This article was originally published on Yahoo! News.
UNITED NATIONS (AP)(March 15, 2016) — An activist who is on the board of women advising the United Nations special envoy for Syria on peace talks said Tuesday that women should be at the table actively taking part in negotiations.
Mouna Ghanem, one of 12 members of the Syrian Women’s Advisory Board that advises Staffan de Mistura, said at a news conference at the U.N. that the board is a reflection of the U.N.’s commitment to women. But she said more women should be at negotiating tables in Syria and across the Middle East taking part in peace talks and formulating the future of their countries.
“We are not only aspiring for participation, we are aspiring to be decision makers and we have a long way to go,” she said.
Ghanem, a physician, was among several Middle Eastern women in leadership roles who spoke critically of peace efforts in the region. She acknowledged there are women from some opposition groups taking part in the Syria talks but said they are not in the leadership.
A message Tuesday to de Mistura’s office in Geneva after hours seeking comment was not immediately returned.
De Mistura held a meeting Tuesday with opposition groups a day after restarting indirect Syrian peace talks in Geneva by meeting with envoys from President Bashar Assad’s government. Many observers say the peace talks offer the best chance in years to end Syria’s conflict, which has left at least 250,000 people dead and displaced millions.
Tuesday’s news conference came amid the 60th session of the U.N.’s Commission on the Status of Women, a two-week conference that began Monday focusing on ways to achieve gender equality by 2013. The meeting was moderated by Hibaaq Osman, founder of Karama, a Middle East organization that aims to advance women’s political participation.
The women were introduced by women’s rights advocate Gloria Steinem, who noted that the U.N. passed a resolution more than 15 years ago that reaffirms the importance of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, peace negotiations and peace-building.
“Studies show that decision making groups that are all male tend to choose the most aggressive solution and decision making groups that are all female tend to choose the most conciliatory one,” she said.