Women leaders representing diverse perspectives shared their experience and insights as peace makers at a forum, “Women’s Leadership in Building a Global Culture of Peace,” on November 30, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia. The forum was held during the four-day 2012 Global Peace Convention, “Moral and Innovative Leadership: Building Healthy Families, Ethical Societies, and a Global Culture of Peace,” sponsored by the Global Peace Foundation.
Panelists included Mrs. Jun Sook Moon, International Chairwoman of Global Peace Women and wife of GPF founder Dr. Hyun Jin Moon; Tan Sri Zaleha Ismail, President of Global Peace Festival Malaysia, Former Minister of National Unity and Social Development; and Mrs. Maria Pou Brito del Pino Lacalle, Former First Lady of Uruguay.
The panel discussed the remarkable role that women play in the family and in the community. Women are vehicles of peace from a young age, panelists noted, as they begin looking after siblings, then looking after children of their own and often providing primary care for aging parents. Women are developing the minds of children, shaping who they are as people, thereby shaping the entire community. Panelists said that ensuring that women are healthy and supported and direct contributes to peace.
Tan Sri Zaleha Ismail described leadership as an innate ability of an individual. She said that peace can be found through the power of love, and “a woman’s unconditional love can be one of her greatest assets.” Tan Sri Zaleha Ismail, President of Global Peace Festival Malaysia, Former Minister of National Unity and Social Development
Citing research that affirms the vast impact of conflict on women, the role of women in peace, and the effectiveness of women in leadership, Tan Sri Ismail said women are powerful voices in opposing conflict and fostering dialogue. “Women are natural leaders, but women need to be empowered” she told the forum.
“All women must get an education; otherwise they will be seen as nothing in the eyes of society and the world. Women possess empathy, flexibility, a willingness to take risks, and strong interpersonal skills. Women genuinely care, making people feel valued, and spreading a culture of peace which is most critical to society. Women do not demand an eye for an eye, but promote tolerance and solidarity.”
Former First Lady Maria Lacalle described war as the ultimate, most brutal act of violence. “Violence pervades all aspects of the world in which we live,” she said. “This includes verbal violence, domestic violence, violence in pornography, violence in sports, intolerance, and a general lack of respect for people.
“The family is a child’s first example of teaching and learning—spousal relationships, the way they communicate, the way they disagree. No school can act as a substitute for the education that is learned from families. The family environment is the first and unavoidable path to education. We, as parents and members of the community, are an example. What we do, our actions, in our own lives is more of an example than what we say.”
Ms. Junsook Moon described the family as the “core of peace.” Families teach trust and reliance among siblings, she said, and true love goes beyond one’s own needs and wants. “Mothers are the glue that holds the family together and the role of women is more important than ever. We must get to a time in the world where every girl thinks, ‘I’m glad to have been born a girl!’”
She said women must take initiative to spread values to bring peace by being active in the community and teaching children the value of working for the greater good of others. World peace cannot come about from injustice. Quoting former U.S. President Ronald Reagan, she said, “We cannot help everyone, but everyone can help someone.”
The 2012 Global Peace Convention held forums on interfaith cooperation, conflict resolution, the role of business as a catalyst for peace, and education and service training as part of an International Young Leaders Assembly. The Convention concluded on December 2.
Keely Beck is a graduate student at Emory University in Atlanta.