The Hillary Rodham Clinton Awards for Advancing Women in Peace and Security

By Katie Schluth

“So, do you think they’ll let us inside soon?” I asked my friends as we sat huddled on the freezing ground outside Healy at 3:30 a.m., faces battered by the wind and rain.  We’d been stationed there since midnight for the sole purpose of seeing Hillary Clinton in the flesh the following morning, even if only for 15 minutes.  As I trudged through my classes later that day, my professors and classmates observed how tired I was and asked me the same question: “Was it worth it?”  Despite the fact that I may never get those coveted eight hours of sleep back, I answered with a firm “yes.”  It was absolutely worth it.

Earlier this week, Georgetown announced that Secretary Clinton would be visiting campus to present the Hillary Rodham Clinton Awards for Advancing Women in Peace and Security to Humberto de la Calle, Maria Paulina Riveros, Elena Ambrosi, and Jineth Bedoya for their contributions to the Colombian Peace Agreement.   Colombian officials, journalists, and members of the Georgetown community convened in Gaston Hall to hear Clinton’s introductory remarks and to laud the four award recipients on their bravery and tenacity in helping Colombia, a nation torn by civil war for over 50 years, finally achieve peace.

I was particularly inspired after hearing the stories of the three women who were being honored: Maria Paulino Riveros, Elena Ambrosi, and Jineth Bedoya.  Riveros was responsible for “bringing a gender lens to the peace negotiation in Colombia and ensuring that the Colombian peace process was reflective of the Colombian people.”  She contributed to this by co-chairing a sub-commission on gender, recognizing that a focus on gender issues involved much more than including women in peace talks, and campaigning for a special unit to investigate sexual violence crimes.  Ambrosi’s contributions to the Colombian peace were primarily focused on humanitarian law and international relations, and she serves as the human rights director of the vice ministry of defense.  She understands that “gender plays a significant role in conflict” but also maintains that it must play a role in the peace process, and her dedication and efforts to securing the Colombian peace agreement out of the limelight is particularly admirable.  Bedoya, a journalist and victim of sexual violence at the hands of those threatened by her work, has brought conflict-related sexual violence in Colombia into the spotlight and advocated for the state to recognize it for what it truly is: a crime.  After pursuing her own case only to discover that the evidence had been destroyed, she has served as an advocate for other victims whose cases have been ignored by the state.

In her introductory remarks, Secretary Clinton addressed how these women have “organized, agitated, and negotiated to end over 50 years of conflict in Colombia.”  She emphasized the fact that women are not solely victims of war and pointed out that peace agreements are less likely to fail when women are involved in making them, without subscribing to the stereotype that women are inherently more peaceful than men.  Clinton’s statements were met with applause and cheers, my own included.  The grace with which she spoke to giving women the opportunity to be “equal partners in helping shape the world they inhabit” and her humility in pleading the current administration to work on behalf of peace in the world was an honor to watch, and I hope to be able to see her speak again in the near future, at Georgetown or elsewhere. 

As Secretary Clinton said, “Implementing peace will be a constant task … there will be forces at work to undermine it … but peace is truly within reach.”  In today’s world, we are in need of peace more than ever, but if we set our sights on including women in peace negotiations around the world, we might just have a chance at achieving it.