When the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) held its inaugural meeting in London back in 1946, the U.S. delegate, Eleanor Roosevelt, read an open letter to "the women of the world" calling on governments to encourage women everywhere to participate in national and international affairs.
The letter also urged women who are conscious of their opportunities "to come forward and share in the work of peace and reconstruction as they did in war and resistance".
But 66 years later, the worldwide struggle for gender equality and gender empowerment continues unabated - even as women find themselves discriminated against, and victims of violence, both at home and on the battlefield.
As India's Permanent Representative to the United Nations Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri told the Security Council Thursday, close to 90 percent of current casualties in wars and situations of armed conflict are civilians, with the majority being women and children.
"Obviously, women bear a disproportionately large share of the burden of conflict, but have a marginal say in matters of war and peace," he said, pointing out the irony.
This is perhaps a function of the gender imbalance in our societies, reflected in positions of power and influence, he added.
Despite this, Puri argued, women should not be viewed solely as victims of war.
They also have to assume the key role of ensuring family livelihoods in the midst of chaos and destruction, and are particularly active in the peace movements at the grassroots level and cultivating peace within their communities.
"Therefore, the absence of women at the peace negotiating table is unconscionable," declared Puri, as he implicitly criticized the fact that peace negotiators are overwhelmingly male.
Yasmeen Hassan, global director at the New York-based Equality Now, told IPS ...