Benazir Bhutto Reflects on Working Toward Peace

Of trying to make peace, I know a little. To make peace, one must be an uncompromising leader. To make peace, one must also embody compromise.

Throughout the ages, leadership and courage have often been synonymous. Ultimately, leadership requires action: daring to take steps that are necessary but unpopular, challenging the status quo in order to reach a brighter future.

And to push for peace is ultimately personal sacrifice, for leadership is not easy. It is born of a passion, and it is a commitment. Leadership is a commitment to an idea, to a dream, and to a vision of what can be. And my dream is for my land and my people to cease fighting and allow our children to reach their full potential regardless of sex, status, or belief.

In pursuit of peace in my land and more broadly between East and West, I must travel the world. As a leader, the travel is necessary. As a woman and a mother, I miss my children. It is difficult to explain to a nine-year-old why his mother can't be at home for his birthday. But leadership involves making family sacrifices. Pursuing peace means rising above one's own wants, needs, and emotions. Leadership is tough. There is no question of being tired; there are no holidays.

Peace is most often seen as resolving struggles between individuals. More broadly, finding peace means resolving struggles between ideologies, religions, and cultures. As the first woman leader of an Islamic nation, peace has been for me first and foremost resolving a struggle between the sexes.

Through much of history, women's roles in making peace have been confined within the family. Reaching peace and understanding, and finding compromise between families, between villages, and between nations has been the responsibility of men. I dare say that families have been more peaceful than nations.

Women leaders have had to pay a high price. We are often viewed as interim rallying points in times of crisis, and then have to fight men who view us as rubber stamps for their own authority.

Women leaders seeking peace pay a high price to attain and hold leadership. When I was expecting my first child, my opponents called fresh elections. They thought that childbearing would prevent a woman from campaigning. They were wrong.

Yes, I could not openly share the joy of expecting a child-to go shopping for baby clothes or afford morning sickness.

The first generation of women leaders felt a need to show they were stronger than men. They often fought wars or tried to sound as warlike as men. Twenty years later, I see a change. Women leaders are now more associated with social development, with nurturance and a sensitivity to human problems.

For women leaders, the obstacles are greater, the demands are greater, the barriers are greater, and the double standards are more pronounced. Ultimately, the expectations of those who look at us as role models are greater as well. And for all women, it is critical that we succeed.

Leadership is to do what is right by educating and inspiring an electorate, empathizing with the moods, needs, wants, and aspirations of humanity.

Making peace is about bringing the teeming conflicts of society to a minimal point of consensus. It is about painting a new vision on the canvas of a nation's political history. Ultimately, leadership is about the strength of one's convictions, the ability to endure the punches, and the energy to promote an idea.

And I have found that those who do achieve peace never acquiesce to obstacles, especially those constructed of bigotry, intolerance, and inflexible tradition.



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