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12. March 2008

Benita Ferrero-Waldner and Edit Schlaffer © Elisabeth Kasbauer

EU Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner und Edit Schlaffer

Mairead Corrigan Maguire © Elisabeth Kasbauer

Mairead Corrigan Magurie, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate 1976

Minister Suhair Al Ali and Edit Schlaffer © Elisabeth Kasbauer

Suhair Al Ali, Minister for Planning and International Cooperation Jordan, and Edit Schlaffer

Naila Ayesh © Elisabeth Kasbauer

Naila Ayesh, Executive Director of the Women´s Affairs Centre Gaza

Antoinette Batumubwira © Elisbeth Kasbauer

Antoinette Batumubwira, Burundi´s foreign minister

Female Voices for Change

Strategies to stabilise the world have been devised by state leaders, diplomats and peace mediators throughout history and have encountered varying degrees of success.

In commemoration of International Women’s Day, a unique event took place in Brussels which exhibited the potential to tap new territories in world stabilisation; history was debated and analysed from the female perspective. European Union Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner proposed the topic “Women: Stabilising an Insecure World” and accordingly invited female heads of state, foreign ministers, high-ranking representatives of international organisations and courageous civil rights activists to a single roundtable.

The occasion provided an exceptional opportunity to look through the lens of women who govern and shape the world: from Yulia Tymoshenko to Condoleezza Rice, from Suzanne Mubarak to Emma Bonino and Liberian Foreign Minister Olubanke King Akerlele, it was a gathering of powerful, brilliant and engaged women of our time.

“Let’s start the revolution!”
With these words, EU Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner initiated the conference and asked the participants to put aside their prepared and rehearsed statements so they could instead commence with direct and intense dialogue.

Encouraging and enforcing the active participation of women from all background in the public sphere is a pressing challenge of our decade. But if women receive the proper support and assist each other in participating in politics and economics, science and theology - this will not only be a victory for women’s empowerment, but a clear vote for democracy and justice.

And women are well equipped with one particular skill: listening – an action which goes one step beyond hearing and allows us to understand the arguments and assumptions resulting from societal clashes and enables us to overcome distrust and misunderstanding.

Women today are competent as never before: educated, ambitious and ready for action. From grassroots organizations to the halls of power, they are stabilizing the delicate structure of our societies. Living in these critical times, societies must tap into the talents and energies of all citizens. Women need self-confidence to trust in their ability to bring stability to the public sphere.

We trust that the female talent pool represents the qualities that are needed to build a more peaceful world. But life is often unfair and power, muscles and military tend to prevail; and power is gained through numbers, not through thoughtful considerations.
Former Knesset speaker Naomi Chazan claims that “There is no critical number of women on the negotiation tables, but numbers count. The quantity would mean quality.” The Irish Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Mairead Corrigan-Maguire mobilized thousands of women for peace during the Irish civil war: “It was a huge success. We saw a 70% decrease in violence during the first six months of the peace movement. People themselves have to build peace because that will get through to the politicians. I think peace starts in your own heart”.
A new energetic female driving force behind Middle Eastern politics is Suhair al-Ali, Minister for Planning and International Cooperation in Jordan. She believes in the fresh competence of women: “I think women should never compare themselves to anyone, they need to build on their strengths. I truly believe that you need raise the bar for yourself and not have anyone else to raise it for you. If you are not self driven, you are not going to get anywhere”.

Today, women are driven to boldly and bravely overcome stereotypes, hurdles and road blockages. Starting with the morning after International Women’s Day, we move on to prepare the stage for female development and excellence at every level of society, and, together with men, to build an all-inclusive society.

Together, Women without Borders can change the world.

Yours,
Edit Schlaffer







 
 

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