Five women building peace that you should know

We are celebrating ambitious and dedicated women from all over the world for their commitment to peace for International Peace Day on 21 September. These leaders are promoting gender equality and women’s rights all over the world while advocating for a more peaceful community.

Bubuaisha Kurbanova, Kyrgyzstan and Nodira Avezova, Tajikistan

Bubuaisha Kurbanova and Nodira Avezova live on opposite sides of the Tajik-Kyrgyz border. Photo: UN Women/Aijamal Duishebaeva

Bubuaisha Kurbanova and Nodira Avezova have lived next to each other for more than 15 years. Kurbanova, 49, is a school teacher from the village of Ak-Tatyr, Kyrgyzstan, and Avezova, 51, is a doctor, living on the other side of the border, in Chorku, Tajikistan. The “border” is marked by a wooden fence, where Kurbanova and Avezova often meet to talk.

In May 2014, when communities along the border of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan started clashing over access to land and water, neither women had imagined that the conflict would reach their doorsteps; but it did.

“We knew that this is the land we would be living in; this is our home and we were not going anywhere. To live and prosper on this land, we need peace…we need each other,”

Now, Kurbanova and Avezova are a part of the “Cross-border cooperation project for sustainable peace and development.”

Magda Alberto, Colombia

Magda Alberto participates in a workshop about women’s political participation. Photo: Bogotá Women’s Secretariat

Magda Alberto is a young feminist at the frontlines of peacebuilding in Colombia, where the Peace Agreement of 2016 ended the half-century conflict.

“I was born and raised in Bogotá, in a neighbourhood that was constantly plagued by violence that destroyed the lives of young people just like me. Having experienced what conflict felt like, I was motivated to get involved in building peace.

I joined Women for Peace, an organization that was born when the peace dialogues started between the Colombian Government and the FARC in 2012. We worked to build peace and security while safeguarding women’s rights in Colombia.

For me, the idea of a more just, democratic society in Colombia comes hand in hand with equality for women.”

Captain Grace Ajierh, Kenya

Captain Grace Ajierh during the FMOC-5 held in Nairobi Kenya. Photo: UN Women/Kennedy Okoth

For Captain Grace Ajierh, joining the army was a dream come true.

“It started with the love of the uniform and with the responsibilities that came with it,” she says about her motivation to join the armed forces. “When I wear the uniform, I feel at home.”

Captain Ajierh is currently in charge of Legal Affairs at the Kenyan defense headquarters. She ha served in the UN mission in South Sudan, first as a legal officer, then as a Platoon Commander of an all-women platoon, a rarity.

“We were able to come up with a platoon strength of only female peacekeepers in the mission, which is not something that you get every day,” stresses Ajierh. She is proud that Kenya is ahead of most in terms of deployment of female peacekeepers.

Monira Hwaijeh, Syria

Monira Hwaijeh. Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown

Monira Hwaijeh, 58, is one of the 12 members of the Syrian Women’s Advisory Board (WAB), established 31 August, 2016.

“First, I had to stop working because we couldn’t access the communities in the suburbs of Damascus once the conflict started. Then, I lost the simple things that I took for granted — friends, electricity, water, leisure time and the simple happiness of everyday life.

Back in 2012, when the peace process for Syria started, there were no women involved at any level. This year, with the establishment of the Syrian Women’s Advisory Board, we can advise the UN Special Envoy for Syria on the peace process.

We have a long way to go, but the only way forward is through the political process. The peace negotiations must resume, and women must be able to influence the decisions.”