Women’s war stories go untold

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October 21, 2011

12:44 AM

The changing role of women in war was the topic for discussion in a forum that attracted politically-minded members of the College of William and Mary community to the Commonwealth Auditorium Monday. “Women, War and Peace” is a five-part series on PBS that chronicles women’s experiences during and after wartime, aiming to tell stories that often go untold.

WHRO Public Radio’s Creative Services Officer Barbara Hamm Lee emphasized the female focus of the forum.

“[Here at WHRO,] we have a mission and a duty to bring critical issues to light,” Lee said. “‘Women, War and Peace’ looks at war … and reconciliation through the eyes of women.”

A discussion between four panelists followed.

“Many women [in Iraq] don’t have this opportunity for education,” panelist Abd Ali, a biochemist from Iraq, said. “Women have [a] very strong effect on rising generations; this could help the rise of peace if many women were educated.”

All panelists agreed that educating women abroad, especially in critical areas of conflict, could shift the patriarchal power structures in their favor.

“We need women not just in grassroots movements, but in leadership positions,” Christie Warren, panelist and director of the Marhall-Wythe School of Law’s program in comparative legal studies and post-conflict peace building, said.

The panelists argued that because women are the ones in these areas that care for families and make networks within their communities, they understand the extensive damage war causes and are less likely to engage in it.

The discussion then shifted to an examination of the relationship between post-conflict reconciliation and the lives of women, an area of expertise for Warren, and fellow panelist Jennifer Fish, chair of the women’s studies department at ODU.

“When war ends, conflict doesn’t necessarily end,” Fish said.

The panelists shared their personal experiences with the traditional silencing of women in the Middle East and the negative effect that it has on global peace and stability. They asked the audience to engage in efforts to help women find their voices in war zones.

“We can help the condition of women abroad by raising awareness. Raising awareness is about being proactive — do some reading, become an advocate, get out of your comfort zone,” Warren said. “I have great hope for the future.”

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