Women's role for peace in the 21st Century
Le rôle des femmes pour la paix au xxie siècle

Allocution de S. Exc. Madame Tadelech HAILE-MIKAEL
Ambassadeur extraordinaire et plénipotentiaire de l'Éthiopie en France,
Délégué permanent auprès de l'Unesco

I would like to welcome Reverend Kwak, H.E. Dr. Boutros Boutros-Gali, Professor Jacques Barrat, Dr. Walsh and all the family of the Universal Peace Federation. Though this is not the first time that this Federation is having gatherings here at UNESCO, this is my first time to welcome them and to address the family of the Peace Federation.

Today it is a great honour for me to speak in front of you whom, I believe, are peace loving, peace promoters, and peace builders. That is also why I am here at UNESCO which is a centre of diversity, knowledge and culture, so this certainly has doubled my happiness to speak to you today.

As we talk about peace I think not only in Ethiopia but in most countries of Africa, and all over the world, when we meet someone we say Salam and asking about one's health which is also a way of greeting someone when you meet.

In Ethiopia we say Tena yistiligne which means "may peace and health be upon you." I believe there are many countries where people have a similar way of greeting. It shows how peace and health are pertinent for any individual's wellbeing and happiness.

Individuals, communities, nations and countries are all trying to promote peace and peace building in their own respective ways. There is even an International Peace Day declared by the UN and agreed to by all nations as the 21st of September and it is logical if one asks that there should be a day of peace.

But, in my opinion, peace should not be a one day activity. Peace should concern the daily life, and should be lived by all communities starting from the family: peace-building should not start at the highest levels, but at the household level where the mother plays a crucial role in perpetrating peace to her children. Peace is something that is needed by all humanity. Then why is it that is has become so rare?

I would like to tell you the story of my own mother. She was a true believer. She used to tell the whole family and all of her children, (we were four girls and three boys), "if any member of the family tries to take more than his/her share, don't forget that there will be one of your brothers or sisters, or someone in the family, it could be the domestic or the guardian, that would be deceived because they will not have anything, so it has to be shared." That was basically what I learned from my mom and this concept I believe has given me a framework for my understanding about peace, because peace is disturbed when somebody is having a greater share than the other one.

It is also within the framework of this concept of my mother that I understood about gender equal rights and to have a zero tolerance when there is gender based violence. I even extend her thinking to the relations between countries and regions such as North/South relations. Also, this applies to my understanding of fair trade which is crucial and one of the main rights of global prosperity, that benefit should be shared equally.

The injustice and the relationship of two parties are always reflected in the climate change and its worst affects are felt by those who have contributed less to its goals. Which means everything is about sharing and that someone is taking more than his share. This was the basis of my mother's philosophy that gave me a sense of justice and a sense of sharing whenever I happen to be with friends or with other people.

Peace is something that is needed by all humanity and of course it is rare. It is rare because of the reason I have learned from my mother, because of the lack of sharing, the greed, that we always want to have more, that there is no amount of sufficiency. We cannot say that we have enough, we have to amass and to hoard and that is why I think we can't have absolute peace or let alone even a fraction of peace.

It is disturbing because when we listen to the radio or breaking news, it is never about peace in the media but is always about conflict. We are informed day to day and probably that more than 70 percent of the news is about conflict and about displacement of people.

Yet, we forget that these are people with families and loved ones and not just numbers, but these are the victims due to a lack of peace. I hate numbers I can tell you. I don't even want to remember numbers because of my own experience that during the military regime in my country we used to have lot of suffering and lots of imprisonment, and we used to talk about numbers like "these 1000 people are in prison or these 100 people are in prison", and not only that but about the famine. Everybody remembers about Ethiopia's famine and it is only numbers we talked about all the time.

Unfortunately, we forget that these people have faces, and they have histories and they have families and wives and children who are suffering; Therefore, because of that, I made a promise to myself I wouldn't even retain my own telephone number, can you believe that? I can't even tell you my number when I am asked or even my fax number which is very difficult and my excuse is I don't call my own mobile phone that is why I don't remember.

Yet, this is really the reason why I don't want to give numbers, because these numbers have continued appearing in the media, in the discussions. Just yesterday when I was listening to a story on the news about the Ivory Coast, a country that I love and where I worked as an Ambassador before and 19 people had died, yet who were these 19 people? Nobody even knows because of conflict.

So if we start from our homes, the mother has a lot to play in bringing peace and serenity to her family and if she is at peace with herself of course, she is the one who brings peace and the culture of peace via her children and her husband if her role is recognized.

Ladies and gentlemen all these points I have mentioned do not require exceptional intelligence to understand them but only a woman like my mother and a million others to accept and live in peace with oneself and within our families and our community and our surroundings. We need to live with respect of human rights as the moral and legal basis for all works in regard to peace and peace building at this particular time of global financial and economic crisis and we need to have peace at all levels. We shall all hope for a better governance at all levels where each and every country and people shall be the author of their destiny in order to create peace and a peace culture where the 21st of September will be the real date of real peace. Let peace be upon you.

Amb. Tadelech Haile-Mikael

Author: Amb. Tadelech Haile-Mikael

Ambassadeur extraordinaire et plénipotentiaire de l'Éthiopie en France, Délégué permanent auprès de l'Unesco

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