Visaka Dharmadasa: Mother, Daughter, and Woman of Peace! 72nd UN General Assembly

 

Visaka Dharmadasa's story touches the hearts of many. A mother, whose son went missing after a Tamil Tigers attack in Sri Lanka; a woman, who marched into the ‘lions den' to look into the very eyes of those that had broken her heart.

GPPAC member and Gender Focal Point in South Asia, Ms. Visaka Dharmadasa, spoke at the 72nd General Assembly session on Peacebuilding and Sustaining Peace on 25 April, 2018.

The high-level UN meeting comes as a response to the UNSCR on peacebuilding (A/RES/70/262 and S/RES/2282) as well as the spiking worldwide trends in armed conflict and forced displacement.

Above all, Ms. Dharmadasa stressed the importance of partnerships in achieving long-term sustainable peace and called for the greater inclusion of women and youths in peacebuilding activities.

Visaka Dharmadasa has long been an active member in the fields of conflict prevention, peacebuilding and women's movements.  She is the founder and chair of the Association of War Affected Women (AWAW), the Parents of Servicemen Mission in Action, and is considered to have played a key role in the peace process of the Sri Lanka civil war (1983- 2009).

"Women groups" Visaka Dharmadasa stated, "and especially youth groups, play a vital role in bringing peace to this world."

Women are an important means to bringing parties together, help settle disputes, come to agreements and create sustainable peace. Among Ms. Dharmadasa testimonies was her personal experience of leading seven mothers to meet the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in order to get answers about their lost sons. What they brought back was a message for their government that led to the cessation of hostilities in 2001.

"There are many actions that women all over the world take. Especially in preventing armed conflicts, to prevent escalation of armed conflicts as well as to silence the guns and get the parties to the table. But once the table is set, most often women are forgotten. Eighteen years down the road, after UNSC resolution 1325, we are yet to see a significant number of women in mediation roles"

Visaka Dharmadasa.

She ended her statement with three concrete recommendations for peacebuilding and sustaining peace, namely to:

  1. Include aggregated data of ‘gender' in conflict prevention analysis in order to better inform on the level of women's engagement in conflict prevention
  2. Meet women's groups at the local level
  3. Include all stakeholders for consultations and build strategic partnerships with them locally, nationally, regionally as well as globally
  4. Include women that are locally rooted and globally connected as mediators and negotiators in peace processes

The participation of Visaka Dharmadasa at this UN high level event is key, as this was a key moment to bring the local voices from the ground to the UN arena. 

Today, Visaka Dharmadasa remains a key advocate of conflict prevention, particularly in post-conflict environments. She is an expert on UNSCR 1325, was nominated for a collective Nobel Peace Prize in 2005, and is currently a member of the Civil Society Advisory Group of UN Women for the South East Asian region.