Women and Leadership: Women's Participation in Politics and Conflict Resolution

 This struggle against gender violence is not aimed only at individual gestures of aggression, or sexual abuse, or discrimination. It is really aimed at the change of contexts. 
— Jacqueline Pitanguy
Former president of the National Council for Women’s Rights in Brazil

Women’s Learning Partnership and Sisterhood Is Global Institute/Jordan mark their 10th Anniversary year

May 30, 2009
Le Royal Hotel
Amman, Jordan

HRH Princess Basma gives the keynote address

Princess Basma bint Talal

WLP TV goes live in Amman
with HRH Princess Basma’s keynote address on
“Women and Leadership.”

Ministers, scholars, and advocates gathered at Le Royal Hotel in Amman, Jordan on May 30 to hear Her Royal Highness Princess Basma bint Talal speak about women’s role in peace-building efforts. Other speakers at the event were board members and heads of organizations that are among Women’s Learning Partnership’s (WLP) partner organizations.

WLP BROADCASTS LIVE ON THE WEB!
On May 30, 2009, WLP broadcast live from Amman, Jordan Women’s Participation in Politics and Conflict Resolution. To replay the event, click on the link www.livestream.com/wlptv. When the “on demand” button appears, click to view a menu of programs and choose a clip to play! (Note: To begin at the first presentation in the program, scroll to the 19 minute mark.)

Speaking to a standing-room only audience, the Princess told the gathering, "We know only too well that at the micro-level women are still the victims of various forms of violence that can have long-lasting impact and threaten their human security and development."

Describing the impact of war and conflict on women and all of society, the Princess said, “Even at the beginning of the 21st century we see that women continue to face old as well as new challenges, which negatively affect the levels and quality of their participation in many walks of life. The reality of intra- and inter-state wars and the conflicts which ensue as a result, leave a trail of destruction and threats to the human security and human development of all involved."

Former president of the National Council for Women’s Rights in Brazil and WLP board member, Jacqueline Pitanguy, reminded the audience that, "For many centuries throughout the world violence against women did not exist as a social and political issue. It did not exist because women were a second class category of citizen and violence was considered natural." Ms. Pitanguy said that in order for gender-based violence to be eradicated, it is not just the individual perpetrators that must be stopped, but the cultural framework that tolerates violence must change.

"This struggle against gender violence is not aimed only at individual gestures of aggression, or sexual abuse, or discrimination. It is really aimed at the change of contexts. It is aimed at the change of legal, cultural, economic, and political contexts, in which men and women experience their lives, in which men and women educate their children, preparing the future generations. . . . It is the context that shapes the attitudes and the collective patterns and the symbolic representations of what is violence and what is not violence."

Zainah Anwar, founder of the Malaysian organization Sisters in Islam and project director for Musawah, described the eleven year campaign to pass domestic violence legislation in her country. Malaysian human rights and women’s right organizations formed a strong coalition, the Joint Action Group (JAG), that drafted language for the new law. JAG embarked on a massive public education campaign about domestic violence and engaged the media to publicize stories of abuse, and potential solutions. Significantly, Ms. Anwar’s organization Sisters in Islam published a booklet offering alternative interpretations to verses in the Qur’an that deal with women’s rights.

Women & Leadership Event

The room was filled to capacity at the event
“Women's Participation in Politics and Conflict Resolution,”
May 30, 2009

"In 1991, as part of the public education campaign, we published a small question and answer booklet on whether Muslim men have a right to beat their wives. We provided alternative interpretations of a verse in the Koran, which is often used to justify domestic violence. This booklet was distributed widely and has been translated into a number of different languages."

The heads of WLP and Sisterhood Is Global Institute/Jordan (SIGI/J), Mahnaz Afkhami and Asma Khader, on the occasion of their respective organizations’ tenth anniversaries, presented Princess Basma with the newly published multimedia leadership curriculum developed in Arabic by the WLP Partnership. Ms. Afkhami described the rationale for the leadership curriculum. "Our seminal publication was entitled 'Leading to Choices,' to underscore the profound linkage between women’s leadership and women’s capacity to make choices for themselves."

Today, Ms. Afkhami said, we "need to adopt new ways of looking at the forces that produce and control social and cultural power, and focus on strategies that increase women’s leadership and access to power." She went on to describe the connection between women’s leadership and reducing violence against women. "There is new scholarship that shows not only is there a causality between women in power and a reduction in violent conflict, but the original social conditions that allowed for the rise of democracy and greater gender parity included a significant reduction in violent patriarchy."

Asma Khader, whose organization SIGI/J co-organized the event, and who serves as Secretary General of the Jordanian National Commission for Women (JNCW) admonished, "We are here today not just to celebrate, but to plan for the future. . . . Women should be organized and prepared to advance in society. This does not come about simply by occupying a position of leadership. We should be leaders in a manner that is a source of pride. Our accomplishments should open the doors to our further advancement."

WLP has produced over 30 manuals, videos, and CDs in nineteen languages with the aim of providing women with the skills they need to become accomplished leaders. At the closing of her presentation, Princess Basma commented on WLP’s remarkable track-record. "This impressive network is determined to ensure that women’s human rights are better protected, that gender equality is more widely enhanced, and that the culture of peace is continuously nurtured. I am certain that with its visionary approach, Women’s Learning Partnership will continue to empower women from all regions, backgrounds, and cultures to contribute to the development of their communities and the achievement of greater social justice. Their stories will inspire us all."

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