United Nations Exhibition: ‘Inclusive Democracy: Women’s Participation in Cyprus Talks’

by Yasmina Amhaz and Lora Stylianou

Following receipt of an invitation by Her Excellency, President of the House of Representatives of the Republic of Cyprus, Ms. Annita Demetriou, addressed to female students studying in academic institutions in the Republic of Cyprus, we, Yasmina Amhaz and Lora Stylianou, law students at UCLan Cyprus, accompanied by academics Dr Maria Tatsiou and Dr Katerina Antoniou, had the opportunity to participate at the esteemed exhibition themed “Inclusive Diplomacy: Women’s Participation in the Cyprus Talks” on November 9, 2023. The event was hosted by the United Nations as the exhibition is currently set against the backdrop of the Ledra Palace, located within the Buffer Zone in Nicosia. On the day, we had the opportunity to meet key figures, including Mr. Collin Stewart,  Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus, and H.E. Ms. Annita Demetriou, President of the House of Representatives of Cyprus. The event brimmed with anticipation and purpose.

Stepping into this event that kicked off with a walk and discussion through the exhibited photos, we embraced the opportunity to get our voice heard about our nation’s future, in particular, regarding women’s participation in the Cyprus problem’s negotiations and their role in democracy and the rule of law. Amidst discussions surrounding the Cyprus issue, our focus pivoted on the role that gender equality can play in this respect. While going through the pictures, we realised that until very recently women were left out of the process, and that their role and efforts were often left unacknowledged, even though several women had been working behind the scenes to facilitate the negotiation processes.

While observing photos taken in more recent years, we could clearly see the increasing participation of women around the negotiating table, reaffirming that both men and women are direct stakeholders to the conflict, and the negotiation process cannot feature only male leadership.

The interactive discussions continued after concluding the tour of the exhibition, with Ms. Demetriou and Mr. Stewart welcoming us to a roundtable discussion over coffee. We fervently advocated for equal rights between genders, emphasising that increased female representation in our community’s leadership might offer a viable solution to the long-standing challenges Cyprus faces. As ambassadors of our institution, UCLan Cyprus, we engaged directly with Ms. Demetriou and Mr. Stewart, articulating our concerns and perspectives as young women and students. It was a moment of empowerment and advocacy, where our voices echoed the shared aspiration for a more inclusive and equitable future for and in Cyprus. Participants agreed that women empowerment and inclusivity should start with the direct engagement of young women, something that representatives of the UN Secretary-General’s Good Offices in Cyprus expressed support for.

Moving forward towards a solution for sustainable peace in Cyprus, the role of women in positions of leadership is imperative in both Turkish-Cypriot and Greek-Cypriot communities to achieve cooperation, the key element needed for the efficient and smooth functioning of institutions in Cyprus.

In conclusion, it appears that the answer to the successful resolution of the Cyprus problem is to focus on cooperation between the two communities rather than separation or distinction between the rights of all communities in the island, with women playing a more active and pivotal role in both the negotiation processes as well as society at large.

Posted in Events, Gender Equality