The global community must engage the voices of more women to promote peace and prosperity around the world, Alaa Murabit, a United Nations high-level commissioner on health employment and economic growth, said at a March 15 event.
“Less than 10 percent of peace processes last five years,” Murabit said. “But when women are included, they are 35 times more likely to last 15 years, that means an exponential opportunity for economic growth, political empowerment and regional stability — completely transforming the dynamic of the region.”
The event was cohosted by the Georgetown University Lecture Fund and the Berkeley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs, and cosponsored by the Georgetown University Women’s Center, the International Relations Club and the Muslim Students Association.
Originally from Saskatoon, Canada, Murabit moved to Zawia, Libya at the age of 15 to enroll in medical school. According to Murabit, the relegation of women to inferior roles after the Libyan revolution galvanized her to fight for women’s rights. In 2011, she formed The Voice of Libyan Women, an organization that focuses on women’s inclusion in peace processes and conflict resolution.
Murabit views women’s rights, particularly in the political sphere, as necessary for the continued advancement of society.
“I did not grow up as a women’s rights activist,” Murabit said. “I started identifying as a feminist after I began doing the work and saw that women’s inclusion was the only thing that would actually work in keeping our planet, our prosperity and our people alive to a significant degree.”
Through her work with The Voice of Libyan Women, Murabit said she recognized the positive effect that women can have on working on peace missions. At the March 15 event, she said women’s rights must be included in the state-building process to create a genuinely gender-equal society.
“If you don’t solidify women’s rights when you’re building the state, it’s not going to come in later, it’d be like trying to build a subway in an established city,” Murabit said. “So the idea for VLW was to ensure women’s inclusion was part and parcel of the nation-building and state-building process.”
VLW has since led a number of successful campaigns that have been replicated globally, which prompted Murabit to begin her current work on international security with the United Nations. According to Murabit, the answer to global population growth, an issue that Murabit views as one of the world’s greatest challenges, can be solved with women’s empowerment.
“The most cost-effective and practical solution to end climate change is population control, which is two things: women’s reproductive rights and girls’ education,” Murabit said.
Murabit also said that promoting global women’s education spurs economic growth.
“If we were to educate and employ girls and women equally, we would have greater economic growth than China and India combined,” Murabit said. “It’s the single greatest economic stimulus that exists in the world today.”
For Murabit, the way that a nation treats women can be an indicator of whether a country will thrive or fail.
“Empirically, the number one way that we can tell if a country is going to fall into conflict internally or regionally is a decline in the status and treatment of women,” Murabit said.
Murabit said politics will improve with engagement from more empowered women.
“I told my mom that I wanted to go to the moon, and she said, ‘Great, I’ll pack you a lunch.’ I was never told I couldn’t do anything, and gender was never brought up in my childhood,” Murabit said. “So when I saw the global policy data, I didn’t need to be convinced — it made the case for women’s rights for me.”