Throughout their history, peacebuilding efforts have primarily focused on promoting equity and diversity of voices between Israelis and Palestinians. More recently, there has been a call for diversity of involvement within these movements across demographics, specifically age (the next generation) and gender (women’s involvement). Considering that women account for 50% of the population, their influence over decisions that might affect their lives should reflect their presence in society. This week, I want to highlight the work of two movements that have been formed, both in Israel and the US, to provide women with opportunities to have their voices heard in the peacebuilding landscape. Both initiatives were inspired by UN Resolution 1325, which aims to “ensure increased representation of women at all decision-making levels… for the prevention, management, and resolution of conflict.”
When I was in Israel this past December with JCRC’s Study Tour for Civic Leaders, we were fortunate to meet with Hamoutal Gouri, a consultant and women’s rights activist, and one of the founders of Women Wage Peace. Women Wage Peace advocates for the incorporation of women’s voices in the peace process and encompasses tens of thousands of women across Israel. The movement is intergenerational, with activists ranging from 13-80 and encompasses religious and secular women and Arab women, including Palestinians living in the West Bank. Hamutal expressed the importance of the organization, saying, “We are women in Israel, we are uniquely affected by this conflict and our voices must be heard.” She described this work as crucial and cited the fact that very few members of Knesset are women and female politicians were not involved in either of the last two rounds of coalition negotiations.
In addition to peaceful protests and dialogue groups throughout Israel, Women Wage Peace has focused on proposing and advocating for legislation that encourages legislators to take all political solutions into account before engaging in additional rounds of conflict. The legislation encourages lawmakers to speak in favor of, not find reasons against, political solutions that are proposed. The group terms this strategy “positive peacemaking” and believes a political solution that is supported by both sides of the political spectrum is the one that should be implemented.
In the United States, there are also efforts underway to diversify advocacy for Israel. This past fall, the Israel Policy Forum launched a Women, Peace, and Security initiative to better integrate women’s voices into the conversation around US policy and other strategies for peace. By way of background, Israel Policy Forum is a US-based non-profit organization that aims to “shape the discourse and mobilize support among American Jewish leaders and U.S. policymakers for the realization of a viable two-state solution.” IPF is committed to accomplishing its goal of diversity within programming and volunteer efforts in support of peacebuilding between Israeli and Palestinian societies.
The role of women in peacemaking cannot be understated. Activists in Women Wage Peace sometimes use humor to promote their cause, by saying “If women were in charge of the peace process, there would have been a solution years ago.” Women often hold different viewpoints and have different ways of thinking than their male counterparts. Women also have different expectations in society, and it is important to promote initiatives that work to defy these social norms and promote women’s advancement. As women’s voices become more influential, we believe they will ultimately have a positive impact on the peace process.