It is difficult to know where to begin picking oneself up in the wake of devastating attacks on the lives of civilians. Parisians on an evening out, Syrians fleeing a dismal reality, the relentless bombs raining down on Beirut. Intended targets or collateral damage? Our immediate histories are pock marked with circular patterns of depravity that we have mostly failed to collectively confront.
It takes millions down the trigger-happy slippery slope of identity politics, religious fanaticism, greed, power and gender based violence. Despair. The hysteria or hypnosis of a broken people.
The quick retaliation in the cracking of a military command. Sucked into warfare’s very pointlessness – we find ourselves in the eye of the storm. To look the other way is cold and all too easy – vigorous fingers pointing, the generous issuing of blame.
And yet, not everyone succumbs to the crushing of the human spirit. Not everyone buckles under the enormity of it. People not only survive conflict, they find ways to register their rejection of the senselessness of violence. They bury their dead, they aspire to heal, some summon the ability to forgive.
International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women
On this day we mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. It seems only fitting that we pay our respects to those who have lost their lives in the chaos of our times, with next to no regard for how much blood need flow.
In equal parts, it becomes important that we shine a light on those who endure. Those who find it in themselves to defy the bullets by carrying on.
The world is scattered with resilience and the rebuilding of lives, brave beings reclaiming that which has come to define them. I have had the honour of encountering some of these incredible individuals and communities, in the context of a specific project I am both humbled by and privileged to be a part of.
Empowering women: survivors become leaders
Empowering Women for Peace and Development in South Asia seeks to positively impact the lives of approximately 500,000 people from conflict riddled parts of the Northeast of India, the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh and the Shan Territory of Myanmar. Generating community leaders from a pool of survivors of conflict and violence, the project builds value for systemic change. It breathes life into the underlying principle that sustainable peace can be optimally achieved through dialogue and inclusive practices. It invites the active participation of women in the process of peace building.
Gender justice is a vital and cross cutting theme, anchoring the project to the idea that equality at all levels is necessary and requires both courage and imagination. This is a project that speaks to Welthungerhilfe’s commitment to autonomy and agency and to the European Union’s generosity of support.
Implementing partners in all three regions galvanize discussions on women, peace and security, their presence and interventions straddling local, national and international arenas for conflict transformation. These treasured spaces the project carves out through its partners however, truly belong to survivors of conflict at the grass roots level.
Women, men, youth, sexual and gender minorities come together to arrive at an inclusive understanding of the role of women in peace building.
They gather to learn a new skill, to regenerate income, to fend for their families. They start from scratch and work tirelessly, often invisibly, building bridges to a climate of peace from within a canvas where conflict spirals on.
The fact that the communities engaged with often find themselves on either side of a conflict – sit down at the same table, seeking discussion, listening to one another with open minds and newfound levels of trust is a step forward in our ability to look at ourselves with collective compassion. In collaboration, they pioneer new ways to address the dilemmas of intervention. They decode the structures of difficult conversations; see wisdom in recognizing the critical role that ‘ordinary’ lives can play.
Marc Gopin, a renowned peacemaker, who authored ‘To Make the Earth Whole’ is known to have said:
…by setting in motion a constellation of relationships, cultural gestures, and communications …citizen diplomats can literally bring walls of mistrust and hatred tumbling down…
The role of survivors of conflict, particularly women (affected in ways often shrouded in silence) – in breaking patterns of violence, marginalization and subordination is a statement in itself. It demonstrates that hope can still be found where consciences emerge intact. I honour these women today and the men, youth and myriad minorities that work with integrity alongside them. They represent lasting change, where emotional intelligence applied to life’s toughest moments is all the difference.
Women and Development: Find out about other Welthungerhilfe projects