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Eurasia Insight: Women Waging Peace in the Caucasus

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by Sue Davis

Grassroots efforts to promote peace in the war-ravaged region of Nagorno-Karabakh have picked up in recent weeks. A group of Armenian and Azerbaijani women have joined forces to form a nongovernmental organization (NGO) called "Women Waging Peace." The new alliance aims to reach out across both the Armenian and Azerbaijani communities to mitigate and reduce lingering tensions, as well as to build support for a lasting peace settlement.

Eleven members of the joint Armenian-Azerbaijani group traveled to Boston to participate in an training program that is part of a global initiative, also entitled "Women Waging Peace." The project is sponsored by the Women and Public Policy Program of Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. Hunt Alternatives is also a sponsor

The training session - held from December 3-18 at the Kennedy School -- included in discussions, information exchanges and organizational consultations. The activists from Armenia and Azerbaijan had an extended opportunity to share their experiences with counterparts from other parts of the world. Representatives from India/Pakistan, Northern Ireland, Sudan, South Africa, Cyprus and post-Yugoslav states also attended the event.

The participants from Armenia and Azerbaijan were:

Ayten Aliyeva, a correspondent for the BBC World Service, who has additionally engaged in work to assist refugees and children. She is also active in promoting the engagement of mass media in conflict resolution.

Pervana Mammadova is Chairwoman of the Humanitarian Center "Yuva" (The Nest) and the Transcaucasian Youth Network. She has been active in international summer camps for children from combat zones, and has been involved in many efforts at peace-building with teenagers in Azerbaijan and Armenia.

Armida Ashot Badalova, a psychologist and participant in Azeri-Armenian negotiations.

Dr. Viktoria Avakova, a doctor and activist with "Democracy Union" and other peace making projects. She is particularly interested in health care issues.

Natalia Martirossian is a professor of ecology at Yerevan University. She has worked on a number of peace initiatives, including a working meeting at the Swedish Palme Center.

Gulshan Pashayeva is director of the Conflict Research Center and associate professor of Azerbaijan University. She has worked with "Partners in Conflict: Building Bridges to Peace in the Transcaucasus" at the Center for International Development and Conflict Management at the University of Maryland, College Park. The Conflict Research Center is an independent non-governmental organization that promotes civil society in Azerbaijan.

Mominat Omarova, a representative of the Azerbaijan National Committee of the Helsinki Citizen's Assembly. She is also a professor at Baku State University and has worked with the UNDP in Baku.

Gulnara Shahinian teaches at the Yerevan Teachers Training Institute and has worked with "Women, Democracy, and Peace," a joint US-Armenian conference. Also, she has attended seminars on conflict resolution with the National Peace Foundation. She is currently a program officer with the International Organization for Migration.

Roubina Ter-Martirossian operates Cactus Ltd, a company that offers employment and business opportunities for women. She works at the Center for Gender Studies in Yerevan.

Rena Teymour gizi Safaralieva runs the Azerbaijan Council for Transcaucasus Women Dialogue for Peace and Democracy. She has arranged summer seminars in Georgia for students from all three Caucasus nations on Leadership in Conflict Management and Prevention (which receives money from the Soros foundations network and other sources). In addition to working for peace, she has the goal to promote the status of women in Azerbaijan society.

Tamilla Zeynalova is a deputy of the Azerbaijan National Committee of the Helsinki Citizen's Assembly and comes from Nagorno-Karabakh. The refugee crisis that began in 1988 was the impetus for her humanitarian efforts. She works on issues of war prisoners, hostages, and missing persons. She is particularly interested in the effects of conflict and displacement on children and has worked to form summer camps for refugee children from conflict areas where they can meet and mingle with children from all sides of the conflict to promote peace.

Many of these women participated in the September 1995 Beijing Women's Forum and have completed numerous courses, seminars, and workshops on peace and conflict resolution. During their two weeks in Boston, the women met daily to discuss conflict prevention measures, exchanging strategies, and discussing goals.

At Policy Day on December 16, 1999, scholars, policymakers, NGO activists, and others from around the country debated conflict-prevention-related issues. Featured speakers included Ambassador Swanee Hunt, Senator Ted Kennedy (D-Ma), and Dean Joseph Nye of the JFK School of Government. Participants and delegates also participated in roundtable discussions that examined a variety of topics, including; helping women promote peace and human rights; media coverage of conflicts; and the World Bank's reconstruction activities.

The next step for the initiative is to broaden its outreach. Each participant received a notebook computer with software and Internet access. The equipment is expected to facilitate the expansion of support networks, which will assist the peacemaking activities of these women.

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Editor's Note: Sue Davis is the Director of International Programs of the American Political Science Association. She was a participant in Policy Day at the "Women Waging Peace" seminar.

Posted January 4, 2000

The Central Eurasia Project aims, through its website, meetings, papers, and grants, to foster a more informed debate about the social, politcal and economic developments of the Caucasus and Central Asia. It is a program of the Open Society Institute-New York. The Open Society Institute-New York is a private operating and grantmaking foundation that promotes the development of open societies around the world by supporting educational, social, and legal reform, and by encouraging alternative approaches to complex and controversial issues.

The views expressed in this publication do not necessarily represent the position of the Open Society Institute and are are the sole responsibility of the author or authors.