South Africans of Danish descent, our family was vehemently opposed to apartheid and I moved to the UK with my husband in the 70’s. In London, finding that women in business were lacking a voice, I co-founded the London Chamber of Commerce Women in Business network to raise awareness of the benefits of engaging women at more senior levels in business.
Seeing women, not in opposition to men but as a creative force, has been at the heart of my non–profit work.
I am currently working on a strategy with UNIFEM, the Kennedy School, Harvard and the Human Security Commission to get more women trained for and engaged in peace negotiations. As interim Executive Director of the Suzanne Mubarak Women’s International Peace Movement I helped set up the first peace movement in the Middle East with a focus on the inclusion of women as a fundamental to sustainable peace.
Another connection with the Arab world is promoting women's economic development in the Arab Region and with my fellow trustees of the Arab International Women's Forum, we have had some success in putting the needs of Arab women on policy agendas.
I am enjoying participating in the UK working group for UNSCR1325. I advise on current trends in gender and peacebuilding, especially the Inclusive Human Security agenda, and am a member of the Oxford Process Group, which has considerable expertise in facilitating Human Security approaches to conflict and policy making.
As past chair of Womankind Worldwide, the UK’s largest women’s human rights and development agency I have experienced first hand how women can make a difference but are often hampered by poorly thought through policies. I'm passionate about advocating for more ‘joined up’ policy making: I would like to see closer interaction between grassroots organisations and policy makers and between the policymakers themselves, so that those responsible for security talk to the development people and also listen to those on the ground who are best placed to give the true picture. Wouldn't it be great if policy makers could see what an ally they are excluding by not engaging extensively with women?
Some of the issues I would like to discuss: Who is taking 1325 seriously? The need to set the UN1325 debate in the broader context of inclusive Human Security. Going beyond peacekeeping to conflict transformation for sustainable peace. Who makes the peace and who really keeps the peace - and is this now much more the role of civil society? Are we in the West afraid to face the truth about child soldiers/human trafficking/the abuse of women – and acknowledge the sheer scale on which this is happening because it is ‘out there’ and happening to ‘the other’! In truth is there really such a thing as ‘the other’?