MESSENGERS OF PEACE

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I was in Nairobi, Kenya, attending the second Women’s Leadership Institute on Peace and Security Conference organized by Cordaid and CREA with 30 women representing 15 countries when the news hit the press: UN Security Council adopts Resolution 2250 on Youth, Peace and Security on Dec 9, 2015 following an intensive peace advocacy effort organized by the United Network of Young Peacebuilders (UNOY), Search for Common Ground, World Vision and other international partners since 2012; and just over two weeks after the first ever official address to the UN Peacebuilding Commission at the UN Headquarters in New York by a Young Peacebuilder (Gwendolyn S. Myers) from Liberia on youth as equal partners for peace and security on Nov 23, 2015. This opportunity was created through the effort of UNOY, in The Hague, Netherlands, of which Gwendolyn Myers serves as Regional Coordinator for West and Central Africa. Much has been said about this important landmark and much more would be said in the weeks, months and years ahead. Therefore, for this week, our focus would be on Transformation Leadership, Conflict Transformation and Women’s rights.

Cordaid, in close collaboration with CREA, after the success of the first Women Leadership Institute that was organized in Istanbul in 2014, conducted the second Women Leadership Institute in Nairobi, Kenya, from Thursday, December 10 to Tuesday, December 15, 2015.

The weeklong program on Women’s Leadership Institute on Peace and Security focused on: how to build transformative leadership of activists in fragile and conflict-affected areas such as Liberia. We had participants from other post-conflict environments who applied a feminist, intersectional and inter movement lens and strategies to strengthen women’s voices in conflict affected situations, and transformation to peace.

As anticipated, the Institute combined reflection on the current political landscape as well as past strategies for women’s rights and raising women’s voices in conflict and post conflict settings. The Institute also reflected on fundamentalisms across the world and their influence on women’s rights and security.

We were able to relate some of the experiences and lessons from different movements to our own contexts in Liberia, and even hosted a radio show during the program.

We found the context and structure of the experience to be useful, informative and inspiring. My tutors in Eastern Mennonite University (EMU), USA, and mentors spread across the globe would have been very proud of me. The different peace models resonate with the work of Messengers of Peace (MOP)-Liberia and dialogue among women peace activities who have now become close friends, ‘aluta continua.’

We all agreed and concluded that Transformative Leadership, Conflict Transformation and the Promotion of Women’s Rights are required to build and maintain peace is an already complex and multifaceted environment.

Our world is faced with several challenges that threaten its peace and security. Most of these challenges of refugee crisis in Europe, terrorism in most parts of Africa and the Middle East, violent extremism in Europe and America and Ebola in West Africa, are manmade.

As the year comes to a close, we are convinced that our work to ensure global peace is more relevant now than ever before. We need strong leadership and more involvement of women working for Conflict Transformation, Peace and Women’s Human Rights.

On our own part, MOP-Liberia would continue to work daily in the engagement of young peace builders to advocate for the translation of peace into increased access to education, health, availability of basic infrastructure of water, sanitation, electricity and good roads. Everyone has a role to play in the promotion of peace. Women’s Rights are Human Rights, and as this year’s theme for Human Rights dictates, it is “Our Rights. Our Freedom. Always”

Until next week, when we come to you with another piece on Dialogue Among Peace Messengers: A reflection on Peace in Liberia. Peace first, peace above all else and may peace prevail in our generation.

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