In her opening remarks, Carolyn Handschin welcomed the full house on behalf of the organizers, thanking the many who contributed to the preparations, especially WFWP Albania. She reminded the audience that we are here to advance together, saying that the EU has no monopoly on solutions and referred to the debates during the WFWP events that brought women Parliamentarians and civil society together in the Albanian Parliament and Kosovo Parliament in 2018 and 2019.
The solidarity among women leaders, and their concern about how to promote women’s participation while taking consideration of the outgoing men in office, was striking and something European women leaders seem to be less concerned about. Mrs. Handschin explained that the organizers tried very hard to include a male voice in the panel, believing that it is important not just to talk among ourselves and not to repeat the same mistakes attributed to male dominance in politics. That speaker, an important male representative of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in the Balkans, was unfortunately called away to a mission just before the conference.
Women are those that suffer the most in conflicts and wars, losing husbands and sons, along with the possibility of being victims of violence themselves. We are here to find new pathways to peace. Therefore, it is high time that societies are not led by the logic of power, but by the logic of love and reconciliation! It is through love and forgiveness that wounds can be healed. Professor Moon also emphasized that women develop their talents in the caretaking of their family and household, organizing the life of their children. These qualifications need to be used for the wider society: The ability to embrace, have empathy and compassion that can heal the world!
Ms. Jaku has always been concerned with social wellbeing and equality between men and women! She said that the laws needed to be adapted to counteract gender-based discrimination. Women are the main caretakers in the household and too often victims of domestic violence, she said, and hence we need to improve the support for victims and ensure the consequent pursuing of the perpetrators, so that women and girls are better protected. 61% of work is done by women, while on average they only provide 26% of the family income. Therefore, Ms. Jaku started a plan of action to promote the entrepreneurship of women.
She also developed a system of early diagnoses and treatment of cancer (especially of breast and womb cancer) and founded new pediatric hospitals. Hon. Jaku very energetically strives to promote a society of justice and well-being for all! She said, “Quotas are not enough, it is the quality that is the most important”. She also asked us not to forget that for every woman to step in, a man has to step back! How can we help them to keep their dignity?
Dr. Guerin shared how she at a young age, while watching the news, was always asking herself, “Why does history always repeat itself, why do people continue to make the same mistake over and over again?” She learned that all you can do, as Mahatma Ghandi always said, is to change yourself! M. Ghandi said, “If everyone were to transform into a better person, the world would become a better place.” So, we need to understand more about ourselves; why are traumas so deeply rooted in us? As a neuroscientist she found that heavy traumas are changing our epigenetics; changing our DNA. This implies that, if they are not healed, they will be transmitted to the next generation and, consequently, we inherit from the past. Again, what can be done about that? Dr. Guerin explained that there are three answers: consciousness, a relationship issue and, very important, meditation! She brought meditation into psychiatric institutions. As traumas are experiences with strong emotions, as in the case of (sexual) violence, they need a therapeutic relationship to be healed, but also meditation, to heal the inner wounds. And very important, it is a personal decision to want to be healed, to heal!
She calls her healing center the “Peak State Therapy for Peace Centre”, because it is when one can feel deep and positive emotions of joy, happiness, freedom that one can heal. Dr. Guérin said that 70% of healing takes place once a person can speak about his/her painful experiences and are able to share what they have gone through. “Healing for Peace” is finding peace within ourselves and with people who have a strong influence on us and, indeed, when there is love between nations.
Mag. Bettina Kirchner gained her experience during the 8 years she spent doing mediation work in conflict areas and war zones. Her strong recommendation is an international security team with a mandate to act! In a war, women are even more affected than man, being prone to multiple acts of violence; but boys and men are also misused - having to wear a gun, being forced to fight, or boys being forcefully recruited as soldiers at an early age. There is nothing good that comes from war!
Her first mission was to go into the jungle to meet the guerrillas to protect civilians from more killing in the Ivory coast. In the beginning, it took months to explain to the authorities that she wanted to meet them, because they are people, and someone has to start talking to them. Then, it took weeks to get permission to enter the area. Then, informal negotiations could start. She wanted to show that they are human beings and it is possible to negotiate with them. She explained that after some time during which no unlawful killings took place, peace negotiations could start. To reach successful and sustainable peace and reconciliation, income-generating projects can also be important. Often it is social desperation or imbalance that leads to violence. Lasting peace can only be reached with participation from the field, the people themselves, plus the strong involvement of women; let the people find the solution themselves and work for it and, together, create a common goal and vision!
There should be not any kind of abuse or neglect remaining; if this continues, then it might lead to violence again. We should dare to talk to the enemy! As Betty Williams and Desmond Tutu said: “It is easy to talk to your friends, but it is important to talk to your enemy - and make him your friend!”
Prof. Zilka Siljak started by describing herself as a Muslim feminist. She explained that peace is not the mere absence of war or violence, but that we need a positive peace: This means the rebuilding and healing of broken relationships. We need a culture of trust and overcoming historical barriers.
Women are differently affected by war than men. A woman´s first interest is the wellbeing and socialization of her family. Through motherhood, the high potential of the heart is reached. This is why women can reach out to the hearts of people. What is learned in the family can be extended to the wider society. Men are more the negotiators.
During or after wars, it is often the women who are the first to reach out to the “enemy”, being ready to “cross the border” again! Women have a strong desire for peace, and peaceful surroundings for the sake of their children. The fact is that women often lack confidence! This needs to be rebuilt. Therefore, it is important to make the achievements reached by women visible.
Often it needs one year of intense training for a woman to feel that she can do it; can start something. Therefore, they start social or educational projects together. Women need peace and peace needs women! It needs women and men equally; that men to be the supporters and allies of women and vice versa. This is why gender mainstreaming is important to keep the momentum of development in our societies going. Thank you very much for your attention!