Building Communities, Building Peace.

Building Communities, Building Peace

The international community is gathering right now to talk about sexual violence in conflict.

This week, from June 10 to 13, world leaders are gathering in London, England for the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict. The largest meeting of its kind, the Summit is building on the international momentum to end the use of rape as a weapon of war, arriving on the heels of the United Nation’s Declaration of Commitment. Recognizing that this issue is everyone’s responsibility, over two thirds of all members of the United Nations, including Canada, have endorsed the Declaration.

How Canadians are helping to end sexual violence in conflict.

The MATCH International Women’s Fund supports organizations that are working to address this issue. As a member of the International Campaign to Stop Rape and Gender Violence in Conflict, we make it a priority to support survivors of sexual violence and build the capacity of women leaders to end sexual violence in conflict around the world, including in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“We are currently living in a time when it is now more difficult to be a woman than it is to be a soldier during war and conflict. When conflict occurs, the unthinkable becomes thinkable [for women]—there is a complete breakdown of the social fabric in a community.”

-Beth Woroniuk

Many Canadians are also working to address this issue and we are proud to stand behind their efforts. A longtime supporter of The MATCH Fund, and member of our Advisory Council, Beth Woroniuk, has been working on this issue by promoting and advancing the role of women in securing lasting peace.

A member of the Women, Peace, and Security Network—Canada, Beth believes the participation of women in peace processes is a critical component to ending sexual violence in conflict. Beth is a strong advocate for women’s active participation in local, national and international conversations, both during times of conflict and times of peace. By providing the space for women’s voices, Beth believes we can ensure the unique needs of women are recognized and their rights are not forgotten.

Beth, along with the Women, Peace, and Security Network – Canada, is currently advocating for international recognition and support for the role women play in creating lasting peace and ending sexual violence in conflict at the Global Summit.

How women approach peace differently.

Beth was first inspired to support the full participation of women in peace processes while working in Nicaragua in the late 80s, where she discovered that in times of conflict, women’s rights were often put on hold.

“The Campaign, international efforts, and the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict have all done a great deal of work to shift the perception that sexual violence is a ‘natural’ part of war. Thanks to the efforts of many people, sexual violence in conflict is now viewed as something that can be reduced, contained and eliminated. And the summit is one manifestation of how states can work toward that goal, together.”

-Beth Woroniuk

Since then, Beth has learned that beyond ensuring a voice for women’s rights, women are also critical to solving conflicts in new and innovative ways, often bringing fresh perspectives and new angles, with a unique focus on prevention. This is because for many women, engagement in peace is often a matter of survival. During times of conflict, women shoulder a greater responsibility to support their families to carry on – ensuring their basic needs are met, caring for the sick and injured, and continuing their children’s education.

But this necessity can also become the starting place for much needed innovation. Even in some of the most dangerous contexts, women have been driven to develop new methods to work across divisions and have found creative ways to voice the concerns of their communities in the face of resistance.

Yet despite women’s critical roles on the ground, it is most often the people who hold the guns who are invited to the table during official peace talks. People with a stake in peace are the ones who most need to be included in such conversations. This means bringing more women to the table. Right now, women represent on average only 8% of official peace negotiators around the world, even though a recent study indicates that when civil society is more involved, including women’s rights organizations, peace has a 60% greater chance of lasting.

Get involved.

Take the pledge to call for urgent political leadership and concerted international action to stop rape in conflict by visiting www.stoprapeinconflict.org. You can also engage with the International Campaign to End Rape and Gender Violence in Conflict on Twitter (@StopRapeCmpgn) and Facebook, as well as find updates from the Global Summit.

To learn more about WPSN-C, follow them on twitter @WPSNCanada, like their Facebook page, and visit their website at www.wpsn-canada.org.