For International Women’s Day 2018, GAPS is celebrating diaspora women building peace through projects in the UK and across the world. Their work, from local initiatives to high-level peace processes, is at the forefront of change as they bring their voices, and the needs and challenges facing their communities, to the process of building sustainable peace. This is such important work, which all too often goes unrecognised by formal peace and security actors and institutions.
Today we are saying thank you to diaspora women working for peace and security as we profile five brilliant women and their important projects.
Quhramaana Kakar is a peace activist and development practitioner. She is a Visiting Fellow at the LSE Centre for Women, Peace and Security, and Founding Director of Women for Peace and Participation. She has worked in key positions for a number of international organisations and the Afghan government, including the High Peace Council of Afghanistan. In recognition of her work and achievements for peace, she was awarded N-Peace Network‘s “Role Model for Peace” prize in 2012.
What do peace and security mean to you?
Born and raised in war, witnessing killings, bombs and shelling at a very early age, the first time I experienced peace was at the age of 7 after I fled the war and sought refuge in a neighbouring country. There was something definitely better than war, the absence of war and physical violence. This new life – and my 17 years of engagement and efforts for peacebuilding through provision of opportunities for access to economic, social and political equality – enhanced my exposure and experience to understand what social pacification actually means in both letter and spirit. Today, peace for me is not only the absence of war but the prevalence of harmony and tranquillity, and the provision of justice, access and equal opportunity for individuals and societies in their struggle to shape their own narrative and negotiate their own terms.
Why are the voices of diaspora women valuable to policy-making on peace and security?
The Women, Peace and Security agenda has greatly ignored the effect of wars on women on the move, and the potential that addressing the needs of these women could have for key issues around peace and security. Experiences show that diaspora women are the best connection between grassroots communicates and global solutions to war and insecurity. It is essential to recognise and take into account their diverse knowledge, skills and experiences; coming from a transition, they are best placed to connect the outside world with the inside world. Diaspora women offer a strong bridge between their native communities and women and supporters at the regional and international levels. In the frequently-changing political environment, diaspora women are key resource for women in their own countries and other countries of conflict as advocates for keeping the focus on women’s inclusion at the top of the agenda. Women in diaspora communities have the advantage of positioning themselves, enabling them to create global solidarity and global action for raising and providing solutions for a variety of issues such as economic development, human rights, political rights, and peace and security.
What projects related to women, peace and security are you working on or involved with?
In 2012, I initiated Women for Peace and Participation. Coming from the experience of working with Afghan communities inside and outside Afghanistan, I identified the dire need for connecting the local to the global. To achieve this, I adopted various strategies and built a network of diaspora women peacebuilders under the theme “United Women for Peace” (UWP). The aim is to develop a platform where women peacebuilders can advocate collectively at regional and international levels and to inform policies that potentially affect the role and position of women in conflict-affected societies and beyond. UWP works with women in diaspora from conflict and post-conflict countries and regions who are equipped with unique skills, expertise and first-hand experience of the local and global contexts and have trusted networks with women from countries in conflict. This initiative is unique in many ways, such as creating global solidarity among women peacebuilders at the international level and bridging the gap with the local context. This helps to ensure that the Women, Peace and Security agenda is no longer the business of the elite, but rather that it is discussed and led by women on the ground and from the real contexts.