March 8, 2013
Happy International Women's Day!
In 2009, I wrote a statement for Women's International League for Peace & Freedom to commemorate International Women's Day. Their website no longer links to past statements, so I'm placing it here to share. Sadly, none of the goals have been achieved.
Women's International League for Peace & Freedom
International Women's Day Statement
8 March 2009
March 8, International Women's Day, is a day to acknowledge the need for women's equal participation in economic and political decision-making, to celebrate the extraordinary accomplishments of women, and to denounce gender discrimination and gender violence.
The Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) approaches this day with an analysis of the root causes of war and injustice: the pursuit of profit, rather than the fulfillment of human need. According to Naomi Klein, the problems perpetuated by disaster capitalism include the limitation of political participation to those with "specialized" knowledge, the perpetuation of fear through the buildup of military arsenals, the threat of violence and use of force, and finally the corporate framing of news.
WILPF rejects the notion that gender equality has been achieved. While men remain systematically overrepresented in all levels of decision making, women remain economically disadvantaged; women's work is under-valued and under-paid. From child rearing to the suites of executive offices, women continue to be paid less than their male counterparts.
Women around the world are afflicted by violence; as the UN acknowledged in the Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, human trafficking is primarily a euphemism for the sexual slavery of women and girls. The crimes of rape and sexual violence continue and increase unabated during wars.
Women suffer the loss of their children. their homes and their communities during wars as well as being the targets of sexual and physical violence, and it most often falls to women to repair their homes and communities. Yet women are rarely asked to participate in the process of conflict resolution, although their equal participation is mandated by UN Security Council Resolution 1325.
WILPF started in opposition of a patriarchal world order that used violence and military to govern. Therefore WILPF began as and continues to be the voice of the voiceless: to demand participation in political decisions on all levels of society--from local elections in San Jose, Costa Rica to national elections in Sydney, Australia to Conference on Disarmament deliberations at the United Nations.
On this International Women's Day and every day of the year, the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom continues to lobby in the halls of the United Nations, picket state capitols, and rally grassroots support for political equality, the cessation of war, and the development of a socio-economic system that supports human needs.
June 2, 2012
Introducing WILPF to LA on Nuclear Abolition Day
The Greater LA Chapter of the US National Committee for UN Women hosted a Women's Peace Walk today. They were inspired by Julia Ward Howe's call for women to gather on June 2 as a Mother's Peace Day. I was honored to help the chapter organize the event and was further honored when I was asked to moderate the speakers. Thankfully, I was also able to step out of that role to introduce people to WILPF. Below is the text of my speech.
Women's International League for Peace & Freedom, WILPF, is probably the most influential peace organization you have never hard of. For almost a century, WILPF has articulated the need to address the root causes of war. We insist on ending armed conflict as a means of dispute resolution. And since World War I, we have been challenging governments to recognize the necessity of women's participation in these conversations.
In 2000, we pushed the UN Security Council to pass Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace & Security. Then, we created our Peace Women Project to monitor its implementation. Through Peace Women, we've led a translation project, ensuring 1325 is available in over 100 languages. This allows women peacemakers around the world to use it as a blueprint for creating real space for women's participation in politics in their own countries. We could use help translating it into more languages, so check out peacewomen.org for more info.
Implementing the women, peace and security agenda is the responsibility of national governments. Civil Society (that's you and me working together through nonprofit organizations) holds government accountable by monitoring this implementation. Together we can develop National Action Plans, one tool for realizing women's participation in conflict prevention and peace-building.
Last fall, the U.S. Section of WILPF hosted consultations with the State Department in five cities across the country, to facilitate citizen input into the first ever U.S. National Action Plan. We issued a report with 64 concrete recommendations on Human Rights Day, December 10, 2011. Later that month, the State Department released the National Action Plan.
Next week, WILPF U.S. will be briefing Congress on those consultations at a round table hosted by Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson and Congressman Russ Carnahan.
Here's the thing: the U.S. must fundamentally change its foreign and military policy to truly implement the women, peace and security agenda. Military intervention does not make people more secure. Access to food, health care, education, shelter, and jobs make people secure. That's what I mean when I say I'm a human security advocate. It means I respect the fundamental needs that must be met in order to make an individual secure. It means I reject the notion that a monolingual military propping up warlords can ever make Afghan women secure. It means I worry about Iraqi women whose access to basic necessities, like clean water, sewers and electricity was destroyed by the U.S. military and never fully restored.
We in WILPF recognize that creating the women, peace and security framework isn't enough. That's why we monitor all international disarmament negotiations through our Reaching Critical Will project. We provide daily newsletters during those conferences -- updates relied upon by diplomats and civil society alike to keep those processes transparent.
As today is Nuclear Abolition Day, I should tell you that WILPF and its Reaching Critical Will Project strongly supports abolishing the use of both nuclear weapons and nuclear power. We also work towards the reduction of military spending and the demilitarization of politics and economics.
Our current International Secretary General, Madeleine Rees, is leading WILPF in challenging the UN to see disarmament through a human rights framework. The security wonks have never acknowledged the way military spending violates human rights. First, we know the money be better spent on health care, education, housing, and infrastructure development. In other words on implementing the Millennium Development Goals and ensuring human security.
Additionally, selling weapons to countries where they will likely be used to violate international law should be illegal, based on the doctrine of the responsibility to protect.
Right now, Reaching Critical Will is monitoring the Conference on Disarmament. Next month, we will be monitoring the UN Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty. Check reachingcriticalwill.org for more information.
I'll be honest with you now. The Los Angeles Branch has been a bit dormant recently. So I invite you to join me in renewing the LA branch of WILPF by becoming a member or at least connecting with me so I can keep you informed about our future work. Thank you.
May 15, 2012
More Than One Woman Promoted Mother's Day in the US
Earlier in my life, I took at face-value "the progressive history of Mother's Day." Perhaps you've heard it? Someone told you about Julia Ward Howe's Mother's Day Proclamation and told you that ending war is the real reason for the day? Sorry to break it to you, but that's not true.
The reality is that Ann Marie Reeves Jarvis did something amazing in West Virginia. She organized Mother's Work Days, starting in the 1850s to improve health and sanitation. When the Civil War broke out, she asked her members to sign statements of neutrality and provided healthcare for combatants of both sides. After the war, she organized Mother's Friendship Days to encourage the reconciliation vitally needed at the end of any armed conflict. When she died, her daughter, Anna Jarvis, dedicated her life to creating a holiday to honor her mother and all mothers.
According to the Legacy Project, "In 1908, Anna persuaded her mother's church in Grafton, WV to celebrate Mother's Day on the anniversary of her mother's death, the second Sunday of May. It was to be a day to honor all mothers, and also a day to remember the work of peacemaking, reconciliation, and social action against poverty started by her mother." To expand the celebration state-wide, Jarvis needed the help of corporate sponsors. This started the commercialization of the day. The flower and card industry strongly supported the state holiday and federal legislation. Towards the end of her life, Anna Jarvis was bitter about the crass commercialization of her memorial to her mother's memory.
Julia Ward Howe wrote her proclamation in 1870 and promoted June 2 as a Mother's Day for Peace starting in 1872. The celebrations fizzled out after she stopped personally funding them.
I truly appreciate Howe's writing. I love that her perspective evolved over time - she wrote "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" in support of the Civil War because she was an ardent abolitionist. But after seeing the carnage of that war and the Franco-Prussian War, she became a pacifist. I agree with her that people need to come together to figure out how to solve conflicts without resorting to violence. But I am frustrated by the inaccurate history perpetrated by most progressive organizations, from Democracy Now to CODEPINK to WILPF US. To be clear: I have a mountain of respect for all three of those organizations, but I also want to honor history accurately.
Interested in honoring Howe's June 2 Day of Peace?
Say firmly: "We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies, Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience. We, the women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs."And if you're in LA, join me at the Women's Peace Walk, sponsored by WILPF LA and the Greater LA Chapter of the US Committee for UN Women.
August 7, 2011
See The Whistleblower
The Whistleblower is a political thriller starring Rachel Weiscz. It is now playing in LA and NYC, with more cities being rolled out in the coming weeks.
Larysa Kondracki, the director and co-writer of the film spent two years researching the reality of peace-keeping operations in Bosnia before writing the script. Weiscz plays Kathyryn Balkovac, a Nebraskan cop who goes to Bosnia as a Dyncorp employee, part of the international police task force. Like many people, she chose to work overseas because of the high pay without taxes.
C.J. met director Larysa Kondracki at a special screening of The Whistleblower on Wednesday, August 3.
The first time I saw the film, I was overwhelmed with horror. It was more difficult to watch than any film on a battlefield, because the war in this movie takes place on the bodies of enslaved women. Years ago, I heard that there were more slaves in the world today than at any point in human history. I thought that was hyperbole until the cold truth was dramatized for me.
Even more shocking is that the drama is true.
Everything that is portrayed in the film actually happened. It did not necessarily happen to those characters, but it happened. The sadness and the tragedy is that not enough was done. --Madeleine Rees, former Head of Office in Bosnia and Herzegovina, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
Ms. Rees is portrayed by Vanessa Redgrave in the film. Though it may be unclear from simply watching the drama, she was instrumental in shining light on the situation in Bosnia. So much so that she was pushed out of the UN and filed a discrimination lawsuit. While Rees was able to find employment after leaving the UN (she is currently the Secretary General of Women's International League for Peace and Freedom), Balkovac is struggling to find meaningful employment, though she did publish a memoir of her experience.
Rees explains how human rights has framed her work and what she's doing now to challenge the idea that immunity equals impunity:
July 1, 2011
Social Media for Nonprofits
In June, I led a plenary discussion on communication at the national congress of Women's International League for Peace & Freedom. The idea was to introduce individual activists to social media and encourage them to participate.
Anyway, I wanted to share my background research, so here it is:
Other useful presentations:
What is Social Media - written for a business audience, but I think has useful facts that provide useful background.
SM Tactics to Meet Your Mission - good for institutional use (branch, local, national group, etc)
Foreign Affairs magazine published a long piece on the political power of social media It's a must read.
Go to website for me on the net & nonprofits:
Fascinating study which reminds why CODEPINK is more famous than WILPF in the US (that's my commentary, the study has nothing to do with either org):
Disruption: Evolving Models of Engagement and Support
May 11, 2011
Bridging the Divide: Attend a WILPF Congress as a CODEPINKer
People who know my political beliefs know that I've been expressing my views as a member of Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) since 1999. That's a long time to be involved in one volunteer activity.
People who know my recent history know that I left a successful advertising career to become the CODEPINK Bring Our War $$ Home organizer in March.
This summer, I have the opportunity to bridge the chasm between the two organizations. I'll be attending the WILPF National Congress, "End War: Local 2 Global" as a representative of CODEPINK. Hopefully, I wont go into debt to do it.
I'm excited to go to the WILPF national congress to discuss SMART campaign planning. I also look forward to discussing CODEPINK activities to end the overt and covert US-initiated wars (in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and Libya) and the illegal occupations supported by the US (in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Palestine).
When I made the leap from advertising to peace activism, my salary did not stay the same. Without a lot of support from my personal network and the WILPF community, I will go into debt for this trip.
If you believe in deeper connections within the peace movement,
If you believe women's peace activism will be stronger if closer ties are created between CODEPINK and WILPF,
If you believe my perspective is valuable for the future of WILPF,
Then I ask you to please Donate to my WILPF National Congress Travel Fund.
While I have received contributions generously donated by the WILPF LA Branch and four WILPF members, I'm still short.
Total Funds Still Needed: $557.30
After the WILPF Congress Committee let me know they are eager to have me participate as a CODEPINK representative, I applied for a scholarship from WILPF National. The scholarship committee cannot provide a full scholarship and has not yet awarded me any funding.
You may be wondering why CODEPINK isn't paying for my involvement. In the past, organizations interested in having the participation of our staff have paid transportation and lodging for the staff's participation. Additionally, the WILPF Congress is scheduled two weeks before a major activity for my CODEPINK campaign. I am deeply grateful for the flexibility CODEPINK has shown in allowing me to participate in this WILPF event.
Please support my participation in the WILPF Congress. Any amount you give will be greatly appreciated - from $5 to $500 - every little bit helps.
March 13, 2011
Felicity Hill on WILPF, the CSW, and the need for hope, humor, and horror
Felicity Hill, former WILPF UN Office Director spoke recently in NYC during the Commission on the Status of Women. I particularly agree with her recommendation that we keep hope, humor, and horror in mind when developing strategies for changing the world.
She also mentions a book written by WILPFers called Listen to Women for a Change, which is available on the PeaceWomen website as a PDF.
January 30, 2011
Uncloak the Kochs: Eyewitness Account of the Rally
As an unknown blogger, I find it interesting to watch well-known bloggers treated as members of the media, with everything from priority seating at a panel discussion to multiple quotes in mainstream press.
I also find it interesting that the entire day in Rancho Mirage was created for consciousness raising. Here's one of my tweets from today:
[from @socialupheaval] Feels lacking a real plan beyond today Answers to what action to take lacking @ #UncloakKoch panel
Here's the response I got:
[from @CommonCause] @socialupheaval there is a plan; as @VanJones68 says, 1st step is lifting consciousness. That's today. Tmrw we go forward together.Actually, what Van Jones said was that he was caught off guard being given the microphone to answer the question what action steps are next for the event. He said he didn't plan the event, Common Cause did, but if he had to answer the question, we should connect with our neighbors and increase awareness of the issues.
See here's the thing: 1,000 people show up in Rancho Mirage. Most of them traveled long distances to get to the rally. Did they not know why they were traveling out of their way for a rally?
We who spent 4+ hours traveling to and fro on Common Cause buses; we who were told we are the leaders we are waiting for - we were looking for concrete action we could take to implement the values expressed by the panelists and rally speakers. We could have formed action groups: meeting up with people from our local areas to develop plans. If Common Cause had a plan for grassroots, cross-organization movement building, their staffers who rode the buses with us could have engaged us in that vision, and helped us find a way to contribute to those clear local steps forward. Instead, we're told to enjoy our consciousness raising.
To be clear: I've been involved in progressive activism for 20 years. I still get a thrill from gathering with like-minded activists. I love that I came on a bus to the desert and met up with two different Wellesley sisters (who don't know each other). I was truly inspired by Van Jones.
But, I'm still wondering: what's next? Where do we go from here?
January 22, 2011
Challenging Corporate Personhood
The Women's International League for Peace and Freedom Los Angeles Branch hosted a teach-in today to explain the roots of corporate personhood. One of our members provided an engaging historical overview, followed by a lively discussion about how to move forward locally, and in the Southern California region.
WILPF Abolish Corporate Personhood Organizing Packet - includes sample resolutions and other actions.
If you're in Southern California, you should attend the Uncloak the Kochs rally in Palms Springs next Sunday. I reserved my seat on the bus - have you?
Sister WILPFers in Santa Cruz, California organized a demonstration to get corporations out of elections and posted this quote to Facebook:
"The greatest political reform of our time will be to abolish the legal concept of 'corporate personhood' and the inherently anti-democratic equation of money with political speech," says Bill Moyer, the energetic founder and executive director of the Backbone Campaign, the grassroots movement to embolden Americans to push back against corporate power and political corruption.
October 17, 2010
Inside Job: Pieces Explained, Now What?
Fundamentally, I agree with Nora Lee Mandel that for people who have listened to Planet Money or read books about the Great Recession, Inside Job will not provide new information on how the financial meltdown was created.
But since I've been getting most of my news consumption through the radio and podcasts, it was important to add the visual element, to put a face to the names, as it were. It's interesting that most reviews on Rotten Tomato are positive. I appreciate that Kenneth Turan in the LAT explained the director's academic origins:
Neither a film school graduate nor an ideologue, Ferguson is rather a well-connected academic who has a doctorate in political science from MIT, was a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and has been a consultant for high-tech firms such as Apple, Intel and Xerox.This explains a lot: from Ferguson's level-headed definitions, to his desire to damn the study of economics, rather than focusing heavily on government's collusion or ways that ordinary citizens can change the system.
To be clear, Ferguson's critique of economics was probably my favorite aspect of the film. It felt like a justification for my inability to "get with the program" in my International Relations courses, why I bristled at the idea that I needed to take economic courses to understand how humans, governments and corporations interact globally. The reality is that pretending that human interactions can be best explained by science is a terrible fallacy. Social sciences should put more emphasis on the social aspect of their disciplines and less faith in mathematical formulas.
For me, this documentary was another piece of evidence in an already over-flowing mountain. The US economy is rigged. Capitalism does not represent a fair playing field any more than any other economic system. Until we figure out a way to use political leagues, labor unions, and our governments to regulate corporations and support human needs, we will continue to be pawns in someone else's game.
It was frustrating to me that in an after movie discussion, a disgruntled union member challenged me to prove her union dues weren't going to election-related expenditures, rather than contacting her union local to explain where her dues are going. The bitterness on the left - the belief that the organizations we have to protect individuals are as corrupt as the rest of the system leaves people staring into their ice cream bowls, blaming the uneducated masses in the middle of the country.
Enough is enough. No organization is perfect, but I'd much rather be a union member than an at-will employee like I am currently. And while I care about the mid-term elections, while I am incredulous that people actually believe the results will be the same regardless of which political party wins, I don't think voting is the only responsibility of citizens. To create real democracy, we must be vigilant every day of the year. We must find ways to gather our voices, to be heard collectively.
That's why I'm a life member of Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. I know that locally, nationally, and globally my beliefs are shared and that together we can make a difference. While our coffers will never be as filled as those of multi-national corporations, we have the moral and political will to create a world where the needs of all people are met in a fair and equitable manner.
Do I need a Poli Sci Ph.D or Matt Damon to explain to me how to challenge the financial system? No. I'd rather every person who was angered by the documentary to do something about it: to encourage their friends to see the movie, to give money to an organization she believes is fighting the system, to volunteer for such an organization, and ultimately, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. " - Margaret Mead
To read how the other half thinks, check out Kyle Smith's review in the NY Post. Because, you see, morality does not apply to business.
Even the WSJ recommends the movie, though they falsely equate the anger you'll experience from viewing the evidence as a reason to join the Tea Party.
Wesley Morris at the Boston Globe really liked it, though I can't say I share his completely unfettered enthusiasm for the film. There were times I noticed I was watching a two hour movie, but I'm not sure that's entirely the movie's fault since I was sitting next to a woman who kept hitting me with her leg and her date who kept adding unhelpful commentary like "he's an Orthodox Jew."
I like Michael Phillips description of the movie as a funnel in the Tribune.
Predictably, Ebert loved the film. I enjoyed his personal elevator commentary.
October 12, 2010
Conflicting Values? Spiritual Guidance vs. Political Activism
I've been troubled for some time about the conflict between my political activism and my chosen spiritual leader. I tried to write an op-ed based on this tension for the WaPo America's Next Great Pundit contest. I didn't make the top 50, so I'm publishing it here.
As this round of peace negotiations unravels, the U.S. government should cut off military aid to Israel until it conforms with international law. Financial and political support from our country is the only reason Israel's forty-three year occupation of Palestine continues.
My spirituality is the bedrock of my political belief in the power of diplomacy and the importance of citizen engagement in the political process. I first learned in Hebrew School that it is my responsibility to heal the world; and like many of my generation I took that commandment to its logical conclusion – viewing myself as an unfettered agent of change, rather than a victim of anti-Semitism.
During a recent political discussion at temple, I was informed that there's no chance for peace until the U.S. and Israel cut off Hezbollah and Hamas from their primary funders in Iran. Therefore, I shouldn't be surprised, or scared, that a war against Iran will happen in the next year. According to the rabbi, the only way to get peace is through war.
Why attend a religious institution that espouses political beliefs so far from my own? I've been searching for a coherent spiritual tradition my entire life. Neither my explorations of alternative religions, nor my childhood at a conservative synagogue prepared me for the awesome power of a leader with an encyclopedic knowledge of philosophy, psychology, and religion. On my way to accepting my rabbi's Neo-Hasidic, Kabbalistic teachings, I've expanded my understanding of Plato, Freud, and even the origins of Islam.
I will never agree with him that "we are at war with an intractable enemy who has declared war on us." Nevertheless, I will continue to seek his guidance on moral and spiritual issues. And I will continue working to expand the place of ordinary citizens in global affairs, from the inclusion of women in conflict resolution per the mandate of UN Security Council Resolution 1325, to the abolition of nuclear weapons and nuclear energy, to international recognition of two states in pre-1967 borders in the Middle East.
July 18, 2010
Digital Activism, Digital Diplomacy, Digital Chasms
I just finished readin the amazing NYT article, "Digital Diplomacy," by Jesse Lichtenstein. This article is important, not just because it shows the frontier of digital statecraft, but because it proves the importance of integrating social media into policy activism.
Perhaps this point is obvious to you. If you want to influence policy, you need to engage in debate on the interwebs, not just in face-to-face meetings with diplomats or in coalition meetings with like-minded organizations.
Lichtenstein does a great job of showing how State isn't fully equipped to handle the type of engagement created by Jared Cohen and Alec Ross. While she's quick to point out the ways digital media can enhance grassroots activism, and get the USG's positions out to the masses, she overlooks a key problem: like governments, most NGOs are not equipped to handle digital activism. If you've been involved in an organization that allows social media policy and practice to be handled solely by interns, then you understand what I mean.
I'm not trying to disparage interns. Indeed, they are essential to most nonprofits. But we've got to figure out a way to integrate these new communication channels into the lifeblood of our organizations.
I'm looking forward to working with others to fill the digital chasm that exists in the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. If you've got ideas, please let me know. Because we're leaders in international peace and justice movement; and we provide the best reporting on gender and conflict and disarmament at the UN. But our social media strategy is in its infancy and our membership organization lacks a unified approached to digital activism.
May 16, 2010
The Sad State of Sunday Morning Round Tables
Ingredients of a successful round table: fill with 4 parts older white men, 1 part older white woman. Any one part can be exchanged with one of the following: younger white man, woman of color, man of color. No more than one part of the following can be included in the mix: person of color, person under 50. You may include two people under 50, if all other people on the panel look over 60.
I don't know why I'm still surprised every Sunday when there is absolutely no space allowed for a liberal voice, let alone an activist voice on ABC or NBC. The "Tea Party" is claimed as a legitimate, logical part of the political landscape, but goodness help you if you believe society has an obligation to support its individual members.
Nevermind that none of these shows have said a single word about the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference currently underway in NYC.
But let's spend all of our time talking about Elana Kagan.
Check out the photos on the Meet The Press site. Since it was the first program I watched today, it forced me to recognize the lack of diversity in these shows.
Jake Tapper is still the moderator on This Week. It is painful to watch the conservatives talk beyond him, always taking up more than half the time when a "two position" discussion is "moderated." Sadly, Senator Patrick Leahy is truly getting older and may be too slow when speaking responses to be truly effective in today's fast-paced media. Senator Jeff Sessions not only bogarted the air-time, he also appeared more coherent and comprehensive in his answers. Leahy meandered his way into calling the b.s. of Sessions' rants. I can't wait until August, when Cristianne Amanpour become the moderator.
I have to admit it - I usually hate listening to Katty Kay on The Chris Matthews Show. On today's show, I respect what she's said. Sad that it's an all-white panel discussing the racist Arizona law. Did you know there is only one person of color on the Matthew Meter? Perhaps you did. Or perhaps you gave up on the mainstream media long ago. I find it important to keep up with the official spin on how the world turns.
January 11, 2010
More Female Ambassadors in DC: More Women Leaders or Less Power for Diplomacy?
In today's Washington Post The article 'Hillary effect' cited for increase in female ambassadors to U.S., by Mary Jordan was published in today's Washington Post and highlighted in Slateist Morning Edition.
It's good to know that there are now 25 female ambassadors posted in DC (out of 182 accredited ambassadors, they represent 13.7% of all ambassadors to the US). The rise has been credited to the string of female US Secretaries of State (Albright, Rice, Clinton).
Some female ambassadors refuse to acknowledge that they might bring a different perspective to the art of diplomacy. Carolina Barco from Colombia simply wants to push free trade, though she admits being female gets her noticed. Former SecState Albright rejects the notion of women focusing on "soft issues," stating: ""They are often the hardest issues: poverty, discrimination, education and health."
I was happy to learn that Bahrain's ambassador since 2008 is Houda Ezra Ebrahim Nonoo, the first Jewish ambassador from an Arab state.
Nevertheless, I was deeply troubled by the question posed by Susan Johnson, president of the American Foreign Service Association:
Johnson said the rise in female diplomats coincides with what she sees as a shift in investment away from diplomacy and toward defense. "Is the relative feminization of diplomacy indicative of its decline as a center of power and influence?" she wonders.Indeed, one need look no further than Obama's Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech to realize that world leaders erroneously believe human security can be developed through instruments of war.
I too welcome increases in the number of women engaged in diplomacy. But we should always remember that it's not enough for us to have more seats at the table. As global citizens, we must demand that conflict resolution begin and end with nonviolent negotiations. We must explain to our fellow citizens and elected leaders that the vast majority of money spent on the military is wasted, leading to less human security, not more. And we must promote democratic institutions: from the town hall meetings to the US Congress to the United Nations as the proper arenas for conflict resolution.
January 10, 2010
Transitions in WILPF
WILPF's Secretary General, Susi Snyder, will be leaving her position effective Janaury 15.
A short video in honor of Susi's departure was made. It was compiled by our UN Office Director Anjie Rosga. We had hoped to surprise Susi by showing it at the IB meeting, but technical difficulties made that impossible. I can't bring myself to repeat the title Anjie gave the piece, because I refuse to believe this is an end; rather, another door has opened.
WILPF's Secretary General, Susi Snyder, will be leaving her position effective Janaury 15. The Executive Committee, recognizing that her participation in our governance process could not be replicated, requested that she attend the International Board meeting in India. I had the privilege of rooming with her during the meeting.
I wish we had more time for the giddy chatter we shared on my first night at the Vidyapeeth. Instead, her nights were filled with ad hoc meetings and our mornings were filled with incredible sight-seeing journeys coordinated by the Gujurat branch.
I've known Susi for seven incredible years. She came to a US Section board meeting when she was transitioning from being the director of our Reaching Critical Will project to being the head of our UN office. The leadership and vision she exhibited seven years ago have inspired me to continue putting my volunteer time into WILPF. We share a common belief in the power and need for our incredible League.
We WILPFers talk sometimes about the pressure put on our staff, but I don't know if we fully understand it. Susi has been the only full-time staff person in the Geneva office for the last 1.5 years. She represented WILPF at the UN in Geneva, pushing open the Conference on Disarmament to allow space for NGOs to speak, coordinated our sections, participated on the Executive Committee, and oversaw our UN office in New York. I've seen the toll this has taken on her emotionally and physically. So, when she announced her resignation, though I knew it was a blow for WILPF, I recognized it as a healthy step for my dear friend.
I also believe that our League's true strength lies in the coordinated efforts of thousands of women across the world, not in any one individual leader. Though Susi is among our brightest, shining stars, she's allowed us to develop individually and collectively so that we can take the next step, building our League to even greater heights as we approach our 100th anniversary. Plus, she's still a member, so I remain hopeful that she'll continue to be active in the years to come.
A short video in honor of Susi's departure was made. It was compiled by our UN Office Director Anjie Rosga. We had hoped to surprise Susi by showing it at the IB meeting, but technical difficulties made that impossible. I can't bring myself to repeat the title Anjie gave the piece, because I refuse to believe this is an end; rather, another door has opened.
cross-posted from the WILPF blog.
December 5, 2009
War, Media & The Plight of Veterans
I'm a member of the Democratic Party, but the last time I actively participated in the party, beyond voting, was 1988. It was weird to see what a local political party is like in person. The president, Cara Robin, got up and thanked everyone for coming "on behalf of the West LA Democratic Party and our co-sponsors." That's the extent to which co-sponsoring organizations were mentioned. So much for movement building. She then made cursory statement about the need for us to re-elect Barbara Boxer, support Marcy Winograd's bid for Congress, and help get California Majority Rule on the ballot.
Then she sorta introduced the first speaker, Georg-Andreas (Andrew) Pogany, from Give an Hour. He apologized for needing to read his speech from his computer. He lost his original speech, and due to a brain injury that occurred as a result of the war, he has difficulty memorizing things.
After Pogany spoke, Ms. Robin introduced the rest of the panel.
Scott Ritter is the author of Target Iran, Waging Peace, and Iraq Confidential. He is a former senior weapons inspector in Iraq.
Mr.Sheer spoke next in a dis-jointed manner that was difficult to follow for people not intimately knowledgeable about his career. Mr. Richardson spoke next and didn't give a complete explanation of Ramparts magazine, since 30% of the audience raised their hands to say they knew what it was. (His short definition: it brought muckraking journalism back to the mainstream. Shortly after it won the prestigious Polk Award, CBS premiered 60 Minutes and the Pentagon Papers were published by the Washington Post.)
After hearing an explanation of why Martin Luther King, Jr came out against the Vietnam war that started with Sheer telling the end of the story and Richardson telling the beginning and middle, I started wondering if I was really at a panel about the experiences of veterans in war or if I was at another panel on the history of the peace & justice movement.
I don't mean to disparage the speakers. Pogany, Sheer, and Richardson had important messages to give. They just weren't all talking about veterans. And ultimately, I was more inspired by Ritter's speech than those of his fellow panelists.
Eventually, Mr. Ritter spoke. His insightful, biting commentary was just what you'd expect from a former military man: sprinkled with profanity, cutting to the heart of the manner with no b.s. I found it interesting that several audience members were offended by the way he spoke, telling him afterward that he didn't make a solid case. Here's the abbreviated version of what he said:
We're here because of veterans. No matter what they look like physically, military will never be the same when they come back from war. The process of preparing our youth for war, changes a person forever.
When you are born into this world, you are not programmed to do what the military programs you to do. We can throw whatever rhetoric we want out there: An Army of One. Navy: A Global Force for Good. The truth is join the military and learn to take human life. You're either directly taking it or supporting people taking life. The military exists for one reason only: to kill human beings. We're taking human beings and de-humanizing them.
Audience member asked a question, stating that "cleaning up the mess we began" is a strong argument for keeping the US military in Afghanistan. How do you propose we clean up the mess in a different way?
First of all, it is the quintessential American issue. We live by the Pottery Barn rule: you break it, you own it. It really does work, sort of. What happens when you insert the elephant into the china shop? Shit, buy new china. The ultimate way to resolve it is get the elephant out of the china shop. Afghanistan is a horrifically complicated place. Is Holbrooke going to speak any of the native languages of Afghanistan? If we're going to take a 20 year old kid from Poughkeepsie, NY or Santa Cruz, CA then we should give him the 11 years of education to understand the language and culture at a pH.D level before going there. Otherwise, we shouldn't send him there. We don't have the tool set to fix it. The people best equipped to fix Afghanistan are the Afghan people themselves.
It's time to get the bull out of the china stop. US citizens need to stop seeing the US as the global policeman. We need to embrace internationalism and work through the United Nations to help people create politically viable nation states. We need to begin diplomacy with human beings, not machine guns.
It's not enough to read books and listen to Democracy Now! We must be engaged citizens. We must hold politicians accountable: not just by voting, but by working together to create a critical mass of political will for peace and justice. Join the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom and help create the change so desperately needed.
It's time to expose the fallacy of the paradigms espoused by the meritocracy and political elite. It's time to assert that another way is possible. WILPF is the way global citizens of all genders can create non-violent social upheaval.
And yes, we need to support veterans. We need to support veterans of both genders, recognizing not just PTSD, but also the horrific levels of rape faced by our female soldiers. I do not believe in war. I do not believe there is a conflict best solved by violence. But I do believe that veterans deserve mental and physical health services and they deserve re-training. Not another 2 for 1 pizza coupon or vehicle discount, but real health services for them and their families.
December 3, 2009
US to Escalate Destabilization of Afghanistan
Tuesday night was a turning point in the Obama presidency. All weekend, details of his "plan" leaked out in the political media. So I had plenty of advanced warning that like many foolish presidents before him, Obama thinks he can save the world by occupying it with the US military. So many people are so hopeful for the leadership he supposedly offers. Sure, he's said some pretty rhetoric about nuclear disarmament. But what does any of that talk - or his Nobel Peace Prize mean when the man does not recognize that Human Beings Live in Afghanistan. He talked about the Taliban and al Qaeda, but never about poverty or corruption, war lords or illegitimate presidents. And then he had the gall to end his speech hoping that we all join in unity, like we did after 9-11.
Let's be clear about something: if you have to rely on pandering to the fears created by the horrific terrorist attack on US soil in 2001 to unify your audience, then you've failed to make a persuasive argument.
Yet, he did. And there are so many people who think he's right. I'll admit something: eight years ago, I thought the US military would be useful to bring women out of the shadows of Afghanistan and create space for all people of the country to create a real nation. How foolish I was. And how foolish the US political elite continues to be.
Obama's Afghanistan strategy relies on everything that is wrong with international relations. IR focuses on Power: you must be a war lord, terrorist, state leader, or corporation to be meaningful in a discussion based on "realist" theory. The men who created this paradigm thought so highly of their beliefs that anyone daring to oppose them were derided as "idealists."
I'm tired of these standards of discourse. Poverty, political corruption, and social instability have never been resolved by military occupation. Flooding Afghanistan with English speaking US soldiers and US-paid mercenaries serves one purpose: it props up the corrupt, illegitimate Karzai government and gives carte blanche to warlords wielding power in the name of fighting terror.
I accepted the reality of international relations seven years ago, when I made the decision to stop pursuing a career in the foreign service. The paradigm shifts needed to create real human security are so massive: non-violent social upheaval is simply the only way to make it happen. And I can't help move the world towards needed paradigm shifts from a job serving the US Empire.
Tuesday's speech depressed me. It's depressing not just because the most recent Nobel Peace Prize winner fundamentally does not understand how to create global peace. It's depressing because to explain the faults in his reasoning requires a level of sophistication in political discourse that simply does not exist in the US mainstream media. The only place I've heard a bit of common sense on the topic was Josef Joffe, a German publisher/editor on "To The Point" explaining that Europeans, after experiencing two horrific wars on their soil in the 20th century, think diplomacy is the best way to solve international disputes and create nation states.
Remember, Europeans did not find these beliefs by sitting in ivory towers, thinking up ways to rule the world. The true horror of war, the disgusting indiscriminate nature of aerial bombings and painfully slow path to reconstruction taught them the simple truth: War Is Never The Answer. Period. Full Stop.
You may call me an idealist, but I believe I am the true realist. I have seen the core of human nature, I have seen the destruction of war and I say firmly: the US military is not a liberating force. The US fails to live up to UN Security Council Resolution 1325, which mandates women's equal participation in conflict resolution. Fighting terrorists through mercenaries, the US military, and corrupt warlords does not create human security for US citizens or Afghans.
The US Government has chosen the path to further destabilization of Afghanistan.
At this crucial moment in world history, will you silently ascent to the senseless deaths of more US soldiers and Afghans? Or will you take a stand for real justice?
Things to do:
- Sign the Code Pink petition against Endless Occupation.
- Join Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. We work tirelessly to challenge and change the root causes of war and injustice at the local, national, and international level.
- Explain your opposition to the hopeless military escalation to your friends, family, and co-workers.
- Chastise mainstream media for excluding articulate anti-war voices from their political talk shows. Ask how balanced a panel is when no one on it rejects the paradigm of IR realism.
- Find a way to create peace in your own life so that your anger doesn't consume you: depression, though a logical response to this endless war, only poisons you.
November 22, 2009
Institution Building: Civil Society is Key Ingredient for Nonviolent Paradigm Shifts
People often find this blog when trying to understand what social upheaval is. There are many possible answers, but the definition I use is: nonviolent paradigm shift.
Globally, militarism, patriarchy, and free-trade capitalism are fundamental pillars of human interaction. I believe social upheaval is needed to create a society where the economy is based on human needs, where all people participate equally in the political process, and the use of physical force is severely limited, replaced by diplomacy.
Civil society is the key ingredient to accomplishing these goals. The institutions of civil society, such as Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, provide individuals with a way to participate in the political process with as much legitimacy and weight as any political party or corporation.
While I believe helping individuals and communities succeed within the current global paradigm through development activities is important, development work does not create new systems of social and political equality.
WILPF makes it its duty to further by non-violent means the social transformation that enables the inauguration of systems under which social and political equality and economic justice for all can be attained, without discrimination on the basis of sex, race, religion, or any other grounds whatsoever.The League's focus on education and political action helps hold politicians accountable and provides people an opportunity to participate in the social upheaval needed to transform the world.
I fervently believe individuals working collectively through NGOs are the key ingredient to creating a better future.
What are you doing to create peace and justice?
November 15, 2009
The Journey Toward India Continues
My visa application (including my actual passport) has been sent to the Indian consulate in San Francisco. I've submitted forms to the Cedars-Sinai travel clinic to find out what shots I need before I go. And I bought a ticket. Almost.
I was awarded a Kay Camp Travel Grant and I've received an incredible amount of support from individual donors. So I think I have fulfilled my fundraising goals for this conference. That is, unless something goes wrong with my flights.
I used trip.com to find flights on multiple travel sites. It was annoying - since each travel site popped up as a new window, but it saved me money. Except, now I'm beholden to Travelocity in a weird way. I booked flights on Air India through Travelocity, flying across the globe. My departure takes me through Japan and Singapore before arriving in Mumbai. My return takes me through Frankfurt (and maybe Jersey) before returning to LA.
And then I got an email from Travelocity yesterday that my flights aren't confirmed. So I called. And after a long wait, and a confusing conversation with an operator, was told that I needed to call back after 8:30 a.m. India Standard Time. So I called back and spoke with a more confident operator who left me on hold for over 10 minutes while she spoke to Air India. Apparently, I was wait-listed on two of my four flights, but I'm now confirmed on 3 of the flights. I have to call Travelocity back on Wednesday or Thursday to see if I've gotten off the wait list on my first flight. If not, Air India will rebook me. But all of this must be completed by November 23. I suppose I really should have taken the operator's name or some way of confirming that this conversation happened, since my entire trip depends on actually arriving in India.
Why didn't I just cancel the reservation and rebook? Well, flights to India are at least $500 more than the price I "paid." So, it's possible I'll need to keep raising money around this trip.
I'll have about a week to be a tourist in Mumbai and Ahmedabad (with a train ride between them) before settling into 5 days of nonstop peace organizing. This Wednesday, I'll be participating in a conference call to discuss how I can help with the workshop "Strategic Planning and Campaign Building in a Digital Age."
The next six months will be a historical transition point for WILPF as an organization. I am hopeful that my integrated marketing expertise and ten year history with the organization will allow me to be a positive participant in our ongoing work.
October 31, 2009
WILPF Communications and Fundraising Update
This week, I completed the International Communications Committee Report for the International Board meeting.
I also began receiving donations towards my participation in the January, 2010 WILPF IB Meeting, for which I am eternally grateful. To date, I have received $390 towards the trip from individuals. (Some of these donations came through PayPal, which charges a fee for its service, so the net donation amount is $382.13.)
I'm also pleased to report that I was awarded a Kay Camp Travel Grant. I wasn't informed what the amount of the grant will be, though I hope it was for $600 (the maximum available).
My current fundraising goal is $1,217.87.
My next goals: summarize the last WILPF LA bulletin into a one-page explanation of WILPF, for distribution at an upcoming Southern California Regional Conference of Organizations meetings.
After that, I'll begin working on a document to explain what communications strategy is and why it is vital to effectively distributing WILPF's messages.
October 26, 2009
In a time of economic uncertainty, I want you to help me go to India
I need your financial support to travel to India. Here's why:
I have been an active WILPF member for 10 years. I served two terms on the national board. I am a life member, having paid $500 for the privilege of having a membership that never expires. Currently, I am the convener of the international WILPF Communications Committee, which makes me a member of the International Board. I am also active on the Los Angeles branch board. I am raising money to attend the next WILPF International Board meeting.
In the recent past, I was the editor of the US Section E-Newsletter. (2008 through May, 2009. Several of my early pieces were not gathered on the E-News Archive Page.)
Why should you care? Because WILPF is vital to the future of peace and justice in the world. Because the institution is at a crossroads, in desperate need of forward movement that builds on the incredible analytical work of its founders.
Four years ago, I switched careers and became a direct marketer. While my professional career limits the amount of time I can commit to WILPF, it also enhances the skill set I bring to the organization. I now have the ability to create a communication strategy around the programmatic work of my sister WILPFers.
Like many WILPFers, I can articulate our perspectives on the world verbally and in prose. The reason I believe my participation in this meeting is vital is because I am also an integrated marketing professional. I am the translator WILPF needs: I can articulate our complicated, diplomatic language into simple English. The simplification of our message is vital in a world full of conscientious people who are overwhelmed by their personal daily struggles and deluged with the chatter of other issue advocacy organizations.
I need to raise $1,500 in the next 3 weeks to make this happen. Can you help? No amount is too small.
WILPF is not just the oldest women's peace organization.
We're also at the forefront of international cooperation. WILPF was intimately involved in the negotiations that created UN Security Council Resolutions 1325, 1820, and 1888.
We also work to create a critical mass of political will for nuclear disarmament.
WILPFers work to create peace from the ground up. Our national sections choose foci that are important for their locale. In the US, our members work in local branches and national committees to challenge the status quo. We believe in human rights, dismantling the military industrial complex, and protecting the environment. We believe women's equal participation in all levels of society, including politics, is vital to the future of the world. We founded the first wave of feminism, and we'll keep riding its waves until the strength of our convictions has permanently altered the political landscape.
Does it sound like we have too many issues? That's because separation is a modern fallacy: society is inter-connected. The radiation leaked by nuclear power plants and nuclear warheads has the same effect: increasing the rates of cancer (particularly thyroid cancer). The list goes on. WILPFers before me said it best:
It will be a great day when our schools get all the money they need and the Air Force has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber.
I have applied for funds from the Kay Camp Travel Fund, administered by the Jane Addams Peace Association (JAPA is WILPF's 501(c)3 sister organization). I am also seeking assistance from my local branch. Maximum award from the Kay Camp fund is $600 and the total budget for this trip (visa, flight, conference registration) is currently $2,200. Amount will fluctuate every day until I secure the visa and purchase the airfare.
September 15, 2009
Women Deserve Political Power, Not Just Micro-Loans
Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn provided the cover story for a recent NY Times Magazine issue. The article is titled "Why Women's Rights Are the Cause of Our Time."
To be honest, I found it frustrating to read about women's burgeoning economic prospects with scant contemplation of our political and social rights.
In a letter to the editor, WILPF member Robin Lloyd pointed out that women's rights are guaranteed under international law: the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and, UN Security Council Resolution 1325.
Yet, no one is crying out for the implementation of these laws. In October, 2008, the UN Working Group on Women, Peace & Security addressed the Security Council and reminded them of the following statistics: Since 2000, women averaged 7% of negotiators in five major UN peace processes. Fewer than 3% of the signatories in 14 peace talks were women. Read the statement in its entirety. (pdf)
At what point will the mainstream columnists start demanding the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 and 1820? At what point will they recognize that not including women in conflict resolution is a major cause of instability in Iraq and Afghanistan? It's no shock that capitalism works or that most women will spend more money on family needs than booze. What is frustrating is people focusing solely on economic empowerment and staying absolutely silent on the need for women's equal involvement in the political sphere.
The magazine also made me wonder about Western prescriptions for development vs. home-grown solutions.
Should we be developing a universal blueprint for increasing women's involvement in conflict resolution, politics in general, and economics? Should we be spending more time learning from the women on the ground in conflict areas / developing countries? What's the best way to do both (push for universal human rights / implementation of UN resolutions and learn from / support women on the ground?)
I look forward to developing answers to these questions with my sister WILPFers. We've got sections around the world. Our founding mothers were determined to bring women's voices into the halls of power. And we'll continue to do so. Want to help? Donate to WILPF today.
Want to get even more involved? Become a WILPF member (all genders invited).
September 6, 2009
Israeli Settlement Expansion Creates Turmoil, not Peace
On Friday, the LA Times reported that the Israeli government decided to "slow down" rather than halt the expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. This surprised the Obama administration, which has called for a settlement freeze. Palestinians believe this proves the Israeli government has no interest in peace negotiations.
This news breaks my heart.
Former President Jimmy Carter wrote an op-ed in today's Washington Post highlighting the destructive nature of Israeli settlement expansion and the glimmer of hope provided by cross-border partnerships.
As a peace activist, I find it difficult to maintain hope for peace in the Middle East. The military and economic power of the Israeli government has been used for the last 61 years to occupy and subjugate Palestine, with the support of the US government. As a Jew, I am torn between my deep love of my religious heritage and ethnicity, and the belligerent political state created in my name.
As a practicing Jew, the actions of the Israeli government often feel other-worldly to me. I cannot understand how a tradition that has created some of the strongest social justice leaders throughout time has also created such belligerence. We've been persecuted throughout history, and we tend to use that persecution as a coat of invulnerability.
I believe East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza should be a sovereign country and that Israelis have no right to that land. I believe the Israeli government has the upper hand in this conflict and that Israel chooses to fight its neighbors rather than make peace.
The justification I hear most often for Israel not coming to the peace table is that Palestinians want to wipe Israel off the face of the map, so how can you negotiate with people who don't share a common world view? I cannot accept this premise: yes, some Palestinians do not want to recognize a Jewish political state; but if Israelis decided to recognize the legitimacy of the Palestinian state, chose to allow Palestinians the right of self-determination (including full citizenship for Palestinian Israelis), and chose to create economic partnership with their neighbors rather than security walls, then the militants would have less power on both sides of the conflict.
- Read the Israeli WILPF Statement Joining the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Campaign (pdf)
- Join WILPF: support citizen diplomacy for creating peace in the Middle East. WILPF has sections in Israel, Palestine, and Lebanon. (The above link allows you to join the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, United States Section. To donate to our international organization, click here.)
- Write to your local paper: call for peace negotiations and question the Israeli government's commitment to peace as they expand settlements in Occupied Palestine
- Review the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation's resources on challenging US policy.
June 7, 2009
I'll be a Post-Feminist in the Post-Patriarchy
I don't know why I torture myself on Sundays. I've dedicated this entire weekend to self preservation, but lately I've been starting my Sundays with some mild torture.
See, on Sundays I clean (up to a week's worth of) dishes, chop vegetables, and make myself breakfast. I listen to / watch the Sunday morning talk shows while doing this. And thus remind myself of how far from the mainstream my views are.
It seems like every female pundit on the planet firmly believes she lives in a post-feminist world. They laud Michelle Obama as the poster girl for post-feminist femininity. I often wonder what alternative reality this mindless hypocrites live in. Why must they disparage the evolution of women's place in public society by denouncing all demands for equality? Why do they accept the right-wing definition of "feminism"? Why do so many intelligent people define feminism as the movement of middle-class white women to assert their ability to go to work?
Let's be clear: feminism did not start with The Feminine Mystique. Further, acknowledging your right to be a girly housewife does not make me a post-feminist. Believing that society has already achieved gender equality is the most myopic, Eurocentric statement a Westerner can make. Pray tell, how does rape as a weapon of war fit into your post-feminist construct? What about the lack of affordable child care? Or how about the fact that most US'ians can't decide to allow one parent to stay home with the kids because there is no middle class left in this country and two incomes are mandatory to survive?
Look, I fully acknowledge that I am a lucky woman who lives in an extraordinary time. My professional opportunities are not hampered by my gender (though as a thyroid cancer survivor, my need for adequate health care does limit career paths).
But there is so much more to be done. Binary gender does not adequately explain the human condition. Physical anatomy cannot be used to assign gender identities. Around the world, women are not equal. They suffer a disproportionate burden in conflict regions. Western countries daily violate United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325, which mandates women's equal involvement in conflict and post-conflict resolution. Want to know why Iraq and Afghanistan are more screwed up now than 7 years ago? A major reason is that the US government and its coalition of the willing blindly ignored the women of those countries as necessary, influential, and important partners in peace building.
Stop telling me that wearing makeup on a daily basis and getting excited about going on dates with my boyfriend make me a post-feminist. Stop telling the American people we live in a gender-neutral society. Stop defining feminism as bra-burning, man-hating lesbians.
Until women hold 50% of elected offices, until every workplace is family friendly, until women are equal participants in conflict resolution, until rape and sexual violence cease to exist, feminism will continue. The movement for gender equality will not die simply because it is an uncomfortable notion to the mainstream American punditry.
I will be a post-feminist in the post-patriarchy.
March 27, 2009
Live Blogging at Women, Action, and the Media Conference
Check out the WILPF blog for my live posts.
I'm at a pre-conference intensive on PR.
September 28, 2008
Nuclear Non-Proliferation: World Security Hacked by US Corporations
Nuclear proliferation is one of the gravest threats facing the world. It was even one of the few substantive foreign policy issues discussed during the recent US presidential debate. And yet, the United States government has actively worked to diminish the effectiveness of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
First, the USG supported the creation of the Israeli nuclear warheads, the biggest open secret mocking the effectiveness of the NPT. Then, the USG actively worked to disrupt the diplomatic process at NPT review conferences. Under extreme pressure from the USG, the nuclear suppliers group issued an exemption to India, allowing any country to sell it nuclear supplies despite the fact that India refuses to sing the NPT. And now, the US Congress is poised to open the floodgates to US nuclear trade with India.
WILPF issued a statement on the Nuclear Supplier's group decision to exempt India from joining the NPT before selling it nuclear supplies.
WILPF's Reaching Critical Will project created a backgrounder on the US-India deal, available here.
The House of Representatives passed the trade agreement yesterday. Earlier this week, NPR's Morning Edition had a report explaining the intense pressure exerted by industry lobbyists to suspend Congressional rules for review of such trade agreements. Unfortunately, the lobbyists for global security were not as well funded as the military industrial complex.
Proponents of the trade deal say US corporations will lose out to French and Russian nuclear dealers if the US law wasn't immediately changed. They say India will of course only use the technology to keep its nuclear power generators operating. Yet the only way to ensure that will happen is to force India to sign the NPT and the world community, including the US Congress, has severely diminished the effectiveness of this vital treaty by accepting India's refusal to comply with international norms.
There's no need for me to even mention the environmental and human damage caused by nuclear power in this argument. Even if you think it's a good thing to expose the world to increased levels of thyroid cancer and other health problems, it's impossible to argue that it's a good thing to expose the world to more nuclear weapons.
Today is a sad day for global security. It scares me that this horrific development didn't warrant more than a below-the-fold article on page 19 in the Sunday NY Times. While no nonproliferation experts were quoted in the article, they did at least note there is more opposition to the deal in India than there is in the US. More proof that the political process in this country is completely broken.
April 16, 2008
Malicious Attack Takes Down Women's Peace Organization Website
Someone hacked into WILPF's server through a subdomain and brought down the entire US Section network's online capabilities. Since Tuesday evening, wilpf.org has been unavailable. All online property has been compromised, including our email addresses and member listservs.
Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, US Section Acting Executive Director Laura Roskos is working with our web consultant and web hosting service to resolve the problem. Priority is being given to getting our website back online and investigations will continue to pinpoint the cause of the problem.
WILPF is the oldest women's peace organization, dedicated to women's participation in all political decision-making processes, a cessation of violence, and the creation of a just and peaceful world. Two of our foremothers are the only American women (so far) to win Nobel Peace Prizes: Jane Addams and Emily Greene Balch.
You may have heard of our Great Day slogan: "It will be a great day when our schools get all the money they need and the Air Force has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber."
Support WILPF - Purchase Great Day Products from Northern Sun. WILPF copyrighted that sentence in 1978 and receives royalties for all products sold featuring our slogan and children in a playground image.
Read about our work to expand the reach of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace, and security at our Peace Women Project website.
Learn about Creating a Critical Mass of Political Will for Nuclear Disarmament at our Reaching Critical Will website.
The above two projects are coordinated by WILPF international and reside on a more secure server.
April 6, 2008
Gender: Harder to Forget Than Ethnicity
Let me be clear: if one must make a hierarchy of inequality, white privilege affords me greater access into the halls of power than being a woman diminishes. Nevertheless, as a woman, my voice is less powerful than my male counterpart, particularly when advocating for peace and justice. How often are women dismissed as having "motherly inclinations" towards peace, incapable of understanding the harsh necessity of war? How often must our national leaders who happen to be female castrate themselves on the decks of warships to assure a foolish electorate that they are man enough to command an army?
Nicholas Kristof has a powerful Op-Ed in today's NYT, "Our Racist, Sexist Selves," that reminds us of the power of genitals. I speak plainly because this truth is so often denied in both the mainstream media and popular culture: Women Are Not Equal. The Women's Movement Cannot Be Dead. There Is Much That Still Needs to Be Done to Create Gender Equality. Los Derechos de Las Mujeres Son Los Derechos de Humanidad.
Until we start talking about the real ethnic differences that divide us, and the common humanity that unites us;
Until free-trade capitalism's reliance on extreme economic disparity is confronted;
Until democratic dialog inspires as much participation as American Idol voting,
the Movements for Change must continue.
January 29, 2008
Collective Punishment in Gaza
Gaza was sealed off from receiving any humanitarian aid in an egregious form of collective punishment.
Over the weekend, Gazans were able to break through the Rafah border with Egypt and streamed into that country to do heinous things...like buying groceries and petrol.
Egypt is now sealing that border and residents of the Egyptian town of Rafah have been quoted as worried that Egyptians will starve because the Palestinians are buying all of their food.
In the meantime, the Israeli and US governments continue to justify this collective punishment - illegal under international law - by reminding people of militant rocket fire into the Israeli city Sderot.
For an Israeli historian's perspective on "the genocide" of Gaza, see "The Israeli Recipe For 2008: Genocide in Gaza, Ethnic Cleansing in the West Bank," by Ilan Pappe in the Indypendent of NY
Israeli humanitarian organizations tried to get aid into Gaza and were stopped by the Israeli government. Read about their interaction with their Palestinian neighbors on Al Jazeera.
UN Relief and Works Agency, the UN agency tasked with helping Palestine
UN News Centre, a roundup of official UN body discussions related to the Middle East
To be clear: I do not support violence. There is no justification for rocket attacks on Sderot. Just as importantly, the racist attitudes of the US and Israeli governments has justified inhumane and illegal treatment of the Palestinian people. Palestinians are not subhumans bent on killing every Jew. Palestinians are human beings who deserve the ability to make their own democratic choices and deserve freedom of movement, freedom from collective punishment, and freedom from the land and water grabs of their Israeli neighbors.
December 31, 2007
Social Upheaval in 2008
A lot has happened in the world in 2007. I didn't keep up with the news in the past year the way I did in previous years - you can read about some of what I was up to on angelheaded hipster, my other blog. I even forgot that Time named "You" person of the year.
The mainstream media has been focused on the 08 presidential race horse race since at least January 07. More air time was spent on Sunday morning talk shows discussing candidates' relative viability in Iowa and New Hampshire than was spent discussing the substantial policy positions that differentiate them. Scariest statistic learned from this over-flow of information: only 5.7% of eligible voters participate in the 2004 Iowa caucuses. Tell me again why Angelenos live in too big of a city to have our votes count equally with those in rural states.
Elections haven't been going well around the world - among corruption charges, Kenya's elections are bloodier than normal (yes, sadly, violence is a regular aspect of national elections there). They aren't going well in Pakistan either, where Benazir Bhutto lost her life attempting to bring democracy back to a country plagued by military dictatorship buttressed by US foreign aid. Many in the US think democracy is duking it out with socialism in Venezuela, but personally I think the story is more complicated than that.
I'm looking forward to a New Year when people's movements for change encourage more people to get involved in social change. I look forward to more people believing they can make a difference - when more people delve deeply into the issues that intertwine us all, make their voices heard, and start building the nonviolent movements for change that will create the social upheaval needed to build a more just, peaceful world.
I believe we will be the change we wish to see in 2008. I believe together we will change the world. I believe 2008 will be more peaceful and just. I look forward to the New Year.
Want to support women's advocacy for peace & justice both in the US and throughout the world? Then give a tax deductible contribution to the Jane Addams Peace Association.
December 16, 2007
Activism in Perspective
In the last month, two extremely important women in my life died. One had lived a full life, the other was taken well before her time.
I don't pretend to have all the answers. My belief in the Women's International League and its members is based on my observations of the peace, justice, and women's movements in historical perspective. It is difficult for me to hold firmly to that long-term view while dealing with the immediate realities of grief and mourning.
I hope as we move forward in our struggles for peace & justice we remember our individual and institutional fallibility. Though we are not perfect, we are all striving towards the same basic goal: a world at peace where all human needs are met equitably. I hope we will continue to work together to achieve those goals, by constructively supporting each other's work. I fear that our institutional progress may be undermined by our current financial crisis and eagerness to lay blame on particular individuals.
I look forward to helping the WILPF increase its presence within the movements for peace & justice and expanding its membership. I apologize if my last post seemed unnecessarily negative - sometimes, I deal with my frustrations publicly. Usually, I try to maintain a veil between my personal angst and public persona. I hope my sister WILPFers can forgive my transgression and we can work together to create the WILPF needed to create peace & justice in the world.
November 28, 2007
Creating an Institution for Peace
There are two reasons that I don't blog on a regular basis: one, I have a truly full-time job and cannot spend time during the workday researching or writing and two, I have dedicated 85% of my free time to WILPF. (The other 15% is spent watching teevee.)
I have chosen not to write about the internal mechanisms of WILPF on this extremely public blog. While I will continue to refrain from delving into intra-personal conflict details that are best resolved through other fora, I feel it's time to address some of my WILPF work in a public forum.
Being a Member of the National Board
I've been accused of being power hungry and squandering the organization's resources on petty junkets to gab with my sister board members. The board, through a strategic planning process, is planning to restructure the composition of the next board. We have engaged stakeholders in the planning process, though they do not have equal decision-making authority. We are rolling out the vision through a series of conference calls this week with our national membership. This process has been demoralizing and fatiguing. While many people (include my local branch board) are supportive of the process, others choose to criticize and berate us for the format through which we are making changes. Rather than ask for background on the work of the board and the reasons the current board is considering a restructuring, members have decided that the position titles they prefer should be added to the next term. In the next breath, we are denounced for focusing solely on the structural needs of the organization and not spending enough time discussing the political underpinnings of the organization. Furthermore, our organization's financial precariousness is apparently caused solely by the lack of vigorous fundraising at the board level.
I have to admit that this whole discussion makes me question my unwavering support for the oldest women's peace organization. Unlike many US members, I became involved in WILPF because of my intellectual appreciation for the institution. As a peace & justice studies scholar, I learned the importance of strong civil institutions to hold governments and corporations in check. Without a strong institution, the best political rhetoric and most intriguing banners and actions wont make lasting change in this world. I think many of my sister WILPFers have more in common with the anarchists I've met in the blogosphere, than they do with the founding mothers of WILPF. Their disparaging comments on serious review of national structure is flabbergasting to me. Apparently, great program alone is the way to making our organization thrive.
As the National Program Chair, I know part of the criticism thrust at me is that I spend too much time trying to herd cats rather than do action. I'm never quite clear what action I'm supposed to be doing - as a trained organizer, I'm trying to give people the tools to lead our multi-issue organization, rather than be the leader of a fiefdom. Alas, volunteer efforts ebb and flow as the other areas of life creep in and snatch away time (illness and family obligations are the two major culprits in removing activists from our midst). And sometimes, I'll be honest, I disagree with the paths chosen by my sister activists. I believe writing this blog on a regular basis would be a better contribution to the social upheaval needed to create peace & justice in this world than wasting time writing letters to the editors of mainstream newspapers. Similarly, I don't want to spend my time organizing marches or rallies. But I respect the people who choose those paths of activism. I choose to deeply engage in issues and to write and speak about the hypocrisy and injustice in the world, rather than marching or holding honk for peace signs.
For the last several years, I've spent the majority of my time trying to create a structure that better supports the activism within WILPF and the greater peace & justice movement. Every time I read about rape as a war crime and how the international community consistently turns a blind eye, I remember why I'm involved in a women's peace organization. Every time I see misogyny on t.v. - be it the dozens of "models" on Deal or No Deal or the inability for a female contestant to win the audience's votes on Dancing with the Stars - I am reminded why even in this country, it is vitally important for women to stand together for peace & justice.
But I am tired. I'm serving my second three-year term on this board. During my first term, I watched my mentors quit - as they realized deep involvement with the org was not aligned with their personal commitments to peace & justice, because the org refused to change its parochial, upper middle class, older white women's closed society ways. During my second term, I watched the younger members of the board leave to focus more on their work (leaving me to wonder why I spent my 20s focused on WILPF rather than my paid work), and my best friend move onto involvement at the international level. I am very grateful that there are term limits and I cannot stand for another term on the board (unless I ran for President). I am tired of spending my life on this organization. Don't get me wrong - I'm a life member, and I'm not going away. Next June, I'll step down as Program Chair, but I'll still be the co-convener of the International Communications Committee and I'll still be involved in the Los Angeles branch. Hopefully, this break from involvement at the national level will allow me the room to breathe. To not wake up every day thinking about WILPF - to allow myself to create the semblance of a social life. I am hopeful that the next wave of board members will have the strength to continue implementing the strategic vision this board began.
To learn more about the US Section of WILPF, check out our website.
To learn more about Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, check out our international site.
Peace Women is an international WILPF project that monitors the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325, which mandates women's equal participation in conflict and post-conflict resolution.
Reaching Critical Will is an international WILPF project that believes it will take a critical mass of political will for nuclear disarmament.
The Jane Addams Peace Association is educational affiliate of WILPF. Named for our famous, Nobel Peace Prizing winning, founding member, tax deductible donations to WILPF's peace work can be made through JAPA.
For more information on the Los Angeles branch, please email wilpfla AT yahoo DOT com.
September 13, 2007
UN Adopts Rights of Indigenous People
Today the UN General Assembly adopted The Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People. Interestingly, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, and the United States voted against it. Work on this declaration began in 1982, which either shows you how long it takes to write a document in the UN or tells you a lot of thought went into this declaration.
It's non-binding, but is supposed to set a minimum standard for future laws. The Kiwi government rep said they fully support indigenous rights, but that the declaration goes against their constitution, treaties, and laws. I guess they were looking at the broadest possible interpretation, rather than focusing on the symbolic use of a rights declaration. The US'ers complained about being shut out from negotiations on the text of the declaration (perhaps because my country is being represented by people who would rather blow up the UN building than seriously work within multinational organizations). I imagine the Canadians and Aussies are also afraid of rampant reparations demands, since like the Kiwis and US'ers they stole their countries from indigenous people.
On the positive side, 143 countries voted in favor of the declaration.
September 11, 2007
Support the UN Human Rights Council
It is a shame that the UN Human Rights Council has been unable to take strong stances on more issues in the world. I am not an expert on UN reform, so I cannot speak to what is holding it back from completely denouncing the genocide in Darfur. I do know that the US government looks like morons for trying to cut off funding to the organization. The US Congress claims that the council is bias against Israel - biased because it has denounced Israel's illegal occupation of Palestine and Israel's illegal war on Lebanon. It is a testamount to the Israel Lobby (both Jewish and Gentile), that cutting off funding to the Council has bipartisan support in the US.
Please tell your Congressional representatives that the only way to further human rights is to support the international organization created to enforce them. Human Rights for All People - not just those who look like us.
July 26, 2007
The Congress Closed
The Congress has officially closed. The new officers are convening an International Board meeting (formerly IEC mtg). I'm wrapping up my blogging from Congress - for the next 2 days I will truly be on vacation. Adios por Santa Cruz!
Observer's Report: Recounted 3 times to make sure there were no mistakes.
80 eligible to vote, 2 votes disallowed. Sometimes people didn't mark 4 choices for Vice-President
Regina - 37
Kirsten & Annelise - 40
Hannan - 0
Samira - 55
Amaparo - 41
Kozue - 61
Marta - 40
Martha Jean - 38
Nadine - 3
Kirsten & Annelise (Co-President)
Samira, Felicity, Amparo, Kozue (Vice-Presidents)
Waiting for Election Results
While we wait for the EC to count ballots, we approved several items. First, a change to the aims & principles.
Then Special Advisor to the UN re-accepted.
Reps to UNESCO approved.
Reps to FAO approved.
Reps to Intl Labour Org (ILO) approved.
Reps to ICC: next mtg is in NYC, therefore decision delayed.
With no other non-controversial items to approve, we were dismissed for a 15 minute break.
Resolutions and Election Committee Reports
The Resolutions Committee suggests that we pass a ME resolution in principle, but wait until the Palestinian Section approves the resolution and statement before it becomes official. Our Israeli Palestinian sister, Taghrid, strenously objected to this approach, explaining that our work is based on past work and that the ME Committee wants the organization to move forward immediately. Our Lebanese sister, Samira, agreed with Taghrid and urged us to pass the resolution & statement and trust the work of the women in the committee.
Resolutions are distributed to all sections, relevant governments, and UN entitites.
All resolutions in the packet distributed to tables were passed, some with the understanding that further work on language would happen. The ME Committee agreed to a one week period to smooth the language and confer with the Palestinian Section.
Election Committee Report
Introduction to the process.
Received a written vote from one delegate who had to leave before the vote. The Constitution is silent on this issue, but the Committee feels the vote cannot be accepted because this is a controversial election. EC suggests that the Constitution be amended to clarify this issue for the future.
Preferential Voting - a process that EC recommends someone write a report and present to the IB.
We want to propose that the counting of the votes be done with observers. We thought this would be a good opportunity allow Y-WILPF to be part of the process. They asked for Y-WILPFers who were not voting delegates to volunteer to be observers in the counting process.
The Constitution tells the EC to attempt to form a slate, a slate to recommend to the Congress. We were not able to agree on a slate this year. We are reporting information to you because we could not agree on a slate. The EC is presenting 2 teams and the EC believes that each team can work well as a team, but would be difficult to mix the teams.
EC recommends not mixing the teams, even though you can vote for any individuals.
Regina Birchem (USA)
Marta Benavides (El Salvador)
Martha Jean Baker (UK)
Kozue Akibayashi (Japan)
Samira Khoury (Lebanon)
Tamara James (USA)
A representative from the EC explained the reasons for choosing this team. I did not write down the entire statement, it was primarily about continuing the work of the previous officer's team (3 of the people on this team are current officers).
Kerstin Greback (Sweden) & Annelise Ebbe (Denmark)
Felicity Hill (Australia)
Amparo Guerrero (Colombia)
Kozue Akibayashi (Japan)
Samira Khoury (Lebanon)
Tamara James (USA)
A representative from the EC explained the reasons for this team. The reasoning included that this is a younger slate, more knowledgeable about issues of racism and classism.
A point of clarification: Marta Benavides announced that she was removing her candidancy and leaving the organization.
Several people spoke after Marta.
Flowers were presented to our Bolivian sisters, thanking them for hosting the Congress. Nepal presented them with a Buddha statue.
Ballots were passed out. Counting done after lunch.
Morning Reports from Committees, Working Groups, etc
Reports from Committees, Working Groups, and Regional Meetings
Our meeting was called to begin at 8 a.m. We started around 8:30. For health reasons, I couldn't have breakfast until 8:30, so I was unable to take notes on early reports.
Committees that reported:
Communications Committee (ComCom)
Organizational Development (OD)
Peace & Security Working Group
Economic Justice Working Group
Middle East Committee
European: discussed methods for more cooperation, "security policy," EU constitution, a European newsletter is being produced by the Dutch Section, and European Social Forum.
Middle East: yielded time because they already reported during their plenary last night & with the committee report
Asia Pacific: noted the lack of voices from Pacific countries. India gave a report and are happy to be supported by Ghandi University, Japan reported on the push to change their constitution to allow aggressive militarism, Nepal: we recognize the difficulty of getting to Congress from Nepal and we took a moment to honor Neelam, who has been imprisoned for her WILPF work. New Zealand: Pleased to announce 3 women at the head of government, including the Prime Minister. Also noted that there hasn't been enough progress for indigenous people's rights.
Report on the Manifesto Project
The Boston branch of the US Section worked on synthesizing the comments received yesterday and presented them to the plenary. Comments were allowed from the floor.
Report from the Program Committee
PowerPoint presentation presented while paper copies of the resolutions were being passed out. In 2005, a 1325 Working Group was created, which has not been active. Who can convene this group?
Gender Equality Architecture Reform (GEAR): how WILPF sections can coordinate on a regional level on this issue that is being led by women from the Global South?
Human Rights: indigenous rights, racism - followup on Durbin Conference, right to water, 60th anniversary of Declaration of Human Rights
Economic Justice: find funding and continue to expand the Export Processing Zone (EPZ) project. Women's engagement in trade negotiations and development negotiations. Regional Trade Agreements. Boycott Coca Cola.
Disarmament: biological weapons, conventional weapons - especially cluster munitions, coordinate annual 8 March Seminar. Coordinate annual NGO statement to the Commission on Disarmament (CD), uranium weapons
Environment: adress false solutions to global warming, including bio-diesel, genetically modified food, 2006 mtg emphasized a focus on environmental focus of militarism
Middle East 5 Priorities: Nuclear Free Middle East, Islamophobia, discrimination on basis of race, ethnicity, religion, class, nationally; expand sections in ME with emphasis on Jordan and Egypt; Y-WILPF conference in Jordan planned by Y-WILPFers
LIMPAL Colombia: all sections should subscribe to the boletina from WILPF Colombia - limpalcolombia.org, Continue the focus on economic and political empowerment, esp with displaced women. Coordinated advocacy. Friends of Colombia groups, Colombia as a Commission on the Status of Women 2008 Case Study. WILPF Norway and Switzerland to ask their Foreign Ministries if they're funding the peace negotiations, where are the women. Colombia 1325 Case Study to present at world and regional Social Forums.
Additional Items: Trafficking in Women, Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (including facilitating the accreditation of professional immigrant and refugee women). Campaign Against Imperialism: against the establishment of new and maintenance of US military bases in 121 countries around the world. Another delegation to Cuba: Judy Gallant (Canada) will facilitate this, Cuban Women have asked that it be limited to 10.
International Days of Action: 8 March - Intl Women's Day, 28 April - WILPF's Birthday (fundraising)
Process Suggestion: WILPF choose 5 priority issues: ME, UNSCR 1325, Environment, Peace & Demilitarization,
3 year work plan, what is the objective, who will will work on them,
specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, time-bound
Build WILPF: maintain contact and continue developing core group in Rwanda, Jordan
Strengthen existing sections
Membership Drive - build up to the 100th Anniversary
Section to Section Partnerships: make more transparent, continue good work, establish new partnerships, continue to build solidarity, link with Y-WILPF
100th Anniversary: Mans van Zanderbergen is the current focal point for preparations, This Congress should send an official request to the Netherlands WILPF to host this event, Presentation of the Manifesto, Women's World Peace Forum?
We are few but powerful, let us be many and unstoppable!
Discussion: Want ICC emphasis. English translation of Bergen Report, Global Day of Action Against Poverty, look at violent actions against undocumented persons, peace within the organization as a project, would like more information on Durbin followup, GEAR: bits and pieces from UN that work on women's issues and gender issues are referred to as Gender Equality Architecture, also a power point presentation available from Sam's workshop.
Decisions on next international meetings:
The Congress approved going to India for the next IB meeting. Albania invited WILPF to have the next IB meeting after India in their country. No section has offered to host the next Congress, please ask your sections about this.
July 25, 2007
Constitution and By-Laws Decisions
Many changes were made to the Constitution and By-Laws. It was rather difficult to follow if you didn't have a copy of those documents in front of you.
There was discussion, some clarification, and I added some comments myself, which I believe was the first time I spoke before the entire Congress.
To allow Co-Presidents, the vote:
45 yes, 20 no, 3 abstentions
To only pay for one President to go to any particular meeting, except IB and Congress meetings, the vote:
36 yes, 6 no, 21 abstentions
The entire day, including the decision to more than double the US Section fees, was an interesting and enlightening experience. But I don't feel my reactions to the day are appropriate in this venue.
I will say that I was a guest at the Middle East Regional Meeting and I consider that the highlight of my day.
Presentation of the Idea of Creating a WILPF Manifesto
100 Years of Work for Peace and Freedom - Where Do We Go From Here?
A draft proposal for the 100th anniversary of WILPF in 2015
Introduction by Samira Khoury.
Presentation of Edith Ballantyne's proposal by Felicity Hill
They created a video to introduce the proposal, but the projection equipment didn't work, so we listened to Edith's explanation.
This was done in conjunction with a 3 page proposal. Below are some excerpts from that proposal, along with some notes from the audio presentation.
Suggestion: spend 8 years creating a manifesto that explains what we're for as well as what we're against.
Who? The WILPF membership facilitated by a coordinating group made up of individuals with this as their major responsibility in WILPF.
WILPF has always been an organization that works to change policy and structure, rather than a funding organization or an aid organization. This idea is part of continuing that process.
What? An analytical and prescriptive Manifesto that includes (a)analysis of where we are today (b) articulation of alternative political, economic and social models for a sustainable future (c)concrete proposals for organising with others to achieve our vision.
When? A living process launched at the Bolivia Congress that incorporates current events, helps WILPF reflect and look forward to refine its position and role in the world, completed for our 100th anniversary in 2015.
Why? WILPF (and the broader peace and justice movement) needs clarity and a courageous and comprehensive vision to inform analysis and programme. The development of a Manifesto would be a school for learning and searching, for developing actions and not just reactions, and to help give our members the tools to assume the right and duty to take matters into their hands, and not be the victims of the "inevitable." WILPF needs to embark on a membership campaign, and this process should be part of that, inviting and attracting new members into WILPF to participate in not only timely analysis and discussion about current events, but also in action.
How? The project can succeed only through the participation of WILPF members and branches. They have to be involved in helping to develop the framework and in the ongoing discussion, search, outreach and action that will constitute the final text of the Manifesto. It means involvement from ground 0 to the finish in 2015. Clearly no member could be expected to commit herself for an eight-year period, but there should be commitment to complete a specific task and prepare for a successor. (There are further details on the How within the document.)
The Dutch Section: invited WILPF to hold its 100th anniversary celebration at The Hague and suggested that we invite government officials and UN officials to our 100th celebration / presentation of this Manifesto.
The German Section (presented by Irene Eckert): The German Section began thinking about this idea at their annual meeting earlier this year. Would like us to deal with the positives and negative aspects of our history. We should analyze the current global situation and figure out how we can be an effective, prominent women's Peace organization. We have to concentrate on the global state of affairs before we can focus on a plan of action. We cannot just focus on the disastrous situation, nor must we narrow down to the advantages for a handful of career women in parts of the world. Let's look at the unipolar world of US dominance, including the effort to marginalize the UN; so-called "security policies" such as the war on terrorism and the war on drugs. As the military has taken the logistic and financial lead in so-called conflict zones and the civil section has been losing its legitimacy. "Peace enforcement" by troops is a contradictory notion. We have to bear in mind the originally positive intention of the UN in SCR 1325. Privatization of warfare make it so that companies have a vested interest in continuing warfare because they make a profit off of it. The mass media in the hands of private companies poses a serious threat to the freedom of information. Women are being treated more disrespectfully than any other group not just in the media but in reality. Let us work together as daughters, mothers, and grandmothers and move forward
1. How will this help us with our work?
2. What are the essential elements of the Manifesto?
2. Any concerns?
July 24, 2007
A group spoke who would like us to deal with the "buzz" in the room.
Martha Jean Baker spoke re the International Criminal Court - help get new members for the three vacant judge seats
The Resolutions Committee gave their first report back on resolutions: several were referred back for clarification, some were referred to committees.
Open Forum: Presentation of Candidates for Election
Note: two candidates are only standing for the president position. Prior to the forum, 2 were standing for both President and Vice President. At the forum, one candidate announced she was only standing for the Vice President position.
Regina Birchem Fantastic community of women and men. Why I'm a member of ILPF: after being attacked on the street, a professor suggested that I join a women's organization and the best one he knew was WILPF. Please read my President's Report. We want to be organic and start forward with confidence. Without a formal blueprint, but to move forward in an organic way.
Annelise Ebbe I have been thinking since yesterday, since the tensions that were here, how I should introduce myself. I am a very priviledged person. I have met women from around the world: I have not been there as a tourist, I have learned about racism, sexism, extreme humiliation and extreme abuse. I started on this work before I became a member of WILPF. When I joined WILPF, I found a combination of pacifism and feminism that I have been looking for.
Kirsten Greback The first time I came to WILPF Congress was in 1989 in Australia. My grandmother was a WILPFer. I've been working a lot in the union and anti-Vietnam War movement. I really became a feminist in Nairobi in 1985 - when I went to the first Women's Conference and saw how women are struggling all over the world. I have 5 kids and 17 grandchildren. My motto has always been: think globally, act locally. I became the Secretary General of WILPF Sweden and started working a lot on the Middle East. Now what I want to do, now that I was nominated for the Presidency of WILPF, I would like to share the position. We should continue our great projects and start another one on Economic Justice and increase our fact-finding missions to Africa.
Felicity Hill I would very much like to stand for Vice President, and will withdraw nomination as President. I have been part of different aspects of WILPF: as an intern, as a staff member, and now working on a book with Edith Ballantyne. The WILPF officers backed me when I said I think we can get this Security Council Resolution passed and they said to drop everything. And its really because of that support from WILPF that we got SCR 1325. I think we should focus on projects and that officers should be focused on Get Published, Get Members, and Get Cash. Our major WILPF day should be our birthday, so that we have a culture of doing that before our 100th anniversary.
Kozue Akibayashi Joined WILPF in 2001, I identify myself as a researcher / activist. It is impossible to make a living as an activist in Japan, so I decided to be a researcher and now after years of struggle, I have a full-time teaching position at a university in Japan. I have been working with Okinawa women on de-militarization issues. I would like to see WILPF work on this issue and I would like to work to support the work of the President. I am 39 and would like to work
Martha Jean Baker When I was first nominated by the young women of UK WILPF to be a nominee for Vice President and I would like to work with the young women if elected. I grew up in WILPF - my mother was a life member and my father continued his membership after my mother passed away. Its been about 30 years since the UK was represented on the international officer's team. I would like to see 3 M's: More Missions, More Money, More Members. If I do something that offends you, I hope you will tell me immediately so that I can grow from the experience.
Marta BenavidesI need a commitment from you, more than I need a commitment from me. We need to create an organization that speaks to the world. I believe that we should be working on climate-change. I need WILPF to be our instrument for peace in the world. I just don't want us to make statements. A new and different and best world is possible. I call on all of us to make a commitment to be about this in the world. If we are in WILPF we should not be doing "doggy paddle" - we should not just be surviving. It is our responsiblity to stop the process if it is a bad process. North and South, South and North being as one. We must own and learn the Constitution.
Amparo Guerrero I come from the Colombian section. My reflection is that I personally do not want to reproduce patriarchal system that is about power. Manipulative actions diminishes the roles of others and they can't express themselves. Patriarchal systems are inconsistent with feminism. It is not enough to say I work for peace if you continue to collaborate with systems of oppression that oppress women. i do not think it is important to have personal accomplishments. I do not want to have WILPF lose more individual members because it diminishes the ability of the organization to work against the war powers.
Samira Khoury I am a Lebanese of Palestinian origin. I am an activist for peace for many long years. I am a teacher by profession and I write stories for children about human rights and gender rights. I am involved in a project in South Lebanon for remedial kids who are on the edge of dropping out. I think part of the different paradigm for WILPF should be promoting women's handicrafts as a part of a women's budget.
Tamara James I've been more nervous listening to all these fabulous women speaking than I was in the Standing Finance Committee talking about Section fees. I've been involved in the US Section board for the last 7 years. When I became the Co-President of WILPF US, I became a member of the International Finance Committee. For the past 9 months, I have been living in Geneva. I've gotten to know Susi, Marie, and the interns very well. I've been excited about the opportunity to continue living in Geneva and working with the Geneva staff. I've been inspired by the words that these Officer Candidates have said, I'm excited about working to make this organization not just more sustainable, but more dynamic.
The election committee will interview the candidates and formulate a slate that the delegates can either accept or decline.
Questions from the floor:
1. Amparo, how do you consider yourself a representative of Colombia when you live in the US?
2. How many hours a week can you devote to the Intl office you are nominated for?
Kirsten: I just went into pension, so I can give all my time to WILPF.
Annelise: I am not a pensioner, but I am a freelancer. For now, I choose to work for WILPF. I have withdrawn from all of the things that I did to work for the Danish.
Samira: 5 hours each week generally, and 10-15 hours each week during international crises.
Martha Jean: I am lawyer and I devote most of my working time to doing work for women's organizations.
Felicity: I am working full time on the book with Edith until after
Regina: I turned down all teaching positions to work for WILPF. I work for WILPF everyday. Sometimes 3, sometimes 10 or 12 a day.
Tamara: I've been working full time as a volunteer for WILPF for the last 8 months, and would be
Amparo: I would expect to work several hours a week.
Kozue: Several hours a week, unless I'm not teaching and then I can work
It is late at night and I have a stomach ache. I just want to remind readers that I am human and can only keep up with things for so long. So, below are the questions that were asked of the candidates without their responses.
3. Responsibility to the President as a candidate for a position other than Presidency.
4. Kirsten: leadership and international experience
5. Regina: Do in 2nd term what you didn't do in 1st term?
6. Annelise and Kirsten: What would you like to do as Co-Presidents and how would you deal with the added cost to Intl of 2 Presidents?
7. Marta: how will you continue working on water and oxygen issues as a part of the Officer's Team?
8. Samira: how will you be able to focus on international issues when you are dealing with life in a conflict area?
9. Do you think that WILPF is Euro-centric and how should WILPF deal with the racism within WILPF?
10. Specifically, what would you do as an officer?
11. Presidential candidates: increase sections in Latin America and engage with women in Africa.
Workshops and Committee Meetings
Tuesday morning and afternoon were devoted to workshops and committee meetings. In the morning, I presented a workshop on Online Activism. There were many workshops presented during the morning and afternoon. Unfortunately, since you can only be in one place at a time, I can only tell you about my workshop. It was well attended. For the first portion, I gave an overview of online activism and during the second portion we discussed an action plan.
Lunch was absolutely delicious - including more Bolivian delicacies than previous meals. We are very lucky to be well fed; it helps since the work can be difficult.
After lunch, I attended a meeting of the International Middle East Committee. Attendees included the Lebanese delegation, the Israeli delegation, an individual from Sweden, and several individuals from the United States. Unfortunately, our Palestinian sisters did not make it to the Congress and were therefore unable to join us. We reviewed previous statements - the Committee's Statement from Berlin in May 2007 and the Israeli Section Gaza Strip Statement, June 2007. Our purpose was to create a draft resolution to present to the Resolutions Committee so that the resolutions passed during the Congress would include resolutions on the Middle East.
That meeting happened during a workshop time period because of conflicting committee meetings. All of the standing committees and working groups met during the same time. Due to this conflict, the Communications Committee meeting had three attendees, though several more committee members are attending the Congress. The bright side is that we've already recruited two new committee members from Latin America!
During the previously scheduled social hour the report from the Quito Conference to Abolish Foreign Military Bases is occurring. (More info to follow.)
If you follow this post after the jump, you'll find my presentation on Online Activism.
For those who don't know me, my name is Cynthia Jane Minster - I go by C.J. I've been a member of WILPF since 1999 and am serving my second term on the US Section national board. I am currently the US Program Chair, overseeing 2 campaigns and 7 committees. I am also a member of the International Communications Committee and active in the Los Angeles branch. I work in direct marketing and I am a recent thyroid cancer survivor.
This workshop is an overview of the world of online activism and how to harness the power of the net to further WILPF / LIMPAL's mission.
WILPF has a great deal of knowledge and does incredible education and advocacy. In recent years, we have increased our use of email and we're starting to use our listservs. But there's so much more we can do. The goal of this workshop is to break down the barriers between tech junkies and technophobes.
Many people think of me as an expert in the field of online activism. I'm honored by the designation, but want to be clear - there is much I don't know. My first year of college in 1996, I was scared of my computer and had never been online. It took me awhile to understand that I would not break a computer by using it regularly. It also took me awhile to learn how to feel comfortable with online communication.
My goals for this workshop are:
- To explain online activism in a way that is inviting to people with no experience with it
- To gather the knowledge of others who already use the web beyond email
- To formulate an action plan for WILPF to implement these tools
Online Advocacy is Already Established
How people gather on the web
Blogs have been around for 10 years. Recently, the Wall Street Journal featured an article about the importance of blogs. While we have nothing in common with the editorial goals of the WSJ, it's important to realize that this is a forum that is being taken seriously by the mainstream media. A blog is a website written in reverse chronological order on any topic. The large community of blogs on the web is generally known as the blogosphere. I believe this is the easiest way for WILPFers to become more visible: in addition to emailing each other our opinions on world events, we can publish those same words on the web for the entire world to read. By identifying ourselves as WILPFers, by publishing on our official websites, we can enhance the world's understanding of WILPF and remind them that we are still active, and not just something you read about in history books.
This is easy and free - there are many free blog publishing tools, including Blogger. We're working on creating blog capabilities on the international website. The US Section's blog was recently moved to its official website, so that can show you an example of WILPF blogging. Personally, I've been reporting on the official portions of this Congress on my own blog - www.socialupheaval.com - so that our sisters who cannot be with us can share in what we're doing.
Social Networking Groups
These include MySpace, Friendster, and Facebook. I don't want to go into detail, but just want to point out that by having discussions on these sites, we can build an opportunity for WILPF to increase its younger members. I created WILPF groups on Friendster and MySpace and without any work, we've gathered 48 people on Friendster and almost 30 on MySpace. I would love for other people to join and take responsibility for generating discussions on these boards. It's free and a way to increase our visibility.
Comments sections of major sites
In the information age, commenting on major news sites and blogs is the 21st century version of writing letters to the editor.
Structure Decisions are Political Decisions
People shun hierarchy publicly, but still use it. What I mean is that we say we want open access to decisions and discussions, and then we do things that limit access. When we use email instead of listservs, we are limiting the access to our words and we limit the historical record of our work. What I mean is that our committees are large and it’s easy to forget people when sending out an email to individual addresses, rather than the single address of a listserv. Listservs also serve as a historical record of our communication, something that is very difficult to do when using email alone.
Online activism is a way to democratize our process - to allow more people a voice in the decision-making process. We can have a Members-Only section to discuss policies and procedures that would be open to all members. This could help us focus our communication. Rather than the flood of news articles and reports of other organizations that often occurs on our Intl listserv, we could use this space to work on building our organization.
Online Activism is Already Thriving
As many of you know, most advocacy organizations have more robust websites than WILPF. At the same time, most organizations do not have as much information on the web as WILPF. This is the key difference between how we have presented ourselves on the web and how other orgs present themselves. We offer our knowledge and we monitor international fora, but we are not at the forefront of mass activism. What I'd like us to do is expand our use of online petitions, online fundraising, and online networking.
- must a core group maintain control over WILPF's image?
- what holds us back from using more than just email?
- Creating a timeline for our work forward
Why WILPF Doc and Report Out from Discussions
Last night, after dinner, the Y-WILPF (Young WILPF) facilitated the creation of a documentary, "Why WILPF?" It was an amazing experience. I took some notes on the speeches given, but I'm hesitant to put them online because I do not have the names of all the speakers. The history of WILPF is truly inspiring. And the breadth of the current work is amazing. Hopefully, it will be online (perhaps on YouTube) soon.
Originally, the election of the Election Committee was supposed to occur as the first order of business after dinner. Instead, we continued on with the program-style agenda. The presentation on the Quito Conference on Military Bases was shortened to a summary statement to make time for the report out from the discussion groups earlier in the day. Mary Day Kent (US Executive Director) and Irene Eckert (from Germany) spoke briefly and encouraged people to attend their workshop.
There was a slight kerfuffle at this point - I objected to moving forward with the program agenda without beginning the election process for the Election Committee. My objection was dismissed and then one of the candidates for the EC announced that she was taking herself out of the running (partially because she had another meeting to attend at that time). So, with only 5 candidates left for a 5 candidate committee, we agreed without a paper ballot election to the formation of the Election Committee.
Then the people in charge of coalescing all of our ideas from the discussion earlier in the day came forward to present the findings. I apologize - by that point in the evening, I was simply exhausted and did not take any notes on the presentation. Hopefully, there will be an official report from this portion of the meeting.
I left a bit early from this event to attend a US Section delegate meeting. I was told people did not like the fact that we left the meeting and that we should have set an example by not starting our own meeting until the official plenary was complete. While that is very reasonable and diplomatic, I have to say that I'm a bit exhausted and I can't keep up with the pace of Congress. I actually left my delegation meeting a bit early because I simply had to get to sleep.
July 23, 2007
Report from the International Treasurer, Michaela Todd. Presented by Tamara James, Co-President of WILPF US. Michaela was unable to join us due to work commitments, and Tamara - a member of the Standing Finance Committee - volunteered to help with the presentation of our finances.
Request to increase the Geneva budget: to hire a development director, a part-time intern.
PeaceWomen Project is funded through December 2007, grant proposals are pending
Budget Forecast created for the next 3 years
Section Fees: IEC 2006 discussed and approved the recommendation of a new section fee structure based on the Netherlands proposal
Quasi-Endowment: 30% of a donation/bequest over 50,000 CHF in a quasi-endowment
Decisions to be Made
2006 audits approved
2008 budget approved
Section Fee decision approved
Assessment: 110,000 CHF. Actually received: 95,000 CHF - 57,000 CHF received, 40,000 CHF expected by end of year.
WILPF Constitution Committee Report
- simple changes have been made for clarity, consistency, and grammar
- moving paragraphs from constitution to by-laws and vice versa (committee recommendation)
- International Executive Committee (IEC) to become the International Board (IB)
- Officers Committee (OC) becomes the Executive Committee (EC)
- delete the word "political" from one of the aims of WILPF b/c we are divided by more than just political differences
- Changes to the By-Laws: technical issues, included allowing the Intl Congress to appoint conveners of Standing Committees and Working Groups, and a Quorum being 40% of Sections and 3 elected officers; and Co-Presidents
Questions from the floor:
There was serious concern about the fact that people don't have hard copies of the amendments and that the fact that they were available on the web was not clear.
Serious reservations about removing "political" from our aims.
WILPF India officially invited the International Executive Committee to hold its next meeting in India.
Appointing the Election Committee
Discussion of whether to accept the proposed 5 person committee from the pre-Congress IEC meeting or to accept a proposal from the Swedish section or to allow 3 observers on the committee.
Decision to have a ballot election following dinner
Reading of the resolutions submitted before Congress. Statements from the floor on resolutions submitted at Congress. Proposed Resolutions Committee accepted.
To observe the proceedings of Congress and propose a set
3 February 1962: the US blockade began
This presentation was very detailed and included a powerpoint presentation. I want to apologize for not capturing the entire presentation - I'm having a lot of trouble following the translator.
Cuban people chose to launch an economic system to combat the capitalism of the US. They specifically chose not to launch a military war. In response, the US issued an economic blockade on Cuba and makes it very difficult for its citizens to visit Cuba.
Colin Powell is the head of a commission created by G.W. Bush in October, 2003 "the Commission to Help a Free Cuba"
Presented statistics on how the revolution has made Cuba a 100% literate country, more doctors, more electricity.
- International Cooperation and Solidarity
- scholarship program for students from 3rd world countries
- 36 Ophthalmologist Centers
- ALBA: Bolivarian Alternative Treaty for the Americas: it's not an imperialistic power, it is a social power. It is not an economic agreement.
We decided to move the remaining program items to after dinner. It's now after dinner, so I better get back into the plenary room.
The President Speaks, the Vice Presidents Respond
After the SecGen report, WILPF International President Regina Birchem gave her report. She gave a political analysis of the state of the world and asked many questions about WILPF. Hopefully, the full report (which was also presented in written form) will be online soon.
The Vice Presidents, Annelise Ebbe, Samira Khoury, Dulcy de Silva, and Marta Benavides, were given five minutes each to respond to the President's report.
After these presentations, we had lunch. It was a great meal and quite significant for me - I shared a discussion with a member from the Congo and a member from Lebanon on the state of the world, in particular the state of Israel and Jewish people's participation in global affairs. As a Jewish activist, it was quite an intense conversation for me - because while I do not believe in the apartheid policies of the government of Israel, I am still proud of my heritage, my culture and ethnicity.
After lunch, we came together for discussion groups on the future of WILPF. We are currently reporting out from those discussion groups.
The Congress Opens, Sec Gen Report
The Congress began with a presentation by our host section, Bolivia. They welcomed us with an explanation of La Bolivianita, a unique combination of amethyst and citrine that only occurs in the region de la "Gaiba" Santa Cruz. They presented a bolivianita to each participant in Congress.
Each section was called by name and asked to say how many people were at the Congress as officially voting delegates.
Each section under 5,000 members is allowed 5 delegates plus the International Executive Committee member from their section. Any section over 5,000 members is given 3 additional delegates.
A section with only one person present gets 2 votes.
Sections present: I apologize, I was watching everyone stand to see who was from different sections, so I didn't write down the list. I will update this later today.
Sections not present:
Finland, Belarus, Burundi, Italy, Palestine, Peru, Phillipines, French Polynesia, Russian Federation, Sierra Leone.
The Irish Section asked to be dissolved; Bulgaria asked to be dissolved last year.
Secretary General Report
The full report will be available online at the Intl Website, /www.wilpf.int.ch
Structure of the Report
- Work of our offices
- Items that can be coordinated advocacy
- Committees and Working Groups
- Our Staff
monitors and advocates 1325 in intl fora
Security Council Monitor - resolution report watch
women & UN reform
monthly PeaceWomen E-news
Advocacy for Implementation: within the UN system and with governments
present every year at the Commission on the Status of Women
training UN staff on gendered perspective in preparation of them going into the field
translation of the resolution: 78 currently. Looking for more and want to know how the translations are being used
Moving towards focusing on the Security Council itself: to help democratize the council
Women's participation and gender perspective checklist
Peacebuilding & Peacekeeping: peacebuilding is building sustainable peace in post-conflict situations
Committee of 34 that monitors peacekeeping situations
Gender Equality Architecture in UN Reform: what is it in this intl system that promotes gender equality?
Coordinating NY PeaceWomen work with the human rights work done at the Geneva office
CEDAW is moving from NY to Geneva
Reaching Critical Will
to increase quantity and quality of civil society engagement in multilateral disarmament processes
GA: 1st Committee, Conference on Disarament: only place mandated to make disarmament treaties, UN Disarmament Committion, Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty
Recent book publications:
Model Nuclear Inventory: comprehensive review of all nuclear weapons capable countries and their fissile materials holdings
Nuclear Disorder or Cooperative Security: Review of the Weapons of Mass Destruction Commissions recommendations and suggestion on implementation in the US
- Iran: prepared advocacy materials for no military action against Iran available online
- Corporate Connections: WILPF is a co-sponsor of Keep Space for Peace Week, to prevent arms from being put into space.
- Linking with War Profiteers Network
- NonProliferation Treaty
Jennifer Nordstrom completed her contract, Ray Acheson is currently filling in part-time while we search for a full time associate.
Information Hub: people are asking what is happening in other sections
Deadline for monthly update is the 12th of every month
Communications: looking to change the website and to get the money to do it.
Listservs are a great resource for keeping in touch between
Human Rights Council:
Instituion Building - first year just concluded.
Balance between Economic Social Cultural and Civil Rights
link between peace and human rights
Economic Justice: site linked through wilpf.int.ch
Disarmament: monitor all Geneva disarmament fora
- cluster mnitions
- biological weapons
- gender equality architecture
- local 1325 implementation in conjunction with CEDAW
Katherine Harrison from WILPF Norway has represented us at the first meeting in Oslo and the second meeting in Lima.
Biological Weapons, Gender Architecture
Commission on the Status of Women 2008: Women in Armed Conflict in regard to women's participation
CEDAW moving to Geneva
Conference of NGOs (CONGO) - recently nominate to the board
Marie Boroli, Intl Office Manager, Geneva
Sam Cook, Milkah Kihunah PeaceWomen Project Associate
Ray Acheson, Reaching Critical Will
In NY, many short term interns that facilitate the maintenance of the websites, do research and support the projects in innumerable ways
In Geneva, two long-term paid interns:
Disarmement: Katherine Harrison, Human Rights: Julia Federico; We encourage sections to nominate candidates for these internships
Swedish Cooperation: 10 weeks in Stockholm, 10 weeks in either NY or Geneva
Standing Committees: Finance, Communications, Personnel, Organizational Development
Working Groups: Peace and Security, Environmental Sustainability, Economic Justice
Losing sections in some sections, gaining members in other sections
3 days a year when all WILPF sections have an event
Section to Section Partnerships: Norway/Lebanon, Norway/Colombia, Sweden/Costa Rica
Mans van Zanderbergan, focal point
Advocacy - from the Local to the Global
Need to clearly articulate our goals and objectives
We are few but powerful, let us be many and unstoppable!
July 22, 2007
Cochabamba, night on the town...
The final session of the day was a report back from a Swedish delegation who went to Cochabamba.
Emma de Torres lived in Sweden for several years and went back to Cochabamba for a visit. She decided it was safe enough to return, and she and her family moved there to set up a daycare center for a factory. The women were very untrusting - they were used to working side by side with their children. So, instead of bringing in outside trained employees, she trained women from the factory to work as childcare workers. And that way, the women trusted who was supervising their children while they worked.
The Swedish delegation - Maj-Lis Mansson, Berit Tybrand, Gunilla Wingo-Anderberg and Boel Bruce - described their ten days traveling in Cochabamba.
The day was a seminar on Latin America. It was wrapped up by Marta Benavides and Regina Birchem.
Then we went to dinner. Which was quite a shame because there was more (dare I say better) food later in the evening.
After dinner, we traveled by bus to the city square. Not only did we have a fleet of buses, we also had a police escort. It was quite an experience.
We went to the House of Culture in Santa Cruz to see an exhibition on 1000 Peace Women. After viewing the exhibition we were offered traditional Bolivian food: apetizers and pastries that were absolutely delicious, along with red wine, soda, and water.
We watched a cultural show in the square and then had an hour to wander around. I picked up a bracelet and earrings. Some of us chatted over beer at a bar, and then we boarded our buses for the return trip. Of course, several of our younger members stayed in town to enjoy the night life. I decided to return to enjoy a night swim at the amazing pool in our hotel.
Tomorrow the Congress officially begins.
WILPF delegation to Colombia
We had lunch. It was great. Then we had a presentation by the delegation to Colombia. The following is basically me re-typing the written report they gave. They had different areas of their report and separated it out by Issue, Findings and Recommendations.
Delegation members were: Amparo Guerrero (Colombia), Adriana Gonzalez (Colombia), Marta Benavides (El Salvador), Tagrid Shbia (Israel), Mary Day Kent (USA), Elin Christiansen (Norway), Liss Schanke (Norway).
The title of the presentation is:
Women Constructing Peace in the World: The Case of Colombia
Findings and recommendations of the WILPF delegations to Colombia July 15-19, 2007
- A beautiful film trailer by Adriana Vera, featuring footage from the delegation set to Colombian music
- Background on the delegation by Amparo Guerro, WILPF Colombia
What is Happening?
- The government says it is not internal conflict, that international humanitarian law is not applicable
- "democratic security" strategy of the Colombian government is neither democratic nor secure
- WILPF Colombia will provide regular information to WILPF sections in English and Spanish without endangering the lives of the members.
- WILPFers should create “Friends of Colombia” working group to distribute information
Not because of Drugs
- The conflict is not about drugs. The drug issue is used to cover up other elements, and to justify measures. In addition, the drug industry funds the conflict!
- The official position of the government is that the core of the conflict is the fight against drug growers and dealers; this is not correct.
- WILPF must understand the relation between the conflict and drug trafficking, importing distribution, and consumption…and which role this plays regarint the Free Trade Agreement and Plan Colombia and the successive government "plans."
- We must also see the relationship between the drug issue, the land issue and the displacements
Not because of communism or terrorism
- The conflict is not about communism or terrorism. These issues are used to cover up the natural resources aspect and justify measurements to protect the interests of the actors
- WILPF must understand this and discuss the challenge how to transform this.
- Communism and terrorism are regularly given as reasons for social control and to justify repressions and oppression - and wars - all over the world.
Conflict over natural resources: land, minerals, and oil
- The main reason behind the armed conflict and the displacements is natural resources. Land, as well as minterals, carbon (coal) and petrol and many multinational corporations are involved. The armed forces are driving the population away from the mining areas - through displacements; implying that the peasants and indigenous peoples who originally lived on the land are therefore victims
- The armed forces are protecting the activities of the multinational companies.
- WILPF sections in countries of the multinationals should confront their companies e.g. US, Canada, Netherlands, Israel and UK and make a campaign.
- WILPF Norway should clarify whether Norwegian oil companies are involved in Colombia in any way.
- WILPF International should discuss the issues of different forms of boycott - if possibly in cooperation with the unions. In the case of Denmark, the Danish government prohibited the Drummond Company from using Danish ports because of their role in the massacres.
More than three million displaced persons, mainfly farmers, indigenous people and afro-colombians
- Colombia has one of the world’s highest numbers of internally displaced persons. More than 50% are women.
- WILPF Colombia is working with displaced women, focusing on political and economic empowerment
- The delegation will later give specific recommendations to WILPF Colombia regarding this work.
Extremely dangerous situation for the Unions
- The situation for union leaders are extremely difficult and several thousand union leaders were killed in 2006.
- Historically, unions have played a leadership role in defending the rights of the majority. The unions also represent links to the labor movement internationally, and can provide current and accurate information on the actions of multinational companies
- WILPF sections should follow the information about the companies based in their various countries, and the role their governments play in the International Financial Institutions (WTO, World Bank, IMF, etc.)
- The office of the President's Advisor for Gender Equality has launched a range of activities, e.g. gender strategy, local women's councils and a campaign to increase the number of
- "More women, more politics."
- WILPF Sweden should discuss with the Swedish Embassy in Colombia whether it would be possible for Sweden to support the training - financially as well as technically. The office of the President's Adviser has already worked with the Swedish Institute for Statistics and has been very satisfied with the technical assistance.
- Ongoing talks taking place between the government and the armed groups in Cuba.
- These talks do not include women or other representatives for civil society.
- There is hope that the talks will lead to more open attitude towards the civil society, introducing topics an representation on issues such as women, land, displaced people, and returnees
- WILPF sections in countries that support the negotiations financially: Spain, Switzerland, Norway, France, must advocate for participation of women - in line with 1325 and/or parallel women's peace negotiations.
Colombia is a good 1325 case study
- The conflict in Colombia can be used as a case study - for analysis of conflict as well as for analysis and planning of 1325 interventions.
- WILPF International and WILPF sections should use Colombia as a 1325 case study for analysis and action.
There will be a 3 hour workshop on Colombia during the Congress, and the participants will have time to discuss all the relevant issues in depth - including the follow up.
Other Speakers During the First Session
After the first plenary speaker, individual women from Latin America spoke about their experiences. Below is a summary of their speeches.
Nelida Faldin, Bolivia
Indigenous woman from the Santa Cruz department. She explained that the women of her area create products to sell - weaving, clothes, etc. - but do not know how to get it to markets. They are not looking for handouts; they are looking to sell their products so that they have the money to send their children to school and get healthcare.
Carmen Chuve Casique, Bolivia
From the city of La Paz, representing the Women's Center. She came looking for unity: we cannot be divided; all Latin Americans have to unite. While there are differences between us, we cannot dwell on those.
Ailia Caravaca, Costa Rica
The people of Costa Rica are involved in their first major anti-imperialist uprising. They are coming together against the impending "free trade" agreement with the US. They took to the streets - people from all different walks of life - to protest the agreement. The president wen to parliament to ask for a referendum on the agreement, in response to the protests. So there is now a coalition - Women Against the Free Trade Agreement that is dedicated to this struggle. And the challenge for WILPF Costa Rica right now is to get people to come out and VOTE. This is one of the most transcendental struggles they have.
With the struggle has come an increased presence of the police. The leaders of the struggle feel more exposed and more oppressed. So, she would like us to be aware of their struggle because it is very likely that they will need international solidarity in the coming months.
Luz Baretto, Peru
I'm running out of break time, so here are my notes from her speech as it was translated into English:
The struggle of many Latin American countries is not about a lack of resources, it is about the proper distribution of resources.
For example, perhaps you know about our former president, Fujimori? He stole our money and left us a broken government and is now hiding in Chile. He also oversaw the mutilation of many women – many indigenous women were mutiliated and now cannot have children. You have no idea what that menas to an indigenous woman; it is like killing her alive.
Last week, our country was in an upheaval. Fortunately, we have created some dialogue to really think how this economic bonanza will really help people...
Osiris Zarahy Bojorque, El Salvador
El Salvador suffers from extreme violence, but not armed conflict. The problem in Central America is gangs; some children join at the age of nine. They force people to pay a "safety tax." This is a problem particularly in the poorest, least industrialized countries.
The police are also abusing their power. The government is about to sign a free trade agreement and the US dollar is the local currency. Their economy is based on remittances from family members in the United States; and these individuals are being discriminated against and thrown in jail because they are undocumented workers.
I'm publishing this during the coffee break because the internet access is poor in our plenary room. Now there is a discussion about what we just heard.
Live from Santa Cruz, Bolivia
The Women's International League for Peace and Freedom's 29th Triennial Congress just began. First, there were introductions. Keynote Speaker, Paola Pena just began speaking. She is a historian and a defender of women's rights.
Women have to give the light...and we have to commit ourselves to this fight...We have a big movement...It's not casual to have this movement. This movement has realized how international cooperation, activist women and men, the world is starting to have challenges...just because of the economic policies that are trying to divide us. ..The World Women's March.. women have said that it is time to ask those who are placing economic restrictions..the challenges for women are poverty and violence...That's why the different movements are questioning. Another movement at the international level are the cry of those who are being excluded. Why are the budgets more geared to military, to arms? Why spend more on that when have millions and millions who are suffering?
We have the example of the Social Forum held recently in Sao Paolo, Brazil to show us the way forward...to take on the capitalists who take and take without giving anything in return. ...We believe that Latin America has emerged with many answers, with many challenges, but it's not easy. We have to see that the fights that we have experienced that it is time for women, basically i say this because of experience, that women have to be more open to the world. Many of our problems are between ourselves. And that's when people take over our economic resources, who give orders, who we have to fight with. If we see the context at the international level and at the Latin American level, we have advances that are important to pick up.
At this time, Latin America has presidents with other points of view. We have Nicaragua, Venezula, Bolivia.. to a certain extent the presidents of Argentina and Ecuador are also picking up the feeling of Latin American change. But we cannot stop mentioning the historical fight of the people of Cuba...
I believe that experiences have to be picked up...We have to come together based on the national symbols, like the cantuta?...and that's where we go to see the context of what our representative said. We're going through a very exciting moment but also a moment of contrasts. Bolivia, to understand what it is happening - the Bolivian crisis that we're going through will be a historical moment in the future. The crisis that we're going through has to do with economic, social, political interests. Because Bolivia is a very rich country. Many of you who have come here have to ask why is there such poverty in Bolivia? Because it is such a rich country - full of gas, water, ....However, the errors are built by men and women and those who have the economic power. The world already knows who decides upon our life and continue to do so are those who have the money, the economic power. The result is misery, that is mistakenly called the "feminization of poverty." Do you think women are so stupid that they cannot have the answers?
...Women, sisters, and brothers, throughout the world I believe we show the path. In Bolivia, women have played a very important role. That's where we can see that in Bolivia and throughout the world, the relationship between men and women is much better. And who shows the face is the women.
Ask yourself, is Bolivia having a challenge - between departments, between individuals, between classes....We are not building islands. Bolivia has a context. We have rich departments with natural resources such as gas, oil. Evidently this will define the obtaining of more funds. On the other hand, the vision of the country is to give everyone the chance.
When we talk about peace and freedom - we want a better world, a just world. Bolivia wants more equality, we want to share with those who have more and who have less.
..We wanted to have a country where geography was the same, where resources was the same. But we have diversity. We have more resources in some departments, but that doesn't mean we'll be divided.
..Today it seems that we have a challenge. Bolivian men and women voted for a change - we did not vote for the person himself, we voted for a change. ...Not long ago, Bolivians did not know how to work with budgets, we have knowledge that we have to pick up.
I do not support any political party.
...Bolivia is working towards a new constitution....we believe it is time to make some changes. On the other hand, we can see that as never before the policies with the current government show us that there are resources coming in. Something that we did not know about before. That type of resources that come because of gas and oil sales....We are now getting that money - Bolivia had never seen a 5 year old child receiving support for the educational process. We believe this is very directly related to the Millenium Goals that tell us by 2015 we will eradicate poverty...It is nice to pick up these recommendations given by the United Naitons...Here in Boliva, we believe that we have found some surprises. That the country was receiving some income and that income was taken by a few individuals. We working to redistribute that money....
Women have more representation and more participation..
Bolivia is a country of many different cultures. That's why we say it is a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic countries. We not only speak Quecha and Mayari (?) How can we reach all these people who speak different languages? In recent years, social movements have increased. And we believe that indigenous people's lives have improved....We have to learn from them. ...We have to learn from their innate connection to indigenous people around the world. ..
...This is the struggle between the guidelines of the economy of this country. And finally, it's the fight of different fronts to take advantages of the resouces because of the availability and that's why we want to recognize that yes, it is possible to suffer, to wait. But it is also possible for peace and freedom. We are able to make our limitations our potentialities. It is very easy to mention - it is easy to say "Bolivia will have a confrontation." We think that Bolivia has not been divided. Bolivia is struggling, but that's very good because the struggling will reaffirm. We'll see where we're making mistakes. The error is to rebuild. It is easy to criticize. It is easy to destroy....Bolivia is a unitied country. However, when the economic interests are divided, that is where there will be struggle. We are fighting the free trade treaty.
I know my time is almost over. But I'd like to thank the people who came to have a dialogue, to have a discussion. We as Bolivians do not want to receive gifts; we want to build solidarity; we want to have peace and freedom.....Thank you friends.