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Nobel Laureate on Women and Peace in The Middle East

by Helena See

The first Muslim woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, Dr Shirin Ebadi, will be speaking tomorrow on the role of women in promoting peace in the Middle East at the Brunei Gallery Lecture Theatre.

Shirin Ebadi won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 for her work on human rights, making her only the fifth Muslim to win a Nobel Prize in any field. She was the first Iranian woman to achieve Chief Justice status, and a key figure behind the Million Signatures Campaign, demanding an end to legal discrimination against women in Iran.  

It is over ten years now since the United Nations passed the landmark resolution 1325, which required all member states to protect women’s rights in armed conflicts, and to involve women in peace negotiations. Last September, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon acknowledged that progress in this area has fallen far short of expectations:

“Women are still excluded from peace processes. The security sector in most countries is still dominated by men. And -- most tragically and strikingly -- women and girls still suffer gender-based violence, including systematic sexual attacks, in and around armed conflict.”

This year, the UN began to redress this failure with the launch of UN women on New Year’s Day – a new agency with a mandate to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women. By any account, this makes 2011 an exciting year in the global fight for women’s rights, especially in conflict zones. 

Dr Ebadi’s talk promises to be a timely contribution on the key role that women have to play in the negotiation of peace, in common with all major decision making processes.

The event begins at 6.30 tomorrow in the Brunei Gallery Lecture Theatre, SOAS. Entrance is free.

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