Women are often overlooked and underappreciated in peace processes. But USIP President and CEO Nancy Lindborg says the inaugural Women Building Peace Award will shine a light on women who have “dedicated their lives to doing the kind of work that reduces conflict and resolves violence, often in some of the toughest countries around the world.”

On Peace is a weekly podcast sponsored by USIP and Sirius XM POTUS Ch. 124. Each week, USIP experts tackle the latest foreign policy issues from around the world.


Tim Farley: The United States Institute of Peace is announcing an inaugural Women Building Peace Award, which was something they had launched a search process last year. We want to get the latest on this. What it's about, how they consider this and the role of women in the peace process. There are 10 finalists, I understand. Let's get the details from Nancy Lindborg. Nancy is the president & CEO of the United States Institute of Peace. The Twitter handle is @NancyLindborg. Nancy, welcome. Thank you for being on POTUS today.

Nancy Lindborg: Great to be back with you. Good morning, Tim.

Tim Farley: Tell us about the award. What goes into deciding who would be a winner of this?

Nancy Lindborg: Sure. And we are just delighted to be able to have our 10 finalists. We're announcing who they are this morning, as you said, for our inaugural Women Building Peace Award. And we put together an 18-member Women Building Peace Council, which is a group of experts and leaders in the field of gender and peacebuilding who served us as a brain trust to advise and guide us on this initiative. And we put out a global call for women who had played key roles in ending and preventing conflict around the world. As I think all of us know, that's an absolutely essential role, but it's often under-looked and uncelebrated. So, this is an effort to really shine a light on extraordinary women peacebuilders, who've made substantial and practical contributions to peace. And, we think of peace as being something that happens in a room where people are huddled around signing peace accords, and we know that it's absolutely essential to include women in that process, and there's a lot more that goes on in terms of work at the community level, work in reconciliation and this is an opportunity to celebrate that, to amplify and elevate their voices.

Tim Farley: Nancy, I don't know if we have time to get into every single individual, but is there a commonality to this? In other words, what exactly do you find among these people? Not just the ones who were in the top 10, but all of these women who were being nominated. What sort of is the thread that runs throughout?

Nancy Lindborg: Yeah, well, for an inaugural year, we were really heartened to receive more than 150 nominations. So, these are women who were nominated by others who said, "Yes. This woman is exceptional." And we received 150 nominations of women peacebuilders from 51 countries. So, this was not an easy process to winnow it down to the 10 finalists. The commonality is simply that they were all inspiring and courageous and had dedicated their lives to doing the kind of work that reduces conflict and resolves violence, often in some of the toughest countries around the world, in Latin America, Asia, Africa. There are eight African countries, five in Latin America, two South Asian, and one from Southeast Asia. Four of them were women who broke barriers by playing critical roles in three national peace processes, Colombia, South Sudan, and Philippines. In fact, one of the women from Colombia was responsible for ensuring that that historic peace accord was the first ever to include sexual violence as something to recognize and address explicitly.

There's an incredible woman from Rwanda who has played an important role in reconciliation in the years since that terrible genocide. A number of them have been active after horrific conflicts to help different kinds of reconciliation, including enabling women and children to return to their communities in places like Uganda after the Lord's Resistance Army so devastated the northern part of that country. And it's all the ways in which these women played roles that were absolutely essential, that were probably unheralded, but without which the countries would still be in far more violent places. We are looking forward to the very difficult task of selecting one recipient of a $10,000 award that we'll announce this September 15th. We'd hope to have a big celebration all in our building on the Washington Mall, but given the situation, we'll look forward to doing it virtually.

Tim Farley: We can understand that. Nancy Lindborg, president & CEO of the United States Institute of Peace. You mentioned the two from Colombia, I believe that would be Angela Marie Escobar and Rosamilia Salamanca Gonzalez. And from Rwanda, you mentioned not by name, but Beata Makarabuga. I'm not sure if you want to go through the rest of the names, I'd probably slaughter them if I tried, but I think they're worth at least a mention.

Nancy Lindborg: You did it, well done there.

Tim Farley: I think they're at least worth a mention if you want to mention the others who are on the list.

Nancy Lindborg: Sure. Well, you mentioned our two finalists from Colombia. We also have Asia Jamil from Pakistan, who helped to work in those new emerged districts of Pakistan. We have Tabasam Adnan, who established the first women's Jirga in Pakistan, which is a traditional assembly to make decisions. Irene Santiago was one of the groundbreakers, the only woman in the world today who's been the member of a peace negotiating panel and chaired the implementation of a major piece accord. I mentioned Beata Makarabuga, who's the one who's been so important on the reconciliation efforts. Julianne Lusenge has worked in the Democratic Republic of Congo, long a war-torn country, who has been absolutely key in getting women into office there in an effort to give women a greater voice in a country that has just been devastating for women through years of conflict. Odette Habbonimona from Burundi has promoted the inclusion of communities that are traditionally outside of the decision-making progress. Lita Martin Lopidia from South Sudan has also been absolutely instrumental in enabling a more inclusive peace process as that country seeks to end a devastating civil war. And Victoria Nyanjura in Uganda is the one who's been working in the aftermath of the Lord's Resistance Army conflict to enable women and children to be reintegrated into their communities.

So, each of them has spent their lives really working in very, very difficult situations with tough circumstances and with great courage to build peace. And so, we are absolutely honored to be able to work with each of them. And I would also note, Tim, that this is the 20th anniversary of the UN Security Resolution 1325, which was a landmark global agreement to pay closer attention to the toll that violent conflict takes on women. They're almost always the ones who suffer the most, but also recognition that they absolutely need to be a part of the solution and they need to be a part of peace treaties and peace processes. This is the 20th year anniversary. We've made some progress, but not enough and so, we're hoping this award can really turbo-charge both recognition and accelerate the role that women must play in these essential roles.

Tim Farley: We're glad to showcase that award this morning, Nancy. I appreciate you being on to talk about it on POTUS today. Thank you.

Nancy Lindborg: Well, thank you. We appreciate the being able to talk with you about this very exciting day, and you can go to our website and see all the information about these truly extraordinary women.

Tim Farley: Absolutely. That is Nancy Lindborg, who is the president & CEO of the United States Institute of Peace. I just tweeted out the location. You can go to the website. It's USIP.org, and you will find it with the slash on there about the Women Building Peace Award and Nancy Lindborg is tweeting @NancyLindborg.

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