Eddie Bernice Johnson

Voices of the Women from the World's War Zones - Nov. 5, 2003

Eddie Bernice Johnson
November 05, 2003— Washington, DC
Press conference
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Gathered here in this room this afternoon are women who have survived the ravages of war around the globe. They have come from far-flung regions of the world. Some call Liberia home. Others have come from war-torn Iraq. Still others from Afghanistan and Palestine. Some have escaped the economic upheaval in Argentina.

They have come to give voice and vent to the ancient adage that "war is hell" and that it creates a hellish existence for women and children. They have to issue the clarion call for peace. They are joined by other women, including members of Congress and a network of women's organizations, who want to ensure that their voices are not drowned out by the specter of war.

Women and children are no longer the innocent bystanders of war and armed conflict.

They are increasingly becoming the targets of soldiers and snipers. Women and children are especially vulnerable to the devastating consequences of war and displacement. There are generations of women and girls who have known nothing except war. Sadly, the magnitude of violence suffered by women before, during and after armed conflict has reached alarming levels.

Women and children are increasingly targeted by armed elements for murder, abduction, forced military conscription, involuntary servitude and gender-based violence.The numbers and the statistics are at once horrifying and mind-boggling. Consider these facts:

Civilians comprise 90 percent of all killed and wounded as a result of armed conflict.

It is now estimated that there are 27 million refugees and 30 million displaced people in the world today.

In other words nearly 50 million people around the globe have been uprooted. Of that number 80 percent are women and children.

Studies show that each year "at least 800,000 people, mostly women and children, are trafficked across international borders."

In the last decade alone, around two million children were killed in armed conflicts.

Three times as many were seriously injured.

Recent reports have documented that women are routinely murdered, raped, pushed into prostitution, sold into sexual and domestic slavery, and traded as chattel in war zones around the world. Mercenaries and soldiers continue to use rape as a tool of war in one global hot spot after another.

All of us were shocked and outraged as we recently read in The Washington Post of the systematic targeting of women in war zones for mistreatment and maltreatment. The Post reported "Gang rape has been so violent, so systematic, so common in eastern Congo during the country's five years of war that thousands of women are suffering from vaginal fistula, leaving them unable to control bodily functions and enduring ostracism and the threat of debilitating lifelong health problems."

These statistics cause us to weep. Yet they are spurring us to action. To this end, I am introducing a resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives today calling upon the United States to do more to protect women from the abuses of war. The resolution, officially known as House Resolution 432, calls on the U.S. to play a lead role in making certain that the member states of the United Nations meet their obligations to protect the lives and rights of women and children during war and its aftermath.

Those obligations were spelled out and ratified unanimously by the United Nations three years ago in Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security. In the Resolution, the Security Council spells out actions that need to be taken by states and the UN to improve the protection of women in conflict zones.

The historic resolution calls on the UN and all parties to take action in four inter-related areas:

· The full participation of women in decision-making and peace-processes.

· The greater use of gender perspectives and training in peacekeeping.

· The protection of women.

· And finally, gender mainstreaming in United Nations reporting systems and programmatic implementation mechanisms.

The UN Security Council unanimously passed the groundbreaking resolution on October 31, 2000. Since that time millions more have been displaced. Countless numbers of women and children have died. It is crucial that women's voices are heard and their work recognized. The time is past. We must act. And we must act now.

We all know that women suffer the most from wars. Compounding matters, they have to wage another fight just to participate in peace negotiations and conflict resolution processes to bring war to an end. Around the world there is no shortage of women who have been fighting for peace in their communities, only behind the scenes. In addition, we must increase the participation of women in the decision-making process. This is the precursor to strengthening the democratic process.

R. Buckminster Fuller once mused: "Either man is obsolete or war is."

As women united in purpose and in goal, we say it is time to make war obsolete, to protect the women and children from its ravages. We must not do less. They are the life-givers and the future of this planet.

(Introduction of Participants)

Joining us at this afternoon's News conference is:

U.S. Representative Shelley Berkley. She is a member of the House Committee on International Relations and the Subcommittee on International Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Human Rights. Congresswoman Berkley represents the First Congressional District of Nevada. Her district annually records the largest population increase in the nation.

U.S. Representative Diane Watson. She represents the 33rd Congressional District in California. Congresswoman Watson currently serves on the International Relations. Before being elected to Congress, she emerged as a statewide and national advocate for health care, consumer protection, women, and children.

U.S. Representative Barbara Lee. She represents California's Ninth Congressional District. She serves on the International Relations Committee and is a member of the Subcommittees on Africa and Europe. She has served as a member of the California Commission on the Status of Women.

U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, who represents Minnesota's fourth Congressional District. She too is a member of the International Relations Committee and an advocate of human rights and the peaceful resolution of regional conflicts.

Also joining us this afternoon is Martha Burke. Martha represents the National Council of Women's Organization.

Allow me to introduce you to Patricia Smith Melton. Patricia is the Executive Director of Peace X Peace.

Our next speaker is Reverend Patricia Ackerman. She is with the Fellowship of Reconciliation. Reverend Ackerman will also introduce the women from the conflict zones.

Speech from http://www.house.gov/apps/list/speech/tx30_johnson/NewsConferenceFeaturingtheVoicesoftheWomenfromtheWorldsWarZones.html, August 28, 2007.