14 Jul 2014
Shadia Marhaban, Mediator and Peace Activist
SHADIA MARHABAN SPEAKS TO REPORTERS AFTER PARTICIPATING IN A CLOSED, MEETING OF THE SECURITY COUNCIL ON THE ROLE OF WOMEN IN MEDIATION AND CONFLICT RESOLUTION. PHOTO: UN
Almost ten years ago, I was part of a peace process that produced an agreement to end a 30-year bloody conflict between the Government of the Republic of Indonesia and the Free Aceh Movement (GAM).
Then and now, women are rarely seen in this peace negotiation arena. They are not perceived as adequately prepared for tackling "tough" issues like peace and security. Despite recent international obligations to include women in peace processes, reality has not kept pace with rhetoric.
My own presence, as a lone woman among "tough" men, who had been at the helm of the struggle for independence for decades, was unique.
As a woman, and a mother of two children, I did not push to go to Helsinki for the peace talks, since it meant leaving my two small children. But as fate would have it, the official negotiators were arrested on the way to the airport and exiled to prison. By default, I then became formally part of the negotiations, as I was a field expert.
I was treated with respect by the top leadership. I presented myself not as a woman on the team, but rather as a field expert whose expertise was important to the …