those who would otherwise be without protection.
And for once we have gender on our side – after all, as one of the EU’s first female Prime Ministers said, “If you want anything said, ask a man. If you want something done, ask a woman.”

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    March 18, 2008 at 11:09 am

    Yes, I am sure a woman having to interact with radical Islamic factions, that treat their women like cattle, would be very respected and her words could prevent these radicals from their mission of destroying Western civilization and converting all those left alive to the teachings of Islam. Get real.

  • Texano78704
    March 18, 2008 at 12:31 pm

    “…her words could prevent these radicals from their mission of destroying Western civilization and converting all those left alive to the teachings of Islam.”
    With regard to your understanding of Islam, if that is what we may call it, I would say you are confusing social customs as part of actual Islamic catechism.

    March 18, 2008 at 3:46 pm

    1. The Islamic victory over the USSR in Afghanistan, the creation of the al-Qaeda global network, and the spread of Islam in many Western countries are seen as signs of an Islamic awakening that from the radical Islamist perspective may lead to the restoration of Islam as the world’s most dominant power.
    2. In this emerging world order, Christians and Jews are no longer protected minorities under Islam. As a result, there is a dangerous trend among militant Islamist clerical authorities, especially from Saudi Arabia, justifying not only acts of terrorism against individuals, but also mass murder against whole groups of people regarded as infidels. Their call for the complete extermination of peoples means they have moved ideologically toward the justification of genocide.
    3. Jihad against America is the realization of “the right of self-defense” in retaliation for the terrorist war waged by the United States against the nation of Islam. Based on the Islamic principle, one al-Qaeda leader argues that Muslims have the right to kill four million Americans, while a Saudi scholar argues for killing ten million.
    4. The citizens in democratic Western countries become full participants in governmental decision-making by voting in elections and therefore they are no longer considered “non-combatants.” Democracy is a prohibited innovation that contradicts Islamic values and embodies a new heretical religion.
    5. An official al-Qaeda publication presents a new, comprehensive concept of total extermination of Islam’s enemies. Al-Qaeda’s Saudi clerics are also having a growing influence on other militant groups, from Hamas to Chechen groups to the mujahideen in western Iraq: their legal rulings appear on the websites of these organizations in Arabic.
    6. There has only been a partial moderation of these trends as a byproduct of Saudi Arabia’s internal struggle with al-Qaeda since May 12, 2003; some clerics have called for discontinuing the practice of takfir – branding Muslims as infidels worthy of destruction. But they have not altered their harsh doctrine against Christians and Jews.
    Here’s what the world is now dealing with and it is to be taken seriously. So, send your Ms. Whoever to talk sweet things to people of this rational and see how long she keeps her head on her shoulders. They understand one thing and one thing only, convert to Islam or be beheaded.

  • Texano78704
    March 18, 2008 at 5:15 pm

    RE: 1 – If you were really paying attention to the Middle East, you would realize that the Islamist movement has been essentially been a failure, that victory in Afghanistan was in part due to CIA involvement.
    RE: 2 – Again you are really referring to the Islamist movement, not mainstream Islam (i.e., the over 1 billion Muslims on the planet).
    RE: 3 – Jihad against the US is advocated by groups that came out of the Islamist movement. True, they can be a threat, but a relatively small threat. One is more like to be hit by a bus than killed by an Al Qaeda terrorist engaging in “jihad.”
    RE: 4 – “Democracy is a prohibited innovation that contradicts Islamic values and embodies a new heretical religion?” Where do you get this tripe? Surfing Al Qaeda web sites? LOL!
    RE: 5 – More garbage. If you have any real evidence to back your claim that the Islamist movement has been truly resurrected, please provide it.
    RE 6 – More blather.
    The bottom line is that Iraq has absolutely nothing to do with anti-terrorism efforts. Nice try EOT. Iraq is still a BushCo marketing tool no matter how you dress it up.

  • Texano78704
    March 18, 2008 at 5:49 pm

    BTW, your post really had very little to do with the topic. I wonder if you meant to post it on the Iraq article. I think you should still get paid for it, though.

    March 19, 2008 at 10:37 am

    Topic – women to have more involvement in resolving world issue to bring peace. On topic, the greatest threat to American security now and into the future is radical Islamic forces and their religously driven agenda to convert the world to their through back religion that does not believe women have the same rights as men and are treated as possessions.

  • Texano78704
    March 19, 2008 at 2:22 pm

    And you restated nicely, but you really don’t try to prove your points. My contentions are that radical Islamism failed to gain any general appeal in predominantly Muslim nations. This is evidenced by the lack of widespread support by the general population for groups like Al Qaeda.
    And the other is that it is by local custom that women are treated as possession and not because of Islam. All you have to do is look to other Muslim countries where this is not the case as well as Muslim practices in this country.

  • Horace
    March 26, 2008 at 6:20 pm

    “And for once we have gender on our side – after all, as one of the EU’s first female Prime Ministers said, “If you want anything said, ask a man. If you want something done, ask a woman.”
    Such a sexist remark. Replace the genders with that of the opposite sex and watch the women howl. Women complain about inequality, but advocate that they’re better than men.

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