The Elders

Ela Bhatt, founder of India's Self-Employed Women's AssociationDear friends,

Many years ago, Mahatma Gandhi said: “Of all the evils for which man has made himself responsible, none is so degrading, so shocking or so brutal as his abuse of the better half of humanity; the female sex.”

Even in 2013, Gandhiji’s words ring too true. On 8 March we mark International Women’s Day, a day to remind our communities that women and girls still face so many obstacles: violence, discrimination, traditions that hold us back. Yet it is also a day of celebration, of recognition that if we can break down these obstacles, women can – and will – transform our societies.

I am inspired by the women peacebuilders from Sudan and South Sudan, with whom my fellow Elder Mary Robinson spent time last month. Even though they were separated by conflict and excluded from formal negotiations, they refused to be silenced. For years, they worked together to bring their communities’ concerns to their political leaders. And when their two countries have been mired in disagreements and hostilities, it is the women who have shown what peace looks like on the ground.

Peace is more than the absence of war. Peace is a condition enjoyed by a fair society; a condition which renders war useless. In my experience, in India and elsewhere, it is women who are essential to building this kind of peace. As I have said before, focus on women and you get a provider, an educator, a networker, a forger of bonds. Involve women, and you get the strong, equal, sustainable communities that give people an incentive to plan for the future and maintain a stable society.

We all want to live in a world that is freer, healthier, more prosperous and sustainable. As International Women’s Day approaches, let us ask how our sisters and our daughters can build it, from the ground up.

With best wishes,

Ela Bhatt

Ela Bhatt signature

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