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Kadın / Woman 2000

Yıl 2008 , Cilt 9 , Sayı 2

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Women, conflict and peace: a case study

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Bologna Üniversitesi1
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Can women play an active, specifically gender-oriented, role in conflict resolution and peace processes? This study seeks to answer this question by analyzing a cooperative project carried out by The Jerusalem Link, initiated in 1994 by two Women’s Centres: the Israeli Bat Shalom and the Palestinian Jerusalem Women’s Centre. The purpose of the project was to open a dialogue between Israeli and Palestinian women from their two communities in conflict. This paper analyzes in particular the experiences of women participants from these Centres during a three year European Union funded initiative called “Building Constituencies for Women’s Alternative Ways for Peace” (2005-2008), in which the Italian Women’s Association Orlando and the author of this article were also involved. This paper demonstrates the progressive transformation of the various actors involved in the project and the difficult growth of a common “we”, inclusive of these two groups of women, as well as of their unique and problematic relationships with the dominant discourses of their societies. In this process a crucial turning point was a shift in discourse level: from the “official”, traditional political discourses with fixed agendas to a more individual-based discourse of personal narratives, where women voiced their private experiences, feelings and emotions. This discursive shift made possible “reciprocal listening” and initiated a process, however contradictory and ambivalent it might in practice have been, of building trust and empathy between Palestinian and Israeli women. If evaluations of the “efficacy”, or “effectiveness”, of this, and similar, projects might be seen as controversial in terms of traditional political parameters, their symbolic value is, nevertheless, relevant in the current global context. It is in their capacity to construct an alternative “transversal politics” in deeply conflicted societies that we can most clearly see how women can construct an innovative, “gendered”, feminist contribution to the peace process that emerges through practice.

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