When war descends and countries or families shatter, it’s often women who put the pieces together. From their own experiences of exclusion or surviving without full rights, they understand what a society needs to create a sustainable peace.
Women who make peace seldom have their stories told. Their lessons and techniques, while deeply effective, risk being lost in the wayside of history.
The Women PeaceMakers Program finds them, brings them to the USD, documents their stories, shares what would otherwise be lost and, in doing so, helps build more effective peace.
The Women PeaceMakers Program, which is part of the Institute for Peace & Justice (IPJ) at USD’s Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies, brings four women for eight weeks to the Institute’s Casa de la Paz, or “House of Peace.” Overlooking San Diego’s Mission Bay and the Pacific Ocean, it’s an ideal location for rest and reflection after coming from the frontlines of conflict.
Each woman is paired with a writer who documents her story of living in conflict and building peace. Each also gives presentations on her work and the state of her country. Together, they bring vital knowledge and perspective to USD’s students and peace practitioners.
The IPJ has peacebuilding initiatives in several countries and women peacemakers are often key contacts who identify appropriate interventions. Recently, the program also began convening regional networks so women peacemakers could share experiences and strategies on issues specific to their region.
The Women PeaceMakers Program was created in 2002, in the wake of the unanimous passage of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325, which calls for women to be included at all levels of peace processes. Eleven years after 1325, three women - Leymah Gbowee of Liberia, Tawakkul Karman of Yemen, and Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf - were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for “their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peacebuilding work.”
Leymah Gbowee’s story of might have been forgotten if not for the documentary, “Pray the Devil Back to Hell,” which had one of its first West Coast screenings at the IPJ in 2008. This confirms the power of documentation.
Despite the new visibility, women are still largely excluded from formal peace processes and their stories of surviving conflict and building peace are neglected in official accounts of the transition from war to peace. Although we’ve been diligent for nearly a decade, the need is just as great today as when we started. You can help by funding a Women PeaceMakers Scholarship. The cost to support one woman in the program is between $8,136 and $15,336. By supporting one woman, you can support an entire nation and help bring peace to the world.