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Wanted: Peacebuilding Heroes

12 November 2008 One Comment

Comment by Mary Liston Liepold

In the news this week: man-made disasters and women joining forces to make the world new. Though violence rages in many places, today’s reports focus on eastern Congo, where already unbearable conditions have become unimaginable. The international community is understandably concerned that the DRC’s neighbors will be drawn in if the conflict continues. The conventional thinking calls for still more troops—though the Congo already has the world’s largest UN peacekeeping force.

And from the sidelines comes the voice of Barnard political scientist Séverine Autesserre (quoted, to its credit, by Newsweek), who predicted in Foreign Affairs last summer that more of the same would lead to more of the same. She suggests resolving the local inequities and divisions that fuel the conflict instead: peacebuilding rather than mere peacekeeping.

Peace X Peace members in the Congo like Michel Ngoy Mulunda are building local solutions, person by person and step by step. The same is true across Africa and around the world. In Cote d’Ivoire, the Association for the Defence of Women’s Rights (DWR) and other women’s groups will launch a national campaign this month that includes radio spots in local languages and a nationwide tour. The campaign has two purposes: culture change that makes violence against women unacceptable and pressure to bring women into peacebuilding. Nicole Doué, DWR vice-president, says: “They lifted this buffer zone [between north and south] without planning how to ensure women’s security… This is because of the absence of women in the peace process… From Lomé to Ouagadougou [referring to the numerous peace deals signed over the past five years] women have been shut out.”

Out, but moving steadily to the inside. As I scan the news, I find every outrage and atrocity balanced by a story about women who stand together to take matters into their own hands.

In Somalia over the weekend, a raped 13-year-old was stoned to death while 1,000 people watched, in a classic example of blaming the victim. The father of an Iranian-American jailed for working for women’s equality condemned her “illegal activity.” And in the US, two women and six men were pre-emptively arrested before the Republican National Convention and still face charges for “conspiring to riot.”

This same week, the Gruber Foundation honored three extraordinary women’s rights activists: Iraqi Yanar Mohammed; Nepali Sapana Pradhan Malla, and Palestinian Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian. And Glamour’s Women of the Year awards honored Nujood Ali, the 10-year old Yemeni who took the stand against her abusive husband in court and was granted a historic divorce, and her courageous lawyer Shada Nasser. The two are working together to save other little girls from too-early marriage.

It’s not surprising, then, that CNN’s search for the Hero of the Year has come down to seven women and three men. Come to think of it, we don’t talk about “doctorines,” scientistettes,” or God forbid, “activistesses.” We can all be heroes. What are we waiting for?

About the Author

Mary Liepold is the Editor-in-Chief at Peace X Peace. To reach Dr. Liepold, email
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One Comments to “Wanted: Peacebuilding Heroes”
  1. I may not be a hero, however I am a peacebuilding female and I have just launched a project dear to my heart. It is the For Freedom Now Project and I invite all women and men to become a Shift-Changer with me. The concept came from the examination of my passions, which are: I have a passion or enthusiasm to right the wrongs done to women over the eons. I have a passion to see the end of racial hatred and prejudice. I have a passion to see the end of the abuse of children, women and men. I have the passion to see an end to poverty. I have a passion to see the unhlimited potentials flower in all people. I have a passion for life.

    Thus has emerged my project, which is simple, no fees and the time is minimal. Please click onto this website for further details.
    Bettye Johnson

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