Why “Women of Courage” and why these countries?
Why Women of Courage? Not only are women and children frequently the most common victims of armed conflict, but there are also often hidden impacts on women, including high levels of sexual violence, as we heard during last year’s Living Courage tour. Too often, women are excluded from peace negotiations, or from efforts to improve policing. Too often, their unique needs go unheard—as do their contributions to addressing conflict, violence and reconciliation. For a more complete picture, have a look at the research conducted with our partners in a number of countries facing conflict.
UN Security Council 1325 mandates a place for women at all peace negotiation tables. While the Security Council is far from perfect, this resolution could give women an important role in negotiations and inquiries from which they are so often excluded.
Why Colombia? Decades of armed conflict and assassinations have killed over 200,000 people. The country has the world’s highest rate of internal displacement, with most of the displaced being women and children. Armed groups on all sides target women’s groups, Indigenous communities, unions, and others who speak publicly against violence. Groups like the Popular Feminist Organization (OFP) in Colombia are organizing international Women’s Courts of Truth, Justice and Reparation to shed light on the impact of this conflict on women and to seek justice. Women’s groups have called on Canada to make human rights a higher priority in the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement, which was ratified last year despite significant opposition from civil society in Colombia and Canada.
In the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Bethlehem is almost surrounded by the separation wall and expanding Israeli settlements, and its economy is being choked off. Military and settler violence, mass arrests, control of movement, poverty, and domestic violence all have an enormous daily impact on the community and a particular impact on women.
Yet women are also leading the non-violent resistance to the military occupation and land takeovers, and are crucial to ending the occupation and creating foundations for a just and lasting peace. The Wi’am Center deals daily with the impact of violence of all kinds, and uses advocacy and traditional conflict resolution to work with traumatized communities and individuals.
Our sisters are asking us to support them across borders and across generations; they’re also offering to join their strategies and struggles with ours. As you follow their journey, we invite your good thoughts, prayers, and your own commitments to education and advocacy. For more on the overall Women of Courage program, including a schedule and biographies, see the KAIROS website.