Asian women peace advocates receive leadership awards
Bangkok – The first N-PEACE awards were presented to four women peace advocates from some of the most conflict-affected countries in Asia. The N-PEACE awards were established to acknowledge women's leadership in building peace, empowering communities, and preventing conflicts. The winners, Purna Shova Chitrakar, Electronita Duan, Shreen Abdul Saroor, and Filomena Barros dos Reis, were honored for their remarkable contributions to building peace and creating cohesion in their communities. The four awardees are part of a multi-country network known as N-PEACE, which stands for Engage for Peace, Equality, Access, Community and Empowerment.
“This is a great year - there are three women Nobel Peace Laureates and four women N-PEACE laureates,” said Irene Santiago, an active proponent of the Mindanao peace process in the Philippines. She joined the award ceremony and a meeting of women peace advocates in Bangkok this week.
The consultation in Bangkok is the second annual meeting of the N-PEACE network, facilitated by UNDP in collaboration with the non-profit organization, Search for Common Ground, with support from AusAID. The event marks the formal launch of the network’s interactive internet portal through which members will continue to collaborate and work together. In the meeting, approximately three dozen peace activists, all members of the N-PEACE Network from Nepal, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Timor-Leste, gathered to discuss ways to strengthen women’s roles in peace-building and security.
“Women can talk with a collective voice,” asserted awardee Shreen Abdul Saroorthe from Sri Lanka. She leads an interethnic community project that brings together Tamil and Muslim women to revive peace for their communities. She has gathered and supported a diverse team of young women to inspire the next generation of peace makers and social activists in her country. She added: “Women have experienced wars differently, and have a unique perspective and specific concerns in connection to demilitarization, social justice and reconciliation. Women need to participate in vital aspects of peace and security such as ending impunity for conflict-related sexual violence and holding perpetrators accountable, while addressing the needs of women and girls as war-torn communities are rebuilt.”
“I trust and believe in the work accomplished by women at all levels,” said Electronita Duan from Indonesia. “The best strategies to prevent conflicts and ensure sustainable peace are creating economic opportunities and providing education.”
Purna Shova Chitrakar, an activist working tirelessly towards banning landmine and cluster munitions, shared her knowledge about protecting civilians and making Nepal a prosperous society. Filomena Barros dos Reis brought her lessons from Timor-Leste: “We can only reach peace when justice has been well established for all.”
The N-PEACE network was launched in 2010 to mark the tenth anniversary of the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace, and security. Around 225 women who are community leaders in conflict prevention, dispute resolution, post-crisis reconstruction and peace-building participate in the N-PEACE network. They communicate online and through face-to-face consultations to share experiences and strategies in advocating, promoting, and maintaining peace in their countries.
“In just one year after its launch, the network has demonstrated its potential and value added at country level,” said Nicholas Rosellini, Deputy Regional Director of UNDP Asia-Pacific Regional Centre. “The national civil society dialogue hosted by UNDP and the Government of Indonesia to discuss policy on women, peace, and security is a good example of how the network can be used as a platform for dialogue on critical policy issues.”
Purna Shova Chitrakar created the Nepal Ban Landmines Campaign in 1995 to promote an international ban on the use, production, transfer and stockpile of landmines. She works to teach families, students, and teachers about the risks of landmines in their communities, especially in rural areas. Her efforts to outlaw these indiscriminate weapons of war were successful when Nepal was declared free of landmine fields in June of 2011.
Electronita Duan has been involved in numerous programs to empower women in Indonesia. She helped develop Politeknik Perdamaian Halamahera, an institute of higher education for those who were unable to resume their education after it was interrupted by conflict. Electronita advocated that normalcy could never return to conflict zones without a skilled and educated population.
Shreen Abdul Saroor is a founder of the Mannar Women’s Development Federation and Mannar Women for Human Rights and Democracy in Sri Lanka. She helped establish these two organizations on the understanding that Tamil and Muslim women could find common ground to revive past peace in their communities through microcredit and educational programs. Shreen’s work grew out of her experience of being forcibly displaced in 1990 by the militant group fighting for a separate Tamil state.
Filomena Barros dos Reis, a human rights and justice activist, is the project coordinator for peace-building development with the Asia Pacific Support Collective in Timor-Leste. Even before Timor-Leste secured its independence, she worked tirelessly to ensure a credible truth and reconciliation process for her country. To ensure human rights are protected, she disguised herself as a nun in some occasions and carried religious material to protect her true purpose of documenting human rights violations.
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