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To honour the 100th anniversary of their founder, Nelson Mandela, The Elders chose to celebrate grassroots leaders working for the freedoms Madiba dedicated his life; peace, health, justice and equality. This organisation, or ‘Spark of Hope’, is one of 100 organisations each representing a unique idea for a freer, fairer world the Elders want to see.

 

Thousands of women, Israelis and Palestinians, marching together through the desert, dressed in white, holding banners, singing and dancing for peace is a sight that is hard to ignore. This is the aim of Women Wage Peace, an organisation bringing together thousands of religious and secular Palestinian and Israeli women from the political right, centre, and left to demand a political resolution to the conflict that has devastated the region for decades.

 

The movement was founded in the aftermath of the Gaza war in 2014, during which more than 2,100 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and 73 Israelis were killed. This occurred only months after the most recent round of negotiations, led by then US secretary of state John Kerry, fell apart. In recent years, neither Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas nor Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made any indication towards negotiating a peace agreement.

 

After experiencing the devastating effects of the conflict and watching political leaders on both sides fail time and again to bring peace, the founders of Women Wage Peace believe it is time to take action and for women’s voices to be heard. As Yael Triedel, an Israeli march participant stated, “We have to do it. No one else is going to do it for us. The leaders didn't manage to do it so far, and it's our responsibility to make it happen." Huda Abuarquob, a Palestinian leader and Regional Director of Alliance for Middle East Peace from the West Bank city of Hebron, explained, they march "because women matter, because women are inclusive, because women gave so much trust to the leaders here and the leaders failed us".

 

Through raising awareness, sparking public discussion and organising marches and protests, they aim to build public support for a political agreement while exerting pressure on decision-makers. Their most recent triumph, a two weeks long Journey to Peace throughout Israel and the West Bank, ending in Jerusalem, attracted thousands of participants and gained significant international media attention. Women Wage Peace also demand that women are included equally during any peace negotiations, as mandated by UNSC resolution 1325.

 

With over 26,000 supporters in Israel and 40,000 overseas, this grassroots movement is growing rapidly with the potential to make a substantial impact in the journey to peace. Their most recent march was a stunning display of solidarity, hope and the incredible impact of women coming together and speaking out.

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