In Thai culture, phuang malai are floral garlands, often sold at the side of roads or outside temples. These garlands are not only given in moments of celebration: to a bride and groom, at birthdays, engagement parties, or for good luck. They are also presented in times of grief and silence, at funerals, or as religious offerings of devotion and respect.
N-Peace celebrates women and men’s achievements, working for peace and women’s rights in the Asia region. But their achievements did not come about without struggle and pain. Many of them have seen terrible things, or experienced first-hand the very issues they are now campaigning to have addressed. Some have come from families divided by conflict, some have had to flee the countries and communities they love, some have seen women beaten down, abused, and ostracised. These experiences have hardened them, but they have also instilled in them a sense of determination. And it is precisely that determination, and the active role they now play to drive forward women’s rights, that N-Peace is supporting.
Women’s rights are ultimately human rights. I find it shocking that today so many women are still subjected to gender-based violence, political marginalization, forced displacement, or human trafficking. Conflict exacerbates these inequalities. In 2016, only half of the peace agreements signed contained gender specific provisions compared to 70% in 2015. These are precarious times. We need to do everything we can to ensure that issues affecting women are properly addressed moving forward - especially those living in warzones.
Suspended on the page but fixed through the medium of print, the N-Peace malai trophies represent a liminal space between joyful celebration and sombre commemoration for the women’s rights work of the past, present and (importantly) the future.