WHERE DO WOMEN PEACE BUILDERS STAND IN THE 21st CENTURY?

WHERE DO WOMEN PEACE BUILDERS STAND IN THE 21st CENTURY?

Posted on September 25, 2018

Women, and thereby femininity, have often been associated with peace, love and softness. This has also led to the undermining of femininity. However, women have taken active roles as peace-builders – be it in their communities or on a global level. But what exactly is a peace builder? This article will look at it through different individuals and on different levels. peace building intermingled at the global and local level, and a person need not be committed only to peace to be a peace -builder, they can stumble upon peace building as well, or be raised in a an environment that needs it.

The first individual that comes to mind is Malala Yousafzai. She was shot by the Taliban when she was a young girl, for campaigning for women’s rights. She was subsequently given citizenship in many Western countries and now resides in the UK, while completing her education at Oxford. She also went onto receive the Nobel Peace Prize. However she has emerged as a contentious figure in her native Pakistan, and has been subject to conspiracy theories and trolling. A more nuanced approach is taken by a publication on AlJazeera, it states,

“Representations of Malala in Anglophone media cultures, for instance, exceptionalise her courage to stand up against local patriarchies. This articulation of Malala is popular in the West because it relies on pre-established maps of meaning, wherein Pakistanis and Muslims appear unconcerned about violence against women. Malala’s “girl power” then becomes legible in a geopolitical context of Islamophobia, racism, and on-going colonial relations of power.”

The article also details how the progressive East versus Backwards West ideology remains intact, all the while misrepresenting religiosity. The criticism is not aimed at Malala herself, whose Pashtun roots are vividly portrayed in I Am Malala, but rather at the Western media that distances her from it.

Women thereby wrestle with identities as peace-builders. They need to converge the local with the global, and defeat gender struggles along the way. Many celebrities serve as UNICEF Ambassadors and take on the ‘activist’ tag, be it Priyanka Chopra, Gigi Hadid or Kim Kardashian.

Priyanka Chopra was subject to trolling for visiting the Rohingya camps, while Kim Kardashian was subject to it for meeting Donal Trump to discuss prison reform. In today’s political climate, celebrity stances have become all the more important. Thus the ‘activist’ tag helps create and further propel their image. Yet it is interesting to see that the level of trolling women face far surpasses that faced by men.

The Instagram page Humans of Bombay shared the story of a Dalit woman, who is addressing the needs of her community in several important ways. Like Malala, she suffered trauma in an abusive child marriage, but overcame and now helps uplift her community. Over here, we again see women transform their trauma into ways of social upliftment.

Trauma and trolling are thus integral to women’s roles as peace builders. While “a woman’s touch’ is often stressed upon to bring harmony and sensitivity, it is time we start carrying forth women’s habits in the private sphere to the public sphere and see how femininity plays out.

-Shruti Shreyasi

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