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Women's Role as Peace Builders Featured in UN Documentary Film - 2003-11-02

The United Nations Development Fund for Women, UNIFEM, has released a documentary film on the role of women as peace builders.

Imagine how hurtful it was during the Taleban's era that we couldn't even be educated. Women could not be educated.

Fatima Gailani is one of seven women serving on the committee which is drafting a new constitution for Afghanistan. And she is one of the women featured in the documentary, called Peace by Peace: Women on the Frontlines.

In the film, Ms. Gailani visits a school where Afghan girls are once again learning. Ms. Gailani says educating women is key to the future of a peaceful Afghanistan. "You will not believe things that we take for granted here, are for them like a dream. For a little girl just to get ready to go to school is like going to a party, like a birthday party. They don't like Fridays because they have to stay home. It is a thirst to learn and carry on life like the rest of the world," she says.

The film follows women who are working to either rebuild or help those less fortunate in five countries - Afghanistan, Burundi, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Argentina and the United States. It is being released three years after the United Nations unanimously passed Resolution 1325, which stressed the need to gather information on the impact that war has on women and girls.

Secretary General Kofi Annan provides the introduction to the film, and says women are often leaders when it comes to peacemaking. "From rape and displacement to the denial of the right to food and healthcare, women bear more than their fair share of the suffering. But women who know the price of conflict so well are also often better equipped than men to prevent or resolve it," he says.

Patricia Smith-Melton led the work on the documentary. She says she wanted to show women at the ground level. "It's women who are essentially the weavers of cultures after they have been fractured and decimated by violence, and the documentary shows these women as they are rebuilding cultures. It doesn't have to be war or genocide but anything where a society is broken and fractured, it's women who pick up the pieces," she says.

Throughout the film, women are shown helping each other move forward after conflict. Widows in Burundi form a support group after their husbands are killed in the Hutu-led genocide of hundreds of thousands of Tutsis. Female journalists give objective radio reports that replace the formerly government controlled, often racist broadcasts.

Actress Jessica Lange is the movie's narrator. She recently traveled to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where she says she was amazed to hear the universal call for peace among young people who had been child soldiers, and among women who had suffered at the hands of war. "The same was true with the women, the girls and the women that I spoke to who have been victims of terrible sexual violence, sexual slavery, mutilation," she says. "Again, every time you would ask what could be done at this point to make your life better, every single time, each of those women, each of those girls said, 'First we have to have peace without peace there is nothing.'"

The film is being released in conjunction with the launch of a new web portal, which UNIFEM says compiles information about the situation of women in 27 countries that are either in conflict or in recovery from conflict.