October 29, 1998
Harvard
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Role of Gender in Conflict Resolution Highlighted

Kennedy School's Belfer Center co-sponsors program on women peacemakers

Across the globe, women are deeply involved in peace efforts in some of the most violent areas of the world. Although their work is known anecdotally, scholarship regarding their experience is scanty. Despite the fact that women overwhelmingly play "peacemaker" at grassroots levels and staff non-governmental peace organizations, current teaching materials have very little documentation about the elements of women's styles of negotiation and conflict resolution.

A discussion of the prevention, management, and resolution of deadly conflict is incomplete without an in-depth look at the roles women play. Because of this lack of scholarship, women's work in conflict resolution suffers at many levels: students at institutions like the Kennedy School are unexposed to women peacemakers as role models; cross-gender learning suffers; female practitioners do not get the recognition they deserve; and women are grossly underrepresented as negotiators in international conflicts.

Responding to the need for comprehensive research in this area, the Women and Public Policy Program (WAPPP) has launched GRICAR: Gender Research in Conflict Analysis and Resolution. GRICAR links gender research; professional practice in mediation and negotiation; and theories of conflict prevention, management, and resolution.

Presently, WAPPP and the Kennedy School's Belfer Center on Science and International Affairs are co-sponsoring a six-week course on Women at the Grassroots: Models for Social Cohesion in Divided Societies. Taught by former ambassador Swanee Hunt, WAPPP's director, the course is analyzing women's experiences in three international conflicts.

Teams of women involved in conflict resolution in the Balkans, Cyprus and Northern Ireland have visited the class. In addition to providing stimulation for students and researchers, these visits furnish subjects for the Kennedy School case library, which has 500 subscribing institutions. The visits are augmented by a series of public events co-sponsored by local groups, scholars, and practitioners from other campuses and community-based organizations.

This year's participants are:

Mirjana Dokmanovic, a journalist-editor at Radio Subotica in Subotica, Yugoslavia, writes about economic and legal issues including women and minority rights and the development of democracy and a civil society. She is the co-founder of Women's Studies and Creativity, a non-profit, non-governmental organization with the goal of promoting political, social, and economic equality for women.

Mirhunisa Komarica is President of the Union of Refugees and Displaced Persons of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Founded in 1993, the Union is a multi-ethnic, non-partisan organization and currently has 1,560,000 displaced people registered and actively works to return them to their homes in 44 different communities. Under Komarica's leadership, the Union has participated in over 10 international conferences and met with more than 180 international community organizations.

Kate Economidou is a personnel officer at the Cyprus Tourism Organization and a volunteer and founder of many bi-communal groups in Cyprus. Since completing conflict management training in 1994, Ms. Economidou has volunteered as a Conflict Resolution Trainer both in Cyprus as well as abroad. She has worked with groups of managers, professionals and youth, including Greek and Turkish Cypriot students studying in the United States.

Ayla Gurel is a Turkish-Cypriot trained in electrical engineering. In 1997 she became a member of a group of Turkish and Greek Cypriot women establishing a joint non-governmental organization (NGO) in Cyprus called "The Cyprus Link." The Link is aimed at enhancing the ties between Greek and Turkish Cypriot women, and defining a more active role for women in creating a climate for the peaceful resolution of the Cyprus Conflict.

May Blood has been working in the areas of education and employment for over 40 years. Currently, Blood is an information officer with a cross-community European URBAN project in the Shankill area of Belfast, Northern Ireland. Her Early Years Project seeks to change the thinking of one new generation as early as possible and is therefore involved with parents and expecting parents.

Geraldine McAteer was 13 when the "Troubles" started in Northern Ireland. She has been active in human rights campaigns initiated in her community as a response to the introduction of "internment without trial" in 1971. Involved in the formation and development of many community initiatives designed to improve the quality of life in West Belfast, McAteer is currently the chief executive of the Upper Springfield Development Trust, a partnership of community, statutory, and private sectors whose aim is the social, economic, and environmental regeneration of the Upper Springfield area of West Belfast.

For further information regarding this research and action agenda, contact Rina Amiri, GRICAR Coordinator, Kennedy School of Government; phone, 496-6973; fax, 496-6154; e-mail, rina_amiri@harvard.edu.


 


Copyright 1998 President and Fellows of Harvard College