Women PeaceMakers Share Their Stories With San Diego
Stories about war and conflict are everywhere. We hear about raffles, bombings and armies every day. Efforts towards peacemaking are quieter. They take place without much fanfare that they are relentless and women are often at the forefront of efforts towards peace and justice throughout the world. The University of San Diego is presenting its 2015 women peacemakers program this month. Today we'll hear from two of the women who will be sharing their stories of survival and their work is human rights activists. Joining me aren't Jennifer Freeman, senior program officer for women peace and security at the Joan B Kroc Institute for peace and justice. You felt welcome. -- Jennifer, welcome to and two of this year's peacemakers join us. Welcome, thank you for coming in. Jennifer I want to start with you, I want to to remind us why this program was started. Thank you Maureen. I think you said it well. We created this program 13 years ago at the University of San Diego to bring women's voices who are fighting for human rights and building peace in their communities to the forefront since that is so often not included in the history books and in the media, we hear so much about violence and conflict that not about what communities are doing, especially women's efforts to reduce violence in their communities, defend human rights and build communities. How were these women selected? Back is a very competitive process, we have between 100 and 200 applications each year from which we select just for your they have been doing these work in that decade -- in their communities for more than a decade. And have built incredible initiatives in the ground. Two of these four women are joining us today. Jennifer can you introduce us to them? Absolutely. We have with us today a woman from Afghanistan, JJ UB. She has been pivotal in her countries peace building process, a judge in a country prior to the Taliban taking charge, and since the fall of the Taliban she has been involved in the Constitution building process in Afghanistan, in elections, and many other state building processes. And Dr. Gallia: from Israel is an imminent figure in her countries peace building history, she has formed some of the largest peace building organizations between Israeli and Palestinian women, and within Israeli society including peace now, they are both just such impressive, courageous women. We are very happy to have been. Welcome to you both. Let me ask you what initially inspired you to pursue a career in law and justice? That you so much. I'm happy to be here and share my experiences. First of all, one of the issues that inspired me particularly being a woman and having more limits within my society as a woman, I am happy that I had a very open minded parents helped me, that is why I thought the law sector, it was one of the most powerful sectors I could choose, that no one can confront you, particularly because you are applying the laws of the country. This was one of the inspirations that I got and I finally -- my dreams came true and I got to be a judge. Got to be a judge but you are forced out of your profession in the early 2000's by the Taliban. It is really hard for a lot of Western women to imagine that. What kind of impact that have on your life? Being a lawyer, and being a judge, and applying the law on others and bringing the positive change or bringing society to more health, is of course has a lot of impact personally on my life because the first time I saw injustice in my personal life, in my profession, one of the things I would like to mention to your audience particularly is that as much as you get in trouble or people put you in trouble or people limit you practicing your rights, you do know that they are making you powerful, more stronger that's why the impact came to me, and it made me nor strong particularly working in the human rights issues, women's issues, to work for the next generation to not face the same as I face now. Or during that bad time. This is one of the impacts, and now I am representing the whole of society here, and that is the major impact. Even today in Afghanistan, does it take a great deal of bravery for women to pursue education and a career in law? Yes we have many of the women, particularly after the fall of the Taliban, we have lots of achievements particularly in education, and I would like to say that we have more than 250 women judges in the country. That is something. That is something indeed. [Laughter] Now having the fall of the Taliban, American troops in Afghanistan, has bought relief but it is also brought some grief to Afghanistan Park we all heard about the accidental bombing of a hospital in Afghanistan by the US last weekend, how does an incident like that affect morale? This is the painful part that you see the acts that happened by the Afghan enemies which are Taliban and extremist groups, people will lose their hopes because they are thinking what is the difference between our friends and our enemies? Because the things that happened by our enemies are happening to our friends. But for me as an Afghan woman and as an Afghan citizen, I really trust the accountability that the people who did this, they have to be brought to accountability table and to be accountable not for Afghan people but also internationally. But at the same time I trust my Afghan national security forces, they are our heroes and they will be fighting for the Afghans. Let me turn to you, why did you become active in the peace movement in Israel? I think I would trace it back to immediately or shortly after the 1967 war. I was in that war and had a feeling after the war that now we had these so-called extra territories, the occupied territories, but we had a bargaining chip. And very soon we would be able to trade these territories of peace. And in fact immediately after the war, I personally, we ran around the West Bank to see these area, for him and Jericho, to see them before we gave them back. But not long after that I heard Israel setting up Jewish settlements in the occupied territories. And in an almost naïve way I thought we set up settlements, how are we going to give back the territories? And that was really my first political act was to sign a petition against the creation of the settlements in the West Bank. That is the way in which I began, but the truth is the conflict is there every day, and it affects you every day, even after the six Day war. People forget that there was a war of attrition across the Suez now almost immediately after the six Day war. So we knew already of people being killed, and I knew people being killed in the war, you can't get away from it. And the idea of occupying, another people occupying the Palestinian lands was something that I was keenly aware of and increasingly became active. Some people say and you have also said that the hostilities, the situation is with you every day. Some people say the divisions between people in the Middle East are too deep, too much blood has been spilled and there will never be peace. What do you say to that as you keep going as a peacemaker? I disagree with that entirely. There is no question that there is a great deal of hostility and much blood has been shed and it would be easy to live together side-by-side later. No question about it. A lot of work has to be done. But peace is not possible there? I disagree. And because in our case, both people wanted. The Palestinians want an end to the occupation and an independent state, and the majority of Israelis want to see an end to the conflict, both sides want to see a two state solution, and two states living side by side are indeed possible. The problem that we face mainly is the lack of hope. The frustration from the past failures and negotiations and of course the violence that has returned and repeated itself over and over, even today the daily killings, this has led to the sense on both sides that there is no partner on the other side. Israel continues to build settlements at the -- if it is never going to leave the territories, both publics are convinced that the other side is not willing to make peace. But both sides want a peace agreement and that is the reason that I believe if we can get a leadership, particularly on the Israeli side because I believe the Palestinian side leadership is sincere and willing to take the steps to make peace, our major task is to get an Israeli government that will take the steps to make peace. How often involved in the peace building process in Israel? Women are always affect the conflict, and hours is a long ongoing armed conflict which means our society is a militarized one. And in a militarized society women get the short end of the stick. Men are favored, they are the ones who theoretically protect us, will save us, even the women today serve in combat units, but there is no question that the militarization of society expects women throughout the society, in terms of having to compete for equality, and it makes the military a very central institution, and the military by definition is a patriarchal institution so we have to challenge that. And women of course are active in all the peace movements, they tend to be active in the grass roots and whether men may take the leadership roles, I am pleased to say that the movement I am involved with is not necessarily a Palestinian movement, and women are parsed combatants, including women, and women take an equal role in that movement. Basically the role is to demonstrate to our publics that the Palestinians and Israelis can work together and that Palestinians and Israelis who were former combatants have chosen nonviolent protest and nonviolent action to try to bring about a peace agreement. Jennifer, there are two other women who are named as peacemakers US a this year. Lender wild shoot of South Africa, Pauline Demers of Namibia. They will all be at the panel presentation tonight. Tell us about that. It is our annual event where we invite anyone in San Diego, it is open to the public, to a free event to hear from these incredible women leaders. Students, unity leaders, academics, get to hear from them but we wanted to open it up to anyone who is interested to hear their life stories and how they have brought peace to their communities. And all of the women will be part of the peacemakers event the next two months. What do you hope to accomplish during that time? It is very interesting. I grew up in the war, and I never experienced peace. When I am here and I see that people are living in peace and living together, I would like to particularly share my experience that people should be careful here not to -- to continue with what they are doing. Particularly to show them how people are struggling in other parts of the world. They are making and trying and putting their efforts into making a difference in their society. That is why I'm trying to share with people and ask them to recognize the environment that they have, and they have to be more peaceful together. And also at the same time to make accountable the policymakers here in the United States to that pressure groups, to respond to some of the mistakes that they are making in the peace processes in my country, in my region, particularly lack of ownership that we have in our peace process. What does it mean to your work at home in Israel to come here and participate in this program? Two things? One is when I applied for the program what interested me most was the opportunity I thought it would be, and there is, to learn from others who had been involved in conflict or are still involved in conflict, to learn from things they have tried, things they have done, I can tell you what doesn't work as we've had it a long time and not succeeded, but that was a very major point. The other is generally I take every opportunity to not only get the word out, but also I firmly believe and I think many of my colleagues in the peace movement in both Palestinian and Israeli groups, we firmly believe we need international help. We have not been able to resolve this conflict on our own, and we are a civil society and working very hard, but we can't do it on our own. We need international involvement, including American involvement, Israel's strongest ally, and we have a great deal of influence over our government, I would like to see them use it to help us reach a peace agreement. So I think in that sense it is both internally directed and externally directed trying to get the word out to engage people and hopefully to engage the United States picks back do you feel -- Do you feel this is the head -- sister had with the other women on this panel? Absolutely this is the most exciting part of our visit so far. Is getting to know the other three people and our experiences are very different, our situations are very different, but in a way we are very similar as people. And this has been the highlight, even if I was to leave tomorrow I have already gained a tremendous amount, no question, we have shared our stories and I think understood a great deal about each other. Actually for me it is very important to be together with other peacemakers, and also with the program, because mainly I don't feel alone. I am not the only one suffering, and my country is not the only one. And looking at how can build the networks out, our work, to different regions. And also sharing the experience, maybe some of the experience in their context may not work in my context but to still -- there are very good elements and experiences that we can learn for -- from and apply to expect I want to thank you very much. The women peacemakers panel will take place on the UST campus, the Institute for peace and justice, at 7 PM, free, open to the public. I have been speaking with Jennifer and two of the women on the panel.
The program, now in its 13th year, includes panel discussions and forums throughout the month of October.
“The impact of having four women peacemakers is measured by the many ways they are able to transform us with their courage and unique voices. Each woman peacemaker joins USD to share narratives of kindness, wisdom and action to change situations of terrible violence and oppression,” said Patricia Marquez, dean of the Kroc School of Peace Studies in a press release.
“Their presence and their voices humble and empower us to join in efforts leading to peace and justice.”
This year's selected PeaceMakers are:
• Najla Ayoubi, a judge from Afghanistan
• Pauline Dempers, co-founder and national coordinator of Breaking the Wall of Silence from Namibia
• Galia Golan, international affairs expert from Israel
• Glenda Wildschut, human rights activist from South Africa
Women PeaceMakers Panel Discussion
When: 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice Theatre at 5998 Alcala Park in San Diego
Stephanie Chiu, Women PeaceMakers program officer, Ayoubi and Golan will discuss Wednesday on Midday Edition the the role of women in the peace building movement.