Carl Bildt and other EU foreign ministers are meeting today to discuss the Gaza conflict and to find common ground for a Middle East peace settlement. In this acute situation, amid the lack of functioning democratic institutions in Gaza and the West Bank, the EU must consult with civil society, in particular women’s organisations in the region.
During 2008 the Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation scrutinised the Swedish powers that be, politicians as well as the media, and, together with our partner organisations in South Caucasus, the Western Balkans and the Middle East, sought to increase the participation of women in peace and rebuilding processes. Below follows a selection from the year that has passed.
Women must be given a more prominent role in conflict resolution and peace talks. The European security strategy that the EU is currently working on must take into account women’s perspectives and experiences if it is to create sustainable peace and security. These are the words of Margot Wallström, Vice President of the EU Commission, and Lena Ag, President of the Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation who, at the World Heritage Museum in Gothenburg, today discussed what the EU can do to involve more women in peace talks.
On December 12, EU leaders signed an amendment to the 2003 European Security Strategy, the policy document that guides member states in their international work and provides the basis for the joint foreign and security policy. The previous strategy made no mention of sexualised violence or the role of women and civil society in conflict prevention and peace processes. Both these perspectives are now included.
The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation arranged in mid of December together with the Swedish Institute in Alexandria, Egypt a highly appreciated seminar; “Women in Politics: A space for Social Changes”.
By using violence against civilians in Gaza, Israel is breaking international humanitarian laws. The situation in Gaza has turned into a humanitarian catastrophe. Men, women and children are being sacrificed as a cynical collective punishment in response to the rockets fired by Hamas. In this war everyone is a losers. The current situation is a threat to a sustainable solution for the region.
Once again we face a leadership that knows one solution only: WAR. The Israeli government discussed for months the situation in Gaza, much like previous Israeli governments that debated numerous times, the situation in Lebanon, the first and second intifadas and in fact every single crisis Israel has faced. Yet, at the end of the day, these wise elected officials, women included, could only think of one solution, one vision: an offensive military operation.
Majeda Al Saqa from Khan Younis in south of Gaza works at Culture of Free Thought Association, one of Kvinna till Kvinna’s partner organizations in Gaza. Today Anna Levin, field coordinator at Kvinna till kvinna now situated in Jerusalem, spoke with her on the phone.
We women’s organizations from a broad spectrum of political views demand an end to the bombing and other tools of death, and call for the immediate start of deliberations to talk peace and not make war. The dance of death and destruction must come to an end. We demand that war no longer be an option, nor violence a strategy, nor killing an alternative. The society we want is one in which every individual can lead a life of security – personal, economic, and social.
”We will shout heriqa!, which means enough is enough”, says Lara Aharonian from the Women’s Resource Center in Armenia who are arranging a demonstration to observe the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on November 25 and the following 16 Days of Activism.