Swanee Hunt, founder of Women Waging Peace, spoke with Sojourners’ Rose Marie Berger about her book This Was Not Our War, and the ways women are engaged in peace processes in conflict-ridden countries.
Sojourners: What got you involved in Bosnia?
Swanee Hunt: I was appointed ambassador to Austria in 1993, and Sarajevo was so dangerous then that the State Department didn’t want to open up an embassy there. I offered to have it in Vienna, so for over a year, the U.S. mission to Bosnia was actually in our embassy in Vienna. As a result, I was meeting the political figures and hosting negotiations, and I became very concerned about the 70,000 refugees that were in Austria. I went out and heard their stories - which sounded like they were coming out of World War II - and, you know, I’d always wondered who those policy makers were sitting at their big mahogany desks when Hitler was organizing and advancing, and all of a sudden I realized I was a policy maker sitting at a big mahogany desk. And I represented this lone superpower that wasn’t doing anything about it. I decided I had to add my voice.
Sojourners: Why did you decide to write this book, particularly with the voices of Bosnian women?
Hunt: I wrote this story about the women because a lot of other people were spending time with policymakers in general - and I was, too - but there were very few people who had the hundreds of hours that I had with the women. Partly that’s because I needed to not get in the way of the State Department people who were working on the official part. And so I worked on the edges, if you will.
Sojourners: Where one often finds women!