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Swiss peace workers receive recognition

Geneva Call campaigns against the use of landmines Keystone

One thousand "invisible" women from around the world have been thrust into the spotlight after being jointly nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

This content was published on June 29, 2005 - 16:56

The women, who promote the causes of peace, justice and human dignity, include five Swiss nominees.

The list was compiled by a Swiss-based association, 1,000 Women for the Nobel Peace Prize 2005, which launched the project in 2003 to raise public awareness of the contribution to peace being made by women worldwide.

What began as a "mad idea" – in the association’s own words – soon became a project with global support. Two years on, the initiators handed in the official nomination to the Nobel Peace Prize Committee in Oslo in January.

The names of the 1,000 women from 153 countries were published at a news conference in Bern on Wednesday. Simultaneous news events were held in more than 20 countries.

Opening the event, project initiator and president Ruth-Gaby Vermot said many women received no recognition for the important work they did, and often put themselves in danger.

"Today we are making visible the work done by these 1,000 women," she said.

Symbolic

Vermot said the number 1,000 was symbolic: those selected represented the countless women who daily strive for justice and human rights, often under the most difficult of circumstances.

Most of those included in the nomination work at village level, the organisation said, although many others work in education or local government or are active on the international scene.

What they all have in common is their long-term engagement, the sustainability of their projects, the fact they renounce violence and that they have legal and transparent funding for their activities.

Several of the Swiss nominated are involved in projects in Asia, Latin America and Africa, while two work with refugees and trafficked women in Switzerland. One other Swiss, Lotti Latrous, who runs an Aids hospice in Abidjan, was nominated for Ivory Coast.

Recognition

Musimbi Kanyoro, who was nominated for Kenya but who lives and works in Geneva, said she was very pleased to be on the list. "I feel I am an emblem for many other women," she told swissinfo.

She said nominating 1,000 women jointly affirmed the importance of the work being done by so many people and communities. "You can never do peace alone," she said.

Marianne Spiller Hadorn, a Swiss who was nominated for her work with street children in Brazil, agreed that the recognition was an important endorsement of the work done not just by individuals but by their support networks.

Another Swiss on the list, Elisabeth Reusse-Decrey, said when she launched her initiative Geneva Call to convince warring parties to renounce the use of anti-personnel landmines she had met with official scorn. But finally her idea won financial backing from a number of countries and the European Commission.

Changing the world

Reusse-Decrey told swissinfo she was driven by "a burning passion to change the world". "Women are like this, I think, they often have more conviction. Even if it’s difficult at the beginning they go ahead."

Spiller said she too was drawn to her work with through a sense of the injustice of the world.

"Even as a child I knew I would devote my life to this problem of the imbalance between rich and poor. There was something in me that always drew me to the poor.

Spiller made a plea for Switzerland to take seriously its pledges, under the Millennium Goals, to reduce poverty by half by 2015.

"I’m ashamed that official Switzerland has made such a small commitment to fighting poverty," she told swissinfo.

swissinfo, Morven McLean

Key facts

The 1,000 women sharing the nomination come from 153 countries.
The largest group (91) are from India, followed by China (81).
Five women from Switzerland were nominated.
Another Swiss woman, Lotti Latrous, was nominated for Ivory Coast.

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