As a mother of 7, I have always had an open door policy for my children’s friends and many of the young people in my community. Most of my children’s friends have been a part of our lives since they were in Junior High. Today, they continue to visit my house knowing it’s a place where they are safe, nurtured, cared for and most likely will be fed.
I truly believe in creating a safe, nurturing, and peaceful environment in my home. This is a role that I believe so many mothers play. This is also a role that I believe women can more widely assume in our local, national, and even international communities.
Too slowly, we are beginning to realize an urgent and pressing truth. When women are decision makers, when we incorporate them as high-capacity leaders in peace-making processes, and when we protect them from violence and integrate them into security discussions—they can and they will shape the world into a better, safer place.
The very foundation of Mother’s Day embodied these ideas. Over a century ago, Julia Ward Howe recognized the value of women in influencing communities through political and civil action. She appealed to women throughout the world to unite for peace for their children.
And how magnificently women have followed her creed. For over a decade, mothers and grandmothers have convened in Argentina, wearing the names of children ‘disappeared’ by a military dictatorship thirty years ago on white headscarves. We can look to Liberian women organizing en masse in support of peace and successfully ending a 14-year civil war. In our local communities, women often lead the charge against domestic and gun violence. Yet we continue to disregard the importance of women in resolving conflict, in building democracies, in creating long-term sustainable solutions to urgent problems. The participation and successes of women should not be glorious exceptions in the resolution of conflict, but should be systematically incorporated as part of the standard peace-building process.
The Women, Peace, and Security Act will be introduced into Congress around this year’s Mother’s Day, and I cannot think of a more fitting time. The WPS Act is an important step in integrating women into these negotiation processes. It empowers women to act as leaders and contribute their voices to achieving peace.
In December 2011, President Obama introduced the United States National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security (U.S. NAP) through an Executive Order. This momentous declaration mandated that federal agencies, including the Department of State, the Department of Defense, and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), among others, devise plans to ensure the meaningful participation of women in advancing U.S. national security interests within their respective agencies.
While the U.S. NAP recognizes women’s role in matters of peace and security, its lifespan only equates to the term of this current administration. The WPS Act will make the U.S. NAP law and ensure that its benefits last long after this Administration.
The WPS Act is a step toward expanding our definition of security. We will move from a militarized definition, categorized by the expanse of our missile stockpiles or the number of tanks we can purchase, to an understanding of human security, where access to healthcare, education, food security, sustainable environmental conditions, and job stability become paramount.
We know that this transformation is possible. What we know today of security is vastly different from what our mothers and grandmothers knew in the Cold War, in World War II, in the many conflicts of our past. The WPS Act encompasses a longer reaching vision and embodies what motherhood is about, the protection of our children, creating a safe world for them to thrive and feel nurtured. This Mother’s Day marks a call to action to protect future generations by incorporating women into the definition of security.
Rena Moran is a State Representative in Minnesota and an active member of the Women Legislators’ Lobby – a program of Women’s Action for New Directions (WAND).