SYRIAN PEACE TALKS, October 2015, attended by 18 men and one woman.

SYRIAN PEACE TALKS, October 2015, attended by 18 men and one woman.

Which gender suffers the most from war? Which gender is all but invisible at international peace tables? The answer to both questions is women. According to a recent Guardian article, the vast majority of the civilians killed or injured in today’s conflicts are women and children. To quote the Guardian:

“The impact of war on women goes beyond the harm caused by an airstrike or gunfire; the breakdown of law and order … can lead to domestic violence. In Liberia many girls are pushed into ‘transactional sex’ … where they exchange sex for grades.”



In 2000 the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1325 calling for women to have a pivotal role at the peace table. Little good it’s done women. The official photo of last October’s Vienna peace talks on Syria shows 18 men and one woman sitting around the negotiating table.

It’s not that women aren’t qualified to be peacemakers. On the contrary — women have a long history of waging non-violent actions for peace. In the U.S., maternal politics were a key factor in women’s earlyorganized efforts against war. A striking example is Julia Ward Howe’s 1870 Mother’s Day Proclamation. Howe, provoked by the carnage of the Civil War and the Franco Prussian War, called on the women of the world not to send their sons to war to kill another mother’s child.

In 1915, as the threat of World War I loomed, Suffragettes Jane Addams and Carrie Chapman Catt formed the Women’s Peace Party — which I’m all for resurrecting. The WPP sent a delegation to The Hague where a multi-national peace proposal was drawn up. However this plan was dependent on President Wilson’s support, which he denied.

Since World War II women have organized on a large scale to protest militarism. During the 1980’s dozens of women’s peace camps sprang out at military bases in Europe and in the U.S. to protest the development of cruise missiles. The most famous of these camps was Greenham Common in England, which stood for 19 years during which time hundreds of women were arrested for blockading traffic to and from the base. Eventually the women triumphed and missiles were removed from the base. Greenham camp is considered instrumental in influencing the 1987 missile ban treaty signed by the U.S. and Russia.

During Argentina’s oppressive military rule from 1976 to 1983, the “militant motherhood” held protests in front of the presidential palace holding photos of their missing children, presumably killed by the military. The mothers kept showing up even after repeated threats to their lives.

Female peace workers in Liberia organized a large country wide non-violent protest to put pressure on dictator Charles Taylor to attend peace talks in Ghana. Their efforts are widely credited for helping to end Liberia’s civil war in 2003.

Helen Caldicott, an Australian pediatrician, has spoken out about the dangers of nuclear power plants for over four decades. Presently she is a voice in the wilderness calling on the world to check the deadly nuclear leaks at Fukushima.

Since peace can’t come soon enough in war-raged countries, like Syria and Afghanistan, it behooves all Americans, women and men, to pressure our government for female inclusion at the bargaining table. To quote the motto of the Syrian Women’s Forum for Peace: “Democracy without women is hypocrisy.”


Pat Taub is a member of Peace- Works. She lives in Portland.

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