The women in the “In Their Hands” exhibit are “heroes.” Their voices need to become the “norm”.

Oct 26, 2021

The women in the “In Their Hands” exhibit are “heroes.”
Their voices and contributions need to become the “norm.”

By: Camilla Stamp

As women’s rights around the world are under threat, the Security Council Open Debate on Women Peace and Security (WPS) hosted by Kenya on 21 October 2021 was an occasion for United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres to call on all Member States to recommit to supporting women to have their rightful seat at the peace and political tables.

To amplify this message, the exhibition “In Their Hands: Women Taking Ownership of Peace” welcomed the Secretary-General at the the United Nations Headquarters, before he briefed Council members on the state of womens’ participation in peace efforts across the world.

In his opening remarks, Secretary-General António Guterres highlighted the tremendous role played by the women depicted in the exhibition in advancing peace and political processes.

I think their struggle, their commitment, their courage, is an inspiration for us all and I would say that nothing could start better our debate than the testimony of this group of women heroes.

Watch Secretary-General António Guterres’ opening remarks from the Security Council meeting on Women, Peace and Security.

António Guterres was joined by Raychelle Omamo, Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Kenya and President of the Security Council for the month of October, and Sima Bahous, Executive Director of UN Women and Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations.

Through joint efforts by the Department of Peace Operations (DPO), the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (DPPA), and UN Women in partnership with New York City’s iconic Photoville festival, the exhibition depicts women leaders and activists from the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali, South Sudan, Sudan, Lebanon, Yemen, and Colombia. These are some of the many women around the world who strive to bring and maintain peace and who have mediated with armed groups, participated in peace talks, advanced political solutions, and advocated for women’s rights and participation.

Despite progress over the past few years, women are still frequently excluded from formal peace processes and decision-making. Their diverse experiences, knowledge, and expertise often go unrecognized and underutilized. “Today, women’s leadership is a cause. Tomorrow, it must be the norm”, Secretary-General António Guterres stated in the meeting.

In South Sudan, only 2 out of 10 formal peace monitoring committees at the national level are chaired by women, and in the Central African Republic only 10% of the participants in the February 2019 Peace Agreement were women.

Instagram live session held with Hon. Alokiir Malual, signatory of the 2015 peace treaty in South Sudan, South Sudanese photographer and journalist Maura Ajak who photographed her, Photoville co-founder Laura Roumanos and UN Peacekeeping Gender Affairs Officer Sandra Grindgaerds. Watch the IG Live.

Béatrice Epaye, Member of Parliament, Central African Republic

The women featured in the exhibition are captured through the lens of women photographers who share their country, struggles and successes, such as Lebanese photographer Rawan Mazeh, whose work brings to light untold and empowering stories from the people of Lebanon.

The “In Their Hands” exhibition can be seen online and is also showcased as part of the Photoville festival at New York City’s Brooklyn Bridge Park until 1 December. It will then travel to several peace operations and the UN Office in Nairobi in Africa before returning to New York where it will be displayed beside the Ruth Bader Ginsburg statue in downtown Brooklyn, to mark International Women’s Day on 8 March 2022.

You can add your voice in support of women’s agency and participation around the world by clicking the “Pledge” button on the website and sending world leaders a message that can be amplified on our social media platforms.