In early October 2016, thousands of Jewish and Arab women began a two week March of Hope walking from the banks of the Jordan River near Jericho, to Jerusalem. Their purpose – a viable peace agreement between Israel and Palestine.
The culmination of the march was a rally on Oct. 19th in front of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s official residence which drew 20,000 participants.
The march was inspired by other world-changing marches including Gandhi’s Salt March, Martin Luther King’s March for Freedom and the One Thousand Women March in Liberia in 2003 which played a key role in ending the Second Liberian Civil War. Have a look at other peace marches with humble beginnings in this stirring 90-second video.
The goals of Women Wage Peace include: the establishment of a government office of Peace and Reconciliation, a Peace Cabinet tasked with developing a strategic plan for peace, a Peace Department in the PM’s office responsible for resolving security crises through political means rather than violence and the integration of women into all governmental bodies and negotiating teams.
Women Wage Peace is made up of women from across the political spectrum and the religious divide. “We are not an organization; we are a movement. We have defined goals, and when we reach those goals we will disband,” said Marie-Lyne Smadja, a co-founder of the group. “From history, we have seen that when women are involved in resolving conflicts, there was much more success.”
She is right.
A study of 40 peace processes in 35 countries over the past three decades showed that when women’s organizations were effectively involved – whether as a political party, as in the case of the Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition, or by actively campaigning for the end of hostilities, as in Liberia – an agreement was almost always reached and had a higher chance of implementation. The reason, according to Marie O’Reilly, director of research at Inclusive Security, a think tank based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is that women tend to reach across ethnic and religious divides and think of the day after the big signing.
Which is exactly what Women Wage Peace is doing.
They are bringing together all women’s initiatives in the region in order to create as broad a base of influence as possible. Whether Left or Right-wing, religious or secular, Arab or Jewish, they want to live in a society characterized by normality, prosperity and human rights. They understand that a strong peace–seeking movement is a prerequisite to a shift from military and security-based approaches to a negotiated agreement.
While that day may be far off in the Middle East, these peace activists are not deterred. They know a new and different reality in the Middle East is feasible and that a political resolution is the only option that offers life and hope. Their beginnings may be humble but their determination is mighty.
That’s why my resolution for the New Year is to pay more attention to women’s peace efforts, not only in the Middle East but also around the world as well as here at home. Women’s peace-making should always be counted on, especially during turbulent times.
Do one thing every day that everyone else is scared to do. (Liberian Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Lehman Gbowee)
Musical accompaniment this post, Songs of Peace and Hope by members of Women Wage Peace. Exquisite.