With three women winning this year’s Nobel Peace prize, now is an apt time for PBS’s new series, Women, War and Peace. This is especially timely as one of the films offers the chance to discover the story of one of the Nobel Prize winners, Leymah Gbowee of Liberia:

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Innocent women increasingly bear the costs of war. The new forms of war that have developed in the aftermath of the Cold War, including a proliferation of small arms in developing countries, have seen women becoming targets of violence and rape tactics. The series explores this sad and disturbing reality in an episode outlining the story of 16 women in the Balkans seeking justice and a review of sexual violence laws.

The tremendous endeavour shown by these women’s fights for their rights is but one aspect of women’s issues in war and peace. Women have a clear ability to contribute to peacemaking and peacebuilding initiatives . The series helps to shed light on the question: what is it that women can contribute to peace building that men cannot or do not?

The series tackles these issues through five stories:

  1. The legal fight of 16 women in Bosnia who had been imprisoned and raped by Serb-led forces (I Came to Testify)
  2. The struggle for peace of a group of Liberian women who took on warlords and the Charles Taylor dictatorship (Pray the Devil Back to Hell)
  3. The campaign by three Afghan women to ensure that women’s rights are protected in peace talks with the Taliban (Peace Unveiled)
  4. The story of two women in Colombia standing up for those that have been terrorized and forcibly displaced as a modern war strategy (The War We Are Living)
  5. A concluding episode, summarising the challenge to the conventional wisdom that war and peace are men’s domain (War Redefined)
The importance of these issues is unquestionable, and the series is a welcome initiative that should be built upon in raising awareness of changes that must inevitably take place: firstly, women affected by war must be given better protection, and secondly, that women should be consulted about every peace endeavour no matter what the level.