Rula Deeb, the director of Kayan, was invited to participate in the first annual International Women Leaders’ Summit on Economic and Social Development hosted by the University of Massachusetts Lowell. Rula was one of the 20 notable women leaders from six regions of the world to be invited to participate in the Summit, which was held on April 10 and 11 in Lowell, Massachusetts. The purpose of the meeting was to identify successful leadership principles underlying past and present initiatives for peace through economic and social development in order to inform future global endeavors. Rula had the opportunity to meet exceptional women leaders from Colombia, Egypt, Israel, Liberia, Northern Ireland, South Africa and the United States. The group aimed to identify diverse approaches for successful economic and social development and define connections between economic and social development and security across the globe.
Rula enjoyed being able to share her own experiences, and build connections with other strong women, specifically leaders from conflict regions who have played active roles in stopping violence, and initiating peace talks that include and integrate women. Rula was especially inspired by women from Israel and the West Bank who were active in the Parents Circle – Families Forum, a grassroots organization of bereaved Palestinians and Israelis who have lost immediate family members due to violence in the region.
Rula was moved by the women’s efforts at reconciliation, as it is extremely challenging for women to work towards peace in violent and patriarchal environments. Asked about the most important lesson of the Summit, she said, “The relationship between the community and the grassroots level is the most powerful platform from which women can progress.” Rula returned to Haifa last week with a renewed energy and awareness of the importance of grassroots women’s activism as a means to peace and reconciliation.