The World We Seek: Introductions and Keynote of Zainab Hawa Bangura (video, English)
This video features conference introductions and the keynote address of Zainab Hawa Bangura at WLP's The World We Seek: Reigniting the Dialogue on Human Security conference.
[00:00:00] Dr. Vali Nasr, Dean of SAIS welcomes the audience and provides an overview of issues addressed.
[00:08:30] Mahnaz Afkhami, President of WLP, provides an overview of women's places in society across the globe, and the historical backdrop for power structures that have not allowed positive changes for women to occur fast enough.
[00:25:05] KEYNOTE ADDRESS: Zainab Hawa Bangura shares her experiences as United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Special Representative of the Secretary General on Sexual Violence in Conflict. “There can be no security without women’s security.” She notes that the confluence of global crises related to health, infrastructure, and armed conflict threatens to reverse gains in women’s rights and human rights.
Historically, rape, sexual slavery and forced marriage were simply what it meant to be a woman in a war zone. Today, women’s bodies are still being used as battlefields in wars started by men. Zainab notes that in the political economy of the Syrian conflict, women are part of the currency ISIL uses to consolidate its power, and wonders why extremist groups that seem to harbor no fear of bloodshed or death are so afraid of women’s freedom. She comments that ISIL is using modern communication technology in service of a medieval ideology and agenda; if information is their oxygen, we must find ways to suffocate them. Efforts to address [issues of women and war] will not be effective until the level of resources matches the scale of the problem.
She discusses victims’ lives, noting that in turning victims into outcasts, widespread rape can shred an entire social fabric. Other damaging effects of war on women include maternal mortality rates (they double in war torn countries), and the number of women holding legal title to land is almost half in the wake of war.
Amid this bleak backdrop, Zainab expressed her faith in young women to carry the baton of the Beijing Platform forward. She notes that the greatest guarantor of women’s rights is a peaceful state, and that no problem can ever be solved by silence. “It is possible and indeed imperative to change cultures of impunity for sexual and gender-based violence into cultures of deterrence.”