Mighty be our powers: peaceful women and the global south

Published on openDemocracy, by Nada Mustafa Ali, 10 October 2011.

“We have included the Arab Spring in this prize, but we have put it in a particular context. Namely, if one fails to include the women in the revolution and the new democracies, there will be no democracy.” Thorbjoern Jagland, chair of the Nobel Prize Committee. The significance of the decision to award the Nobel Peace Prize to three women from the global south extends way beyond the Arab world and Africa.

For me, the award to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf,  Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkul Karman is recognition of the great achievements of these women in challenging contexts of repressive and post-conflict settings, and of the specific ways in which conflict, peace-building and post-conflict processes affect women … //

… For me, this year’s Nobel Peace Prize speaks to the gender-specific impact on women of conflict, repression, and the political processes of peace-building, post-conflict reconstruction, and building truly inclusive democracy. The awarding of this year’s Prize recognises the price paid by women in the struggle for democracy – including in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia; Zimbabwe, South Sudan and my country, Sudan. In Sudan, women activists and journalists are often the targets of government violence . In  Darfur, the Blue Nile, and South Kordofan, women have been the subject of killings, forced displacement, and gender-based violence, and now whole communities are facing a looming food crisis.

The Prize also honours the consistent organizing and strategic advocacy around peace and security by women’s and peace groups at the global, regional, and national levels. It is not a coincidence that the Nobel Committee’s citation includes a reference to UN SCR 1325 on women, peace and security which emphasizes the gender-specific impact of conflict on women, and the importance of women’s participation at all levels in peace-processes and in post-conflict reconstruction.  And so as women’s groups and activists commemorate the eleventh anniversary of UN Security Council Resolution 1325, the jubilation and celebration of the accomplishments and contributions of Leymah Gbowee, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Tawakkul Karman, should energize activists even further to push governments, political parties and movements to make gender equality central in peace-building and post-conflict reconstruction, and to ensure women’s human rights and full participation in decision making at all levels to build democratic reform.  Indeed, as the Nobel Committee stated in a press release on 7 October: “We cannot achieve democracy and lasting peace in the world unless women obtain the same opportunities as men to influence developments at all levels of society.” (full long text).

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