Recent research supports an idea that we, at Karuna Center, have always kept in mind: that gender inequality, in any form, may itself make a society more vulnerable to violence. Evidence shows that the status of women is closely correlated with a nation's tendency toward violent conflict, both within and outside its borders. We find ourselves asking: How could violence against women be perpetuating a culture of violence? and How could gender equality help promote cultures of peace? As researcher Valerie Hudson wrote in Foreign Policy:
"The very best predictor of a state’s peacefulness is not its level of wealth, its level of democracy, or its ethno-religious identity; the best predictor of a state’s peacefulness is how well its women are treated."
Yet some of the women and men who have given us the most inspiration, in their innovative work for peace & gender equality, are living in and around the "red zones" on all three maps above. For example, we recently had the opportunity to pilot a project with Men's Resources International and eight other organizations in Rwanda, Burundi, and eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
Together, we built the Women and Men as Partners in Peacebuilding pilot program to address home-based violence as a way of promoting broader peace and reconciliation. We developed a new model for cross-gender peace partnerships, based on four pillars: Dialogue, Compassion, Collaboration, and Equality. Participants applied it internally within their organizations, throughout their advocacy programs, and even in their own lives. The results were transformative, and continue to ripple outward. (You can read one of the most powerful stories from this pilot initiative on our blog).
Today, on International Women's Day, we celebrate these and all movements for women's rights, and women's power, as movements for peace as well. And if an effort ever feels insignificant, please consider this quote from Rosette Sebasoni, Karuna Center's program manager for our current Healing Our Communities program in Rwanda:
“In Rwanda, we have a proverb that it only takes a small amount of poison to kill. But I want you to know that it also takes only a small amount of medicine to cure.”
So, to people of all genders, who are taking action for greater equality: thank you for your work to build a more peaceful world!
Header photo: Coalition-building workshops Karuna Center co-facilitated in 2011-2012 among South Sudanese and Sudanese women, as South Sudan became an independent nation.