*** WOMEN AND THE PEACE PROCESS
Written statement to the 37th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women
Agenda item 5 Priority themes: Peace: Women and the peace process
15 March 1993
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The Baha'i International Community welcomes this opportunity to address the critical role of women in the peace process. Owing to their particular experiences, women bring to the peace dialogue certain qualities and perspectives complementary to those of men. Baha'is, therefore, take seriously the challenge of bringing women as equals of men into the mainstream of decision making. It is an essential element in the attainment of worldwide unity, and as Baha'u'llah wrote more than a century ago, "The well-being of mankind, its peace and security, are unattainable unless and until its unity is firmly established."
Startling changes in recent years have profoundly altered the character of society, plunging humankind into a state of anxiety. Everyone on the planet has been touched in some way by the breakdown of religious and political institutions which traditionally have provided stability. As disturbing as these dislocations are to individuals, Baha'is view them as preparing the ground for the process of building a new social order which can support a lasting peace. Peace-building over the long term requires the transformation of society, a transformation based on justice, involving education for all, the alleviation of poverty and the abandonment of deeply rooted prejudices.
At a time when conquest and aggression have lost their credibility as means of solving difficult problems, qualities in which women are strong, such as the capacity to link intuition to the other rational processes, and facility with networking and cooperation, are gaining importance. Thus as increasing numbers of women are admitted into centers of decision-making, consultation is being enlightened by fresh perspectives; a new moral and psychological climate is spreading, enabling new dynamics of problem-solving to emerge. The inclusion of women thus directly affects the pace and success of the peace-building process.
The progress of humanity depends on men and women working together; therefore, both must be equally developed. Women, given equal opportunities for education, have already proven to be the equals of men in intellectual and creative capacity. Men must encourage and facilitate the full development of women, as women must support men in their development towards this new condition of society.
These requisites are reflected in the data presented in the report of the Secretary-General on the theme "Peace: Women and the Peace Process." The report points out that women have historically been at the forefront of peace movements. It carefully documents their courageous and unflagging efforts to end war through the channels available to them, which have been mostly non-governmental. The report also notes that women, as peace researchers, generally take a holistic approach to peace -- based on the assumption that real peace requires the elimination of all forms of oppression and discrimination. This approach is particularly well suited to dealing with the interconnected problems of this age. Yet, as the report sadly notes, "women are virtually absent from the peace process at the official level."
Despite rational arguments for including women in decision-making, there is an almost involuntary resistance. The exclusion of women from important consultations is so deeply ingrained in most cultures that change is unlikely without a conscious, deliberate effort to involve them. Change, even when undertaken voluntarily, is rarely perceived as positive at first; rather it is often profoundly disturbing. Baha'is acknowledge that fundamental changes in the way human beings relate to one another are both necessary and inevitable, but will not occur overnight. The transition to full equality between women and men is an evolutionary process requiring education and patience with oneself and others, as well as an unswerving determination.
Within the worldwide Baha'i community, efforts have long been underway to bring women into the mainstream of collective decision making. Participation by women is understood to be an integral part of a dynamic which is gradually transforming Baha'i communities all over the world. The fundamental power this generates is most evident in the Baha'i decision-making process, a methodology which is consultative and participatory in nature.
We warmly commend the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) for its creative efforts to integrate women into all aspects of society, and we urge the Commission on the Status of Women, (INSTRAW), and other concerned agencies to continue their vital efforts to bring women into the peace process at every level. We appeal to member states, as well, to make full participation by women a national goal and to take concrete actions which will involve women in increasing numbers at every level of decision-making.
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UN Document #E/CN.6/1993/NGO/7