Women to negotiate peace

In crisis areas, it is the women who uphold collapsing societies. Yet, they are not asked to participate in resolving conflicts. Helena Ranta, Professor and forensic dentist from the University of Helsinki, wants to bring women into peace negotiations.

Helena Ranta

“Women are not present when decisions about wars are made. And when peace is finally reached, women are not present around the peace negotiation tables either,” says Helena Ranta, a Professor at the Department of Forensic Medicine.

As an example, Ranta mentions the Aceh peace negotiations, where the mandate for peace negotiations rested entirely with men even though half of the population in the area is female.

Women could bring grassroot realism to negotiations. In conflict areas, women’s organisations maintain contact over enemy lines. They realise that children must go to school, the elderly have to survive and land needs to be cultivated.

In conflicts, women also fall victim to sexual violence. Helena Ranta woke up to this realisation in Sarajevo in 1996. “Women who have been raped and excluded from their community may resort to suicide as their last desperate measure.”

In 2000, a binding UN resolution came into force, which states that the role of women in peace processes must be dramatically enhanced. The effects are still not evident at negotiation tables. “In Finland, we may well celebrate Women’s Day but our Afghan sisters don't have much to celebrate.”

Helena Ranta’s research areas include methods pertaining to identification, bite marks and age determination. She has led research groups, for example, in Kosovo, Iraq and Chechnya. Ranta is also the chairwoman of UNIFEM, a non-governmental organisation promoting the role of women and human rights.

International Women’s Day was celebrated in the main building of the University of Helsinki on 9 March. Helena Ranta was among the keynote speakers.

Department of Forensic Medicine

UNIFEM Finland

Text: Marja Lintula
Photo: Ari Aalto

Translation: AAC Noodi Oy

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