The International Seminar ”Women in the Service of Peace” organized at UNESCO Headquarters on June 2004, on the initiative of H.E. Mrs. Suzanne Mubarak and Mrs. Marianna V. Vardinoyannis, aimed to “highlight the important role that women play in support of peace and the need for them to be recognized as full partners in the processes of decision-making and political negotiations”
For Mrs. Suzanne Mubarak, who co-chaired the opening ceremony, this seminar has a particular importance, since “Today more than ever, it is necessary to advocate more important roles for women in the promoting the values of peace and tolerance at the heart of our societies. Since the obstacles to peace are the results of human decisions and actions and not of pure coincidence, they can be overcome by the vital efforts of individuals.”
In September 2002, Mrs. Suzanne Mubarak brought together in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, various celebrities, peace advocates and representatives of international non-governmental organizations, the United Nations and UN System organizations, agencies and programmes in order to reflect on and recommend concrete actions that women can undertake to support peace. This conference, entitled “Women For Peace, Dialogue for Action”, gave birth to the Women’s International Peace Movement.
The Director-General of UNESCO, Mr. Koichiro Matsuura, noted that “The consequences of armed conflict affect women and girls, in particular, the most socially vulnerable” while these “women and girls, in conflict zones, often assume the entire responsibility of the family”. He stressed that “UNESCO is working actively to promote women’s actions in favour of conflict resolution and gender equality”, these being priorities that are set out in the Organization’s Medium-Term Strategy for 2002-2007. UNESCO has also been designated by the General Assembly of the United Nations as lead agency for coordinating the International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence (2001 -2010).
After speeches given by Mrs Suzanne Mubarak, Mrs Marianna V. Vardinoyannis and Mr Koichiro Matsuura, Dr Boutros Boutros-Ghali, former Secretary-General of the United Nations, spoke on the theme of “Peace-keeping and the role of women”. Many other speeches followed.
Mrs. Vardinoyannis said during her speech :
«Women have always been extremely sensitive, through their very nature, to the question of Peace. It is no wonder that already since the 5th century B.C., in Aristophanes play, war stops only when a woman, Lysistrate, takes the initiative in organizing women, placing them in the service of peace, in order for the war to end. Today, women play the leading part in the peace movement. However, their voices do not always reach the decision-making centers, and that is because women do not participate in the decision-making as much as they should do. It is obvious that, a lot more work needs to be done, so that women can become the main participators in the peace-keeping operations. At this point, I would like to underline the great contribution of great supporters such as H.E. Dr. Boutros Boutros Ghali, towards the empowerment of this role of women. Finally, with the Resolution 1325 of the United Nations this right of women was endorsed and recognised. Stress was laid on the significance of their role. These are the principles furthered by the International Movement and they are part of its basic strategy.The Conference ”Women in the Service of Peace” constitutes a bridge between the first International Womens Middle East Movement for peace, and the international community which is represented by the outstanding personalities who honour us today with their presence. We are all here today with one common aim : the creation of a powerful alliance against war, violence and the violation of human rights, and for peaceful dialogue and understanding among nations. An alliance in which women will play the leading role this time, and the Womens International Peace Movement is ready to contribute to this effort, leaded by Suzanne Mubarak. Mrs Mubarak is undeniably an Ambassador of culture and humanity, both for her country and for the international community. With her work she has made history and will go down in history, since she has been the driving force behind so many extraordinary achievements. She has spoken to the hearts of all; as a champion of peace; as a fighter for the rights of children and women, for the eradication of illiteracy and the equal rights of boys and girls to education, for the health of women and children, for the support of children with special needs, for social development and the protection of culture, heritage and environment. Her many awards are a small token of the international recognition of her work. Her activity embraces more than 10 institutions of a social and educational nature, of which she is both founder and President, but for which she is, above all, a tireless worker. She is the spirit behind the revival of the Library of Alexandria, which unites cultures past and present; a beacon of learning, research, art, technology and dialogue among peoples. At the same time her presence and participation, as official representative of Egypt, in more than 25 international conferences and meetings, has contributed to our hopes for a better world. Now, with the Womens International Peace Movement, she calls on the women of the whole world to lend their support to the struggle for Peace everywhere. United, to raise their voices against violence and prejudice in any form. One example of this mission will be presented here today. As organisers we wanted to make heard the voices of women who have worked in their countries under difficult conditions, and who succeeded where many others have failed. Women whose personal stories set an example of the power of women, of their will and courage. They emphasise the fact that we are all links in the same chain, responsible, each one from his or her position, for our united world. At this point I would like to thank the President of the Movement, H.E. Mrs Suzanne Mubarak, for the honour she bestowed on me by asking me to organise this conference, and the opportunity she gave me to contribute to this work in which I believe so strongly. I would also like to thank the Director-General of UNESCO Mr. Koichiro Matsuura, who from the first moment has given us his undivided support».