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September 30, 2015

Women Leading Peace: Women’s Political Participation in Peace Processes

Women Leading Peace: Women’s Political Participation in Peace Processes

“Women are truly the victims of conflict, but also the agents of change,” said Ambassador Melanne Verveer, executive director of the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security (GIWPS), during a Sept. 30 symposium that featured Kosovo President Atifete Jahjaga and former U.S. secretary of state Madeleine Albright.

Agents of Change in Kosovo

Over the 20 years of conflict in Kosovo, women “held society together and organized politically” said President Jahjaga, elected in 2011 as Kosovo's first female president.

“Women mobilized to offer humanitarian aid, documented the violence going on and presented it to the international community,” she added.

Women helped consolidate governance in in post-conflict Kosovo: they helped rebuild community trust in the police force, formerly viewed as a tool of war and repression, and actively participated in institutional life. Today, Kosovo has a 30 percent women quota for parliamentary seats. 

“What I am proudest of is Kosovo: to see a country come together” declared Albright. 

Albright stressed the importance of collaboration, and including women in peacebuilding processes as diverse teams are also more stable: “There is power in us helping each other, and gaining support in what we do.” 

Peacebuilding around the World 

Following the keynote speeches, four panelists spoke about their leadership experience in conflict resolution and the peace building process. 

Dr. Claudia Paz y Paz addressed the importance of cross-sectional forums, bringing together women from different races and socioeconomic backgrounds, based on her experiences in Guatemala. 

“[In Guatemala] the women came from different movements, and we recognized for the first time that we are a plural collective,” said Paz y Paz, Guatemala’s first female attorney general. 

Dr. Monica McWilliams, co-founder of the Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition political party, stressed the importance of forming networks between civil society groups worldwide. She explained that without the support of women internationally, such as former secretary of state Hillary Clinton and Ambassador Verveer, she would not have received institutional recognition in her native Ireland. 

Professor Miriam Coronel Ferrer, chairperson of the Philippines Peace Panel during the negotiations with the Moro Liberation Front, addressed the presence of women during peace negotiations, creating international contact groups and strong civil society links, as well as the importance of “power sharing” during the negotiation processes. 

Finally, Ms. Njeri Kabeberi, executive director of the Centre for Multiparty Democracy in Kenya, spoke on the importance of political organization as a key to institutional governance, and the transition of her movement from civil society to political party. 

“We cannot just have economic empowerment – women need to be politically empowered, too,” said Kabeberi.