Michiana Chronicles: Mothers’ Call for Peace
Some events are too painful for words. And yet, not acknowledging the civilians who continue to die, the countless who grieve, and each and every individual who is struggling to survive during wartime feels unspeakably violent too. Dear listeners, forgive me for addressing the Palestinian-Israeli war in the only way I know how at this moment: by directing my heart and voice towards the people who give me hope. Call me delirious and naïve, yet these people for me are the women waging peace and their allies. In my defense, there have been historical precedents in other parts of the world which faced layered and deeply rooted armed conflicts such as in Northern Ireland, Liberia, Colombia, and South Sudan, where the participation of women in the peace process, reconciliation, reconstruction, and governance was transformative. But before I introduce the grassroots women-led Israeli organization of Women Wage Peace, founded in 2014 after the 50-day Gaza War and their Palestinian sister organization, Women of the Sun, founded in 2021, let me pause to consider why focusing on women and peace has been seen increasingly vital on the international scene for at least the past two decades, if not so throughout human history.
Women are often portrayed as victims of war, sometimes as fierce warriors, but hardly ever as architects of peace. This perspective is not unreasonable since the data reveals that women and girls are disproportionately impacted during and after armed conflicts while they are largely absent around the peace-negotiation tables and within decision-making bodies. This prejudicial paradox is the focus of the United Nation Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace, and Security, which was unanimously adopted in the year 2000.
In 2020, on the twentieth anniversary of UNSCR 1325, Ulla Schmidt, the deputy chairwoman of the German delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, reflects that “the most evident issue has been the wide gap between the ambitions set out in the Resolution and the results achieved thus far. […] Recent studies show that female participation in peace agreements makes them 64% less likely to fail and 35% more likely to last more than 15 years. As a result of women’s under-representation, a vast majority of peace agreements adopted in the past three decades have failed to address their concerns and therefore to reflect the interest of society as a whole. […] Furthermore, the implementation of Resolution 1325 remains significantly under-funded.” Clare Hutchinson, NATO Secretary General’s Special Representative for Women, Peace, and Security, adds: “Time-bound goals are needed, backed by monitoring, accountability provisions and enforcement mechanisms. We must move beyond words, to establish and implement an ambitious but achievable agenda for action. […] Collective action and partnerships are critical to advance the awareness and the acceptance of gender equality, especially partnerships with men”.
Sitting on the shoulders of feminist peace movements such as Women in Black in the late 1980s and Jerusalem Link in the 1990s, Women Wage Peace and Women of the Sun have prioritized partnerships across divides in their diverse, non-politically affiliated organizations as they have marched and organized together to demand urgent diplomatic negotiations in recent years. In a 2021 online roundtable, Suheir Freitekh, a co-founder of Women of the Sun exclaims: “We want to live in peace, not to rest in peace” (5). May you all, one day soon, thrive in peace, security, and Justice.
In 2022, Women Wage Peace and Women of the Sun drafted and signed a declaration and petition entitled “Mothers’Call,” which I will read in its English version:
“We, Palestinian and Israeli women from all walks of life, are united in the human desire for a future of peace, freedom, equality, rights, and security for our children and the next generations. We believe that the majority of the people of our nations also share our mutual desire. Therefore, we demand that our leaders listen to our call and promptly begin peace talks and negotiations, with a determined commitment to achieving a political solution to the long and painful conflict, within a limited timeframe."
I will leave you with Yael Deckelbaum’s “Prayer of the Mothers,” created in tandem with singers and musicians of different faiths and cultures. It was inspired by the 2016 March of Hope organized by Women Wage Peace where they were joined by the 2011 Nobel Prize for Peace winner, Leymah Gbowee, whose non-violent, inter-faith work contributed to end the Second Liberian Civil War in 2003 (7).
Music: Yael Deckelbaum, “Prayer of the Mothers”