MMC: What role do mothers play as agents of change in their communities?
Carla: Mothers are absolutely critical partners in any effort to foster change around the world. In many societies around the world, motherhood gives women status and influence in their families and communities. In Pakistan, for example, mothers are banding together to counter extremism. By speaking with their sons openly and directly about family values, love, and respect, these mothers are making their neighborhoods stronger and the world safer. That’s the power of a mother.
MMC: The United States recently released a report on Women, Peace and Security outlining the unique impact of conflict on women and why more women need to be involved in resolving wars around the world. What are some ways the US Government is trying to better engage women in peace building globally?
Carla: Only 8 percent of peace accords make reference to sexual violence as a war crime. This is likely due to the fact that presently, less than 10 percent of negotiators and less than 3 percent of those who sign peace agreements are women. By increasing the number of women in actual peace negotiations, we can make sure women’s concerns are being addressed. While women make up the vast majority of civilian victims and people displaced by war, they are not receiving an adequate share of resources post-conflict and their issues aren’t receiving the attention they deserve.
USAID is helping to cover travel and family care costs so that women can participate in peace negotiations. We are also preparing women leaders for peace negotiations so that they can actively participate in conversation about the priorities of women and children. At the same time, organizations like the United Nations are striving to recruit more female peacekeepers, so that troops can better work with and protect women, children and civilians around the world.
MMC: How can we better stem the increasing use of sexual violence against women as a weapon of war?
Carla: Involving women is the only way to address issues that affect women. At the same time, programs must engage both women and men in efforts to address the root causes of sexual violence. For example, in addition to treating sexual violence victims in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), USAID is involving women and men to reduce community tolerance for sexual violence. In those programs, we are seeking to raise the status and leadership of women while engaging male allies to help break through local cultural barriers. We must also acknowledge the male victims of violence. Unless we address why sexual violence is so prevalent, we will be treating victims forever.
For more information, please visit USAID’s Gender Equality & Women’s Empowerment page.
Photo Credit: USAID