Interview with Janis Alton, Co-Chair, Canadian Voice of Women for Peace (VOW) Conducted by Niraja Singh, SCRAP Team, SOAS, University of London


 

Niraja:

In 140 characters can you tell us a bit about the aim of Canadian Voice of Women for Peace (VOW)?

Janis:

It is to promote the non-violent resolution of conflict and women’s full inclusion in all decision-making re peace & security.

Niraja:

How did you personally get involved with VOW?  

Janis:

Through personal contact with the co-founder & through academic study (Pol Sc.) of women’s political marginalization. I joined VOW in the mid-70’s.

Niraja:

What are some of the campaigns that VOW has been championing at the UN?

Janis:

a. The abolition of nuclear weapons  b. The promotion of a culture of peace, introduced by UNESCO c. SC res. 1325 – its adoption & implementationd. d. The de-legitimization of war. e. Building capacity at all levels for non-violent conflict resolution e.g. through active training

Niraja:

Why do you believe UN Security Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace & Security is so crucial?

Janis:

It represents a historic governmental awakening, at least verbally, to the inclusion of women in all aspects of peace building from prevention to post-conflict reconstruction.

Niraja:

Does VOW see a lack of women at the decision-making and strategic levels of disarmament and conflict resolution operations?

Janis:

Sadly, yes.

Niraja:

How do you think should international frameworks governing gender considerations in the control of conventional weapons be strengthened?

Janis:

1. I could suggest that women, including women NGOs be systematically well represented in the governmental talks striving for control measures related to conventional weapons. 2. That women systematically be involved in inspection and other verification processes. 3. That women, governmental and NGO systematically be included in the review process of international frameworks.

Niraja:

How has VOW changed the way people think about women’s role in conflict resolution? How do women bring a different perspective to the disarmament debate?

Janis:

If I think of the historical struggle and the days when few women engaged in disarmament activism, for example, now it is more widespread. Our voices, some 6,000 at our peak, and now 52 yrs. old has, we believe, contributed to the confidence & opportunities to speak out. Our socialization, I believe, allows us to see the practicality of disarmament & also the humanness of others.

Niraja:

What do you see as the link between militarization and violence against women?

Janis:

The link is the largely male mindset – the “power over” mindset. It’s part of the continuum of this from the inter-personal to the political.

Niraja:

Do you think the world is a safer place than in 1960 when VOW was established? Why? 

Janis:

While the threat of omnicide still exists because of nuclear weapons & their use (or accidental detonation) there has been a heartening advance in  global efforts to articulate and hold accountable human rights, including presently the right to peace, now working its way through the machinery of the UN thanks to NGO leadership – a young male lawyer, David Puyana.

Niraja:

What do you think is key to achieving sustainable peace and security?

Janis:

Peace education writ large! Imagine if it were universally adopted!! We would then have different decisions made at ALL levels of human inter-action. Peace research and its institutional framework need to flourish.

Niraja:

What do you think of the SCRAP project’s proposal that argues for achieving an end to proliferation and arms removal in a decade?

Janis:

I think it is a worthy but optimistic goal. Education and entrenching the non-violent alternatives may be slow.

Niraja:

Do you think a world without nuclear weapons or WMD will ever be possible? 

Janis:

Yes, I do. I look at the long history of slavery, colonialism and the resistance to their passing but… it happened. We have far greater means to communicate our ideas.

Niraja:

Thank you for your time and thoughtful and candid responses.

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