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Logo SAVE - Sisters against violent extremism

07. March 2012

SAVE Gruppenfoto © Xenia Hausner

Tapping into the Untapped Potential: Women Must Make the World a Safer Place

International Women's Day 2012

This International Women’s Day, Women without Borders/SAVE would like to celebrate the strength, resilience, and dedication of women to make the world a better place. 

We also want to take this opportunity to raise the alarm bells—the global women’s movement was one of the most influential social movements of the 20th century, but a decade into the 21st, we must acknowledge that hard-won rights are slowly slipping away as political, economic, and ideological shifts are shaking the world. The push for recognition of the extent and trauma of domestic violence is one of the triumphs of the women’s movement—but the global economic crisis has now led to the closure of a significant number of women’s shelters across even the UK, not to mention other regions of the world. 

The breach of women’s fundamental human rights in Afghanistan served as an impetus for many who gave their lives in the war to stand up and fight. How must these brave men and women feel when they read that the Ulama (religious) Council in Afghanistan just issued a statement declaring that “men are fundamental and women are secondary?” We urge Muslim and non-Muslim civil society alike to protest in one voice, to ensure that women’s status does not backslide in Afghanistan at this critical moment in time. 

Securing women’s status has a broad impact, including within the security arena. Recruitment to extremist groups most often does not start at the ideological level—it begins at the personal level. Individuals find answers to personal problems and needs within the framework—economic, social, ideological, and at times vengeful—recruiters provide. Combating the spread of violent extremism, therefore, must also begin at the personal level. 

Women, and particularly mothers, are best placed to speak to, discuss with, and educate their children. They can and should provide them with alternative solutions to personal problems, and to elaborate the consequences of their actions. But how could a mother in Afghanistan empower her children to combat violent extremism when she cannot even leave the house alone, cannot speak freely, and cannot seek help? Women can be a fundamental barrier to the spread of extremist ideologies, but they must have the self-confidence and strength to do so. We must contribute by supporting their right to move and speak freely. 

European countries have created a “safety umbrella” to prevent the economic collapse of the European Union. It is the responsibility of the international community to create just such a safety umbrella for women around the world who are at risk—in terms of health, safety, security, economics, and fundamental rights. 

Security and stability also lie in our hands. Times of crisis are also often times of opportunity—this is our moment as women to exercise our smart power to meet global challenges with competence and confidence.

 
 

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