Where are the peace women?

By Zubeida Mustafa
Source: Dawn

IS peace in Karachi on the mend? Quite likely. The political reconciliation that is in the air will hopefully lower the level of violence. But for how long?

A positive development has been the belated involvement of civil society in peacemaking in the city. At a press conference on Saturday, Nargis Rahman, an activist for women’s rights and peace, announced the convening of the Karachi Concerned Citizens Forum (KCCF) comprising 65 NGOs. Rahman emphatically stated “it was not just the government’s job but also the duty of the citizens” to work for peace in the city. The KCCF presented seven demands to the government designed to lower the heat. Some of these call for active participation of civil society as well. There is the call for a complete ban on the display of weapons by political party workers who should not be allowed to commit random or targeted killings. All political parties have been asked to identify miscreants/militants within their ranks and expose them for appropriate punitive action under the law of the land.

As a response is formulated to these demands, which are really the minimum to bring about a semblance of peace, it is important that women should get more involved in this daunting task before the citizens of Karachi.

It is heartening these developments spell the emergence of the female voice in support of peace, and Nargis Rahman has done well to take the initiative. It so transpired that she had been agonising over the killings in the city for several days and with friends, Naushaba Burney and Ameena Saiyid, had been debating the strategy to be adopted. Thus emerged the action plan presented on Saturday by Karamat Ali of Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research.

One hopes that this phase of peace in Karachi is not to be another transient one as has been the case in the past when Karachi has been seized with violence. If this time it has to be different then there is need to change strategies. What should they be? I found the answer to this question at the poster exhibition organised by PeaceWomen Across the Globe (PWAG) that I visited at the Human Security Conference in Caux in July.

Designed to commemorate the work of the 1,000 women who were (unsuccessfully) nominated collectively by this organisation for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005 — 29 from Pakistan — it was a powerful reminder that women’s role in peacemaking has not received a fair chance.

PWAG, a Swiss-based agency, believes that the absence of war does not necessarily translate into peace. Although the number of wars has declined today, the level of violence has gone up. It believes that without women’s involvement there can be no permanent peace as they are the ones who come up with solutions that reduce conflicts, strengthen civil society and heal wounds.

This was acknowledged by the UN Security Council more than 10 years ago when it adopted resolution 1325 which requires the participation of women in all peace negotiations. This goal has yet to be achieved.

The co-president of WPAW , Ruth-Gaby Vermot-Mangold, who is a former member of the Swiss parliament, disclosed in her inaugural address that from 1992 to 2004 nearly 22 peace negotiations took place globally. Women comprised only 2.5 per cent of the signatories and 7.6 per cent of the members of negotiating teams were women.

Why has more room not been created for women to participate in the sensitive process of peacemaking which is infinitely more difficult to sustain? WPAW very categorically states, “It is a proven fact that peace negotiations that do not include women are unsuccessful. Peace processes that only consider the needs and concerns of warring factions or conflict parties are doomed to fail. Post-conflict reconstruction processes that exclude women are unable to fulfil the needs of the local population and consequently sow the seeds of new conflict.”

This invisibility of women can be traced to centuries-old patriarchal structures that determine every activity including diplomacy and governance. Considering that human lives are at stake, the failure of women to make it to the forefront in peace negotiations should not be acceptable today. Women will have to assert themselves and assume their responsibility.

In Karachi, the role of female civil society activists as in the formation of KCCF is commendable. But where were the women from the political parties that are held responsible for the killings in the city when Karachi was burning? All the parties have high-profile articulate women members, but unfortunately, we have not heard much from them on this issue. They should join hands to demand peace in Karachi and should work together, transcending party lines.

It is their duty to play the role expected of them in three ways. First, they should bring pressure on the government and their own parties that have been engaged in a turf war in this metropolis to submit to de-weaponisation and other suggested measures.

Second, recognising the sanctity of human life which they give birth to, they should refuse to participate in the blame game their party leaders indulge in.

Third, they must insist on peace committees (with at least a third of the members being women from all sides of the political spectrum) being established in every locality at the grass-root level. After all, when violence erupts, women are the worst sufferers. They lose their breadwinners and their sons.

12 thoughts on “Where are the peace women?

  1. It is interesting that those 65 NGOs even don't have 65 persons for peace rally in affected areas!! Though i m part of it as an individual through JAC but irony is that they r not ready to demand the De-weaponisation from city.
    The demand for Peace without De-weaponisation is merely the dream. First demand should be the surrender/ search for illegal weapons and then licensed weapons. No cases should be registered against weapon holders in first phase. Three months should be given to surrender or register all weapons at the newly made centers for collecting weapons. Government and political parties should also declare the figure of weapons in their possession. I believe without de-weaponisation, peace would never ever be restored in Karachi.
    Women can play vital role in this situation for peace.

  2. These are the OBJECTIVES OF WPP ( Women Peacemakers Programme )

    International Fellowship of Reconciliation

    ” Mission Statement

    The International Fellowship of Reconciliation (IFOR) believes that without peace, development is impossible, and without women, neither peace nor development can take place. Given that women and girls begin from a disadvantaged position, women’s empowerment is a key step towards gender equality in peacebuilding. While there has been progress towards women’s empowerment, much work still remains.

    IFOR’s Women Peacemakers Program (IFOR/WPP) has been established in 1997 to support and empower women peace activists. We actively advocate for the recognition of women’s experiences of war and conflict and the integration of a gender perspective in peacebuilding processes.

    Mission Statement and Objectives

    IFOR/WPP’s mission is to support the empowerment of gender-sensitive women and men for the transformation of conflict through active nonviolence.

    This is done through the following core activities:

    – Providing gender-sensitive nonviolence education and training;

    – Networking and regional and global capacity building

    – Gender mainstreaming the peace movement

    WPP’s work includes lobby and advocacy for the implementation of important UN Security Council Resolutions in the field of women, peace and security (WPS); UNSCR 1325, 1820, 1888, 1889 and 1960. The WPP believes the women, peace and security agenda needs to be debated and analyzed with a critical lens. This involves looking at gender beyond a narrow focus on women in order to understand and address its relational aspects, which necessitates further exploration of the masculinities perspective. It also requires asking critical questions about the link between gender and militarism, and advocating for a security concept from a feminist perspective.

    The upcoming years, the WPP focus will also include a focus on the constructive role faith-based peacebuilding can play in countering religious fundamentalism and armed conflict, and the need for a gender perspective in this as well.


    WPP’s work has led to an increase in the number of women, and men, involved in peacebuilding.

    Participants return to their home countries and form women-led groups for peace; raise awareness of the need for more women to be involved in peacebuilding, and create a climate that opens more space for women, especially young women, to engage in peacebuilding.

    It has increased the skills and capacity of women peacebuilders. It has raised awareness of and provided training materials on the need for a gender perspective in peacebuilding. It has further increased the pool of empowered women and men peacemakers by providing access to training in conflict resolution skills and other technical support, regional and international networking, and important links to decision-makers, resources and campaigns.

    The WPP has received recognition from peace researchers and practitioners and has been called a pioneer in the field of gender-sensitive conflict resolution.

    The WPP’s Training of Trainers Program and International Consultations (2001 – 2005) have had a multiplying effect, and the models and materials developed have been requested and adopted by peace organizations/workers in many different regions.

    To read more about WPP trainings, click here >

    International Fellowship Of Reconciliation

    IFOR was founded in October 1919 during a meeting held in Bilthoven, the Netherlands by Christian pacifists.

    Today IFOR has 82 branches, groups, and affiliates in 48 countries on all continents. Though organized on a national and regional basis, IFOR seeks to overcome the division of nation states which are often the source of conflict and violence. Its membership includes adherents of all the major spiritual traditions as well as those who have other spiritual sources for their commitment to nonviolence.

    Peace Prize Laureates

    IFOR has six Nobel Peace Prize Laureates among its former and present members. Jane Addams (1931), Emily Green Balch (1946), Chief Albert Luthuli (1960), Dr. Martin Luther King (1964), Mairead Corrigan-Maguire (1976), Adolfo Perez Esquivel (1980) have all been or are actively contributing to dissemination of the teaching of non-violence.

    The IFOR international secretariat in Alkmaar, the Netherlands, co-ordinates communication among IFOR members, links branches to capacity-building resources (and through the WPP provides training in gender awareness), and helps co-ordinate international campaigns, delegations and urgent actions.

    IFOR has extensive working relationships with like-minded non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and civil society initiatives around the world. IFOR’s 90 years of expertise in active nonviolence is recognized and respected by these NGOs and many others.

    For more information about IFOR, click here

    For more information about the IFOR nominees for the 1000 Peace Women, click here

  3. Civil society groups can give calls for peace but it can only be achieved if women from political parties (as you point out) stand up for peace. Regrettably, they tend to accept unquestioningly the words & deeds of the male leadership

  4. I have met wealthy, educated women as well as poor, uneducated ones, who truly believe that they are born different from men, and therefore inferior; that they must do their husband's or brother's bidding. Its women first who should understand that physical difference does not make them spiritually, morally or intellectually inferior. This culture of self flagellation and "martyrship" has to change. It will take many generations even if we start now


  5. I agree any peace initiative of women stands a greater chance of success as it reaches family and home. Its time women parliamentarians moved beyond party politics and responded to the plight of Karachites.

  6. i think they can but it has to be done after ramzan-the women can
    have a meeting in my house-

  7. concerned citizens are having meetings about it.They have sent a letter to President and Prime Minister, other actions are in offing.

    1. Thank you Majida. We appreciate your services and that is why you were among the 1000 women nominated by the PeaceWomen of the Globe for the Nobel Peace Prize, that I have mentioned. What we need is to organise people (including women) at the grassroot level. Please get the women representatives of the political parties to play their role. Zohra Yusuf, chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, also says that.

  8. Women have been coming forward to demand peace in Khi. In the mid 90's WAF had played a very vital role in advocating for peace in Khi. An organisation Mazloom Aurat Ki Awaz comprising of women who were directly affected by violence was formed. Similarly in 2007 WAF initiated a Women's Peace Commission. WAF highlighted the plight of the victims of 12th May carnage that took place in Khi. Its time to revive Amn Khi that was a part of the Peace Commission. HRCP has recently conducted a fact finding exercise after the recent surge of violence and a report will soon be issued. Political will and committment on the part of political parties is required to restore peace. Women parliamentarians should take the lead.

    1. Yes Uzma, I remember the Peace Commission and you were very active in it. Please revive it and ask the women from the political parties to be more active but neutral. They should not follow their party line. . You must also involve local women from the grassroots. Now is the time when there is relatively less violence. Once gun battles break out unarmed people are pushed into the background. You have the skills, experience, commitment and will to do it. Please go ahead.

      I am sure Zohra Yusuf and HRCP will join in.

  9. There is no doubt that women can play a great role in efforts to bring peace.Believing in this , a few years back we all got together and founded "Pur Amman Karachi " .All the NGOs in the fore front plus Justice R. Nasir Aslam Zahid also participated.The letterheads were prepared ,meetings were held and as Kar. became quiet all efforts were stopped .

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