How to Build Peace During a Pandemic

As the coronavirus continues to change the way our society and communities interact, we are left wondering what will happen to the momentum that the peacebuilding movement has cultivated. Will activists and advocates get pushed to the fringe? Or will they rise to the challenge and continue to build peace during a pandemic?

International Women’s Day for Peace and Disarmament, May 24th, is an opportunity to showcase the innovation and resilience of peace activists.

The day celebrates the storied histories of those who have confronted creeping global militarism with courage and persistence. It reinforces the message that women are crucial to peacebuilding and disarmament as outlined in U.N. Security Council Resolution 1325 back in 2000 and strengthened by Securing our Common Future Disarmament: An Agenda for Disarmament in early 2020.

If there is anything we know about women who fall in the footsteps of Bertha von Suttner, Bella Abzug, and Coretta Scott King, it is that nothing can prevent them from pressing this work forward. 

Activists across the globe use new and old techniques to help them achieve their goals—and we are taking note.

Here are six strategies and tactics that will bolster your activities to build peace during a pandemic.

1. Shape the narrative, tackle concrete policies

Achieving peace can sometimes seem like a problem so big that you don’t think you can tackle it at all. Peace is not just a state of being but an active factor in how institutions play a key role in our lives. In times of conflict, critical services like child care, court systems, access to food, and transportation are strained.

In many areas around the globe, women in particular have to travel far distances to retrieve water, food, or shelter, which can put them in harm’s way. COVID-19 has stalled court proceedings, choked our unemployment systems, and strained our health systems.

Rather than touting nebulous directives like “give peace a chance,” consider detailing a particular service or resource that we lose in times of conflict and then advocate for a policy that makes a difference.

There is no better example of a young woman who advocates for a set of stricter small-arms laws than Emma Gonzalez, a high school senior who survived the Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting.

2. Practice your pitch

In case you’re not quite tired of seeing your loved ones yet, start in the home. Engage your family and friends in conversations on supporting efforts for peace to help keep momentum. These discussions will help to shape the future of your activist work.

Maybe you share similar viewpoints with those in your household, maybe you don’t. Start by practicing having conversations with those who hold similar worldview—it helps to build confidence in your arguments. Then, familiarize yourself with the opposing viewpoints to get a sense of what people value and where it’s possible to find common ground.

3. Embrace cyberactivism

Lockdowns and stay-at-home ordinances may be forcing many indoors, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t turn your in-person protests and events into online demonstrations and learning opportunities. 

Fire Drill Fridays, a climate activist project of GreenPeace headed by Jane Fonda, has moved its activism from the streets of Washington, DC to the interwebs. The organization hosts regular call-a-thons to show support for policies and teach-ins with emerging and established leaders in the field.

There is no better time to keep up with the latest information and let our representatives know where we stand!

4. Get creative with new forms of nonviolent protests

Cyberactivism isn’t the only way that you can show your support for peace and disarmament while in the COVID19 era. Activists across the globe are spelling out their demands with their cars and from their balconies.

The members of CODEPINK Los Angeles, a women-led grassroots anti-war and anti-militarism organization, are decorating their cars and spelling out “PEACE” to celebrate International Women’s Day for Peace and Disarmament. Then, they are using drone photography to snap a picture. Pretty neat! To top it off, they will be leading a caravan full of care packages to homeless populations in the city. 

Activists across South America are employing a kitchenware cacophony deemed cacerolazo, the Spanish word for casserole. From the safety of their homes, thousands of people demonstrate their grievances through the piercing noise of banging on pots and pans. It will definitely get their attention!

5. Lean on state and local government

The fervor for the Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, exemplifies the impact that state and local officials can have in their communities. The U.S. federal government’s guidance has left much to be desired, leaving states, tribal, and local governments to fend for themselves.

A recent Gallup poll shows an increase in trust in governors to lead in the economic recovery of their states. If state and local politicians in the U.S. can respond to a pandemic effectively, we can turn to them to lead on peace initiatives as well.

The same is true for communities across the globe. The Women Legislators’ Lobby, a program of Women’s Action for New Directions, coordinated with the World Future Council and the Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament on a global appeal to commemorate International Women’s Day for Peace and Disarmament. The worldwide cooperation of local and regional leadership can be instrumental in reducing violence and conflict. 

6. Make your voice heard

Phone usage is up—and so is demand for content. When you are ready to express your viewpoint, put your thoughts from pen to paper. Practice makes progress.

Start with a letter to the editor to your local newspaper. Then, move on to a site like this one! Girls Globe is a publishing platform committed to raising the voices of girls and women activists across the world, and they are open to new bloggers. 

It is possible that the first few times you submit your written work it will not get published. That is okay! Take any feedback you get, ask friends and family to edit the piece, and then self-publish on a site like Medium or LinkedIn.

Coronavirus has laid bare many inequities that exist globally. But, it has also accomplished something else—it has given us the slightest insight into what happens when our government is at a standstill. If we are struggling now, we can only imagine what this would feel like with an extended, years-long conflict. 

Don’t lose momentum in advocating for peace. New strategies can solve an old problem.

Share your insights! Do you have other ideas for how to build peace during the pandemic? Or do you have an experience of cyberactivism to share? Let us know in the comments section below.

Míriam Hatibi on Activism Against Islamophobia

For the third episode of We Belong Podcast, we take you to Spain to meet Míriam Hatibi. Míriam is an activist against racism and islamophobia and the author of ‘Look Me in the Eye’ and ‘Leila’.

Activist and author, Míriam Hatibi

She also contributes to the opinion sections of several publications, where she promotes a visible media presence for people of diverse origins, particularly women.

Following the August 2017 terrorist attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils, Míriam vehemently condemned terrorism at a demonstration in Plaça de Catalunya that brought together hundreds of Muslims. Since December 2014, she has been the spokesperson for the Ibn Battuta Foundation (FIB), an entity created to promote socio-cultural exchange.

In our conversation, Miriam recalls her reaction to the terrorist attacks and tells us about her work to deconstruct islamophobia and stereotypes surrounding muslim people. She also talks of her ambition to create new spaces for immigrant daughters to shine in society.

Episode available on Apple PodcastSpotifyAnchorYoutube and at the bottom of this post.

We Belong is the podcast that gives a voice to the New Daughters of Europe.  Yasmine Ouirhrane, appointed expert by the European Union and the African Union, will host this series of conversations with young women representing the diversity of Europe. She will travel and meet women who are breaking stereotypes, navigating multiple identities, and challenging the conventional wisdom of what it means to belong. 

As an advocate for social and gender justice in Europe, Yasmine Ouirhrane was awarded Young European of the Year 2019 by the Schwarzkopf Foundation. She was also named EDD Young Leader by the European Commission and is an expert on Peace & Security at the AU-EU Youth Cooperation Hub, mandated by the EU and the AU. She is an award-winning fellow at Women Deliver and a member of the Gender Innovation Agora at UN Women.

The Podcast is produced by Les Cavalcades.

Follow We Belong on InstagramTwitter and Facebook.

Is the Climate Movement too White?

Extreme climate disasters affect people around the world, from wildfires in Australia to floods in the Philippines and East Africa. Most people attribute this to climate change – as long as they’re not climate deniers. And at the forefront of the fight against climate change are young women.

The Face of a Movement

Greta Thunberg is the most recognizable face in the climate movement. She started the School Strike for Climate and was named Time’s Person of the Year for 2019.

Thunberg also happens to be a white girl from Sweden, whose mother is an opera singer and father an actor. In no way am I discrediting the important work she has been doing. I am sure it is not easy being a teenager, with Asperger’s, standing up to the patriarchal establishment. However, I cannot help but notice the way white environmental activists seem to get more media coverage than those who are not white.

Take the example of Vanessa Nakate of Uganda, who was cropped out of this photo by the Associated Press.

This is someone who represents a community, a country, a whole continent. Yet someone else decided that her presence is irrelevant.

Then there is 8-year-old Licypriya Kangujam, who wants the media to stop calling her ‘Greta of India’. It’s another case of the media discrediting and disregarding voices from continents other than Europe.

Greta Thunberg has recognised her white privilege and called on the media to tell the stories of activists from around the world. Through Twitter, it seems that she supports her fellow activists who are not white.

Each of these girls has had to overcome obstacles. Trump told Greta to chill and go watch a movie. Licypriya is only 8 years old and had to drop out of school. Vanessa Nakate is now known as the ‘cropped out activist’, something she didn’t want and couldn’t have anticipated.

Is Intersectionality Possible?

I believe it is important to highlight the work of black and brown girls in the climate change movement. They have to endure multiple forms of discrimination in society. But intersectionality is not as simple as suddenly featuring more minorities in the media so that the aesthetics do not look so bad. It’s about listening to activists’ concerns and giving diverse voices the opportunity to lead as well. This counts for all movements. Intersectionality is essential if we want a cause to be effective.

I assume that most people would agree that climate change is not solely a white or middle-class issue. The challenge is how to include everyone so that the movement can be effective in creating change. But as long as we live in a racist, sexist and classist society, I think we will need a different, more inclusive approach to tackling the global threat of climate change.

Equality, Rights and Justice in a Time of Crisis: Support for Activists during the Coronavirus Pandemic

2020. The year to rally around the climate, human rights, peace, and development – with 10 years to go until the Sustainable Development Goals are due. It is also the year to celebrate the wins for gender equality during the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action. Yet, here we are – in the middle of an unprecedented global pandemic that has reached every country in the world. All of us in the Girls’ Globe community around the world are impacted by this crisis. That’s why we want to provide support for activists during the Coronavirus Pandemic.

We’re beginning to see the effects of the Covid-19 Pandemic – which most probably are only the tip of the iceberg.

The many deaths we’re witnessing as the Coronavirus sweeps from country to country is a devastating loss. Countries’ healthcare systems are strained. Health professionals are working tirelessly – many times underpaid in high risk and unsafe environments.

We know that the effects of the Covid-19 Pandemic go well beyond adverse health outcomes due to the virus. Movements for gender equality, human rights and social justice are seeing other risks ahead.

A third of the world’s population is now in some kind of isolation. We’re witnessing friends losing their jobs and seeing the news of the turbulent economic times we’re in. Many are worried about how they will make a living and how they will meet their children’s basic needs. Access to essential health care like sexual and reproductive health services – including abortion – are at risk. During other epidemics, there have also been strong increases in maternal deaths due to a lack of prioritization of maternal health services.

Women’s rights organizations are warning for a rise in domestic violence in a time when many families are isolated. The burden of domestic work will fall on many women’s shoulders, increasing the gendered burden of the Pandemic. With more people in insecurity and in locked down communities – many worry about a rise in mental illness.

In addition, the side-effects of this crisis will harm minority groups who are already struggling more than others.

This is a global crisis and we have difficult times ahead.

How do we continue our activism in this time of crisis? Here are 3 things to support activists during the Coronavirus Pandemic.

It may seem like the world is coming to a halt, or maybe even taking several steps back. Global solidarity is essential to limit the negative effects of this crisis. Together we can push forward. We can continue to create momentum for gender equality, human rights and social justice. We need to stick together and collaborate creatively. Here are the things I believe can be of support for activists during the Coronavirus Pandemic.

1. Self Care

This is the most important. I don’t want to downplay the difficulty of the situation we’re in. You need to care for yourself before you can care for others. Taking necessary action (on inaction) for your own wellbeing is essential to continue your important work.

Meditate. Read a book. Talk to a friend. Listen to inspiring stories from resilient women. Practice mindfulness and focus on what you can control. Ask for help if you need it.

I put together some of my self care tips. If you’re struggling to work in isolation, Eleanor has some working from home tips to help you out.

2. Adjust Your Activism in the Digital Age

As our daily connections are limited and meetings are being cancelled around the world – it is time to engage digitally. This may be difficult to do if you’re working with grassroots activism in low-connectivity areas. Perhaps, now may be an opportunity to engage people in support of your cause.

To be impactful online it’s essential to understand your mission and your audience. Be clear on who you want to engage with and how you can reach them best. Take your time to understand the different tools and services available online.

At Girls’ Globe we want to support activists, advocates, experts and organizations to create meaningful online connections.

Are you struggling to find a way to engage with your audience online? Or do you want to build skills in using digital communications and media for storytelling and advocacy? We’re developing a set of digital trainings to support you in this process. Sign up to show your interest! You’ll be the first to know when our trainings are available.

Do you want to reach an engaged global audience that cares about gender equality, human rights and social justice? Become a Girls’ Globe member and share your stories, news, opinions and research through our platform.

3. Community

Stay in touch with your close community, your family and friends, near and far. Call more often. Send an uplifting message. Share a laugh over a video call.

Solidarity is a cornerstone in any social change process. You can build community online in many ways. Connect with those working with the issues you’re passionate about. Join Facebook Groups. Create group chats in WhatsApp or Skype.

I want to connect with you.

How are you feeling and how are you impacted by the pandemic? Is there something you’re particularly concerned about in regards to gender equality, human rights and social justice during this time? What do you need help with? Have you found something inspiring or helpful that can support activists during the Coronavirus Pandemic?

Please share your insights in the comments below. Together we can continue to build global solidarity that will help us through these tough times.

Is there Light at the End of the Tunnel for Women in Sudan?

Sudan has finally, and after a long struggle, overthrown one of history’s most ruthless dictators. The Islamist regime of Omar Elbashir was in power for almost thirty years. The end of his regime signalled a great victory for Africa as a whole and the region in particular.

The women of Sudan have been at the forefront of the revolution overthrowing Elbashir and his regime, and it is with particular joy that the women of Sudan celebrate this event. Throughout the 30 years of his rule, women and girls have been faced with tremendous struggles and been exposed to great violence.

In its early years, the regime introduced what was known as the Public Order Law. It consisted of seven chapters imposing a set of prohibitions and penalties. These predominantly affected women, not only by preventing them from claiming their rights but also by legalizing various forms of gender-based abuse in the name of religion. The law undoubtedly favours males while giving a religious justification for masculine superiority. It also silences the voices of those who oppose through accusations of religious infidelity.

Political analysts have stated that these laws were kept deliberately vague to increase their effectiveness as a means of control. Uncertainty surrounding the laws, along with prejudiced, arbitrary application, left women extremely vulnerable and unprotected. It resulted in the alienation of women from authorities who should protect them. The relationship between women and law enforcement officials, in particular what is known as the public order police in Sudan, is charged with much fear and suspicion.

In a historic move, in November 2019, the public order law was repealed by the transitional government in Sudan – headed by new Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok. There has been much speculation on how far the new transitional authorities will be willing or able to go to overturn what was enforced by the previous regime.

However, the repeal has also been met with much controversy. While the majority of young people agree with the repeal, others feel that it defies the longstanding Sudanese traditions of modesty and virtue. It seems that residue of the previous rule remains, and women remain largely subjected to ‘societal law’, a direct implication of decades of Islamist ruling. For many Sudanese people, violence against women is not only the result of laws, but also of the aggregation of customs, traditions and social cultures.

In addition, there is still a lack of knowledge among a large portion of Sudanese women regarding their constitutional rights. Male dominance continues to thrive despite the revolutionary spirit in the country, and many have attacked the repealing of the law on the grounds of morals and family values.

Despite ongoing challenges, the future is beginning to look brighter for the women of Sudan. Unlike in previous years, Sudan’s women welcomed the 2019 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence campaign. The campaign was even acknowledged by Prime Minister Hamdok himself, setting a completely different tone to that of his predecessor.

This has been a strong catalyst for female activists in Sudan working to tackle the issue of gender-based violence in the country. Social media campaigns and grassroots initiatives have started to build more momentum. Paramount to this progress has been a new sense of security for activists – not only women but activists of all genders. This has been made possible, in large part, by the abolition of the public order law.

While we still have a long way to go, this reform is a great victory. It is a dim light at the end of a long tunnel, and the first step of many to come to end gender-based violence in Sudan.

Power Advice for Activists from Nomtika Mjwana

Nomtika Mjwana is an activist for sexual and reproductive health and rights from South Africa. Many women and girls may be struggling to claim their space when fighting for human rights, social justice or gender equality. In this recorded monologue for Girls’ Globe, Nomtika shares her power advice to activists and advocates worldwide.

Nomtika encourages you to know that you are not alone, to dare to challenge power and to not be afraid to take up space. Watch and listen to this piece of power advice to girls below:

We stand for global solidarity for human rights, gender equality and social justice. On Instagram, Girls’ Globe shares powerful inspiration from the voices of women and girls worldwide – don’t miss out! Want to share your power advice or story too? Get in touch or apply to be a blogger.