1325: Why These Numbers Matter

Brussels, Belgium -- In today's so called 'digital' world, it occurred to me that there are four truly important digits that should be at the forefront of everyone's mind. Those for digits are 1325. They have almost become part of my everyday vocabulary, and here's why.

Every day I wake up and devote my time and energy to the women's movement by way of the organization I founded: Karama. There's no question women have come a long way, but as anyone well informed in this arena will tell you, there's still a lot of ground we need to cover. That's why these four numbers hold so much meaning for me.

It was nearly 12 years ago that the UN Security Council passed UN resolution 1325. For those who argue the UN is sometimes an 'ineffective body' here's why that argument doesn't stick this time. It doesn't stick as 1325 is the most comprehensive resolution ever passed to help protect the rights of women and children in war zones and post conflict areas. It also marked the first time the Security Councill addressed the disproportionate and unique impact of armed conflict on women; recognized the under-valued and under-utilized contributions women make to conflict prevention, peacekeeping, conflict resolution and peace-building. It also stressed the importance of women's equal and full participation as active agents in peace and security. Building lasting peace and security requires women's participation. Half of the world's population cannot make a whole peace.

Being based in Egypt this past year I have been witness to another pivotal moment in history. Yet as much as I wish this was a hopeful time for the women's movement, I still see that governments who are going through incredible change and transition aren't embracing women into all aspects of public life.

While improvements have been made, women remain underrepresented in public office, at the negotiating table, and in peacekeeping missions. Consider these statistics: In 2008, UNIFEM estimated that women account for less than 10% of members in formal peace negotiations and less than 2% of signatories to peace agreements. And the list goes on, last year women were only 19.5% of the parliamentarians in the world and out of 196 countries in the world, 17 (8.67%) have women as heads of government. Just as alarming perhaps is the fact every 2 minutes in the U.S. domestic violence is inflicted upon a woman. Millions of women across the globe in conflict zone are victims of what has become a weapon of choice: rape.

But there is also cause for celebration. In many African economies women are currently starting businesses at a higher rate than men. Out of the 29 presidential elections held in Africa from 2010 to date, 65.5% have had a woman candidate. With 56.3% of its parliamentarians as women, Rwanda is the top-ranked country in the world on this key gender ratio, and 85% of countries in the world are improving on their global gender equity ratios.

Which leads me back to 1325 and the reality of the work that still needs to be done. Yes numbers are improving, but no, we're not where we need to be. In a decade dominated by wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and now with the aftermath of the Arab uprisings, how have women been so largely neglected once peace occurs? Women contribute in major ways to the identities and views of the next generation which is why their inclusion and integration into a more equal role in society is crucial. One need to only look towards Rwanda, where their political settlement used the post-conflict situation as an opportunity to incorporate women into political processes and economic propensity.

One year on from the historic changes that swept through the Middle East, the Arab region still has no plans on how to implement 1325. This is simply unacceptable, and not good for the new direction of the Arab world in a post dictatorship era. Simply put, how can any of these new groups which have emerged, not have the utmost respect for their own people and knowledge to build a new society with both sides equally and fairly represented? A woman's right after all, is a human right. As we have seen, the world has become an even smaller place, as we read people's reactions on Twitter, or see videos posted to YouTube about injustices taking place. Not to recognize the importance of women and what 1325 represents is in just too.

What many people may also be surprised to know is UN resolution 1325 also stresses the importance of women in peacekeeping. It calls on member states to ensure women's equal participation and full involvement in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security. It urges all actors to increase the participation of women and incorporate gender perspective in all areas of peace building. Women in the military are important, as too are the needs for cultural respect, sensitivity and understanding.

I was happy to be part of a group meeting in Brussels recently to address this exact issue. Members of the European Union addressed the current developments and develop policy recommendations on how to implement UNSCR 1325 at an early stage of the on-going transition processes. Women deserve a stronger role in issues such planning and strategy, and their chance to convey the positive effects and added value this participation can have on the development of a democratic culture and the reduction of conflict situations.

These four digits: 1325 should be on the forefront of all our minds as we look ahead to a world built on a better integration of women to all levels of society. These are historic and unprecedented times; it's time for us to embrace the role of women and the crucial support they contribute in all aspects of society.