Super ordinary women

3 October 2005
Hi! As senior policy advisor at International Alert from 1998 to 2000, I would like to greet my fellow-bloggers, and kick us off by sharing some of my own experience and a few of my thoughts about how UN Resolution 1325 came about:

I learnt of the work of women from my colleague Ndeye Sow who was a pioneer in training and engaging women in peace efforts in Burundi.  In 1998, with my colleagues Ancil Adrian Paul and Eugenia Piza Lopez, we collaborated with others to host the first global conference on women and violent conflict. This event, and those who joined us from the Middle East to Colombia, Indonesia to Rwanda, set me on the path of advocating for, and working towards women's increased participation.   
The campaign Women Building Peace emerged from the conference, and my role in the campaign was to coordinate advocacy efforts towards the United Nations. Our goal - at the time a somewhat distant ideal - was to get a Security Council Resolution in support of women. The Ford Foundation supported this effort, with Mahnaz Ispahani championing our efforts throughout.   The strategy was to build a coalition of supportive NGOs in cooperation with the UN, and outreach and collaboration with member states. We used the Beijing +5 conference as a venue to raise awareness and support for the initiative.  I also worked with UNIFEM in 1999, researching and writing a brief report called 'Women at the Peacetable, Making a Difference'. It was a wonderful opportunity to interview some of the greatest women around - including Mu Sochua, Hanan Ashrawi, Luz Mendez and the late Mo Mowlam.
UNIFEM launched the publication at the Beijing +5 conference, hosting an event at which the Bangladeshi ambassador at the UN was present. At the time Ambassador Chowdhury was chairing the Security Council, and he promised to put the issue of women, peace and security up for discussion on March 8 2000. Meanwhile among the NGOs, we strategised to invite representatives from member states to a briefing, so that they could hear women's experiences first hand. The first meeting was so successful, that a second with Security Council members was held too. It was clear that the momentum was building with support from Bangladesh and Jamaica, and interest from the UK, US and France. But we still needed a champion at the Council, and the opportunity arose when we met with the Namibians. They had just hosted a meeting on gender in peacekeeping, and were keen to bring the issue to the council during their presidency. We worked with them to broaden the scope beyond peacekeeping to include peace negotiations, protection and prevention issues.  
As October approached, the ad hoc NGO working group we'd formed (Int Alert (me, Eugenia), Amnesty (Florence Martin, Sarah Sullivan), Hague Appeal for Peace (Guri Soudhwany and Cora Weiss), Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children (Maha Muna and Ramina Johal) and WILPF (Felicity Hill and Isha Dyfan)) worked around the clock to keep the issue alive both in NY and in the capitals of SC members. We coordinated meetings, continued outreach to our NGO partners globally, provided information and draft language for the resolution and supported UNIFEM's efforts as they in turn worked with the Namibian mission to formalise the process.  In late October, following an open session (Arria) at the Council where the issues were discussed, a draft resolution was circulated. The rest is history.
The day it was passed, I was in London, unable to travel to New York as I was heavily pregnant with twins (girls - what else?!). When the call came that the resolution was passed, I celebrated with my mother...odd given how closely I had worked with my colleagues around the world, but also very appropriate. I've found along the way, that so many of the women who are active in these issues, derive their strength and commitment from strong women in their own families - grandmothers, mothers, aunts, sisters.  For me the essence of 1325 and the issues it covers revolve around the fact that we aren't talking about the work of a handful of super-women. The women I've met come from all walks of life. They are  lawyers, teachers, social workers, journalists, dancers and mothers. They are extraordinarily ordinary women, caught up in horrendous times, doing what it takes to return to normalcy and peace.
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