Having grown up in Iraq during the eight-year Iran-Iraq War, Zainab Salbi is no stranger to the impact of armed conflicts. She's seen public executions, heard the blasts of nearby explosions, witnessed injustices against local families and even experienced firsthand the terror of being a part of a brutal dictator's inner circle. But the 46-year-old activist and humanitarian says there's a lesser-known side to warfare, one that is overshadowed by the violence and rarely covered in the media.
"Life keeps on going in the midst of war," Salbi tells tells Oprah Winfrey during an interview for "SuperSoul Sunday," "People still go to school and they still go to hospitals and they actually still have to earn a living to eat."
It's common for those outside of a warzone to not even think about this fact, simply assuming that there cannot be anything else going on there in the face of bombings, killing, rape and rampant fear. But these children still attend school, parents still go to work, couples still get married. And though it's a terrifying struggle to continue as normal in the midst of the violence on the frontlines, Salbi says there is typically one particular group determined to push life forward: women.
"The ones who lead what I call 'the backline discussion' ... are women," Salbi says. "Their resistance becomes how to keep life going."
Peace is not the ending of fighting only; peace is actually the building of life." Zainab Salbi
In her own experience, Salbi's mother was that woman.
"When I was a child in war, in the midst of a siren [that signaled air raids], my mom would play for me and my brothers a puppet [show]," Salbi says. "She would make her own puppeteer in the shadows of the candle, to make us laugh and entertain us -- as the bombs and the planes are bombing the country."
Experiences such as this are part of what led Salbi to found Women for Women International when she was just 23. The organization offers tools, support and aid to female survivors of war, and through those efforts, Salbi has had the privilege of meeting other women who were devoted to helping life continue as routinely as possible in the midst of chaos.
"A Bosnian woman, she's a piano teacher. For four years in the midst of the war in Sarajevo in Bosnia, she kept the music school open. Every single day," Salbi says. "For her, she says, 'This is my resistance. To keep the music going.'"
From this Bosnian woman to a woman in war-torn Gaza who would bake and distribute bread to her neighbors, the focus was clear. "You have to keep life going," Salbi says.
Salbi adds the impact of these women's efforts is undeniable, and we can't afford to overlook this aspect of war any longer.
"We don't acknowledge these women's voices, and yet, without them, we don't have peace," she says. "Because peace is not the ending of fighting only; peace is actually the building of life."
"SuperSoul Sunday" airs on Sundays at 11 a.m. ET on OWN.
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