By Anisha Desai
After arriving from various parts of the globe in Bangkok, the delegation members met and set out for Chiang Mai – a short one-hour flight to this city north of Bangkok. Everyone’s energy and excitement for our trip is high and for me in particular it’s been great to meet up again with Mia Farrow, well-known actress-activist on peace for Darfur, as well as Dr. Sima Samar, head of the Independent Human Rights Council of Afghanistan as well as the U.N.’s Special Rapporteur on human rights in Sudan.
I met both Mia and Sima a little over a year ago in Abeche, Chad. Sima was a member of a UN High Level Mission on Darfur that I was leading, and totally coincidentally Mia, who I’d been talking with on the phone about the delegation, arrived in Abeche, Chad, at the same time our Mission was there – all of us were on our way to visit various Darfuri refugee camps from there.
So, here we are, together again, this time in Thailand, along with the other women who make up this delegation. But almost until the last minute, we were not sure that Sima would be able to join us. Because she had to face so many difficulties in getting a visa to enter Thailand, we were on the verge of despair and fairly convinced that we’d not see her here. It took intense work by the staff of the Nobel Women’s Initiative along with friends and colleagues at the UN and other places to finally secure the visa. What is among the most shocking things about how difficult it was for her is that Sima holds a diplomatic passport and a certificate from the U.N. But even with that, in addition to her Afghan passport, it was a struggle.
We’ve checked in to our hotel here in Chiang Mai and 15 minutes late, we met for dinner and of course, discussion about what we want to accomplish while we are here. Tomorrow, Monday, will be our first full day of work when we meet with women from Thailand and Burma throughout the morning and then participate in a seminar hosted by Chiang Mai University for our delegation.
I have high expectations for tomorrow. We are here not only to share our various experiences – in Darfur, in South Sudan, in Afghanistan, in China – but primarily to listen to the women we have come so far to meet. In addition to their stories, we want to hear their strategies for advancing women’s human rights in Burma, Thailand – indeed in the region.
Many of the women from Burma we will be with are highly organized and are very clear about their visions for sustainable peace in their country. We hope to come away with a better understanding of the impact of Cyclone Nargis on the overall political situation in the country as well as how much humanitarian aid has reached the approximately 2.5 million people affected by the cyclone.
As women activists, too often we invoke UN resolution 1325 – an important resolution that calls for the inclusion of women at all levels of peace making and peace building. But when we do call for implementation of 1325, we generally don’t give very clear and specific examples of what that inclusion would look like. If we cannot be clear, it is too easy to dismiss the urgency and importance of not just increased involvement of women in building sustainable peace – but that such involvement cannot be token participation but must be broad and deep and representative of the fact that women make up more than half the population of our planet and suffer disproportionately in armed conflict and its aftermath……..
I’m back from dinner now, thinking I’d have finished this blog entry beforehand. But we worked on what we hope to accomplish on this long trip and I thought I’d share it with you.
Members of the delegation had a spirited discussion and ended up agreeing with the following:
* To spotlight the massive violations of women and women’s rights – which are nothing less than human rights – that occur daily and not only have an impact on women individually but also on their families, their communities, and often the entire fabric of a society;
* To spotlight the struggle for human rights which when recognized and accepted also reinforce efforts to bring about participatory governance in Burma and the Sudan (indeed throughout the world); and
* To call upon citizens around the world to take individual and collective action to build sustainable peace as well as to insist that the international community implement existing commitments for peace, justice and equality in Burma and Sudan;
We have come to the area of the Thai/Burma border and will continue on to South Sudan and Darfuri refugee camps in Chad,
* To build alliances with women and women’s organizations there by:
* Listening to their unique stories, perspectives and experiences;
* Learning from their work to build sustainable peace in their communities how they see the role of women in actively negotiating peace agreements in their countries and in rebuilding their communities and societies when the conflicts have ended;
* Conveying their messages to other women’s organizations where we live and work and through our collective networks as well as to the media and to governments at national, regional and international levels; and by
* Highlighting China’s influential role in these crises and their peaceful resolution. ###
So, that’s it for now from Chiang Mai, Thailand. More later…..
ps: In addition to posting here during this trip, Mia blogs regularly about humanitarian and advocacy information HERE.