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Saturday, August 09, 2003

Forum on women’s role in peace

A PUBLIC forum on “Women and Peace” was held in Ipoh recently. It was organised by the Baha’i Community of Ipoh and three women speakers spoke about the role of women in promoting peace in the society. 

A total of 70 people attended the event at the Royal Ipoh Club, Ipoh.  

In her welcoming speech, Valarmathi Arumugam, a member of the Baha’i Community of Ipoh, who chaired the event, touched on the undisputed role that women play in the formation of society.  

The first speaker of the day was Yuet Mei Nambiar. An accountant by profession, she is also the treasurer of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’i’s of Malaysia.  

The mother of two began her speech with a story by the Greek dramatist Aristophanes titled “Lysistrata”.  

It tells the story of women from opposing states who united to end a war. Powerless in their society, with too many of their sons and husbands being killed in war, the womenfolk went on a sex strike where they refused to sleep with their men until they agreed to lay down their swords.  

Finally, desperate for intimacy, the men agreed to lay down their swords. 

“And here we are under the impression that “Women and Peace” is a contemporary subject,” she said. 

“Peace means different things to different people. For some, peace means absence of war, for others, it may mean temporary ceasefire. At a domestic level, peace could be achieved with just dead silence with no communications whatsoever,” she said. 

The next speaker was Sharifah Zuriah alJeffri.  

One of the founding members of the “Sisters in Islam”, she started her speech with a rhetorical question “what is the role of women?” 

She then explained that women were essentially daughters, sisters, wives, aunts, supporters, homemakers, comforters, and providers.  

Quoting Prophet Muhammad who said “Heaven lies under the feet of mothers”, she further talked about Al-Rahim, also known as the Compassionate One. 

Acknowledging the word “rahim” as an Arab term for the womb, she continued by saying that “if we respect the womb, we respect women, and if we respect women, we respect mankind, as generations after generations are born from the womb”.  

Sharifah also spoke on the situation in a certain part of India where domestic violence was a common predicament and where the women-folk, upon hearing of abuse in another’s home would start beating pots and pans until the abuse stopped.  

“We have to create women’s role in society, home and the world at large,” she said, stressing on the importance of re-educating the men and changing their mindset. 

The last speaker of the evening was Sister Kala, a member of the Persatuan Brahma Kumaris.  

She too stressed on the role of women in promoting peace and stability.  

She pointed out that women have to become leaders of peace. 

Sister Kala went on to explain the greeting Ohm Shanti which means “I am a soul, a being of peace” and talked about the difference between the western intellect and the eastern intellect in terms of the word peace.  

“The minute you talk about peace, the Westerners like to dissect, diagnose and analyse the word, but they cannot stay in the state of peace while the Easterners do. 

“Easterners are lucky as we are brought up in peace and are in communion with our innate nature,” she said. 

Drawing on the power of the cliché “actions speak louder than words”, she urged the assembly to spend quality time in peace and silence and also to practice what they preach as “one can talk all day about peace, but it cannot be attained if we do not practice it”.  

Like the other two speakers, Sister Kala also stressed on the importance of a woman’s role in forming a peaceful society as they are the “embodiment of peace”.  

©Copyright 2003, Malaysia Star (Malaysia)

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