Inside USD

Women PeaceMakers Give Local Voice to International Struggle

Monday, October 5, 2009

wpm-photoWhile the context of their stories and struggles are different, four women who will spend the next two months at the University of San Diego have one thing in common – they’re all striving to bring peace and justice to their homelands.

For the past eight years, the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice has provided a forum for women from around the world to document their stories of struggle and strides to bring peace to their homes. This year, four fearless women are in residence in the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice’s Women PeaceMakers Program.

Rubina Feroze Bhatti of Pakistan will tell her story of protecting the rights of women who are victims of honor killings, acid attacks and other heinous forms of gendered violence in the Punjab and North West Provinces of Pakistan. Zeinab Blandia will share how she works to empower women victims of the decades-long civil war in Sudan, which severely affected the communities and livelihoods of women in the Nuba Mountain region — Blandia’s home.

Bhatti and Blandia, as well as fellow Women PeaceMakers Marta Benavides of El Salvador and Liza Llesis Saway of the Philippines, know all too well about facing discrimination in legal, cultural and traditional practices, as well as threats of violence. Benavides was forced into exile during her country’s civil war in the 1980s for her work for peace, while Saway risks her life daily as she forcefully challenges the traditions and rituals shaped by a patriarchal society.

The peacemakers will share their stories with USD and the San Diego community through Nov. 6. The program, made possible through a grant from the Fred J. Hansen Foundation, includes another lasting component: Each peacemaker will work with designated peace writers to document and build upon their unique peacemaking stories, an opportunity not always possible for these women on the frontline of efforts to end violence.

During their residency, these women will speak to USD students through classroom discussions and to the community at large through intimate conversations (as detailed below). All events are held in the IPJ Theater and are free and open to the public. No RSVP is required.

Tuesday, Oct. 6, 12:30 – 2 p.m.
Conversation with Rubina Feroze Bhatti of Pakistan. Bhatti is founding member and general secretary of a rights-based development group working to address violence, religious intolerance and sectarianism and discriminatory laws and policies against women and minorities.

Tuesday, Oct. 13, 12:30 – 2 p.m.:
Conversation with Marta Benavides of El Salvador. Benavides is one of the surviving activists from the original group of human rights and peace advocates in El Salvador during the 1970s and the rising climate of repression. She has been credited with bringing together people at all levels — politics, the arts, law enforcement, agriculture and food security, environment, religion and labor — to defend human rights and develop a culture of peace.

Thursday, Oct. 15, 12:30 – 2 p.m.
Conversation with Liza Llesis Saway of the Philippines. Saway is an indigenous peacemaker in Mindanao who has emerged as one of the key leaders in the interfaith and multiethnic community efforts to move forward the peace process in Mindanao.

Thursday, Oct. 22, 12:30 – 2 p.m.
Conversation with Zeinab Blandia of Sudan. Blandia is the founder of an organization that trains and cultivates fellow peace ambassadors in her country. As one of her projects Blandia has established Tabag Alsalam, or “Tray of Peace,” where women from different regions and diverse cultures share traditional meals and debate peacefully the issues being fought over in the distant battlefield.

See the Women PeaceMakers’ page on the Joan B. Kroc IPJ Web site for full biographies on each of the participants.

— Denise T. Ward

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