Girl talk: why women peace negotiators work

 Peace at last in Colombia (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)   

Peace at last in Colombia (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)

 

By BEL JACOBS

WHERE WOMEN HAVE BARTERED FOR PEACE, THE RESULTS HAVE BEEN SUCCESSFUL. WHY THEN ARE THERE SO FEW WOMEN IN THE INTERNATIONAL MEDIATING COMMUNITY?

Peace negotiators play a challenging role in international diplomacy. They’re charged with ending armed conflict through helping people talk rather than battle their way to peace.

To do this, they must possess a unique combination of abilities: sensitivity, personal charisma, a formidable memory for historical background, an awareness of what will or will not work culturally.

Talking, listening, persuading are all skills associated with women. Why then are there so few women in the mediating community? In a 2012 United Nations analysis of 31 peace processes between 1992 and 2011, women made up just 9 per cent of the negotiators.

History is littered with examples where, when women have helped broker peace, things have got done - more so than when it was just men round the tables. In Colombia, where 260,000 have died in a 50-year war between the government and the FARC guerrilla group, women have been at the front line of peace making: taking part in secret early talks between government and guerrillas, calling for local ceasefires, winning the release of hostages, documenting human rights violations and keeping victims in the public eye.