The PBS series "Women, War & Peace" wraps up this week with the final segment, "War Redefined." I'm glad I met the filmmakers and watched the series. I'll be checking in to find out the lasting effects of this groundbreaking series. Television doesn't often signal a significant change in one's life, but this series has inspired me.
When I interviewed Abby Disney, she said something that still rings through my head almost daily. She said:
I'm probably one of the happier people you'll meet because I'm happy that I'm not ducking and dodging ... the hard news about the world. I really believe that if you can go out there and greet the world with open arms and let it wash over you in all its bad and goodness, you'll find that it's better than you think it is. That's really what gets you through.
For me, this has been a wake up call to action. I've been more attentive to the news. As a writer, I've taken chances in making calls and pitching articles. On a basic level, I've recognized that I have a voice and I want it to be heard. I decided to stop being scared of the bad news and that opening my arms to the world starts with those closest to me. A key part of finding my voice has been rediscovering my ears and slowing down to really listen. This is where things start --with listening. It occurred to me (and this is hardly an original revelation) that world peace includes peace in my home. So what am I going to do about my bad temper?
* * *
"War Redefined" asks some serious questions about human security, the enforcement of UN Resolution 1325 and the suffering women face during wartime. I saw this last segment of the series at a screening hosted by Ms. Magazine. There was a Q & A session afterward with Mavis Leno, Gayle Tzemach Lemmon and Katherine Spillar, executive editor at Ms. Magazine. While I'd hoped to have the chance to share some of what I learned and felt after talking with Abby Disney, Gini Reticker and Pamela Hogan, I ended up just listening to others share about their experiences as reporters, activists and students.
At the beginning of "War Redefined," Tejshree Thapa talks about the stories of war that the newspapers carry. The stories of fighting, troops, borders and weapons. Those are the men's stories. She talks about the backline story of how to exist and live and continue on living during war. "That is the woman's story," she says, "and that story has never been told before." With "Women, War & Peace," there's a change in the conversation. There are stories, histories and statistics compiled in one place. The lesson of human security is clear as Condoleezza Rice describes it -- the population needs to feel secure and this is crucial to making the state secure. She is direct in reminding us that women are half of that population.
"War Redefined" explores the complex relationship women in Afghanistan have with ideas of freedom and security. Under narrow Taliban rule, women still managed to go out of the house and be part of society. Since the US invasion of Afghanistan, there is great fear of suicide bombers, US or NATO attacks and women are calling for human security. They are also working to have a seat at the table to negotiate peace. This was a theme throughout the series. What will women's roles in the peace process be as we move forward? Have we learned from the women of Liberia, Bosnia, Colombia and Afghanistan? Women are impacted by hunger, rape, displacement and watching their children suffer during war. And as Leymah Gbowee points out, they invited to the table afterward to help hammer out peace.
"War Redefined" explores the passage of UN Resolution 1325. This resolution specifically calls for the prevention of war crimes against women and the inclusion of women in talks and reconstruction action after conflict has ended. Resolution 1325 exists, but will it be enforced? And how to ensure that the resolution is followed? Again, the series opens this discussion and I'm hopefully that making more people aware of the resolution will help insure its enforcement.
As I reflect on each of the segments in this fine, important series, I can't help but bring the themes back into my own life. Granted, they play out on a small scale, but I think this is part of the work Disney and her team set out to do. I can't help but ask, what would I do if I had been a Muslim woman raped by Serbs? Would I have come forward to testify? Would I have joined Leymah and the other Liberian women sitting out in the fields every day, demanding peace? How hard is it to leave the house each day in Afghanistan, saying goodbye to your children, knowing you might not come back? I can't say for sure what I would do in these extraordinary situations, but I can try to find the small ways women's global struggles for peace play out in my daily life. Thank you to Disney, Hogan and Reticker for bringing the face of women affected by war into my living room and causing me to ask, "What can I do?" Where do I start?
"War Redefined" airs Tuesday, November 8th on PBS.
The reality of being a woman — by the numbers. Learn more