Involving women in the peace building process of any country recovering from war has been an interest of mine for a couple of years now, since I started to more seriously research the psychological effects of war on children. This interest was further explored by me during my trip to Uganda, where it was often a topic of discussion as the Juba Peace Talks were beginning their long journey to which the finish is still not in sight. This is a topic that I would like to further explore eventually through my work and definitely through keeping up on readings, which brought this speech to my attention. Presented by Donald Steinberg, Vice President, International Crisis Group, to UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations Townhall Meeting on December 6, 2007, this speech is called "Beyond Victimhood: Involving Women in Peace Operations."
The first sentence that caught my attention was: It took me only a few weeks after my arrival in Luanda to realise that a peace agreement that is “gender-neutral” is, by definition, discriminatory against women. This sentence struck me because it just highlights how patriarchal most countries and cultures still are. Steinberg goes on to discuss how he discovered this fact when councils and meetings that were open to both sexes ended up being attended only by men. The reasons why this was so were not explicitly explored by Steinberg, but it's easy to give the reasons if you've have any knowledge on cultural structures in Africa. Most women are expected to care for the children and run the family. Leaving the home for any reason is often strictly forbidden, as in many countries women are not even allowed to work. To leave the family to attend a meeting is completely out of the question for many women, and so in making the peace agreement what Steinberg considered "gender-neutral" (because there were no genders identified in the document) was actually not gender-neutral because it was written by men and in the context of a man's world. Men attend meetings away from home, at least in the cultures we're speaking of, not often women. In order to be completely inclusive of both sexes, keeping women's lifestyles and responsibilities in mind mind is essential. Instead of having a town-hall-type-meeting, could they instead go into the villages and take the effort to walk from home to home to discuss the issues with the women? Maybe even have small gatherings at a couple of different homes where the women can bring their children. These are the considerations necessary in a world that is still rigidly defined by gender roles.
The next sentence that I was jumping out of my chair saying, "Yes! Yes! Why didn't I think of putting it that way?" was: Given the prominence of sexual abuse during the conflict, including rape as a weapon of war, amnesties meant that men with guns forgave other men with guns for crimes committed against women. I seriously got goosebumps with that sentence because it's something that happens in so many post-conflict situations and is a serious injustice to the Actual victims of the wars. Women and children are used as weapons in many wars, through rape or use of child soldiers, and yet they are ignored in the peace building processes. It's infuriating at the very least and completely unjust.
Steinberg outlines the current challenges facing women in the peace building process as:
Courageous and talented women trying to help build peace around the world still face discrimination in legal, cultural and traditional practices.
We have been unable to expand the scale of outstanding conflict resolution done by women’s organisations at local levels and extend them writ large throughout their countries.
Sexual violence and threats against women in power impose a stigma of victimisation and a real danger that makes even the most impressive and courageous women think twice before stepping forward.
Men leading peace conferences still exclude women or shunt them off to ante-rooms while “real” negotiations take place.
Steinberg outlines some good issues that are keeping women sidelined in many peace building processes, and he continues the article by offering some proposals on how to further correct this problem. Some of the proposals are more vague than others, but I particularly liked the one about rebuilding social structures of particular importance to women, because if you know anything about women in many high conflict areas is that they do not care about social change if they can't feed and take care of their children. Helping women meet their basic needs gives them the freedom to join the more social causes and the peace building process.
Overall I felt that Steinberg made some strong points about involving women in the peace building process. I wished the article went more in depth, but any focus or discussion on this topic is strongly encouraged and appreciated by me! Focusing on women's special needs in post-conflict nations is still a fairly young concept that is gaining more traction as of late and something that someday I hope to contribute to.
I'll leave you with a quote that one of my co-workers shared with me today... now she shared it with me verbally so she wasn't even sure she got it right and she couldn't remember who said it, so it might be slightly off, but you'll get the point (by the way, if you know the complete quote or who said it, please leave a comment with the info):
If we raised our children we wouldn't have to heal our adults.
ENVIROSAX - reusable shopping bags that are spreading the environmental message with style. Driven by a desire for freedom, the designers at Envirosax® will have you considering, pondering and re-thinking shopping as you know it.
Basically, these are cute reusable shopping bags! Before all you could find were those canvas, rough looking hippy dippy reusable shopping bags. Now you can be environmentally sound and stylish! I'm all about reusable shopping bags and these were just too cute to pass up. You can buy the bags separately or buy a set in the graphic series (pictured here), or you can go even more environmental and buy bamboo, hemp or linen bags (all with adorable designs as well) in the organic series!
I think these bags are the perfect gift not only because you're encouraging a friend, family member or co-worker to be environmentally sound, but also they're pretty cute and kick ass. They have styles for everyone and are seriously cool. I gifted myself with some while I was buying some for my friend and cousin! Hey, there's nothing wrong with that, after all, I'm saving the Earth, right?
The day it opened, I grabbed my trusty hubby and dragged him to The Golden Compass. I was so excited for this movie, I was twittering the whole day to see it. I settled into my movie theater seat with my snuck in candy and anticipated the Lord of the Rings/Harry Potter book turned to movie, thrilling big fantasy experience. And then I waited. And kept waiting.
While the acting was great, the movie fell flat. And it wasn't just me, who had read and adored the books, but my hubby too, who usually loves the fantasy kid book movies. The flow of the movie was rough, almost like the editing for the movie wasn't finished, and the story seemed to be sped through with little development. The characters also weren't developed in a natural way, and in the end I was just left with disappointment at what the movie could have been... an epic movie of huge proportions much like The Lord of the Rings trilogy had been. Instead it ended up being no better than the cartoon recreation of The Lord of the Rings that I had watched as a child. Recreating the story in a very linear and flat fashion without adding anything to it, and in fact even detracting from it.
And don't even get me started on the corny Disney-ish fairytale music. The book was edgy and harsh, shining light on the ugly sides of human nature and the dangers of an Authoritarian entity running people's lives. The Disney-ish fairytale music completely contrasted the plot and the tone of the book, as if attempting to make the story something it's not. There never was this huge sense of foreboding that the book had, and I really disliked the narrator explaining dust at the beginning of the movie. Part of the enjoyment of reading the book was learning about it as Lyra did and trying to figure it out almost like a mystery. Why did the movie just ruin that for the viewers?
Overall, the movie was a huge disappointment and while I'll probably watch the next one to see if it's any better, I'll go in with much lower expectations then I went to The Golden Compass with.
...Oh wait, no it doesn't! Hype hype hype. I won't deny that this is a big game for the Steelers, it was a big game on our schedule from Week 1 because the Patriots are always a tough team for us to play not matter how either of our seasons are going, just like the Jags are (who we're facing next week). But if we lose, I'm pretty confident we'll still win our division and get to the Playoffs. And isn't that the whole point? When we last won the Super Bowl we had an embarrassing loss to the Colts during regular season and then proceeded to dominate them (despite the close/crazy ending of the game) in the Playoffs. So a loss today does not crown the Patriots as the Super Bowl winners of the 2007 season at all, like the media and the bandwagoners would surely do if the Patriots win. And I definitely would not go so far as to say that if the Patriots win today that they will for sure go undefeated this season. After all, wasn't it the 1-6 Miami Dolphins who beat the at the time unbeaten Chicago Bears in Week 9 last year? You never know who's going to pop up and bite you in the butt in this league and I wouldn't be surprised if the lowly Jets or the other New York team... or even those sneaky Dolphins come up and surprise us all. Sure, it's a long shot, but isn't the sixth seed of the Playoffs winning the Super Bowl a long shot too?
That being said, I want to kick the crap out of the New England Patriots. But if we lose, my life isn't over and neither is the Steelers' season. I'd rather lose to an undefeated Patriots to than to the lowly N.Y. Jets after all...
On the other side of the league it's actually true that everything rests on the game today for the Minnesota Vikings, but that's just because every game for the Vikes is now essential for us to make the Playoffs. There's a possibility that if we lose one game that we could still make it, but we'd need a lot of help from other teams in order to do so. But if we win out, we're in. Our destiny's in our own hands and everybody's calling us to make the Playoffs with the sixth seed. So what do the Vikings usually do when our destiny's in our own hands? Fumble it. Let's hope this is a different Vikings team this year and that we pull it out in the end and make the Playoffs for the first time since 2004. I'm tentatively excited about the Vikings right now...