Peace in the world starts with peace at home. The foundation of world peace is based on dynamics of interpersonal relationships. The interpersonal relationships’ ground is mainly shaped within the family unit and the culture of a traditionally defined family – which is still the majority in the world- is primarily formed by the mothers.
This is one of the main reasons why without empowerment of women and their active involvement in the society and particularly governance, there will be no peace. Therefore if women get involved in the peace process, negotiations, conflict resolutions and bridge buildings among nations, we have taken one step closer to the desired peaceful future.
Our world is experiencing unprecedented conflicts and violence. As wars have moved from battlefields to villages, cities and schools, women and girls have become more vulnerable. For many, every house is now on the front line of a war zone. This is in addition to the domestic violence that every third woman experiences in her life. On average women around the world get affected by the conflicts more than men. Therefore their urge for living peacefully might be higher than others. This will motivate them to continue their fight for a just, prosperous and peaceful society. Unfortunately worldwide, there are many women who have been deprived from their rights.
This is what these women have in common but what makes them different from each other is the way they react to the circumstances. Some people come to believe that this is their fate and they simply accept it. They stay in the state of victimhood and will never try to change their own circumstance. Some other people start to think and plan for taking a revenge on those who have denied their rights. But there are other groups who believe the best way to take revenge, form the unpleasant circumstances, and live their own life, is to become successful in achieving their goals.
As a person who was personally faced discrimination and was deprived from rights to higher education, having career and also expressing her belief and practicing personal values in life, I share the feeling of frustration, disappointment and aggrieved. But my reaction to those unfair circumstances was making sure that I did not lose sight of my values, and that I keep following my path to reach my goals and achieve what has meant to me the most.
Patience, hope, insistence and assertiveness helped me to overcome many barriers and limitations and continue living my life based on own values, principles and desires. In retrospect, I believe that what caused me so many problems and made life difficult can be summarized in 3 main reasons: lack of tolerance and respect for different ways of thinking, absence of willingness to have a constructive dialogue, and forcing of homogeneous ideas.
When I think more carefully, I recognize these same reasons as the main causes of conflicts, absent of peace and difficulties that we will observe in today’s world and particularly, in the Middle East, the region that I come from.
My personal life story and all the limitations that I faced and had to fight with have been sources of motivation for me to take an active role in promoting a culture of tolerance and focus on capacity building for creating peaceful society.
The best way to change a rigid culture, is to educate women about their rights and support them to demands the rights. By empowering women we in fact empower our nations, the nations that will resist wars and seek peace, fairness, prosperity, resilience and sustainable societies. We should remember that the first step to change a culture that deprives women from their rights, violates their freedom and prison them in the frame of values which are not their own, is to start from the nearest walls, which are family frames.
If we live in a family that does not recognize our rights, we have to speak up. Although respecting the family is a virtue but a greater virtue is respecting human dignity including the one of our own. If each of us stand up and insist to obtain our rights, we gradually will break this vicious circle that has put a black shadow on our culture. We will be able to hold those in charge accountable for the broken promises, undemocratic laws and violations of human rights. This is also the way to assure that our future generation will have a better life and grow up in a more democratic society.
Our human dignity is by far more precious that we would consider giving it up for sake of preserving part of the culture that violates human rights. In the same time we have to remember that staying in the state of victim-hood is not the solution and will not change our life or make the situation better for us or for the future generations.
Looking back in the history stops us from having a bright vision for our future so instead of becoming slave of our past we have to become peace builders for our common future. Let us remember that to there is no stronger army than knowledge, wisdom and affection and ‘peace cannot be kept by force, it can only be achieved by understanding.’
Maryam gave an incredible speech at the Oslo Freedom Forum telling her story. Watch it here