Is there anything in common with Lebanon, Syria, Palestine and the small, idyllic and demilitarized islands of Åland, that island located between Finland and Sweden? Not much, one could say. Except from time to time they are filled with laughter, sweat, big ideas, courage, some more laughter – and women on bicycles talking about peace.
In late August of 2017, fifty women from all over the world, professionals from different political levels of peace mediation, education and prevention, gathered to start a five-day journey into the stunning archipelago of Finland and into each others’ ideas and methodologies in peace building.
The main idea of the cycling peace seminar, organized by the Peace Education Institute Finland (RKI), was to take professionals out of their working rooms, get them together and give them time to connect. The aim of the journey was to expose the participants to each other’s thinking and to discuss women’s roles in today’s peace building.
Many women agreed on the importance of cooperation in peace building. As Jordanian Razan Mahmoud Abdullah Al-Hadid put it: ”What I’ve learned is, that at the end of the day, people are the same humans everywhere, and many of the challenges we face are many times the same. We need to be able to see beyond our own way of doing and look for common goals, to overcome our differences and work together for the process of peace.”
Not only were there plenty of networking, but also millions of bloodthirsty mosquitoes, and the safety that only peers can offer for persons whose daily work is more standing against than going along.
Read more about Pedal for Peace in our multimedia article.
After one-week of biking, we arranged a seminar “Women and Youth Building Peace” in Helsinki town hall, that linked the outcomes of bicycle round to a wider context of youth, women and peacebuilding. The speakers Nasima Razmyar, a vice –director of the city of Helsinki; Detta Regan from Follow the Women; Colombian human rights adviser Sara Cristina Lara Gonzalez from IELC; French Samia Hathroubi, the founder of NGO Coexister; Georgian Kety Zhvania Tyson from Sunny House; Riikka Jalonen executive director of RKI; Johanna Poutanen, senior manager from CMI’s Women in Peacemaking and Minna Saarnivaara from Felm’s Syria Initiative brought their insights to women’s and youth’s role in creating and sustaining peace.