Women in Bastan Village, Kurdistan

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Nobel Women Peace Initiative: Amplifying Womens Voices Around the World

On October 3rd, the Haifa s Women Coalition proudly welcomed Nobel Peace Laureate Jody Williams and eight additional members of the Nobel Women for Peace Initiative to our offices in Haifa. These women had come to bear witness to the struggles, creativity and inspiring activism of women on the ground to promote justice and build sustainable peace. The delegation traveled to Jerusalem, Haifa, Nazareth, Ramallah, Hebron and Bilin, and was focused on learning from and highlighting the work of women peacebuilders.

In 2006, Jody Williams, along with sister Nobel Peace Laureates Rigoberta Menchu Tum, Shirin Ebadi, Wangari Maathai, Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan Maguire (who was prevented from entering the country with the delegation and deported by Israeli authorities), founded the Nobel Women for Peace Initiative to bring their experiences together in a united effort toward peace with justice and equality. It is the goal of these six women, who represent North and South America, Europe, the Middle East and Africa, to help strengthen work being done in support of women s rights around the world.

Members of the coalition (including Isha l Isha, Kayan Feminist Organization, Aswat and the Rape Crisis Center) introduced their organizations and talked about their efforts to promote equality for women in Israel. Women from Isha LIsha shared their work to open the discussion of security and broaden its definition to include financial, environmental, and civil aspects, in addition to security from sexual offenses. They said that Israel has a single, narrow definition of security that serves state interests and is based on fear. Another representative spoke to the delegation of a group of women who daily monitor ten checkpoints in order to remind soldiers that Palestinians are indeed human beings. A third woman expressed that the conflict is extremely complex and said that we need to be discussing the reality of it. She shared that her own son is in the military and mentioned that young Israelis have been imprisoned for their choice to conscientiously object to military service.

The women opened up to one another, sharing their stories, feelings, passions and frustrations. Shirin of Kayan Feminist Organization highlighted the coalition as an excellent example of listening and coexistence in Israel. A very young age, the women from Haifa said, Israelis are told that they face a threat of extermination, a message which serves to silence all criticism. Israelis, they said, are told: We were weak and we will never allow ourselves to be like that again. The women expressed concern about the international community holding its own solutions; the conflict, they said, is perceived as black and white though in reality it is not. When delegates of the Nobel Women for Peace Initiative asked how they could promote peace in Israel, the women of the coalition requested they work to end U.S. support of Israel. Without U.S. money, they said, Israel could not sustain the occupation. Delegates of the initiative also consulted the Haifa peace activists about defining Israel as an Apartheid State, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement and what they could do to help gain support from the international community.

Also present in the meeting were Cindy and Craig Corrie, parents of Rachel Corrie, an American peace activist killed in Gaza by an Israeli military bulldozer in 2003. The Corries are in Israel to participate in civil court hearings regarding their daughter s case. Cindy shared her journey to seek justice for Rachel and said that since the death of their daughter, she and her husband had been working to "promote peace and raise awareness about the plight of Palestinians," a continuation of what they believe to have been their daughter s work. After the meeting, I reached to Cindy and told her that eventhough she lost Rachel, she had gained many daughters around the world that share the same passion as her daughter and that if she were alive, (she would be around my age) probably we would have met here.

Cindy Corrie shared her experiences with Israeli women

The meeting was quite empowering, with women citizens of Israel communicating their needs. It was a meeting where women reached women, learned from each other experience and most importantly, were present in solidarity with the goal of amplifying women s voices for peace.

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