WILPF 100 Day One
Willemijn Lambert and Kate Monkhouse from Creators of Peace are participating in the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom’s (WILPF) 100th Anniversary Conference in The Hague. Here are our 'blog reflections from Day One.
Madeleine Rees, Secretary-General of WILPF, opened the conference with an overview of their approach to the theme of 'women’s power to stop war'. She highlighted three root causes of violent conflict to inform the discussions. Firstly, our global political economy, including the (mis)use of power and justice; secondly, militarism and violent masculinities, with (re)emerging threats of nuclear war and new technologies; thirdly, women’s participation within systems and process working for sustainable peace. Her challenge to women attending the Conference: to energise a renewed movement for change into the future.
'Each one of us has a role to play' she said, in looking at issues of power abuse, militarised responses, out of control capitalism and the degradation of our environment, and reminded us that as women we are in a majority – because there are more people in the world who want for peace than want for war. In looking at how we can all do something, she quoted her daughter of eight years old, who commented on a recent tragedy: 'they didn’t have to kill each other, mummy, they only had to talk'.
Next to address the conference was Nobel Peace Laureate, Leymah Gbowee, who appreciated that everyone had come from around the world, carrying their burdens on a quest for peace. She echoed Madeleine Rees’ call for action. She told us that in so many situations, those suffering are asking 'can’t the women just do something?' Can we do something about Nigeria, about South Sudan, about Syria, about Afghanistan, about… can the women stand up? Can we make warfare an impossibility in the world we live in?
After the opening exaltations to action, came a panel exploration of the paths to a permanent peace, with fellow Nobel Laureates, Jody Williams, Edith Ballantyne, a longstanding campaigner since 1941, and Amy Goodman, from Democracy Now. We were inspired especially by Edith’s lifetime of commitment to working for peace, at the age of 93 years old, and also by Leymah Gbowee’s articulation of what tactics the women’s movement in Liberia employed in their journey to end civil war.
For us as Creators of Peace, it was interesting to hear how their strategy began with providing a personal space for women who had been traumatised to deal with their pain before beginning a process of re-socialisation. A process for women to articulate their desires, such as choosing a dream or experience to fulfil, enabled them to start claiming their place in the public sphere. They also re-engaged with their religious texts to find new narratives about the role of women. It took time for them to organise and discern a common purpose which included entering into spaces that had previously been reserved for men. Once a peace treaty had been signed, they created a simple action plan so that women could monitor the commitments and protest where agreements had been broken. After this, they ensured that women were registered to vote and played their full role in the political process. She highlighted the importance of persistence and presence at a local level, staying focused on their purpose. This is a great example of 'peace in practice' as we are encouraged to pursue within the Creators of Peace Circle – and a strong appreciation of the critical value of spaces where women can share their stories and find a measure of healing as a foundation for further advocacy.
The rest of the day included participation in workshops looking at ways to articulate human security needs, a film showcasing the lives of women human rights defenders who carry on their work despite threats and a debate about gender looking at masculinities through engaging men in fresh ways. We wrapped up the day with a panel exploring the theme of power, which led to some passionate calls for the Conference to call for action on current escalating violent conflicts.
Make the most of the WILPF 100th Conference by joining in on-line. You can watch sessions live at www.womenstopwar.org and follow the debate on twitter via #WSW2015