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On June 16th, the House Foreign Affairs Committee advanced the Women, Peace and Security Act with bipartisan support. The act requires the President to provide reports to Congress evaluating women’s participation in US diplomatic and foreign assistance, mandates training for US diplomatic and defense personnel on the value of women’s inclusion, and requires the secretary of state and USAID Administrator to establish guidelines to ensure women’s meaningful participation in preventing and resolving conflict.
The bill was introduced by Congresswoman Kristi Noem (R-SD), Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Committee Chairman Royce (R-CA) and committee Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-NY). It will hopefully come before the full House of Representatives for a vote shortly. Its passage would be an exciting development for those of us in the pro-Israel, pro-peace, pro-democracy camp.
Particularly in this moment, when viable negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians seem far off, expanding the role of women in peace movements could send an important signal. For decades, peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians have included only a small number of high-level officials, few of whom have been women. Studies suggest that a more effective peace process would include voices from diverse groups of Israeli and Palestinian women and civil society organizations.
This is true outside our issue as well. Historical evidence suggests women play an integral role in restarting negotiations and enriching peace agreements. In Liberia, an organization called the Women in Peacebuilding Network (WIPNET) mobilized, demanded a return to negotiations and ultimately led the way to a successful peace treaty. After the deadly civil war in Rwanda, women activists ensured women’s rights were included in the nation’s constitution.
Empirical evidence also demonstrates the importance of women’s involvement in peace negotiations. Researcher Laurel Stone found that women’s participation in peace agreements increased the chances of a peace treaty lasting for fifteen years by 35%. Despite this compelling evidence, a UN study found that between 1992 and 2011, only nine percent of international peace negotiators were women.
The effort to bring more women into negotiations has been underway in the United States for a few years. In 2000, the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 1325, which calls for meaningful participation of women in peace and security decision making, and is binding for all UN Member States. In 2011, President Obama began to implement the resolution by signing the National Action Plan (NAP) on Women, Peace and Security. The NAP works to “empower half the world’s population as equal partners in preventing conflict and building peace in countries threatened by war, violence, and insecurity.”
The next step is to turn President Obama’s plan into US law. Passing the Women, Peace and Security Act through Congress would put the plan into action and ensure that it remains US policy after the next election.
Those of us in J Street can help by letting our members of Congress know that we support the Women, Peace and Security Act, and see it as an integral part of our goal of achieving a two-state solution.
Not only does the Women, Peace and Security Act provide hope for reinvigorated, more successful negotiation between Israelis and Palestinians; it is also one of the few pieces of legislation to achieve bipartisan support in an increasingly polarized congress.
Nancy Bernstein is the Co-Chair of J Street Pittsburgh since its launch in 2010. She also serves on the Boards of her synagogue, Congregation Beth Shalom, and the Women Donor’s Network (WDN), and participates on the Overseas Funding Committee of the local Jewish Federation. She is a member of the Advisory Committee of PA Clean Water Action. Nancy has an MPH from Columbia University and spent many years in NYC training public sector workers about their legal rights to protection from job hazards. Nancy grew up in Washington DC and as a teenager, got to know Yitzhak and Lea Rabin, who were close personal friends of her parents, when Rabin was Israel’s Ambassador to the US. Rabin’s assassination was a spark to Middle East peace activism. Nancy has two children, Noah and Zoe, and lives in Pittsburgh PA with her husband, Robert Schoen.
Molly Freeman is a leader of the J Street SF Bay Area Local and served on the Brit Tzedek board of directors. A former JCRC chair and synagogue leader, Molly treasures the opportunities J Street provides for remaining engaged with the primary issues facing Israel and American Jews. Molly has a doctorate in Complex Systems Analysis and specializes in preparing educators for online learning environments. Molly lives in Berkeley and Armenia where she promotes civil society and women’s rights through educational projects.
Joanna Goodwin serves as President of the Goodwin Foundation, which has supported more than 100 organizations and programs focused on health, community service, women’s and children’s welfare and peace. She also serves as President of the Middle East Peace Dialogue Network, Inc, an organization which believes that a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is essential to Israel’s long-term survival as the democratic homeland of the Jewish people. Working with the Geneva Initiative’s Israeli and Palestinian teams in 2009, MEPDN was the primary underwriter of the draft of 13 Geneva Initiative annexes that were compiled into a 423-page Regional Peace Plan, a road map to peace. As an active member and leader of J Street since it’s founding, Joanna has focused in particular on the successful expansion of J Street U and the development of youth leadership. Joanna received her undergraduate degree from Temple University, Cum Laude. She is the proud mother of two accomplished daughters and three successful step-sons. She lives in Baltimore, MD with her husband, Mark J. Friedman, a partner at the law firm DLA Piper.
Dr. Carol Hutner Winograd, MD is an emerita professor of Medicine and Human Biology at Stanford University. She serves in leadership and contributor roles on a number of boards, including, founder and Chair of the Advisory Board of the Jewish Chaplaincy at Stanford Medical Center, on the National Board of Abraham’s Vision, and the San Francisco Regional Board of the New Israel Fund, American Board of Internal Medicine. Winograd is also a member of the steering committee of the Women Donors Network’s Middle East Peace Circle. Carol has been married to Terry Winograd for over 43 years. They have two daughters, Avra who is engaged to Justin Durak and Shoshana, a Conservative rabbi who is married to Rabbi Philip Ohriner. Shoshana and Philip have two sons, Ari and Eli.