Whenever I ask women in Afghanistan, Brazil, India andPalestine what they wish for above all, they mostly reply: “peace andsafety”.  If we have peace, we can build all
else upon it, bit by bit, together. But here we are, surrounded by violence –
at times of gruesome brutality – threats and insecurity. The ground under our
feet threatening to swallow us; the streets and our very homes unsafe.

War, terrorism, wide-spread and unpunished aggression are
crippling many communities around the world, and particularly affecting women
in their capacity to realize their aspirations and contribute to public life in
a meaningful way. We need to concentrate our efforts on building peace, not
only between nations and warring factions, but also within societies. A lasting
peace made of justice, equality and freedom. This peace will not primarily come
from the UN conference halls and government chancelleries; it will grow from
within the communities, nurtured by men and women united around humanistic
values.

To give peace a chance, we must strengthen the resilience of
local communities and, importantly, of women and women’s organisations, who are
often the bedrocks of stability in a wavering environment. The key components of
the sort of grass-roots resilience that will resist threats and destruction and
counter them with respect, solidarity and humanity are, in my view: access to education
and knowledge; access to power and agency; connections with allies and
supporters. However, in many parts of the world, North and South, East and
West, great efforts are being deployed to keep women from accessing precisely these
fundamental entitlements that could give them the means to take part in the
negotiations, decision-making processes and endeavors affecting the
socio-economic development of their communities. Women and girls are willfully
hindered from accessing the levels of education that will prepare them to
participate in public affairs and rise to positions of leadership; they are too
often blocked from obtaining knowledge that gives them an informed stance in
the important conversations around their communities’ future; they are kept in
isolation, frightened into retreat and cut off from decisional fora.

We must counter these obstructions in determined,
unrelenting and creative ways. Through laws that guarantee the same citizen’s
rights to all, men or women; through civil action that insists that such laws
are implemented everywhere, even in the most remote and isolated communities;
and through the allocation of public and private means and resources in favor
of women’s education, their professional and social ascent. We must also weave
relations with women and women’s organisations wherever they face hardship and
opposition, and extend our support in all ways accessible to us, across
boundaries.

Lasting peace and safety is not brought about by force, and
prosperity and progress can only grow in communities where everyone is treated
with respect, acknowledged for the roles they can play and allowed to realize
their full potential. Let’s make sure women and girls are given the possibility
to be today’s and tomorrow’s peacemakers.

By Antonella Notari Vischer, Director of the Womanity Foundation, as published on the Thomson Reuters’ Foundation blog http://www.trust.org/item/20150305211401-h6afc?view=print