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Women peace leaders address Security Council members

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Women from Afghanistan, Kosovo and East Timor ask for increased protection from abuses during war
New York, United Nations - Women peace leaders from Afghanistan, Kosovo and East Timor today spoke to Security Council Members about violations committed against women during and after war and women's role in peace negotiations and peace-keeping efforts. International experts Elisabeth Rehn, former UN Under-Secretary General, and Maha Muna from the NGO Working Group on Women, International Peace and Security also addressed Council Members at the meeting in New York.

The briefing by women leaders to Council Members occurs exactly one year after the Security Council passed Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security. The groundbreaking Resolution linked gender equality to global security and committed governments to include women's voices in peace negotiations while protecting them from the abuses of war.

"The entire peace process benefits when women are at the table," said Noeleen Heyzer, Executive Director of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM). "Recognizing and supporting women's contributions can prevent many lifetimes of untold sorrow. This is especially poignant for Afghanistan. Any UN response for Afghanistan must include women and their concerns."

"We have to challenge the world's silence about the situation of women in war. Their protection is glaringly neglected. Their contributions to peace-building are often marginalized, and no one is picking up the pieces," said Elisabeth Rehn. Ms. Rehn is one of two independent experts appointed by UNIFEM to carry out a global assessment of the impact of conflict on women and women's role in peace-building. Ms. Rehn briefed Council Members on preliminary findings from recent field visits to East Timor, Cambodia, Somalia, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Balkans as part of the assessment.

Council Members also bore witness to the reality for women in war-torn areas. Jamila, Director of the Afghan Women's Welfare Department, stressed that women in Afghanistan must be included in any future peace negotiations to ensure lasting peace and security. "Do not think that because women wear a veil we do not have a voice. When the UN is looking for leaders look to us. Tap our networks that reach and assist women and their families in refugee camps," she said.

Natercia Godinho-Adams, a representative for Timor Aid, an organization that provides direct assistance to the people of East Timor, told Members, "Women were targeted for sexual assault in a cruel and systematic way throughout the Indonesian occupation. We are appealing to the Security Council to take immediate steps to create an International Tribunal for East Timor to ensure that those responsible for these crimes are brought to justice." Godinho-Adams also told Members of progress for women in East Timor. As a result of training provided to women candidates by UNTAET and national and international organizations, such as UNIFEM, twenty-three women were elected to the newly formed Constituent Assembly.

Haxhere Veseli, a 16-year-old refugee from Kosovo, appealed to Council Members to address youth concerns. "In Kosovo, over half the population is under 24 years of age," said Veseli. "Teenagers lost a lot of control during the war in Kosovo. Some girls were forced to make decisions they would not normally make. They exchanged sex for money and access to assistance and they did so with little or no knowledge of HIV/AIDS."

Speaking on behalf of the NGO Working Group on Women, International Peace and Security, Maha Muna said "Women continue to be grossly under-represented throughout the UN, especially at senior levels. Of the current 46 Special Envoys of the Secretary-General, there are no women. This is one year after Resolution 1325. It is distressing to see protection for asylum seekers weakening as countries increasingly close their borders to those fleeing conflict, as we have seen with Afghan refugees."

The NGO working group on Women, International Peace and Security, is comprised of Amnesty International, the Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children, the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, International Alert, International Women's Tribune Centre, Women's Caucus for Gender Justice and the Hague Appeal for Peace.

For more information, or to read the complete speeches made by the women peace leaders to Security Council Members, visit www.unifem.undp.org.

Contact:

Micol Zarb (212) 906-5463
micol.zarb@undp.org

Ruchira Gupta (212) 906-6442
ruchira.gupta@undp.org

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The United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) provides financial and technical assistance to innovative programmes and strategies that promote women's human rights, political participation and economic security. For over ten years, UNIFEM has worked to assist women in conflict situations and support their participation in peace processes.