Message to the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom

I am Julie Ward, a British Member of the European Parliament. Unfortunately I cannot make it to the celebration of the 10 years of “Peace Building by Women for Women and for all”, as I need to be here in Brussels for an event with young people.

I would like to congratulate Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom for their very important work in DRC. The world needs initiatives such as this, which puts gender sensitivity at the heart of security issues.

I am a human rights and peace campaigner, and a proud feminist. I am convinced that involving women in peace building and reconciliation is essential. They need to be empowered in these processes in order to efficiently address the gendered aspects of war and conflicts. They also need to be involved in conflict prevention.

In DRC the use of sexual violence against women has been extensively documented. But in the rest of the world there are many other places  where sexual violence is used as a weapon. Women need to lead the fight against impunity for the perpetrators of such crimes.

Disarmament is another area where women play a crucial role. The harm that weapons cause to our communities worldwide needs to be addressed by empowering people to find peaceful ways of dealing with conflict . As we know, women face specific challenges as survivors of armed violence. Their voices must be heard in order to address those challenges and continue our path towards disarmament.

Throughout my life, I have worked with many young people and particularly young women. For instance, I have met with youth groups involved in peace building in Northern Ireland, in Bosnia Herzegovina, and in Rwanda. What strikes us most is that the people in charge of the peace are the same people that were running the wars. In our efforts to empower women to lead the way in peace building, we need to give a special platform for young women and girls. They are the key actors who will build a better future for women, and for everyone.

In the European Parliament, I am a proud Member of the Women’s Rights and Gender Equality Committee. In the Committee, my political group (the Socialists and Democrats group) fights for a gender perspective in all policy areas, including peace building. We pay particular attention to the European Union’s foreign policy. We are currently evaluating the implementation of the EU’s Gender Action Plan, which lays out the European Union’s vision for the fulfilment of women and girl’s human rights in the world.

Outside of my work in the Committee, I also spend a lot of time fighting for human rights. When raising human rights issues, I always try to give priority to women, children and human rights defenders.

I deeply regret not being with you in person to contribute to fruitful discussions on these important topics. But I hope to be able to join you next time!