Blog Archives

101 Years of Progress: International Women’s Day 2012

Today, Thursday, March 8, the world celebrates the 101st anniversary of the International Women’s Day, honoring the lives of all women and girls. Here at UNA-GB, we kicked off the celebrations a little early with our annual film screening and panel discussion on Monday, March 5th.  We had more than 100 members of the community come together for War Redefined, the final film in the Women, War & Peace series. The film was followed by an enthusiastic and informative conversation among our wonderful panelists: The series executive producer Abigail E. Disney, Ambassador Swanee Hunt, Dr. Amani El Jack and Sahana Dharmapuri. Take a look here for some pictures of our event.

War Redefined challenges the conventional wisdom that war and peace constitute a man’s sphere. The film features insightful conversations with Secretary of State Hillary R. Clinton, former Secretaries of State Condoleezza Rice and Madeleine Albright, Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee, Bosnian war crimes investigator Fadila Memisevic, the founder of Women for Women International Zainab Salbi, globalization expert Moisés Naím, and Cynthia Enloe of Clark University.

Today, many more wars are fought within countries with failing states compared to wars fought across borders. The proliferation of the use of small arms in the aftermath of the Cold War has transformed the landscape of war. War is no longer fought among the uniformed military forces of two or more countries. In this post-Cold War era, civilians have become the primary victims of war, with women being the foremost targets, and suffering unprecedented casualty rates.

One of the most heinous crimes perpetrated against women during and in the aftermath of wars is sexual violence. Rape and other forms of sexual violence have become major strategies used in modern wars. War Redefined portrays how millions of women and children have been victimized in civil wars ranging from Bosnia to Rwanda. This has brought into sharp relief the concept of human security as contrasted with national security. Even though women and children constitute the overwhelming number of the victims of war, people tasked with peacemaking have traditionally been men.

Recognizing this paradox, United Nations Security Council in the year 2000 passed Resolution 1325 which called for peace agreements to take into account the special needs of women and girls, to support women’s peace initiatives, and implement international humanitarian and human rights law concerning rights of women and girls. The resolution further urged all parties to take action to protect women and girls from gender-based violence, and to respect their special needs in humanitarian and refugee emergencies.

Accordingly, War Redefined portrays how the United States military has begun to task women soldiers to work closely with Afghani women to address their needs such as health care and food security. Humanity is slowly but surely recognizing Harriet Beecher Stowe’s observation that “Women are the real architects of society.” Women can only achieve security, happiness and true liberation when they themselves take the initiative, and raise their voices against inequality and violence. Only then will the world come to celebrate the Women’s Day in its full glory.

The conversation held on Monday between the panelists and the audience was rousing, provactive and inspiring – I look forward to seeing how the Boston community continues to engage with gender justice and equity issues!

HAPPY 101st INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY!  Click here for our blog post detailing additional events around Boston – there are still some to come!

-Smriti K.

The Women’s Forum on Political Participation: The Palestinian Territories


I’d first like to introduce myself. My name is Georgina and I am currently the Communications intern at UNA-GB. The other interns and I will be updating this blog over the summer.

Continuing in the same vein as Hannah and Christina, I will be focusing on the Women’s Forum Panel, specifically on Political Participation in the Palestinian Territories.

Ms. Marleen Bisharah Suleiman Nazzal, General Director of Advocacy, Media, and Communications Directorate, Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Ramallah was the panelist from the Palestine Territories. At the July 1 event, she spoke at length about the status of women and the political climate in the territories.

The Ministry of Women’s Affairs aims to provide assistance to women and children as well as the poor in society. It also encourages other government ministries to attend to the needs of poverty-affected populations by offering training, assistance, and employment. A number of international aid organizations also provide assistance to the poor in Palestine in the form of emergency aid programs. Women’s organizations in the Territories offer a wide array of services, ranging from lobbying and advocacy work to training and psychological counseling.

Violence against women and children is extensively reported by local women’s institutions and the Press and seems to increase during times of political and economic turmoil in the territories. Currently there are no laws or provisions specifically created to protect women against domestic violence; however, violence is punishable, whether it is perpetrated against males or females, and women can use such provisions to access the judicial system and law enforcement.

Ms. Nazzal emphasized that political will is a significant factor in addressing violence against women and children. Unless violence against women stops, women won’t be full members of society.

She pointed out that despite the current “delicate” political situation in the Palestine territories; there has been visible progress in women’s status in politics due to official support.

Currently, there are women serving in municipalities, five have been appointed as ministers. There is also an established quota wherein 20% of the local council should be comprised of women as well as other important positions held by females including Dr. Laila Ghannam, the first lady to occupy the post of Governor of the Palestinian Territories. Ms. Nazzal explained the imperative need to build on this progress.

Ms. Nazzal also mentioned that the Ministry has implemented a national media campaign to create awareness as well as encourage women to participate in the political process (particularly running for political office).

Political support is extremely important in the Palestinian territories because despite what is achieved, the gains will not be significant without supportive leadership to champion women’s causes.

The Ministry of Women’s Affairs has worked tirelessly from its offices in Ramallah as a networking body engaged in monitoring and ensuring accountability, following up on legal issues, and working for the defense of women’s rights and their interests. It has succeeded in building a wide network of relations on the local, regional and international fronts, and has participated in many international conferences on subjects related to women’s issues and human rights.

Signing Off!