The bustling busyness of last week has changed back to a quiet hum, our small office feeling roomy after a week of discussions on gender, security, and political strategy going on in Arabic, Spanish, French, and Swedish; the office printer purring through reams of statements, event flyers, agendas, and handouts; women playing musical chairs with office furniture and email stations.

The women leaders who joined us from around the world last week to raise their voices, share their experiences, and demand action for peace are gone. But their presence still rings loud in our heads, and in our hearts.

WILPF’s 1325+14 delegation came to New York last week from Cameroon, Colombia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Jordan, Lebanon, Nigeria, and Syria. At the 14th anniversary of UNSCR 1325 and the Women Peace and Security Agenda, we joined together to demand not just commitments but accomplishments for gender equality, disarmament and peace.

Throughout the week, we tried to find a balance in advocacy, outreach and political action on one hand, with solidarity and relationship building, sharing of experience, and cultivation of shared ties on the other. In the end, I found both powerful.

Women Leading to Peace

For political advocacy, I never cease to be blown away by the power of WILPF’s women peace leaders. To me, they are an ongoing testament to the message of why it is so critical to invest in women’s leadership for peace and build capacity for women’s power to stop war.

At the Security Council Open Debate on Women Peace and Security on Tuesday, Civil Society Speaker Suaad Allami from our own NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security brought critical attention to the elephant in the room. “Conflict prevention lies at the core of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda, and all solutions must address the root causes of conflict and displacement,” she stated. “This includes addressing disarmament and demilitarisation.”

At our closed Iraq/Syria briefing Wednesday, participants put out a powerful call for the international community to put their weight behind a political solution. They pointed out that action is possible: the international community has mobilised around a military response to DAESH/ISIL. However, violence only creates violence. We cannot look aside while this violence continues unabated. Instead, we must use our power for active nonviolence and peace.

At our Boko Haram event Thursday, WILPF Nigeria and WILPF Cameroon brought attention to how militarisation and state violence creates a conducive environment for non state extremism and violence, and how critical it is to address the range of militarised violence and invest in gender equality, violence prevention, and peace. “It is critical to draw the link between the global arms trade and Boko Haram,” said WILPF Nigeria President Joy Onyesoh. “This is why the Arms Trade Treaty is key.”

At Friday’s civil society consultation with UN Women’s lead author on the 2015 Women, Peace and Security Global Study, WILPF Sections and partners reiterated the importance of strengthening the prevention pillar of the Women, Peace and Security agenda through demilitarisation, disarmament, and ensuring women’s full and equal participation and socio economic empowerment and rights.

Sharing Humanity, Building Solidarity

For solidarity and relationship building, I feel blessed by the time that all participants took in the blur of last week to foster connections, recognise each other’s humanity, and support and build relationships with each other.

At our WILPF workshop on “Leveraging Women’s Action for Peace” Monday, we developed a shared vision of WILPF and actions based in principles of solidarity, diversity, connection, disarmament, gender justice, and peace.  As Joy Onyesoh stated, “We need a Global Action Plan for complete feminist conflict transformation.”

At our WILPF dinner on Wednesday, we shared pizza and pasta, experiences in building women’s capacity for political participation and economic empowerment for peace, as well as laughter and some dancing (I’ll never forget Annie and Joy’s “Banana Poo”!).

At our WILPF debrief Friday, when we reviewed what worked and what didn’t work, and what could be done better, it was clear that we did a huge amount of political advocacy and substantive work, while also strengthening our bonds of solidarity and friendship over the week. It was a beautiful balance between the two.

Strategy and Solidarity for Peace

Looking back over the week, I am glad we took the time to build both the political advocacy and the relationships between all of us. For me, being part of a feminist organisation is embodying feminist action in practice.

I thank the women who came to New York last week and to those around the world working for peace and justice for their work for their the vision, action, commitment and determination for peace and gender justice.

I continue to be inspired by your example and committed to working in solidarity with all of you to join our voices and craft a vision, strategy, and action for a better world.

Join the discussion! Share your thoughts!

Are you are peace women leader? Are you inspired by one? Share your experience about how to build effective advocacy and solidarity in the comments below.

Written by Abigail Ruane, PeaceWomen Programme Manager