The 2009 Women’s International Grassroots Peace Congress, a gathering of women committed to building peace in the world, is an initiative of International Peace Initiatives (IPI).
The theme of the 2009 Congress was: “Women, Peace and Community: Weaving partnerships that promote grassroots initiatives for sustainable development and cultures of peace.” This was a multi-cultural, international forum aimed at crafting new and informed strategies for thought and action. The goal of the Congress was to create a space for education, networking, and promoting alliances that support and serve women working on grassroots peace, health and development initiatives. The Congress provided a regional and international outreach to dialogue about shared problems and to generate solutions. We endeavor to showcase best grassroots practices and share solutions to the many development challenges international women face today. This forum extended these connections through an African Grassroots Women’s Alliance.
A special focus of this gathering was to celebrate the gains women have made in choosing to speak for themselves and to work toward prosperity (overcoming poverty), health (living with HIV/AIDS positively), and peace (working for their human rights by ending violence in their lives, their children’s lives and in their communities).
Testimonies of what women had done to change the circumstances of their lives were shared. It was clear that those who had made great strides to end poverty, overcome disease and violence in their lives did not have a lot of money. Rather, they exhibited courage, perseverance, persistence, networking with other women, and partnering with God. The gathering inspired many women to do something about the challenges they face in their daily lives. Among the many things women learnt was to value who they are in the world as well as to value the work they do in their homes and elsewhere. Many women for the first time realized that what they do is valuable and that they should be proud of their contribution to the development of their families, community and the country as a whole.
Participants at the Congress also realized that they had a role to play in eradicating poverty, violence and disease in their midst. By hearing initiatives that other women had undertaken across the globe, Kenyan women saw the power joining in groups offers them to be formidable agents of change and peace. The story of the Liberian women through the movie “Pray the Devil Back to Hell” on how the women inspired action that ended war in their country inspired and touched all of us. Determination and focus enabled them to stay in solidarity until they brought peace to their land.
Women learnt that peace is not just the absence of war. Peace is when individuals, families and communities have food, access to resources, education for their children, security, good governance, and economic independence. Women learnt that they have rights to demand for peace in their country, but more importantly, that peace begins with each one of us. We as individuals have a role to play and a responsibility to create peace in our lives, families and communities.
At the gathering, we highlighted the plight of orphan children. Since 2003, IPI has educated many children who lost parents to HIV/AIDS and vulnerable children. IPI also provides for their other needs (food, uniform, medical care, etc) so that they can stay in school. One powerful presentation at the Congress was the sharing of Dominic Muriuki who has been educated through funds raised by a high school in Longmont, Colorado. Abby, the young lady who started this program when she was in high school at the Silver Creek High School was at the Congress to share the platform with Dominic to share their experiences and lessons learnt from this partnership. It was clear that young people from across boundaries are formidable agents of change.