Talk to me not about me!

‘Whether it’s climate change, whether it’s peace, whether its governance, women can influence the kind of change that we would like to have. There will be no peace without women’.  Irene Santiago, one of 1000 women nominated as a group for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005 opened #womenseriously in Dublin on Saturday 10th September.

A new social movement enabling women’s voices to be heard, Irene emphasised ‘if we are serious about peace, we must take women seriously’. Organised via skype by activists in Myanmar, Canada and the Philippines, this event was one of many being held globally to promote women’s peace and security and their role in peace-making outlined in UN Resolution 1325.

Irene is well known internationally as a strong advocate of gender equality to transform society.  In the early 2000s the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), located on the southern Philippines island of Mindanao, was trying to break away from the rest of the country. Santiago saw an opportunity to show that women, even though they were largely non-combatants, could be a vital part of any peace talks. She was and is one of the few women who took part in those peace negotiations.

“I saw a situation where mostly men were trying to solve the problem,” she recalled, “And I knew that if women did not participate in the negotiations, not only in the peace making but the peacebuilding, there was no chance for a peace agreement.”

A strong turn- out of Irish Advocates for #womenseriously included former politician Nora Owen, head of the National Women’s Council, Orla O Connor, Mairead Healy, Future Voices, Gary Mason, Roja Fazaeli and and Jane Morrice, formerly of the National Women’s Coalition in Northern Ireland and formerly Vice President of the European Economic and Social Committee. Participants included women and some men from Rotary Clubs, advocacy groups, women in direct provision joined women in public and private life in Ireland.

The challenge to all was to hold spaces for women and men at other peacetables nationally or locally and to campaign for gender equality. #womenseriously

Barbara Walshe