WILPF Speaking Truth to Power

Participants at the June 6 Roundtable Discussion

On Wednesday, June 6, 2012, WILPF, U.S. convened a Roundtable Discussion in conjunction with Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX-30) and Congressman Russ Carnahan (MO-3) on implementation of the U.S. National Action on Women, Peace and Security. The purpose of the discussion was to raise critical issues necessary to ensure that the U.S. NAP adhere to the original purpose of the SCR1325 as a tool to advance peace and to secure the role of women as equal partners in preventing conflict and building peace. Read WILPF U.S. Statement on the U.S. NAP here.

In accord with the mandate of the Resolution 1325 that requires civil society participation in national implementation, the Roundtable brought to the table over 20 representatives from U.S. based and international women’s groups with key Members of Congress and Congressional Staff, and a panel that included; WILPF National Director Tanya Henderson; SCR1325 architect Sunam Anderlini; Ambassador Swanee Hunt, founder of The Women Waging Peace Network, and Ambassador Melanne Verveer from the Office of Global Women’s Issues at the U.S. Department of State  to dialogue, as equal partners, to fully establish and institutionalize the role of women in all matters of securing peace. Laura Roskos, WILPF Board President and Susan Shaer, Executive Director of WAND, WILPF’s partner organization, co-facilitated the discussion. For a complete list of panelist bio’s click here (pdf). For a complete list of Rountable participants click here (pdf).

Speaking to a packed house (standing room only), WILPF, U.S. National Director Tanya Henderson made 5 key points in her remarks, based on findings published in WILPF’s Report on Civil Consultations: 

  1. Domestic application of the U.S. NAP: Based on testimony from our civil consultations, we found that there is nothing that the U.S. government does externally that does not affect women and families at home. Therefore, to fully address the multiple ways women experience discrimination and inequality, particularly as it is linked to a continuum of physical, structural and armed violence, the U.S. NAP must be integrated into all facets of the U.S. government, including U.S. agencies, such as the Departments of Justice, Education, the Environment, Labor, Trade, Immigration and Homeland Security. In essence, whenever a law is being made, we must ask the question: “How does this policy affect the women?”
  2. Reduction in military spending and greater investment in peace: A key finding from our consultations was the absolute necessity of a reduction in military spending and greater investment in need based security such as education, healthcare, social safety nets – both at home and abroad. Poverty is a source of structural violence that women face worldwide. Domestically, military spending is draining our budget (700 billion annually) and militarism has saturated daily life. If we are truly committed to building peace and advancing the status of women, then we must ensure that our federal and state spending reflects such goals. Our current budget does not.
  3. A collective and concerted effort to increase women’s political participation in the U.S.: Fundamental to UN SCR 1325 and the U.S. NAP is the necessity of women’s meaningful participation in the political decision making process. Women in the U.S. comprise only 16.6 percent of the seats in Congress (Afghanistan is 27.7 percent and Iraq is 25.2 percent). In 2010, the number of women in Congress dropped for the first time since 1979. Consultation participants reported “Women are losing ground on their rights domestically,” pointing to the ongoing threats to reproductive rights, slashes to social safety nets, such as welfare, child/elder care, and the seemingly intractable pay inequity between women and men’s earnings. If we want to truly institutionalize the women, peace and security agenda as part of U.S. policy, we must support and encourage more women to take formal leadership positions, particularly marginalized women and women of color, so that our commitment to implementation of the U.S. NAP is relevant to the diverse spectrum of women’s experiences.
  4. The U.S. must codify its commitments to women’s right and gender equality through ratification of international human rights laws, specifically the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW): While this is not an issue for Congress, it is an issue for the constituent women’s groups represented here today, and for the U.S. Senate. As Congresswoman Johnson strongly stated, and Ambassador Verveer affirmed, the U.S. must begin to “walk the talk." How can we continuing preaching to other countries about women’s rights, when we haven’t even secured our own rights at home?
  5. Protection of women from violence, both at home and abroad, must be paramount to the U.S. NAP, particularly as violence is linked to the impact of U.S. militarism, such as the challenges faced by women serving in the military: A 2011 survey found that 1 in 5 women serving in the U.S. Air Force are victims of sexual assault. A consultation participant who runs a homeless shelter for women vets reported that every woman that she deals with has been a victim of sexual assault by her “battle buddies,” but there are no services in veteran’s programs that deal with sexual abuse. The NAP must address the unique impacts of women in the military and must commit to a zero tolerance policy for the abuse of women in armed service. While the U.S. must support the full equality of women globally, we must begin with ensuring the equal rights and protection of women at home.

In conclusion, Tanya Henderson stated the following:

Susan Shaer (far left) and Tanya Henderson (far right) with participants at the June 6 Roundtable Discussion

“While the U.S. NAP is a milestone in the history of U.S. international commitments on issues regarding women and peace, it is largely focused on addressing the rights and needs of women living in a conflict affected environment through a foreign policy lens and military based approach to security. WILPF advocates for a broader understanding of what constitutes a conflict affected environment, recognizing that countries such as the U.S. are engaged in conflict and post conflict reconstruction through the provision of financial resources, weapons, and military or peace keeping forces. Whether at home or abroad these conflict affected environments suffer severe economic, social and environmental consequences that impact women in multiple and unique ways. Our commitment to women and peace must begin at home.”

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