Exhibit Shines Spotlight on Female Grassroots Activists in Mozambique and New York City
By Jaclyn Donahue
A new exhibit on display at Low Memorial Library highlights women’s everyday experiences and thoughts about peace, security, and community.
Titled “Speaking to Peace: Portraits from Maputo and New York City,” the exhibit captures several perspectives of underrepresented grassroots women peacebuilders in order to bring their expertise to a public space.
Columbia’s Advanced Consortium on Cooperation, Conflict and Complexity (AC4), in collaboration with photographer and human rights researcher Daniel Jack Lyons, unveiled the exhibit on Friday. It coincides with the launch of AC4’s Women, Peace and Security Program, and is free and open to the public.
The exhibit includes portraits and voices of women associated with Horizonte Azul—a gender and youth organization in the outskirts of Maputo, Mozambique’s capital city—and the Association to Benefit Children (ABC), an organization that builds resilience in vulnerable communities in New York City’s East Harlem and beyond.
Speaking to Peace makes clear the importance of an inclusive and expansive peace and security agenda. In their own words, these women describe their encounters with personal and societal violence and the practical steps that they have taken as activists towards confronting such violence and insecurity.
“Here in the neighborhood when a meeting is held, the community leaders don’t invite young women,” says Filomena, a woman from Maputo. “But we are part of this community, we want to hear and speak so we can learn and teach our elders. So they know that we have voice, we have value.”
Even in two distinct urban contexts, Maputo and New York, these women speak to similar ongoing challenges brought on by societal norms, inequality, and inefficient policy that undermine their daily safety. As one woman from Maputo notes, “When inequality is so stark and always in front of you, there is no chance for peace. A person cannot feel at peace when they think that they will never have a decent job to achieve what they want… The state ignores details like this, while violence is occurring everywhere.”
Gretchen Buchenholz, executive director of ABC, said there is a need to convince people “that there are daily threats to peace and security, daily attacks and violence throughout America. People live in fear and in darkness…. These assaults are aimed particularly and specifically at the most vulnerable, especially women and those in hiding.” With some reflection on the Speaking for Peace exhibit, she commented that it “gives voice and thus power to those under siege and inextricably binds us all to them and to one another with tenderness and fury.”
The photo exhibit acknowledges the unique knowledge and expertise of women whose perspectives often go unheard. AC4’s Women, Peace and Security Program seeks to amplify these voices and leverage opportunities for everyday women peacebuilders as a means for sustaining peace and bringing about social change. The initiative officially launches on October 27, and will magnify the impact and contributions of everyday women peacebuilders and enhance understanding of why, how, and in what ways women have been able to successfully influence peace in their communities.
AC4 is a research center housed within the Earth Institute at Columbia University, and is focused on issues related to sustainable peace, constructive conflict engagement, and sustainable development. By connecting leaders in the field of peace and conflict resolution, AC4 aims to build opportunities and apply its research with the view to generate solutions for some of the most pressing social and environmental challenges.