3 women out of 15 members of both negotiating teams and women advisors to the High Negotiations Committee (HNC) and the HNC delegation. The UN mediator, Staffan de Misura, counselled by a board of 12 Syrian women and 1 international gender advisor. This is the big difference to the unsuccessful first Syrian peace talks in 2014. As Hibaaq Osman (from el-Karama, our partner organisation to the successful side event at the margins of CSW59) said: “The voices of the women openly protesting together with men against Bashar-as-Assad, March 2011, have been silenced by gunmen”.
The basis for women’s participations in Geneva has been laid down in resolution 2254 of the UN Security Council past December, calling for “the meaningful participation of women in the UN facilitated political process for Syria”. February 2016 Staffan de Misura called the Syrian Women’s Advisory Board to life. The Board is composed of 12 representatives of civil society of different social and ideological backgrounds chosen from Syrian women’s organisations.
However, numbers aren’t enough. Women must also have meaningful access and influence. It is now up to women, supported by de Misura, to get their voices heard and become accepted in these up to now male dominated negotiations. According to rumours these women have been instructed by UN officers not to show too much of emotions, to try “to outwit the men, to remain more or less neutral and to keep to only two or three main messages”.
What do you think: Is it good will of the UN boys or still the old patriarchal system looming behind their encouraging hints? Knowing Hibaaq and her sisters, I am pretty much sure, that they do not need any good advice to make them heard and carry out meaningful influence.