Crossing for Peace


By Helana Reyad

I have attended several meetings that link the success of peace negotiations to the participation of women; however, there was one particular meeting that stood out to me. This meeting, entitled “Walking the Line: Women Cross Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) for Peace” was part of a lecture series on women, peace, and security and took place on July 23, 2015.

The title of this meeting caught my attention and made me reflect on how non-violent, symbolic actions can contribute to peace. To those who identify with an area where there has been a military presence, the territory can encompass memories of war, trauma, loss, and death. Crossing over that line is a symbolic act of healing and reconciliation. The specific line discussed at the meeting I attended was the Demilitarized Zone between North Korea and South Korea.

Thirty international women peacemakers walked with Korean women, North and South, across the DMZ between North and South Korea as a statement to demand peace and reunification. This crossing is symbolic of bridging the divide that the Korean War generated for the Korean people more than sixty years ago. Propaganda has led to a focus on the military aspects of the war and has neglected the millions of Koreans for whom the unresolved conflict is a daily reality. Crossing the DMZ was an effort to bring back into focus the human dimension of the war - to shine a light on those who have suffered and continue to suffer because of the division between North and South. For example, 10 million families are still separated by the division and continue to wait for the reunification so that they may see loved ones again. The promised peace negotiations, which were to take place shortly after the ceasefire, have not resulted in a peace treaty despite the 60 years that have passed.

This meeting introduced to me a new concept: citizen diplomat. I do not need to be in a position of power to be able to take a stance and ‘do something.’ As a citizen of the world, I can be a part of the global movement for peace. As a women, I can promote peace processes through my participation. Thus, as a woman, I can take part in and advocate for negotiations and dialogue as solutions to conflict. With the participation of women, real progress can be made based on what we all have in common, yet have repeatedly forgotten that we share – humanity.