“Women are less receptive to hate speech and extremism“: An IPCRI discussion on the role of women in the peace process

On Monday, September 19th, the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information (IPCRI) held a forum on the role of women in the peace process and the implication the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security. Spokeswomen were invited to talk to an audience of civil society actors and activists.

UNSC Resolution 1325

Resolution 1325 was signed by the UN Security Council in 2000 following rising awareness of the special impact of war and post-conflict situations on women. It builds on prevention, protection, and participation of women as well as equal access to relief and recovery for women and men. Not only UN entities, but also and especially the member states are invited to design national action plans to follow up the implementation. Nivine Sandouka, Palestinian Co-Director at IPCRI, stated that by September 2016, only two countries in the Middle East had done so: Iraq and the Palestinian National Authority.

photo credit: Flash90

Struggle to reach negotiating position

Sandouka emphasized that after women were sidelined during the Oslo Accord negotiations, they should take back an active role in the actual peace negotiations. The recent underrepresentation of women is, according to Sandouka, related to the cultural traditional background, the societal role of women and the male dominated political system.

“Politics and women don’t belong together” – this is a conception which Member of Knesset Ksenia Svetlova (Zionist Union) fights in her daily work. She focuses on participation, and on equal access to politics for men and women. Her bill, supported by eight other female Members of Knesset, for a ban of parties that do not allow women to candidate, was not successful so far. She names this as one of many discriminations women face in politics.

photo credit: Flash90

Women add new perspectives

According to Svetlova, women are needed in politics: “I believe women bring a different perspective, one of responsibility. But the family responsibilities have to be balanced so that women can take top positions within the power structure. “Women are less receptive to hate speech and extremism“, she concludes.

Drawing on the experiences in Ireland, Reverend Gary Mason recalls that the entrance of the Northern Ireland Women's Coalition to the negotiation leading to the Belfast Agreement in 1998 “brought reasonableness, understanding and listening” to the forum.

“To put it short, more women mean more peace”, strong words from the head of Deputy Head of Mission of the Swedish Embassy Alexandra Rydmark who is working to implement Sweden’s feminist foreign policy, the first of its kind in the world. It aims at not only furthering rights of women and girls, especially in conflict situations, but also at highlighting the potential of women in peace building processes. As Sweden assumes a non-permanent seat in the UN Security Council 2017, they will make gender a top issue, as “shaping the future cannot only be made by part of the society”.

photo credit: Flash90

Occupation as an obstacle to implementing Resolution 1325

Occupation as a further obstacle to women’s participation and solidarity was brought up by the attending civil society actors. Svetlova stated, that solidarity of women across the visible and invisible wall is made difficult, so that it is almost impossible for her to reach out to Palestinian women politicians.

Prof. Khuloud Kayyat Dajani, Associate Professor of Social Medicine and Health Policy at Al Quds University and a member of the PIJ Editorial Board, expressed criticizm that the speeches were about women in power, but not quite about the empowerment of women and the assurance of positive social rights. “After a birth you have a child. After empowerment you have a free woman”. A representative of Women Wage Peace reaffirmed this with her own experience saying that her protest is only possible because of her age and her economic situation allowing her to say “I don’t give a fuck” to the “militaristic and chauvinistic” Israeli society and to stand up for a dialogue on a democratic and equal basis.