"Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it." That's how women's rights activist Helen Keller describes resilience. In her memoir "Dancing in the Mosque," Afghan author Homeira Qaderi illustrates this by recounting her adolescence in Herat, under the Taliban regime, where she managed – clandestinely – to teach young girls and become, herself, a literary scholar.
Homeira Qaderi is exceptional, but she is not an exception. Women are very often on the front line of building peace in their communities, not only in Afghanistan, but also in Myanmar, the Sahel or Ukraine – to name only a few examples. They are courageously engaged in conflict prevention and resolution, reconstruction, humanitarian aid and justice. In many countries they are at the forefront of movements against authoritarian regimes and refuse to accept political proposals that do not guarantee their rights.
And yet, we are witnessing how the achievements of gender equality are challenged. The gap between the normative framework and reality continues to widen, while these women could invest their immense potential in the future of their countries. Relying primarily on women's resilience is neither sustainable nor fair.
The Council has the duty and the power to support women peacebuilders and ensure that their rights are respected. As an elected member of the Security Council, Switzerland will contribute as follows:
In the Council itself, my country will try to pursue a systematic, innovative and action-oriented approach. We will seek to integrate the Women, Peace and Security agenda in all contexts into the Council's agenda and to prevent reprisals. In doing so, we will join the statement on "Shared Commitments".
With regard to action on the ground, the Secretary-General's report illustrates that we are far from achieving equal and meaningful participation of women in all their diversity and at all stages of peace processes. Switzerland will therefore continue to support the creation of networks of women mediators and peacebuilders, as for example in Lebanon, where we support networking efforts between women from different political backgrounds. We will focus on women's participation in peace processes and will continue to listen to the voices of civil society.
And finally, the success of all these efforts depends on ensuring a safe environment for women's participation. The increase in attacks on schools targeting female students and teachers, as well as the large number of conflict-related sexual violence incidents, signify a disturbing negative trend. Respect for international humanitarian law is an absolute obligation for all actors, including non-state armed groups. When these rights are not respected, the Council must use the instruments at its disposal to ensure accountability. The inclusion of sexual and gender based violence as a designation criteria in sanctions regimes is one of these instruments.
The Council is regularly briefed by women peacebuilders and human rights defenders. It is critical that the Council not only rely on their resilience, but take action to fully implement the normative framework of the women, countries and security agenda.