Women at the Peace Table

Publication Date: 
24 Jul 2015

News Type:

On July 23, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) and the Office of Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18) hosted “Women at the Peace Table,” the inaugural event of the “Women, Peace and Security” Capitol Hill breakfast briefing series. IFES President and CEO Bill Sweeney opened the event by highlighting IFES’ work across the globe to address the cultural, educational and legal barriers to women’s participation in political and peace-building processes.

Jessica Huber, IFES Senior Gender Specialist, moderated the event and introduced panelists Julie L. Arostegui, the Women, Peace & Security Policy Director at the Women’s Action for New Direction; Kathleen Kuehnast, the Director of Gender and Peacebuilding at the Center for Governance, Law and Society at the United States Institute of Peace; and Jomana Qaddour, a co-founder and member of the Board of Directors at Syrian Relief and Development.

Arostegui provided audience members with expert insight into the development and framework of United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 on Women, Peace and Security. She stated, “We need to view women not just as victims, but as agents of change,” and pointed to the need to include their voices throughout the peace process.

Following Arostegui, Kuehnast contextualized how UNSCR 1325 intersects with gender and power roles. In particular, she felt that UNSCR 1325 was an institutional recognition of the impact of gender in political processes. Kuehnast also stressed the importance of engaging men and boys as allies, particularly in promoting the role of women in peacebuilding, as “Gender equality cannot wait until there is peace; gender equality must be part of building peace.”

Qaddour shared how her organization is implementing UNSCR 1325 in its on-the-ground work in Syria. Qaddour passionately gave voice to the realities faced by many Syrian women and girls, including a lack of educational and economic opportunities, as well as domestic and sexual violence. In the face of such challenges, Qaddour suggested "it's difficult to get to the peace table, let alone have the opportunity to speak.”

Before introducing Congresswoman Jackson Lee, Sweeney challenged audience members to imagine themselves in the shoes of Syrian women and girls. Congresswoman Jackson Lee, in her powerful concluding remarks, amplified Sweeney’s call to action and added her own: "There is not a space where you are that you cannot seek to empower women."

Upcoming breakfast briefings include “Increasing Women and Girls’ Political Leadership” on September 24 and the “Reintegration of Women and Girls after Conflict” on November 19. For more information, please contact IFES Congressional and Outreach Liaison Liz Sidell at esidell@ifes.org.  

To view a photo gallery of the event, please click here.