Youth Voices on the 20th Anniversary of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women Peace and Security
Author: Tania Sharmin
Dkaha, Bangladesh — “Peace and security means being fearless and to have freedom of life, choice, voice”, said Smaranika Chakma, an indigenous youth activist from the Chittagong Hill Tracts in Bangladesh. Smaranika was speaking at a virtual youth panel event to commemorate 20 years of the landmark UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women Peace and Security, jointly organized by UN Women Bangladesh, Centre for Peace and Justice (CPJ) of Brac University, and Naripokkho, held on 20 October 2020. Under the theme WOMEN|PEACE|POWER, the event brought together six young women from diverse backgrounds in Bangladesh, to share their thoughts and aspirations in building a peaceful and inclusive society.
Nothing can match with the power, idealism, enthusiasm and courage of young people. [With their] action, they can change the attitudes towards people, traditions, religion and beliefs…to prevent conflict and promote a peaceful and inclusive society”
It was a timely initiative to acknowledge Bangladesh’s continued commitment in promoting the women, peace and security agenda, as well as engaging youth in promoting peace and social cohesion in their communities. The landmark resolution was inspired by the March 2000 International Women’s Day statement of the Security Council by Bangladesh’s Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury as its President at that time. In addition, 2020 is a seminal year as it also marks the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action as commemorated by the Generation Equality campaign, bringing forth intergenerational action – from youth to elderly – to realize the all-important agenda of gender equality.
In her special message, Shireen Huq, member of Naripokkho, stressed the need to break the culture of violence and misogyny pervading in Bangladesh, in light of the recent cases of brutal violence and rape witnessed in the country. Dr. Samia Huq, Research Fellow, CPJ mentioned that security means having the freedom of movement and freedom of speech; she also emphasized the need to have gender-sensitive education, as well as involving men and boys in the conversation as essential to ensuring peace and security for women.
Peace is not just the absence of conflict, peace is the creation of an environment where all can flourish regardless of race, colour, religion, gender”
— Maskatul Zinan
Highlighting the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 pandemic on women and girls, Mia Seppo, UN Resident Coordinator in Bangladesh, focused on the “shadow pandemic” – the prevalence and increase in gender-based violence in the backdrop of the pandemic as people were confined to their homes due to movement restrictions. She urged the youth of Bangladesh to engage in shaping the peace and security narrative, preventing violent extremism and defying gender stereotypes. “You are the forefront of building a peaceful, resilient and inclusive society”, said Ms. Seppo, as she also committed that the UN, the broader development sector and civil society to do more at national and international levels to promote young women’s voices in shaping the Women Peace and Security agenda.
I believe to bring sustainable women, peace and security, there is a need to change the deep-rootedsocial and cultural conditions that give rise to sexism, racism, hierarchies and gender stereotypes."
— Kazi Musfirat Mukarrima Kabir
Moderated by Mahmuda Sultana Shorna, former President of Women Peace Café , Jatiya Kabi Kazi Nazrul Islam University (JKKNIU), Mymensingh, the interactive panel discussion was attended by Kazi Musfirat Mukarrima Kabir, Member of Women Peace Café, Begum Rokeya University Rangpur; Smaranika Chakma, an indigenous youth activist from Society for Integrated Women’s Progress and Bangladesh Indigenous Women Network (BIWN); Rima Sultana Rimu, member of Young Women Leaders of Peace and host-community activist in Cox’s Bazar; Lucky, a Rohingya youth leader; Maskatul Zinan, Joint Secretary of Women Peace Café, JKKNIU; and Khadija Akter, Executive Committee Member of Women with Disability Development Foundation (WDDF).
In her closing remarks, Country Representative of UN Women Bangladesh, Shoko Ishikawa, focused on the power of women to bring about positive change, to contribute to sustainable development and ensure human rights. Referring to the discussion between the six young panelists, she mentioned that one need not look far for inspiration to stand for peace and security – she truly appreciated their actions to promote peace, justice, social cohesion and awareness in their communities. She added that women should also multiply their voices to fight against misogyny, hate speech and bullying in cyber space. She also emphasized the collective power of youth to fight against gender inequality and build a better and peaceful society.
 Women Peace Café (WPC) is a university-based platform, established under UN Women’s programme in partnership with Brac University, where female students discuss problems in their communities and come up with innovative solutions to strengthen social ties among community members. For more information on WPC, please see “In Bangladesh, female students develop business ideas to improve society” and “Female university students in Bangladesh build resilient communities through social entrepreneurships”.