USD Magazine, Winter 2004


Women Peacemakers Bring New Perspectives to Peace Institute by Denis Grasska D ee Aker has never forgotten what she saw in war-torn Uganda. The fields were filled with human skulls and rhe houses were in ruins. T he entire male population of many villages either had been killed or had fled, leaving rhe women and children behind. Amid all the chaos, however, Aker also saw inspiring examples of female leadership. Village women, responsible for raising the children and rending to the land, replanted the fields and repaired broken machinery - restoring their villages, one piece ar a rime. Ochers helped shape Uganda's constitution to ensure char women have a role in decision making. Aker, assistant director of USD's Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice, has dedi– cated much of her life to bringing stories like these to a Western audience. She says women add a unique perspective to discus– sions of peace. "Their perspective comes our of rhe responsibilities char they have upheld as mothers, as daughters, as sisters," Aker says. "Their sense of responsibility is so extended and so much less self-aggrandizi ng. " Aker was the natural choice to oversee rhe Institute for Peace & Justice's first Women Peacemakers Program, a 10-week undertaking char brought ro campus four women who braved the violence and human rights abuses of their homelands to become advocates for peace. The quartet - Dalir Baum from Israel, Raya Kadyrova from Kyrgyzstan, Zahra Ugaas Farah from Somalia, and Hyun-Sook Lee from Korea - were selected to share their personal stories during a residency at USD chat ran from Sepe. 29 to Dec. 5.

Participants in the Women Peacemakers Program gather with Dee Aker (center) in front of the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice. From left, back row: Raya Kadyrova, Hyun-Sook Lee, Dalit Baum, Zahra Ugaas Farah.

Aker says each woman represents a differ– ent stage in the career of a peacemaker, and rhe four also illustrate how peacemakers operate wirh varying degrees of access to political power. Baum represents one level - young activists raising awareness - while Lee represents a more advanced stage - pro– fess ional peacemakers who have gone beyond their own country's borders to work with foreign governments. T he women brought vivid stories from their homelands, wh ich they shared with IPJ students and in public lectures. Lee recounted her travels during her Ko rean War-era chi ld– hood, when she watched soldiers board her

train, their arms amputated and replaced by hooks. Farah, who organized efforts to help women and children survive in her native Somalia, spoke of her participation in a peace sw11mit among Somali warlords in Kenya. In the company of chose men, she became a respected mediator who facilitated discussions and set guidelines for the negotiations. By the rime she left the summit, the warlords were close ro agreeing upon a constitution. The IPJ previously has brought interna– tional peacemakers such as Jimmy Career to camp us for short conferences, bur the Women Peacemakers Program is the insci– rure's most ambitious and complex under-



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