By Tina Dolgopol
The fronds of the palm trees are swaying and the dabbled light reaches into our room. Our working group has been asked to help create the foundation for a global campaign linking gender justice to peace talks and the implementation of peace agreements. The flowing movement outside seems to be creating the rhythm for our discussions. We move easily from one speaker to another; ideas are expressed then gently merge with the thoughts of others.
Several participants nominate capacity as a crucial starting point. Local communities must inform the peace process and those who work with women know that at the initial stages of mobilization woman can perceive of themselves as unable to offer significant contributions. As we want negotiations to encompass a broader perspective on peace and to incorporate elements necessary to rebuild the social fabric of societies, we know women must be encouraged to understand the importance of their voices as it is they who have a profound understanding of how their communities operate and what would make their communities safer and better able to maintain the peace.
The crucial role of mediators and facilitators cannot be overlooked and despite the hurdles we know we will face in bringing this to fruition, we recommend that those asked to mediate be trained in gender issues and that materials be developed to help them understand the necessity of ensuring women’s presence at the peace table.
Later in the day we reconvene in a plenary session and listen to the recommendations of each of the working groups (Justice and jurisprudence, Peace talks and Implementation and Communicating Gender Justice). Although we have been aware of the disconnect between the local and the international, it becomes obvious that we must give more thought to how a global campaign on gender justice can be made as relevant to a woman in a small remote village as it is to someone living in NY, Geneva or the Hague.
Our closing speaker encourages us to overlook our fatigue and our doubts and to recommit ourselves to our dream of making at least a small difference in the lives of others. The nights festivities await and we hope that the laughing, singing and dancing will rejuvenate us. We will leave having developed a fond respect for one another.