Written by: Sandra Neuman
“I've been doing this since I was three years old. Whenever I saw injustice I had to do something about it personally.”
- Madeleine Rees
On the evening of Thursday March 13, WILPF Secretary General Madeleine Rees was awarded the 2014 CUNY School of Law Dean's Social Justice Award in recognition of her leading legacy of advocating for women's human rights in the context of conflict. An acclaimed panel of women's rights experts honoured and thanked Rees for the work she has done for women all over the world. Liesl Gerntholtz of Human Rights Watch recognized Rees for always creating space for women to talk to other women - bringing together people from grassroots level to talk to diplomats and vice versa. Filmmaker and peace activist Abigail Disney said that she knew that Rees was a visionary and a genius when she met her. Radhika Balakrishnan of the Center for Women's Global Leadership (CWGL) affirmed Rees as a “radical partner” for peace.
The event also included a discussion about the Bosnia to Syria experience, when Rees brought together women from Bosnia and Syria for a groundbreaking conference on women's participation in conflict and post-conflict countries. Rees stated that women are not only victims of war but also have a vital role to include their knowledge in peace processes, noting that “they should be the architects of peace.” Rees further underlined that one of the failures of the Syrian peace processes is the fact women have not been included in the talks - a failure linked to the absent, yet vitally needed gender advisor on Lakhdar Brahimi's team. Rees said that “the gender advisor is the most important person in any organisation and they are important to everything we do.”