Ireland: Background, poDcast & reports from Nobel Women's Initiative's Int. Conference in Galway Print E-mail

Women Redefining Peace in the Middle East & Beyond:
Galway, Ireland, May 29 to May 31, 2007

[Scroll down for NWI's Pre-Conference Press Release, openDemocracy's three-part poDcast from the conference produced by Siobhan O'Connell, and Post-Conference reports from Women's NGOs and the Media]

The Nobel Women's Initiative's First International Women's Conference: “Women Redefining Peace in the Middle East & Beyond” will take place in Galway, Ireland from 29-31 May 2007.

For our first conference we have invited 80 incredible women’s rights activists from 30 different countries, and researchers from around the world - including ex-political prisoners, founders of international rights organizations, disarmament experts, journalists and the most promising emerging activists - to join us for discussions aimed at deepening our understanding of how the private and public dynamics of violence against women, particularly in the Middle East, intersect and therefore, how solutions must reflect a far more integrated approach.

“We are excited that our first event is able to bring together such a diverse and knowledgeable group of women. We will be discussing critical issues vital to ensuring the constructive dialogues that nurture peace”, states Jody Williams.

Through strategic dialogue with these women we want to: understand how women in the Middle East are experiencing violence and conflict and why; examine creative approaches of women in the Middle East and elsewhere to challenge violence against women and armed conflict; explore what role the international community needs to play in order to amplify and strengthen integrated women’s rights approaches to peace, security and access to justice. In collaboration with conference participants we will identify how we as NWI can best help spotlight critical women’s efforts and advance some of the recommendations to come out of this meeting.

We focus our first conference on the situation of women in the Middle East because during the past year we have witnessed the challenges facing women activists in the region mount. We’ve seen increasing spirals of violence, terrorism and anti-terrorism begetting more violence, increasingly borne by women and children. We realize these events are not isolated and our ability to confront them depends on our ability to understand their causes and links, as well as learn from the positive responses of resilience of women in the region.

We believe the forms of violence and responses of women in the Middle East, and beyond, can serve as a lens that can offer ways women’s rights, human security and peace issues can be addressed globally.

However, as Shirin Ebadi notes, “It is our sadness that on the eve of our first conference our sister laureate, Aung San Suu Ski, has yet again had her detention extended. We look forward to a day when she can be amongst us”.

Women from organizations such as the following will be in attendance.

  • Afghan Women’s Network
  • American Friends Service Committee
  • Association of Women’s Rights in Development
  • B.a.B.e. Women's Human Rights Group
  • Bat Shalom - The Jerusalem Center for Women’s Action
  • Cluster Munition Coalition
  • Concerned Women’s Organisation for Peace and Development
  • Global Fund for Women
  • The Green Belt Movement
  • Greenpeace International
  • International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear weapons
  • International Campaign to Ban Landmines
  • Just Associates
  • Kosova Women’s Network
  • Mines Action Canada
  • Open Democracy
  • Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq
  • Peacewomen Across the Globe
  • The Parents Circle Families Forum
  • United Nations Office for the Coordination of Human Affairs
  • V-Day Karama
  • Women Living Under Muslim Laws
  • Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice
  • World Centers of Compassion for Children International

We would like to thank the following supporters of the Nobel Women’s Initiative. Without their generous support, encouragement and collaboration this conference would not have been possible.

  • Irish Aid
  • Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • Swiss Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • The Global Fund for Women
  • The Planethood Foundation
  • Rockefeller Family & Associates
  • The Tides Foundation
  • University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work
  • Ann Downs

The Nobel Peace Prize Laureates of the NWI: Jody Williams, Shirin Ebadi, Wangari Maathai, Rigoberta Menchú Tum, Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan Maguire

We would also like to thank our working group members: Brene Brown, Lisa VeneKlasen, Nayereh Tohidi, Avon Mattison and Shahla Haeri, as well as Joanna Kerr and Nancy Ingram.
Dublin, Ireland, 26 May

Pre-Conference Press Note:

The Nobel Women’s Initiative’s First International Conference: Women Redefining Peace in The Middle East & Beyond

The conclusions of a major international conference – which will focus on women’s role in progressing peace and tackling violence - will be presented by a group of women Nobel Peace Laureates at 12.30pm on Friday, 1st June in No. 15 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2.

In 2006, six of the seven living female Nobel Peace Laureates established the Nobel Women’s Initiative to act as a collective voice on issues of peace and women’s rights around the globe. The only Laureate unable to join the initiative is Aung San Suu Kyi, who is still imprisoned.

The first international conference of the Nobel Women’s Initiative will take place in the West of Ireland next week. The theme of the conference is Women Redefining Peace in the Middle East and Beyond and it will be attended by a host of international human rights activists, disarmament experts and ex-political prisoners.

The conference takes place in the wake of mounting challenges facing women in the Middle East and in other areas of conflict around the world. It will examine the approaches women take in challenging violence – including gender violence – and conflict, as well as looking at how the international community can play a greater role in strengthening women’s approaches to peace, security, rights and access to justice.

The conclusions of this conference will be delivered in Dublin by Nobel Laureates, Betty Williams (Ireland, 1976); Mairead Corrigan Maguire (Ireland, 1976); Professor Jody Williams (USA, 1997) and Dr Shirin Ebadi (Iran, 2003).

As part of the conclusions, the Nobel Women’s Initiative hopes to determine how the women Laureates can use their visibility and access to power to advance the recommendations of the conference.

Note to media: The conference proceedings that will take place prior to the event in Dublin are not open to the media. A number of the Laureates will be available for media interviews on Friday, 1st June.

CONTACT: Catherine Heaney, DHR Communications @ (353) 01-488 5808 or 087-2309835 or
poDcast21: June 1 2007
From: Siobhan O'Connell, openDemocracy's poDcast producer, and an award winning broadcast journalist and radio producer, with many years experience in the field with the BBC:

Our poDcast this week comes from the first ever international conference of the Nobel Women's Initiative in Galway, Ireland.  

Part One: Women and conflict in the middle east

Women peace laureates and activists talk to Isabel Hilton about what you won't hear from flak-jacketed war correspondents, on war and the middle-east.

This week openDemocracy is in Galway in Ireland, where we have been at the first conference of the Nobel Women's Initiative. Twelve women have won the Nobel Peace Prize since it began. Seven are still alive, one is under house arrest and one is running for president - and the remaining five have brought together some of the world's most influential activists, researchers, academics and professionals to talk about war, peace, security, justice, and how to change a world in which all of the above, except war, are in short supply.

Mairead Corrigan Maguire, Nobel laureate and veteran of peacebuilding in Northern Ireland, draws hope from the principles of peace that millions of ordinary people practice every day, unobserved by the world's media. Natasha Khalid and Nadera Shalhoub Kevorkian discuss the hardships and the creativity of women living in the occupied territories, in tackling the insecurity they face in every aspect of their lives. Shirin Ebadi, awarded the Nobel for her human rights work in Iran, warns of how power and patriarchy - through military intervention, religious traditions, violence or political practice - can undermine those who struggle for freedom and democracy. And she introduces a new kind of war memorial.

Listen to Part One (23.01mins) HERE


Part Two: Redefining peace

Isabel Hilton asks if women really do support peace and if so, how? Five expert witnesses respond.

This Nobel Women's Initiative roundtable brings together women selected by the five women peace laureates leading the conference. Drawing on their experience and expertise from Iraq, Northern Ireland, the occupied territories and the US, Yanar Mohammed, Bronagh Hinds, Nadwar Sarandah, Antonia Juhasz and Valentine Moghadam discuss rebuilding peace from civil war, understanding conflict, learning to talk to the enemy, and - critically - how women made an essential difference in achieving the current settlement in Northern Ireland. Hear their analyses, strategies and hopes for redefining a concept of peace based in justice, human rights and inclusion.

Listen to Part Two (38.37mins) HERE

Part three: What makes the difference

The NWI conference has been groundbreaking: from its set-up and strategies, to the extraordinary experiences and ideas of the women involved. Laureates and participants discuss what they brought to it, what they will take away, and what the future holds.

Jane Gabriel talks to Nancee Oku Bright and Hibaaq Osman about how they build peace in partnership with those in the middle of war, and the practical and legal tools this takes. Siobhan O'Connell hears from Rana Husseini about exposing violence against women and what the NWI can do to stop censorship; and from Roja Bandari about what her involvement in Iranian civil society and in the NWI has meant to her. Isabel Hilton talks to founding laureate Jody Williams about why the experience of the NWI conference has been so different to many male-dominated forums, and how this will affect their future work. And we close with stories from the ground, told by the women who have spent the last three days making the conference such a stimulating and moving experience for all involved.

Listen to Part Three (27.34 mins) HERE
The music you can hear in this poDcast is "Celitc Impulse" by Kevin Macleod ( Licensed under Creative Commons "Attribution 2.0"


May 29, 2007

Nobel Women's Initiative  

Posted by Zeina Zaatari    

The first day of the Nobel Women's Initiative first international conference "Women Redefining Peace: The Middle East and Beyond" has been an inspiring and invigorating meeting. Activists from all over the world engaged in discussions, listened to each other, and focused on possible actions of the future. Diverse, yet committed, to a ‘different world' free from violence, discrimination, and poverty women re-stated the creative efforts of women to promote peace and work for justice in the various communities.  The day started with welcoming remarks from our host Nobel Laureate, Betty Williams stressing that what was once impossible peace in Ireland is today a reality. Betty also read a letter from Ireland's president Mary McAleese. Betty also indicated that even though Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been on house arrest in Burma for the past ten years, is not able to be with us at the meeting, the Laureates created a space for her placing her picture and flowers to symbolize her participation in the conference and as a continuous reminder of her struggle. Laureate Jody Williams then reiterated the goals and vision of the Nobel Women's Initiative indicating that the hope is to organize an international conference every two years. Jody emphasized that we are often dismissed politically and as activists because we are women. We are often relegated to talking only about ‘women's issues' as if women's issues is a narrow domain that only concerns women and no the whole society and as if peace, justice, war, and economics are not women's issues.

After an introduction into the "Gender Dynamics of Violence and Conflicts" by Valentine Moghadam that attempted to lay out the overarching picture in a global context, the rest of the day was structured around three panel presentations followed by conversations as well as an exercise of small group discussions involving the concept and practice of power, in its visible, hidden and invisible forms.  

The first panel presentation on "Women's Rights Violations in the Middle East: A Closer Look," featured Laureate Shirin Ebadi, Farida Shaheed, Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian, and Nayereh Tohidi. The panelists discussed in more details the problematic aspects of violence in the various domains addressing issues of political linkages, violence in its various forms, fundamentalism, identity politics, and silencing and policing mechanism.

The Panel titled "Lessons from Darfur" featured Jody Williams reporting on her recent trip to Darfur and the various initiatives of divestment and accountability that have been taking place, and a comment from Abeer Mahmoud on the difficulties facing women in Darfur. In addition, Nan Lao Lian Won from Burma discussed targeted violence, including rape that the Burmese regime has inflicted on women in times of war and in times of peace and the efforts of women's organizations to counteract that. This panel made clear that the use of women's bodies as weapons of war between men has occurred in many places and the links need to be uncovered and discussed. It also unveiled the fact that divestment from Chinese entities that are supporting the military and gang actions in Darfur should also focus on the same efforts taking place in Burma.

The last panel on "Power and Its Impact" featured Antonia Juhasz, Yanar Mohammad, and myself discussing the varying ways in which US corporations, governments, and the funding and international aid agencies have contributed to increasing the conflicts in the region and dramatically negatively impacting women's rights. A challenge was laid out to prevent the privatization of Iraqi oil and for the support of the right of Iraqi people to self-determination. In addition, an important analysis of the role of oil companies and the private corporations of the US and multi-nationally in the current war and continued conflicts in the region. A negative assessment of the role of donor agencies aligned with US foreign policy interests and imperial project was also presented.

The day ended with inspiring comments from Laureates Mairead Corrigan Maguire and Wangari Maathai. They both emphasized the need to act and speak up and the important role that women have played in promoting non-violent resistance, putting into focus issues of self-determination, justice, equitable distribution, just governance, and sustainability.

Zeina Zataari is the Global Fund's Program Officer for the Middle East and North Africa.

June 1 2007

Six female Nobel winners in Dublin

Six female Nobel Peace Laureates will meet in Dublin today to promote the role of women in progressing peace and tackling violence.

Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan from Northern Ireland will be joined at St Stephen's Green Prof Jody Williams of the United States, Dr Shirin Ebadi of Iran, Rigoberta Menchu Tum of Guatemala and Professor Wangari Maaphai of Kenya.

The meeting will follow the first international conference of the Nobel Women's initiative in Galway.

The conference, Women Redefining Peace in the Middle East and Beyond , is being attended by international human rights activists, disarmament experts and ex-political prisoners.

Its conclusions will be delivered in Dublin by four of the six laureates, who will discuss how they can use their high-profile status and access to power to advance the role of women.

 Dublin ~~ Saturday June 2 2007

Women peace laureates fight sexual inequality

SIX female Nobel peace laureates came together today to fire the opening salvo in a unique global offensive on sexual discrimination.

The campaigners vowed to lobby international governments and major institutions in a high-profile bid to root out gender inequality.

The strategy was unveiled in Dublin at the conclusion of the first international conference of the Nobel Women's Initiative - made up of six of the seven surviving female winners.

Dr Jody Williams, awarded in 1997 for her role in banning landmines, said they would use their globally-recognised status in an unprecedented challenge to violence and prejudice against women.

"Women are often the faceless and voiceless survivors of conflict. Gender inequality is the root cause of this. Governments and those in positions of power are reluctant to face this down, and as a result, when women articulate their concerns and try to negotiate resolutions, they are mostly ignored."

The six women include Ireland's Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan Maguire.

 London ~~ Saturday June 2 2007

Nobel winners decry lack of women's rights in Middle East

By David McKittrick, Ireland Correspondent

Individually they are impressive; together they are formidable. Six Nobel Peace laureates from around the world - all women - gathered in Dublin yesterday to take part in a major conference on the issue of female empowerment and the advancement of peace in the Middle East.

The group, two of whom are Irish, represent six of the seven living female Nobel laureates. The seventh, Aung San Suu Kyi, remains imprisoned in Burma.

Describing the conference, one of the six, Professor Jody Williams, said: "We looked at the violence against women resulting from the war in Iraq, which has its roots in the oil industry's lust for the reserves in the Middle East and the resulting interests at stake."

Last year, the laureates established the Nobel Women's Initiative, which they described as a collective voice on issues of peace and women's rights. Its purpose is "to address and work to prevent the root causes of violence by spotlighting and promoting the efforts of women's rights activists, researchers and organisations working to advance peace, justice and equality".

Those attending the conference included 80 women's rights activists from 30 different countries, as well as ex-political prisoners, founders of international rights organisations, disarmament experts, journalists and emerging activists.

One of its stated aims was "deepening our understanding of how the private and public dynamics of violence against women, particularly in the Middle East, intersect and therefore how solutions must reflect a more integrated approach." The conference concluded that the root causes of violence were inequalities, including those of power, control of resources, racism, intolerance and the denial of rights for women. One of the laureates, Shirin Ebadi, noted: "It is our sadness that our sister laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has yet again had her detention extended. We look forward to a day when she can be amongst us." She added: "We discussed the role of the media in dismissing and sometimes trivialising the voices of women, saving our environment, equal access to resources of all types, equal access to justice, stopping the madness of the proliferation of weapons around the world that fuel the wars, killing us, our children and our husbands."

Leading a movement against violence
* JODY WILLIAMS, a professor, won the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize along with the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, which she headed and which grew to encompass more than 1,000 separate organisations.Forbes magazine included her in its list of the world's 100 most powerful women.

* BETTY WILLIAMS was co-leader of the Peace People with Mairead Corrigan, the two women sharing the 1976 Nobel Peace Prize. As the Peace People went into decline she became estranged from Ms Corrigan. She has since been active in various international peace projects.

* SHIRIN EBADI won the 2003 Peace Prize for promoting the rights of women and children in Iran. She became the country's first female judge in 1975 but retired after the Islamic revolution. Her Nobel citation said: "She has stood up as ... a courageous person who has never heeded threats to her safety."

* MAIREAD CORRIGAN came to prominence in Belfast in 1976 when three of her sister's children were killed after troops killed an IRA militant whose car crashed into them. The incident led to the formation of the Peace People. It attracted widespread support but faded due to internal differences.