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Chazan discusses women, peace

Sonia Rao | Friday, October 13, 2006

Women’s involvement and failure in peace movements took center stage in a lecture by professor Naomi Chazan entitled “A Comparative Look at the Role of Women in Conflict Resolution Today” Thursday at the Hesburgh Center.

“Women are involved in every contemporary peace process I know of,” said Chazan, the Provost’s Distinguished Woman Lecturer. “They are active peace workers, they have promoted conflict resolution … and they are absolutely essential for peace building after the peace process has been concluded.”

Chazan described the salient characteristics specific to women’s peace movements with several “P’s,” – political, pioneering, persevering, patient, passionate and pragmatic. The political nature of peace movements, Chazan argued, is essential for success.

“If you bring antagonistic parties together and you avoid politics you are deluding yourself,” she said. “These are political problems.”

Paradoxically, Chazan argued that although women are ubiquitous in peace processes, their influence has been “infinitesimal, if at all.” In fact, in the major peace negotiations of the past 30 years, there have been no women present at all. After “spend[ing] hours, mostly nights trying to figure out [why peacemaking efforts aren’t working],” Chazan identified five confounding factors to peace movements in general, referring to them as “five F’s,” including the inability to confront failure, fear, frustration, fatigue and friction within the movements.

Chazan also presented reasons as to why women specifically have been unsuccessful in implementing peace, including the onset of violence, which “is primarily, not exclusively, the domain of men,” as well as the general perspective that women are irrelevant and ineffective by definition.

Chazan argued that women will not succeed if they have not been a part of the peace action at the official level. As a solution, she argued that both men and women have to be a part of the peace process.

“You want peace? Mainstream,” she said. “No women, no table.”

In addition, Chazan argued that peace will not be achieved without the means of political power. A woman interested in promoting peace “[has] to go into politics even if it is hard.”

And it is hard.

“No man is going to incorporate a woman into a negotiation process,” she said. “It’s not going to happen. You have to insist on it.”