Feb 18, 2012

women only accompaniment team

The International Women’s Peace Service is the only all-women international accompaniment team in the world. It is run entirely by volunteers, who make a 3 year commitment to IWPS, serving a minimum of one 3 month term in the West Bank, Palestine, followed by further terms in Palestine of one to three months in their 2nd and 3rd year.The IWPS original mission statement explains that,

"Having a single-sex living space will make it easier to integrate into the local Moslem culture, but this is not the prime reason for the women-only structure. Nor is it indicative of a view that women any more than men are natural born peace makers. However, the decision does reflect an observation that women often inhabit different cultures than men, are disproportionately involved in caring work and often have greater insight into creative ways of resolving conflicts. Women are often at the receiving end of gendered violence both in peace and war. A feminist view sees masculine cultures as especially prone to violence and so feminist women tend to have a particular perspective on security, safety, violence and war. Women's different and varied voices can often be drowned out in a mixed structure but in women-only spaces their voices can be heard more clearly. Our project will therefore be an experiment in feminist peace and justice work."

A volunteer with IWPS wrote to me that,

“being a women only team actually helps us having a closer relationship with women and women's organizations in the area we work in, while I do not have the impression that it is an obstacle in terms of contact and cooperation with Palestinian institutions or organisations that are male dominated. We do all the work the other mixed international teams in Palestine also do, but we try to have a women's focus in choosing local contacts and partner organizations and in some of our report writing. IWPS has supported the founding of a Salfit area women's organization, Women for Life, that developed out of women from different villages actively taking part in the popular resistance against the Apartheid Wall.”

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