Centre for Peace and Justice (CPJ), Brac University in partnership with UN Women Bangladesh and Naripokkho celebrated the 20th anniversary of the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security through a virtual youth panel event “WOMEN | PEACE | POWER: A Youth Perspective” on Tuesday, 20 October, 2020. This is part of a series of events celebrating the WPS agenda in 2020 in Bangladesh. The event brought together young women from diverse backgrounds in Bangladesh, to hear the challenges they face in their communities and their vision of a peaceful society that is inclusive and just.
It was a timely initiative to acknowledge Bangladesh’s continued commitment in promoting the women, peace and security agenda, as well as engaging youth in promoting a just, peaceful and inclusive societies. In addition, 2020 is a seminal year as it also marks the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action as commemorated by the Generation Equality campaign, bringing forth intergenerational action – from youth to elderly – to realize the all-important agenda of gender equality.
The webinar started with the opening remarks by Mahmuda Sultana Shorna, Project Assistant of CPJ, BracU who also moderated this special event. She briefly discussed the purpose of the event with a momentary of UNSCR 1325. The webinar were attended by 124 local, national and international participants from a diverse background. In the beginning of the webinar, a video on digital security of women titled “Hok Colorob” displayed which has been produced under the Empowered Women Peaceful, Communities Project by Raunak Jahan Moushi, Rahat Ara Risti (Project Assistants of CPJ, BracU) and Rafia Islam Vhabna (Member of Women Peace Café, JKKNIU). The video reflected the current situation of women in case of online harassments, hate speech, cyber bullying etc. and a way to fight against these. Click here to watch the video
Ms. Mia Seppo, UN Resident Coordinator in Bangladesh, Ms. Shireen Huq, the founder member of Naripokkh, and Dr. Samia Huq, Research Fellow, Centre for Peace and Justice, Brac University and, shared their special messages on this event. They are actively contributing in the areas of peace, power, security, gender equality, inclusive and cohesive societies who.
Ms. Shireen Huq mentioned some of the recent brutal violence’s against women and children that have been known to us through the media coverages. People are protesting (specially the female) on roadsides and everywhere else as a result of such lack of security. People have lost the confidence to get the justice now-a-days, which she finds as a national emergency. As a part of the ongoing movement, she further said that we should look beyond punishment to actually look at the culture of misogyny, we need to re-focus and broaden our visions about how we can break this culture of violence and extremism instead a few getting mere punishments.
Dr. Samia Huq agreed with her previous speaker and said that it is indeed encouraging that the young female and males do want to see a change now. Biggest inhibitor of security is the freedom of movement and freedom of speech. Violence against women, sexual and gender-based discriminations, early marriage, etc. are the main obstructions behind social cohesion. She also added that women have identified sexual harassment and lack of safety as a pre-conceptual radicalization. She believes that changing the way of teaching of gender, supplementary gender-based education and involving male in this kind of conversations are very important to ensure the security of women. She concluded by saying that women should continue raising awareness and must harness the power within ourselves.
Ms. Mia Seppo, UN Resident Coordinator in Bangladesh highlighted the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on women and girls which is also evident by the data and statistics given by different organizations. She also recognized the fact that women were facing a situation of darkness against women rights even before the pandemic. She further iterated about the shadow pandemic which implies that the violence against women and gander-based violence is apparently the second pandemic, and that is happening in the backdrop or shadow of the Covid-19 pandemic. Additionally, the women, peace and security national action plan is more about national action. It shouldn’t be a movement of the young activists only; it is a community crisis and all should stand against it. So, the effort of every single person important and matters.
During the panel discussion, all the youth panelists intensively exchanged dialogue on the following questions:
- What do peace and security mean to you? And tell us about your actions to advance the peace and security agenda in your community?
- What does gender equality mean to you given your unique perspective and experience? What should be done to promote gender equality from your experience?
- If you were the UN Secretary-General, what would be a priority action point you would take upon the women, peace and security agenda?
- How do you describe the power of young people? And what action can young people take anywhere in the world to prevent conflict and promote a peaceful and inclusive society?
Kazi Musfirat Mukarrima Kabir, Member of Women Peace Café (WPC), Begum Rokeya University (BRUR), Rangpur, defined peace and security as essentials to the society the same as food and water to living organisms. She has organized different awareness-raising campaigns and development trainings on gender and leadership with the support of WPC, BRUR. She believes that peace and security cannot be achieved without gender equality; and to promote gender equality effectively and ensure the durability of peace-building efforts, social service providers must understand how women and men jointly reproduce gender norms. Mushfirat strongly recommended that in order to bring sustainability to women, peace and security, there is a need for change in deep-rooted social and cultural conditions that escalate sexism, racism, social hierarchies, and gender stereotypes.
Smaranika Chakma from ‘Society for Integrated Women’s Progress’, and Member of ‘Bangladesh Indigenous Women Network’ (BIWN) sees peace and security equal to being fearless and having freedom of choice, and voice. As a youth activist, she works to fight violence against indigenous women, attain gender equality, and raise awareness to protect and promote rights of the indigenous women from the grassroots to the international level. She believes that young people can inspire the world to be positive and promote a peaceful as well as inclusive society. She added that, if she were the UN Secretary-General, she would take action on laws regarding women rights, promote gender equality, ensure equal education for all, and eradicate discrimination against all communities.
Rima Sultana Rimu is an 18-year-old who is a part of the Young Women Leaders for Peace’ in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. She works to empower young women from conflict-affected countries to be leaders and agents of peace. As young women for peace and leadership, Rimu educates young women especially Rohingya Refugees through theater and radio broadcasts; runs workshops on the implementation of the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 and Resolution 2250; and works for women to understand and enjoy their rights. She firmly believes that people, irrespective of their gender identity, should receive all the rights and facilities equally.
Another youth panelists was Lucky, a Rohingya Youth Leader and a student of Asian University for Women, Chittagong, said that peace is not simply the absence of violence but includes the structural conditions that create a positive ambiance in a society. She is a community youth leader engaged in women’s and youth CSO networks for peace, ending gender-based violence, and promoting girls’ education in her community in the camps while advocating for peace for her people. She considers gender equality as a human right. It’s essential for economic prosperity. She said, “Societies that value women and men as equal are safer and healthier”. In her perspective, young people must reevaluate their pre-existing understandings of their leadership capacity to prevent conflict and promote a peaceful and inclusive society.
Maskatul Zinan, the Joint Secretary of Women Peace Café, Jatiya Kabi Kazi Nazrul Islam University works to aware women from different communities of their rights, health issues, and the importance of education through various activities like campaigns, workshop, and training. To Maskatul peace is the creation of an environment where all can flourish, regardless of race, color, religion, gender, class, caste and can enjoy their human rights and freedom. She expressed the view that only proper education can change the world and the young generation can contribute to spreading positive knowledge with the help of modern technology.
Khadija Akter, Executive Committee Member of ‘Women with Disability Development Foundation’ (WDDF) thinks that girls and women with disabilities should be treated equally and there should be some steps that reflect positive discrimination theory. She prioritized the community level awareness creating action for achieving gender equality. If she were the Secretary-general of UN, she would emphasize the equal rights of girl children and women with disabilities. Her speech added a new dimension to the discussion.
In the closing remarks, Ms. Shoko Ishikhawa, Country Representative for UN Women Bangladesh said that women have the power to bring positive change, if we can give the opportunity and environment, they will contribute to sustainable development and ensure human rights. We have to ensure women’s participation in peace conversations, which requires change in society and a commitment of all generations towards gender equality. She said that it was very challenging during the Covid-19 pandemic due to restricted mobility, closing of work spaces, educational opportunities and devastating impacts on mental and physical health. Referring to the six young panelists, she said that we should not look so far for inspiration to stand for peace and security; their activities towards promotion of peace, justice, social cohesion and awareness raising gender equality, violence against women, use of technology and so on are truly appreciated. She added that the video was very impactful and women should multiply voices to ensure security in the cyber space by fighting against misogyny, hate speech and cyber bullying. She ended her speech by emphasizing on collective power to make the difference, fight against gender inequality and work together to build a secured and peaceful society.