On the sidelines of the 67th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW67), the Sri Lanka Mission in New York, in association with the Association of War Affected Women, the International Civil Society Action Network (ICAN) and Gender, Justice and Security Hub of the London School of Economics (LSE) hosted the event “Craft as a medium for peace building, building back better the societies in South Asia that women live, work, and belong to”.
The event, held in hybrid mode, consisted of a panel discussion, an exhibition and sale of products made by conflict affected communities in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka. The panelists included a post-conflict reconstruction expert specializing in sustainable livelihoods Dr. Neelam Raina and a visiting fellow at the London School of Economics’ Women Peace and Security Centre Sanam Anderlini who is the founder and CEO of the International Civil Society Action Network (ICAN) and adjunct professor at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs and the founder chair of the Association of War Affected Women & Parents of Servicemen Missing in Action Visaka Dharmadasa.
Welcoming the panelists, the Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the UN Mohan Peiris, drew attention to the sidelining of women in the peace negotiations, and formal processes of post- conflict reconstruction. He emphasized that without the participation of women, who hold the key to a family’s and community’s harmony, there could be no sustainable peace ensured and that the contributions by women to war and peace have not been fully appreciated and therefore underestimated.
Dr. Raina, as an organizer and coordinator of the event, explained the work of the organization to empower persons, particularly women, from conflict-affected environments. The key aim, she stated, is to ensure dignity – dignity of lives and livelihoods by economic empowerment through the use of traditional knowledge and skills that are engrained in these women. Sanam Anderlini, who joined virtually from London, on “Women weaving peace”, emphasizing the importance of this project from a cultural and anthropological view, and the agency and resilience of women in facing difficult situations. Visakha Dharmadasa, shared her experiences in the bridging efforts made to ensure that the network and support among women of different ethnicities are sustained through multiple tensions and challenges to the social fabric as a result of suspicions created in a conflict environment.
Interventions were also made by South Asian partners of the organizations working with women from Pakistan, Afghanistan and India. The event was attended by over thirty persons who were physically present and over fifty persons who joined online, particularly the entrepreneurs themselves.
The exhibition and products – handloom and embroidered cloth, painted pottery, rattan work – displayed and sold following the panel discussion were identified with a particular artisan, working in their communities, with material from their environment with the products reflecting a community and its surroundings, working to cultivate a cultural identity by setting the community apart and attracting people to its uniqueness.
The face of each creator added meaning, and was emotive of the journey of each product from their makers’ hands in the villages to reach the audience in New York. Items sold directly contributed to their income through the networks.
The empowerment efforts of the panelists are grounded in the seminal UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on ‘Women, peace and security’ adopted in October 2000, which urges all actors to increase the participation of women and incorporate gender perspectives in all United Nations peace and security efforts.
The Sri Lanka Mission in New York has been consistently engaging with the review of the Women, Peace and Security agenda embodied in UNSCR 1325. At the UN Security Council, on 7 March 2023, in an intervention, Sri Lanka noted that although there have been significant strides in executing the WPS agenda in the past 23 years, the missing link has been with regard to the lack of women’s direct participation in formal processes of negotiating peace. This event, which focused on empowering women as peace-builders,builds on this intervention; supporting through practice, the core intent of the resolution.
Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka
16 March 2023