Women victims demand a role in peace making

The conference will discuss women's contribution to peace Keystone

Switzerland is co-hosting a major international conference on how women can play a more active role in bringing peace to conflict-ridden countries.

This content was published on November 19, 2004 - 15:54

The meeting is being held in conjunction with the Suzanne Mubarak foundation, the first movement of its kind from the Middle East that is devoted to women and peace.

The three-day “Women Defending Peace” conference started on Monday at the International Labour Organization in Geneva.

It brings together more than 350 international delegates, including those with first-hand experience of conflict, as well as the peace and reconciliation process.

Speaking ahead of the event, Aleya Hammad, the conference’s secretary general, said that although women were usually the first to be affected by conflicts, they were often excluded from the peace process.

She said that discussions would, therefore, focus on three main issues.

“One issue is to stop trafficking; the second is to stop violence and rape during conflict; and the third is when there’s a hotspot, to work out to what extent are women involved and then create noise and activism,” Hammad told swissinfo.

She added that emphasis would also be placed on establishing an action plan for strengthening peace.

Swiss support

The meeting is being co-hosted by Swiss foreign minister Micheline Calmy-Rey, and Suzanne Mubarak, founder of the “Suzanne Mubarak Women’s International Peace Movement”, and wife of the Egyptian president, Muhammad Hosni Mubarak.

This is the second such conference hosted by the Mubarak Foundation. The first, which was partly funded by Switzerland, was held in Egypt two years ago.

Blaise Godet, Switzerland’s new ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, said human security had always been an integral part of Swiss foreign policy.

“What we like about this conference is the approach. It’s not only that we pay tribute to the victims, but it’s also forward looking,” Godet told swissinfo.

He added that women could bring new insights to peace making and this “could be an enormous contribution to the reconciliation and negotiation process”.

Speakers at the conference include Jody Williams, who received the Nobel Peace prize in 1997 for her campaign against anti-personnel mines, which led to the Ottawa Treaty.

Also due to attend are representatives from Liberia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel and the Occupied Territories.

swissinfo, Isobel Leybold-Johnson

Key facts

According to “Wounds of War”:
There were 59 major armed conflicts in 48 locations between 1990-2003.
More than ten civilians are killed for every combatant.
In conflicts, women are often targeted, killed, raped kidnapped and displaced.
Only 11 women have received the Nobel Peace Prize in the past 100 years.

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In brief

The conference takes place from November 22-24 at the ILO in Geneva.

“Wounds of War”, published by Harvard University and describing the injuries inflicted on women in war is also being launched at the meeting.

More than 350 delegates are expected to attend from countries including Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel and the Occupied Territories.

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