18th WFWP EU Annual Women’s Leadership Conference : Albanian Parliament
“Women’s and Nation-building: Active participation in decision making, development and sustainable peace”
Your Excellencies, dear colleagues and friends,
Each time I come to Albania, already at the airport, I recognize that there is more prosperity.
Hon. Vasilika Hysi and esteemed members of Parliament, thank you for the invitation to meet you here in your lovely and historic Parliament of the Republic of Albania. You have been exemplary in global politics, with a 10% increase in women parliamentarians in 2017 and over 40% of the candidates who ran for office were women. Cited in the IPU.
I discovered that 2018 is the year of George Skanderbeg, (15thC) a brave, righteous Albanian man dedicated to defending his people and nation against overwhelming odds. (“Where Iskander rose; Theme of the young, and beacon of the wise,” wrote Lord Byron in 1812.) I have a statue of Skanderbeg in my living room, presented to my husband while when he was coordinator for the Family Federation’s “Balkan Project” in Tirana. In 1990, months after the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the founders of Women’s Federation for World Peace, Rev. Dr. (Father) Sun Myung Moon created “sisterhoods / pairings” between nations of eastern and western Europe to accelerate development and partnership. Switzerland was paired with Albania. Many Swiss colleagues and friends of mine travelled to Albania as soon as the border was open, between 1992 and 2002.
Our theme is deals with women’s critical involvement in nation-building. It used to be thought that nation building was a man’s work, fashioned mostly by historic military campaigns or political decisions. But Skanderbeg too, came back to Albania after his military campaigns, longing to preserve the Albanian culture and people he fought for.
I have read many biographies about people, especially women, who defied obstacles to stand up and speak out for their vision and goals for dignified lives - and how this shaped their personality and gave them “dignity”. So often these heroes, local or global, from many different historic periods, refer to the motivational role that their parents played. There is a book (commissioned by the OSCE), “Empowering Women in Politics”. It is a series of interviews with contemporary Albanian women leaders. Even there, among the many descriptions of how these women were called to political or public life, many described the important role their parents played in their life choices.
Our youth have a hard time today. It is easy to be apathetic and unavailable for a “greater calling”. Blame cannot be pushed too far away. Some part is our education system that does not prioritize character building. Some part is policy-makers when they have narrow or short-sighted interest. But most critical is the daily role of parents. It is the parents who prepare an environment where children can discover their goodness and an innate goodness in humanity that is worth fighting for.
Parents, especially mothers, nurture and instil values in their children. They teach the proper balances between freedom and responsibility and (hopefully) do their best to be the example. They prepare a place in the minds and hearts of their children so that when they later read Sacred Texts or even the UDHR or the framework for the SDG’s, they are touched and motivated. Children are very vulnerable to the way parents treat each other. Domestic violence, substance abuse or bullying are problems, but laws will not solve them. We don't always realize how impressionable children are, nor think that in raising our children to be good future citizens, we are nation building. We are creating world peace- ...or not.
We live in a time when there are so many opportunities for youth to engage for ideals. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) is one well thought out program to build global empathy to think and act like a Human Family. Our WFWPI UN Offices organize opportunities for young people to participate in related conferences and activities. Yet, the UN knows well that the most carefully crafted ideas for peace, human rights or sustainable development, solemnly agreed upon at the highest levels, are only as valuable as the actual changes they bring in people’s lives. Most young people would be excited to be a part of this process.
WFWP began with grassroots activities in 160 countries. Over 21 years, we’ve been looking at our results. My work as responsible for our UN Offices is to help the UN fulfil their mandate by showing what works, what has been done by women to solve the same problems that they are working on; hunger, poverty, violence, illiteracy, insecurity. My other task, not to be underestimated, is to help those hard-working women at the grassroots realize that their work is contributing to World Peace. This is how we knit the fabric of Global Family.
Our WFWP Founder, Dr Hak ja Han has been developing an innovative curriculum for youth with a very unique angle. It’s essence is “Hyojeong”, a Korean word that refers to the application of filial piety or a filial heart to all realms of life. Transformative and lasting change cannot be forced. You experienced that here in Albania. Peace is only possible by motivating, touching the hearts of people to choose goodness, justice and co-prosperity, never by force. One of the reasons I love Albania and see so much hope here is because that pure hearted curiosity in young people, that respect and love of youth towards parents has not eroded, as we see elsewhere. Yet, we/you do have to be careful and do our serious best to be the leaders, parents and models that youth will naturally respect and love. As lawmakers, NGO leaders, educators, business leaders, parents, our nations would be well served if we see ourselves as Peace Leaders, “who can create a peace culture that changes the world by moving the hearts of people”.
Carolyn Handschin, Director, WFWPI UN Offices, Geneva , Switzerland,
President of Women's Federation for World Peace-Europe