Everyone remembers at least one aspect of their mothers that is unforgettable. My special memory came when I was a child of nine, and had fallen nauseously ill with fever, after inadvertently consuming some substance served at an outing to which I had accompanied my parents during the 1970s. We returned home and as I tossed and writhed in bed, my army officer father asked my mother to accompany him to an official party that evening where they were both expected. My mother flatly refused. Saying that she could not leave me in my condition to the care of the orderly jawan, she asked my father to carry on, on his own. She subsequently spent the rest of the night nursing me back to health. The next morning I was fine.
It’s a seemingly ordinary memory, perhaps characteristic of the nurturing aspect of thousands of mothers across the world. But in the scheme of a child’s life and mental well-being, instances like these could well be decisive moments in the formation of personality. As one learned philosopher put it, what our world, where citizens are becoming increasingly harsh toward and alienated from each other, needs is learning from the wisdom and nurturance of mothers, and of putting the wisdom of women to the fullest possible use.
Traditionally, women have always been peacemakers. It has been pointed out that under stress, women are inclined to “tend and befriend” whereas men are more prone to generating conflict, often explosive, under the same circumstances. If we are to create an atmosphere of peace in our environments today, we will need to focus on the kinds of skills and “soft power” abilities that women have been naturally endowed with: a capacity for dialogue, an inclination towards conflict resolution that is predisposed towards the well-being of all, and the belief that the peace process cannot come through the domination of another person or culture, a course that men are especially prone to follow.
Judith Hicks Stiehm who has studied UN peacekeeping operations in a dozen sites where the UN now has peacekeepers, finds that where there is a woman officer who has a key role in organizing and coordinating peacekeeping operations, they work better. There is a quality of calmness and sensible decision making at such sites. Yes, these teams are in constant crisis, but when there is a woman officer with authority to coordinate in those situations it makes a difference. More cooperation takes place. What we now have to do is to make visible that the ones who are the most effective peacemakers, in all the most disturbed conflict areas of the world, are women.
Peace researcher Elise Boulding who has studied the world’s genocidal and conflict areas has noted that in such regions it is the women who reintegrate the guerillas into civil society in the process of peace-building. It is the women who take the child soldiers who have been badly traumatized and recreate their humanness. They take the soldiers who are demobilized from the governmental army and help them become civilians, civil people. Yet these women are not seen sitting at important conferences or in decision making bodies, the centres of power. Any peace process, that is truly enduring, has to start at the grassroots and it must be led by the women. The reason we have had unrelenting conflict and war down the centuries could well be due in large part to the self-aggrandising power of men and their inability to transcend their compulsively warring natures. The good news is that the world in beginning to realise that.
The author is a spiritual writer with dna