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Fourteen people are gathered at the Folke Bernadotte Academy in Sandö. Thirteen of us are women, only one is a man. Six of us were born in Sweden, three have travelled all the way from Palestine, four have come from Iraqi Kurdistan and one arrived from Lebanon. We all have different backgrounds, experiences, identities and authorities. But together, we represent a group of people with the same agenda: the implementation of UNSCR 1325.

The objective of our gathering is to explore and discuss the role of media in promoting and highlighting women’s rights in conflict resolution and peace building. We have four different contexts as starting points; the post conflict society and Kurdish situation in Iraq, the ongoing and unresolved occupation of Palestine, the increasingly unstable security situation in Lebanon and then we have Sweden, a country without war but not without problems. However, what we do have in common is media, “the third state power”, a big operator with the possibility to influence our opinions and information gathering.

The topic of the first day was to identify and exchange knowledge on country-specific challenges, opportunities and solutions. How can women’s rights, UNSCR 1325 and sustainable peace be promoted by highlighting success stories about good cooperation between the media and women and peace organizations?

Today’s workshops and seminars started with short introductions from Operation 1325’s director Annika Schabbauer and project manager Mana Entezarjo, followed by welcoming remarks by Gabriela Elroy from the Folke Bernadotte Academy. Together we all discussed our expectations of the conference and what we would like to bring with us from this week into the future. 

The second session of the day was an online skype presentation from Hana Al-Khamri, sharing her experiences of being a female journalist in a gender segregated setting. One example of a daily struggle for women in these settings, was when Hana got invited to join a conference, but was rejected access only because she was a woman. “I did not come here as a woman, as a female, I came here as a journalist. You have to let me in!” Hana argues that talking and discussing these kind of structures is one approach to deconstruct the social settings of masculinity, which is needed in the struggle towards more equal societies. Every human being in the world should have equal opportunities to live their lives to the fullest – no matter your gender or other identity. 

After lunch, Operation 1325 held a workshop and pre-launch of the media toolkit. In smaller groups we discussed strategies for changing gender stereotypes in media. It was an intense debate but we all agreed on that these images need to change and that changing structures is a long time process. We also discussed which information decision makers need to implement UNSCR 1325 and how CSOs and media can fill that gap. Finally, the last topic was about the collaboration between media and civil society; why it is instrumental for change and whether there is other important collaborations to focus on.

The final session of the day was hosted by the delegation from Iraqi Kurdistan, Women Empowerment Organization (WEO). They gave a good example of a success story about good collaboration between WEO and the media. In 2011, after the new laws combating domestic violence was established, more women went to the police and reported gender related issues. This created a new police office with the task of investigating domestic violence against women, which in turn increased the cases going to court. The media played a good role in this process by highlighting these issues and supporting women to report on domestic violence.

This explains why it is so important to create spaces for interaction between women’s and peace organisations and the media – good collaboration is an effective tool to promote women’s rights in times of peace and conflict. 

Stina Larsson and Frida