Dear A.M. Costa Rica:
In most of the world’s countries, it is the women who preserve life. Not only by giving birth and nourishing the next generation, but it is the women who hold the community together.
It is the women who promote education, support the schools, hold sales to raise money for needed equipment, who help the children with their studies and extra curriculars. And most of the teachers are women.
In almost all communities, it is the women who see that water, social services and communications function, who hand down traditions, culture, family and friendship ties, who organize activities in the churches, the choirs, the study groups, the processions. Women provide the moral training for the children, in church or by example. It is the women who promote, teach and implement family planning and contraception. While it is mostly men who administer the government of a community, it is the women who take on the tasks. They are the secretaries, the librarians, the cleaning ladies, the organizers.
All over the world women work, without remuneration, to bring order out of chaos. In refugee camps, in sun-parched lands, in homes, in developed countries as well as under developed ones, women feed, care, heal, and organize.
It is the women who call attention even on the international level and rise up against violence around the world. In Pakistan, a teenage girl motivated the world for education for her gender. In India, the women are demanding an end to violence and punishment for those who rape. In African countries, they speak out against genital mutilation. In Liberia, the women put an end to a civil war and brought a change in government. In Arab countries, women defy the restrictions put exclusively on their sex for the right to drive cars and have jobs and to not be burdened by excess dress.
Millions of women work for peace in thousands of peace organizations in hundreds of countries. Women have banded together for peace, for civil rights, for the right to vote, to improve conditions where they live and to protest against dangerous and harmful policies and practices. Women’s organizations fill the world. Women are capable. Women are competent.
But where are the women on the international stage? The few like Angela Merkle. Vilma Doussof and Cristine Laguard are still considered extraordinary in a “man’s world.” But look at any picture of any international decision-making group, including the very U.N. that declares the equality of women. Where are the women? Women are the peacemakers, but look at the peace conferences for Syria? For the Ukraine? For the Middle East. For the European Union? Women handle budgets at home, in the schools, in the churches, in community programs. But where are the women in economic forums? The men of G8 propose to end the inequality but never do. Let the women do it.
United Nations Resolution 1325, which was adopted unanimously in 2000, requires consideration of gender in everything, that is, that women have equal participation in the decisions. That includes women’s participation in peace negotiations and in post conflict reconstruction, and economic planning. But where are the women?
And where are the girls? In February 300 girls were abducted from a school in Nigeria and have disappeared. We saw a month of furious activity with marches, petitions and international news coverage but the girls have not been found and the world’s interest has shifted to more appealing stories (World Cup). All the technology, money and resources of the world are employed for military and political machinations but there is nothing available to find the 300 girls. Why?
Perhaps we should ask Where are the values? Why are women and girls so undervalued? Conferences on the status of women, declarations, international women’s days and generations of women protesting have not brought about equal status for women.
Respect for women, which everyone endorses, means full participation of women in the world, and putting equal value on women and girls. The time has long since passed for women to take charge and to make the changes that are needed. We can do it.
Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom
Costa Rican section