She is one of the 1000 women proposed for the Nobel Peace Price 2005.
She says: “A world without women’s participation in decision-making processes at all levels has no future”.
She says also: “I have particularly fond memories of a conference of the Hague Appeal for Peace (HAP), which took place in May 1999. This big meeting of civil society organizations advocated the rejection of war as a tool of solving international and national conflicts. What was so special about this event?
Firstly, it celebrated the 100th anniversary of the First Hague Peace Conference, which was held in 1899 on the initiative of the Russian Tsar Nikolay II. And all of us – the members of the Russian delegation of about 150 people from different NGOs and regions of Russia – were proud of having such a vivid tradition of peace in the history of our country.
Secondly, we met with the HAP president and well-known peace activist Cora Weiss. We had already met this fascinating and charismatic woman-leader at previous peace meetings in Moscow, New-York, and Copenhagen. Her enthusiasm and hope that we can change the world and make it a better place always proves contagious”.
Natalya Berezhnaya – Russian Federation
She works for Ravenstvo i mir–ARM (Equality and Peace),
for Zhenschiny Moskvy (Women of Moscow),
and for the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom WILPF.
Dr. Natalya Berezhnaya was just twelve years old when she and her family were evacuated from Stalingrad to the small town of Krasny Kut during World II. Everyone was suffering from hunger. One day, her mother, whom she describes as a very kind and gentle person, gave a captured German soldier a piece of bread. Some women, who were witnessing this, exclaimed angrily: “They kill our husbands and sons!” Yet they were silenced and shamed when her mother replied calmly: “But they are also somebody’s husbands and children”.
Memories of childhood often leave lasting traces in people’s lives. This was the case in Natalya’s life.
Fifty years after this incident, in September 1992, she participated in the XIII Congress of Women of the Socialist International in the Reichstag Building in Berlin. They were singing the
International Hymn, and suddenly Natalya remembered this episode, when, as a child, she received her first lesson in kindness from her mother. It seemed to her that this episode was a manifestation of the highest form of justice and the greatest gift of her whole life.
This experience, amongst others, has triggered Natalya Berezhnaya’s activism in women’s and peace movements, and today she is a shining star in the women’s movement of Russia.
She is a historian by training, a philosopher by conviction, a mother, a grandmother, and a true friend.
Today she can look back on fifty years of activism in the international movement for women’s rights, promoting the interests of the majority of the population of the earth.
Over the years, Natalya has been battling on various fronts. She is a university professor, was part of the Russian Academy of Sciences and an acting member of the Russian Federation Academy of Security and Order.
As an independent expert and member of different non-governmental organizations Natalya also represents the interests of Russia at UN Conferences and at international and national meetings on the most urgent global problems.
She actively promotes the Beijing Platform for Action and the Millennium Development Goals, and uses her international experience in solving gender problems at a national level. In her work, Natalya pays special attention to the most pressing problems of domestic violence, women trafficking, and gender inequality.
Her lectures in different cities across Russia are usually attended by many, since she is not only an intellectual, but has also a strong sense of humor and is youthful and witty. Natalya’s memorable words and phrases are frequently quoted, and some have even attained the status of “classics”.
Many people trust her and turn to her for advice and answers to their questions.
On a local level, Natalya is not only a committed member of the “Women of Moscow”, but also regularly takes an active part in the cultural and sport events that are organized by the Central Sport Club “Spartak” on International Women’ s Day on 8 March.
On this occasion every year thousands of Russian women come together in a place near Moscow in order to discuss their problems, share their experiences, and participate in amateur sports competitions.
Because of Natalya’s vivid imagination, her love, and respect for people, she can always help them to find solutions for their personal and social problems. As her motto she has chosen to “Think globally, act locally!”. Consequently, she is campaigning on a local and global level for a world without wars, for equality of all people regardless of the colour of their skin, their religion, their citizenship, and for the elimination of all forms of violence and discrimination against women and children.
Despite her global outlook, Natalya is an ardent patriot. She is committed to the humanistic ideals that shaped so much of Russia’s history, is an advocate of negotiations, and strictly opposed to violent confrontation. Natalya is deeply convinced that a world without women’s participation in decision-making processes at all levels has no future.
This conviction inspired her work in a host of national and international organizations. As a young woman in the early 1950s, Natalya became a member of the Antifascist Committee of Soviet Women, and in this capacity has played a crucial role in collecting signatures for an appeal to ban nuclear weapons in national and international campaigns for peace.
Between 1975 and 1980, she worked in the Information Service of the UN Office at Geneva in close cooperation with the committee of non-governmental organizations for women’s status and the committee of non-governmental organizations for disarmament.
Here, Natalya’s activism for peace was to the forefront. She promoted women’s involvement in peace activism and international security. In 1982 she became a member of the International Committee which organized the “Peace March-82” from Stockholm to Helsinki, Moscow, and eventually to Minsk.
A year later, in 1983, she was appointed Soviet representative to a group of experts that prepared the report “Women’s contribution to the provision of peace and international security” for the 2nd World Conference of Women in Nairobi (1985).
Natalya’s struggle was carried on when, between 1985 and 1992, she served as Secretary of the International Democratic Women’s Federation. In this capacity, she planned and organized a number of international and regional meetings concerned with the difficulties of women’s participation in the struggle for worldwide security and peace.
The disintegration of the Soviet Union brought new challenges, and between 1996 and 2000 she was a member of the coordination committee for the preparation and implementation of three conferences ‘Women for a life without war and violence’ that took place in Rostov-Don. This series of conferences was designed to encourage and enable dialogs between women in the Caucasus. Members of these conferences appealed for a peaceful settlement to the violence in Chechnya and for the establishment of lasting peace in the region.
Natalya has held the role of Chairwoman of the Executive Committee of the Association “Equality and Peace” since 1994. She also is still the Russian representative in the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, one of the oldest women’s organizations in the world.
Natalya’s activism has not been without reward. She was awarded various medals:
- one on the “25th Anniversary of UN” (in 1970), and one “For strengthening of peace and confidence between people” (in 2005);
- she earned diplomas of the World Council for Peace, the International Democratic Women’s Federation and other public organizations.
Being so widely traveled and involved internationally has had an impact on her private life. Natalya remembers: “As an activist in women’s and peace movements, I took part in numerous peace marches, conferences, and seminars all over the world. When once I told my son Valery that I was planning to go to New Zealand to participate in a meeting of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, he asked jokingly: Is the Antarctic also on your list? When are you going to the Antarctic?”
Even though five years have passed since the HAP Conference, its agenda for peace in the 20th century is as vital as ever. It urges the international community, governments, and NGOs for wider participation of women in peace building and post-conflict rehabilitation; it calls for the elimination of all forms of discrimination, gender based or otherwise, and it appeals for attaining gender equality in all spheres of life.
Unfortunately, most ideas of this document are not yet implemented. Despite the activities of civil society organizations, the human community was unable to find a peaceful solution for the conflict in Yugoslavia. I will nevertheless remember the Hague Appeal for Peace Conference as one the most impressive events in my life”. (1000PeaceWomen).
Hague Appeal for Peace, Records, ca. 1997-2004.
Terms of Reference, Hague Appeal for Peace HAP;
The Hague Appeal for Peace Conference, Impressions of the Meeting;