Women's Federation for World Peace New Zealand (NZ) launched the Global Women's Peace Network (GWPN) at the Quality Hotel in Auckland on 14 September 2015.
We were honoured to have WFWP International President Prof. Yeon Ah Moon as the Keynote speaker for the launch. Among the 110 attendees were prominent women leaders, representatives of women groups, representatives of youth groups, Ambassadors for Peace (AFP), guests and friends of WFWP.
The event commenced with welcoming remarks from the MC, Mrs. Ruth Cleaver, a founding member of WFWP NZ. She explained about the founding vision of WFWP and elaborated on the status of WFWP as a NGO in General consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the UN.
Prior to dinner, grace was offered by WFWP member and AFP, Dame Jane Seccombe. The session started with a beautiful duet from James and Elinora Prentice. This was followed by a video presentation of the activities of WFWP worldwide, including the international inauguration of GWPN in 2012.
Panel speakers focused on the topic, "the Role of Women in the 21st century." Alexis LewGor, National President of NZ Federation of Multicultural Councils, explained her organization is a collective voice for ethnic, migrant and refugee communities. The Federation's primary role is promoting and preserving ethnic customs, languages, religions and cultures throughout NZ. Its challenge is to provide opportunities for people from all segments of NZ's diverse society to address the challenges facing our multicultural communities in the 21st century. Alexis briefly explained that Multicultural NZ supports the role of women in the 21st century and eases the transition from distressed communities to a more diverse and sustainable future by providing forums to help and support women.
Rev. Diane Winder, Interfaith minister and former vice-President of the UN Association of NZ, attended the World Summit in Korea in August 2015 and spoke about her experience. She said: "Women know best how war attacks the fabric of families and communities and what price their families pay. The message coming out of the Summit was that there can be no peace building without an understanding of how women are affected by conflict and the
approach women use to maintain peace." Diane said that women tend to look at society as a family; they are more likely to dissolve psychological barriers, dismantle dehumanization of the enemy and to understand the position of others. "Women are built to cross lines, to break barriers and build bridges." This year New Zealand has a unique opportunity to bring about positive change from its National Action Plan and from its role on the UN Security Council. In October, the Security Council will convene all member states to review this issue and allow New Zealand to renew its commitment to women's rights and formulate ambitious targets to that end.
The participants enjoyed a heart-warming rendition of Hallelujah sung by three wonderful artists named Liukava Fulivai, David Williams and Heilala Ikafoli accompanied by the pianist from their band 'Unity.' The song set the atmosphere for Prof. Yeon Ah Moon, President of Women's Federation for World Peace International, to deliver the Keynote address.
Prof. Moon shared with the audience the vision and purpose of the Global Women's Peace Network and how it was founded. She shared her strong conviction that women should play a central role in peace building movements in the 21st century and her wish to provide the motivation and starting point for women to work together to realize a culture of peace in their communities, nations, and the world. She gave some ideas of future connections within networks, thereby pooling the strength of women nationwide to work in collaboration with other women groups. She shared her belief that this time period desperately calls for women who feel responsible for educating and developing each community at the grass root levels to step forward and cooperate to build a world where future generations can live in peace.
The following is an excerpt from Prof. Yeon Ah Moon's speech:
"Peace loving women leaders of New Zealand! This is an age where a woman's viewpoint and input is an important addition to the successful efforts of peace. In 1992, Father and Mother Moon proclaimed 'The Dawning of the Age of Women.' Ever since then they have been educating and supporting women to be leaders to prepare for a century of true peace and happiness. To that end, they initiated the Global Women's Peace Network project in 2012. Women leaders and NGO's are uniting to establish a collaborative foundation for a true culture of peace through service, education and strategies of reconciliation.
In March 2012, WFWP International inaugurated the GWPN International Assembly with 600 women leaders from 33 countries attending in Korea. Since then, GWPN has been launched on different continents around the world in regions which include the Middle East, Europe, the Americas, Asia, the Northeast region centering on Russia and today in New Zealand, Oceania. Oceania has been blessed with such beautiful nature and ocean. I feel it is significant that we are gathered here today as we build solidarity and determine ourselves to establish a future of peaceful communities. Launching GWPN in New Zealand will be a great addition to the cooperation of women worldwide for peace and happiness of all humanity.''
She was offered a bouquet of flowers by the President of WFWP NZ, Mrs. Felicity Cairns.
An introduction of the 'Bridge of Peace Ceremony' was given by WFWP NZ President, Mrs. Felicity Cairns. Demonstrations were given by Mrs. Miyuki Fyers, representing Japanese culture, and Debra Taylor, representing western culture. The second couple brought together a representative from the Muslim faith, Dr.Rafah Smith, and a representative from the Christian faith, Mrs. Susan Hosokava. This occasion marked the first time many of the participants witnessed or took part in a Bridge of Peace Ceremony, and many found it to be very sincere and powerful.
A beautiful, vibrant dance was performed by the Thai women's group. The performance brought much joy and happiness to the participants.
The closing remarks were given by Mrs. Anne Bellavance, President of WFWP Australia and International Vice -President of WFWP Oceania. She stressed the importance of team work and asked that sisters, women leaders and the GWPN participants work together and support one another in order to bring substantial results and outcomes for the future.
The evening concluded with a beautiful NZ folk song, 'He Honore,' sung by Heilala Ikafoli, Liukava Fulivai and David Williams.