Keepers of the Peace

   •    November 13, 2005

This article was originally published by Newsweek.

Nowhere are women leaders more essential than in countries devastated by war. Studies from the World Economic Forum and Harvard-based nonprofit the Initiative for Inclusive Security show that women are better at creating and keeping the peace in post-conflict societies because women are–generally–less violent than their male counterparts. Increasingly, citizens in such societies are recognizing that and turning to women for help. In Rwanda’s most recent election, women won 49 percent of the seats in Parliament–the highest proportion in the world. The Iraqi Constitution, passed by referendum last month, guarantees women 25 percent of the seats in Parliament. Liberians hoping to secure peace after decades of civil war could become the first African country with a woman president if they elect Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf in the final round of balloting on Nov. 8.

Perhaps the greatest hope is that increasing the ranks of women in government will help prevent future wars. Swanee Hunt, head of The Initiative for Inclusive Security, a multimillion-dollar nonprofit supporting the work of women in conflict zones, says: “During the [Bosnian] war, I asked the prime minister of Bosnia, Haris Silajdzic, ‘If half of the people around the table at the very beginning had been women, would there have been a war?’ And he said, ‘No. Women think long and hard before they send their children out to kill other peoples’ children’.”

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