Global Ambassadors for Peace
by Yusur Al Bahrani
While women share their struggles everywhere, each struggle is unique. Whether in Canada or Congo, women peace builders are striving for a change that will make the world a better place to be.
The Canadian Voice of Women for Peace (VOW) co-organized the event “Girls Act for Change, Girls Act for Peace: Empowering Girl Ambassadors for Peace” with the Global Network of Women for Peace (GNWP), the Permanent Mission of Canada to the United Nations and Synergie des Associations Féminines du Congo (SAFECO). The event was held at the Permanent Mission of Canada to the United Nations and the speakers were: Mavic Cabrera Balleza, GNWP’s international coordinator; Neema Namadamu, Coordinator of the Girl Ambassador for Peace in South Kivu, Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC); Jazmin Papadopoulos, from VOW; and me, a board member of VOW. There were opening remarks by Susan Truppe, Canada Parliamentary Secretary for the Status of Women and Ambassador Guillermo Rishchynski, Permanent Mission of Canada to the United Nations. Prof. Marilou McPhedren who is Director of the Institute for International Women’s Rights at the University of Winnipeg and member of VOW’s board of directors.
It was inspiring to hear from a woman from another country, struggling to have peace and educate her people. That’s Namadamu. At a country where the female literacy rate is very low, she is the second in her tribe to have a college degree. Her smile and enthusiasm filled the room with positive energy. Sadly, a young ambassador for peace from Congo was scheduled to be speaking at the event, but denied visa to the United States. But Namadamu was her voice and sent the message of the young women in her country by asking governments, including the Canadian, to “invest in peace.” Investing in peace doesn’t happen by militarization and arms deals, but by helping girls and women overcome challenges, educate themselves and their communities.
I love being in a circle and that’s what I told the audience during my talk at the panel. In VOW peace camps and events, we are usually in circles abandoning hierarchy and patriarchy. In a circle we discuss issues that matter to us as female peace builders. It’s a safe space where we communicate with each other, ask questions, find answers and share our experiences, skills and thoughts. I hope to see a global women and girls peace circle formed. During the event, we were not in a circle. It was an official setting in which chairs are placed in rows facing the speakers. However, I felt that a circle was formed when Namadamu shared with us the challenges that women and girls face in Congo during their peace work. But most importantly, she shared with us the achievements. Being able to hear from her was a great opportunity.
What makes a Canadian peace activist care about issues in other parts of the world? It is important to understand that what happens in Canada, from foreign affairs perspective, impacts the rest of the world. In order to have global peace, efforts must come from people from all over the world. For instance, Canada hasn’t signed Arms Trade Treaty yet. This is a crucial issue that Canadian peace builders need to work on in order to ensure that their government is investing in peace rather than arms deals. While the treaty doesn’t eliminate arms trade, but puts it under more control.
It is important to build a network of peace building men and women from all over the world to communicate with each other. While the struggles seem to be different, the main issue is one—to eliminate violence wherever it is and to uproot all the causes of violations against women. In addition to other issues, I talked about the struggles of our sisters in the Yazidi community in Iraq. More than a thousand have been kidnapped. Some managed to escape and they are now refugees. They are physically and psychologically traumatized by the violations they experienced. It is important to hear their stories and create a circle to include them and other women to share their experiences and offer help. Reaching out to the victims is part of the solution. If nothing on ground could be done to help them, the fact that there are other women in different parts of the world thinking about them will give them hope to overcome their struggles.
Let’s invest in peace and create a global circle!