“Women are more capable of achieving peace,” according to our partner, Mouna Ghanem of the Syrian Women’s Forum for Peace. “If women were a critical mass in the delegations [at the Syrian talks], the negotiations would proceed much, much better.”
Mouna is a member of the Women’s Advisory Board that advises the United Nations special envoy in the Syrian peace talks. She explained the current situation: “The men, the politicians, are holding the decisions and women are not being given the right. So their decision-making influence is much weaker than the influence of the men.” We asked Mouna why women make a difference in the peace process, what do women bring to it that men don’t:
“The way of thinking, their expertise,” which Mouna says is a result of their different experience. “I think women, through the process of the Syrian war, were more engaged at the grassroots level, they know the suffering of the people. They really want peace to be achieved in Syria.” Mouna believes that women “want a democratic state because they [know] they cannot achieve their rights without a democratic state and a secular state. The only guarantee for women’s rights is to have a secular state.”
“With the background of women’s rights in their head, and also by their work and engagement with the local communities and their networks in the communities, I think they would be more capable of achieving peace in Syria.”
“I wanted the role of women to be more influential” in the talks, Mouna told us. During the negotiations the Women’s Advisory Board provides the UN special envoy with the group’s suggestions, concerns and ideas – ‘our perspective’ as Mouna described it. But the group is not part of the actual negotiations. “We are working on it,” Mouna says. “I hope by the end of this negotiating process women will be doing more critical work in the peace process in Syria.”
And it is not just during the peace negotiations that women are essential. They are also needed to build civic peace. “We have lost social cohesion in Syria,” Mouna explains. “Only women, through their relationships, through their networks, will be able to re-establish social cohesion in Syria.”
The Syrian Women’s Forum for Peace is active as a “social carrier for change that we can all aspire for” in Syria, Mouna says, supporting other women’s organizations and helping to establish a national coalition for constitution building. It provides support to a new internet radio station Radio Hiya (Radio She) which promotes news about and for women in an effort to educate, inspire and empower Syrian women.