Every year on May 24th, International Women's Day for Peace and Disarmament is celebrated, inviting us to reflect on the vital role that women play in building a more peaceful and secure world. Feminist organizations emphasize that this ideal state must include tangible outcomes that address the struggles against poverty and inequality, as peace is much more than the absence of war.
Ayda María Martínez Ipuz
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At a time when conflict and violence seem to dominate headlines, war highlights that women are the most vulnerable beings in these environments. Just to mention the case of the war in Ukraine, Amnesty International has denounced harmful effects on the mental, physical, sexual, and reproductive health of women, along with risks of sexual and gender-based violence. In addition, there is a need for women to have a proactive role in strategic decision-making processes amidst war, as it is often a male-dominated environment.
In this context, it is worth noting that historically, women have been leaders and advocates in pacifist and disarmament movements around the world. From suffragettes who fought for equal rights and an end to war, to mothers and sisters who have raised their voices against armed violence and militarism, women have demonstrated an innate ability to seek nonviolent solutions to conflicts.
Abuse and discrimination in war
It is no wonder that, according to the United Nations, women are the most affected by the hardships of conflicts. "We cannot separate the dangerous state of peace in our world from the destructive effects of patriarchy and the silencing of women's voices," said UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed last October, calling for denouncing the misogyny that manifests itself in the abuse and discrimination women face amidst war.
For Mohammed, strengthening women's resilience and leadership as a path to peace in conflict-ridden regions must translate into gender equality and the freedom to express opinions and demands from governments without being stigmatized or persecuted for speaking up.
"Across the world, from Iran to Tigray, Ukraine, Afghanistan, and more, women's rights defenders risk their lives every day in the name of peace and fundamental guarantees, working for the well-being of their communities and our planet. Their work should be appreciated by all. Instead, they face increasing attacks every day," lamented Bahous, citing attacks on several activists in various countries, including Colombia.
Therefore, the pursuit of peace and disarmament goes beyond that. It extends to social justice, gender equality, the protection of human rights, and sustainable development. Peace requires the construction of just and inclusive societies.
According to Francisca Sauquillo, President of the Peace Movement of Spain, "Peace is much more than the absence of war because the role of women in advocating for peace recalls the legacy of women with different achievements in various scenarios of world history."
One of the most notable contributions of women pacifists is their ability to promote dialogue and reconciliation in conflict situations. Often, they are the ones leading mediation and negotiation initiatives, working to find solutions through active listening, empathy, and seeking outcomes that benefit all parties involved.
The United Nations "Women, Peace, and Security" (WPS) agenda seeks to address gender inequalities and promote the participation and empowerment of women in peace and security processes. It was established in 2000 with the adoption of the historic UN Security Council Resolution 1325 and has since been reaffirmed and expanded through subsequent resolutions.
However, reality shows that the historically predominant male presence in peace and security areas persists, as well as the unequal power relations that affect women in armed conflict contexts, making them disproportionately affected by violence.