Inclusive Security on Fareed Zakaria’s GPS

   •    January 5, 2016


One of the world’s most prominent international affairs forums—Fareed Zakaria’s GPS on CNN—showcased the work of the Institute for Inclusive Security and the critical need to involve women as decision-makers to end conflict and sustain peace.

Zakaria concluded his first show of 2016 on January 3 with an eight-minute segment featuring former US Ambassador Swanee Hunt, Founder and Chair of Inclusive Security. Joining her were two members of Inclusive Security’s Women Waging Peace Network—Libyan activist Dr. Alaa Murabit, and Nigerian peace campaigner Pastor Esther Ibanga.

Ambassador Hunt made the case for an inclusive approach to security, while Dr. Murabit and Pastor Ibanga told powerful personal stories that illustrated on-the-ground impact.

Fareed Zakaria began by saying, “With all the conflicts going on around the world, people are searching for the path to peace. Well, my next group of guests would say the answer might be staring us in the face—half the world’s population: women.”

He introduced Ambassador Hunt as a key player in America’s diplomatic efforts to bring peace to the Balkans in the 1990s when she served as US Ambassador to Austria. He noted that she hosted two rounds of difficult negotiations at the embassy, and on a follow-up trip to Washington, “Ambassador Hunt had a revelation.”

Hunt described a White House signing ceremony in 1995 including President Clinton, where she looked around the auditorium at “a sea of gray suits”—and she recalled how dismayed she was to realize she hadn’t even been aware of it until that moment.

“This is a failure story. I thought, how on earth didn’t I notice—and it was because I was looking through a lens called security. I wasn’t looking through gender. So I completely missed why these negotiations, these peace tallks, turned out to be really flawed.”

She remembered a UN official explaining to her why the warlords in an African conflict wouldn’t include women at the table: “They’re worried that the women might compromise.”

That set Hunt on a mission to build the Institute for Inclusive Security, eventually working with women from 60 countries, to find ways to move beyond scenarios where the fighters—“people who have no experience or even interest in having peace”—simply divide the spoils after a conflict. In contrast, an inclusive approach brings women, who understand their communities’ needs, to the table.


Women Waging Peace Network members Dr. Alaa Murabit (center) and Pastor Esther Ibanga (right) get ready for a taping of Fareed Zakaria's GPS on CNN.

Alaa Murabit, a Canadian-born woman of Libyan descent, was training to become a doctor in Libya when the nation revolted against Muammar el-Qaddafi’s regime in 2011. Dr. Murabit recalled the problems that resulted from failing to include women at the table as Libyans tried to shape a new country.

“Women were saying, ‘listen, we are being systematically excluded, we are not being invited to the talks, our opinions on priorities are not being listened to. We say schools; (the men) say no, it’s the oil infrastructure.”

She said Libyan women were the first to notice the advance of violent extremism. Women saw that classrooms were being segregated by gender and that women could no longer drive alone. Her new organization, The Voice of Libyan Women, responded “by talking about that narrative, by saying this is not religion, this is a manipulation of faith.”

Pastor Esther Ibanga recounted her experience building a movement called Women Without Walls to confront deadly violence in Nigeria. After the murder of 530 women by fundamentalists near her home city of Jos, she convened Christian women in a march. Muslim women in the area also held a peace march. But nothing changed.

So Pastor Ibanga and her Muslim counterpart came together and organized more than 100,000 Christian and Muslim women to mobilize for an end to extremist violence. The coalition continues to work in volatile communities, “talking to young people just to sheathe their swords, and refuse to be used by the politicians.”

Ambassador Hunt concluded the segment by sketching the extraordinary success story of Rwanda, where women make up 64 percent of the parliament and half the supreme court and cabinet. As a result, “no other country has leapfrogged as fast in terms of the indicators, or education, and health care.”

Fareed Zakaria observed: “This is a good news story, right? A story of female empowerment that has made a difference.”

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