On the second day of the 55th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW55), Israeli and Palestinian youth leaders spoke to civil society and Member State representatives at a round-table discussion hosted by the Permanent Mission of Ireland.
The CSW provides women and women’s organizations both access to the United Nations and critical space for their voices to be heard. During this session, three organizations, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, UN Women and OneVoice, collaborated to provide that space. The event featured the voices of two extraordinary young women peace leaders, Roza Helou and Dana Sender, in a discussion on the intersections between “Gender, Technology & Peacebuilding” in the Israel-Palestine Divide.
Activists within OneVoice, Roza Helou, 28, and Dana Sender, 27, described recent technology and social media-based campaigns aimed at amplifying the voice of mainstream Israelis and Palestinians. OneVoice is an international grassroots movement that empowers citizens, particularly youth, to propel their elected representatives towards a two-state solution. Their campaigns include “Imagine 2018”, which depicts the visions of Israelis and Palestinians for their region in 2018. In Palestine this involved documenting attitudes and aspirations of people on the street through murals and film. The parallel Israeli campaign featured a Facebook competition, which asked participants to write the future headlines of an Israeli newspaper after the signing of a peace agreement. Following the competition, OneVoice circulated a mock news paper to Israeli leaders, thanking them for their role in ending conflict and establishing peace in the region. The Israeli campaign also targeted the public by passing out parking tickets, on which was written a violation for inadequate personal initiative towards ending conflict in the region.
During the event’s question and answer period, participants discussed the gender dimensions of technology, acknowledging that technology can allow for both the protection and participation of women whose activism in the public sphere risks exposing them to violence. Activism within the virtual sphere can thus compliment and work in parallel with more traditional forms of activism, which seek to break the structural and cultural barriers that deny women’s equality.
The dialogue between the activists and the audience served to expand upon the link between gender and peacebuilding. Ambassador Anderson of the Irish Mission articulated that while men and women are inherently equal as participants in and recipients of peacebuilding, women have not received adequate access to peace tables and their voices have not been heard to an equal degree as those of men.
Both in the message that they conveyed and in their delivery of OneVoice’s message, Roza and Dana demonstrated the potential for activism and change when men and women engage equally through the use of technology and for the aim of peace and peacebuilding.
Roza Helou and Dana Sender are depicted in the picture above, which was taken by OneVoice
PeaceWomen re-launched our website last year to make our online portal and resources more accessible and user-friendly, and to advance accountability through online monitoring tools (such as Security Council Monitor, UN Implementation, Member State Commitments). We also proudly launched the first ever Women, Peace and Security iPhone application, a version of our WPS handbook, which was supported by Liechtenstein and Switzerland.
The joint launch was paired with the panel discussion “From the Field to the UN Security Council: Evidence-Based Recommendations for Improving Women, Peace and Security Implementation,” hosted by the Mission of Liechtenstein’s and moderated by Liechtenstein’s Women, Peace and Security expert, Swen Dornig. Panelists included Bandana Rana of the Nepalese organization, SAATHI, which was featured in Global Action to Prevent War’s (GAPW) Participation book; Maria Butler, director of WILPF’s PeaceWomen Project and author of the WPS Handbook; as well as Sarah Taylor from the NGO Working Group on WPS, author of the WPS Map Report.