INTERNATIONAL: The Women's Peace Movement Comes Home

Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Toward Freedom
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
General Women, Peace and Security
Reconstruction and Peacebuilding

Last month women worldwide were delighted to hear that three women from the global south were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkul Karman were honored for their nonviolent struggles for justice in Liberia and Yemen, and for the right of women to fully participate in peacemaking. What was especially noteworthy was that the chairman of the Nobel Peace Prize committee, Thorbjoern Jagland, placed their achievements within the context of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security. This resolution stresses prevention, protection and participation: prevention of violence, protection of women and children during war, and participation of women at the peace table, ensuring that their voices are heard and their demands taken seriously.

How can the intentions of this resolution be implemented? The Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), of which I am a part, has been grappling with this issue for a long time. In fact, we were founded by women who tried to stop World War I. Although SCR 1325 was adopted a decade ago, we are concerned that little has been done in the way of implementation.

Now, at last, things are beginning to move. SCR 1325 requests that every U.N. member nation develop a National Action Plan (NAP) to implement the resolution. Liberia and 31 other countries have established NAPs, but the U.S. is not one of them. However, on the tenth anniversary of 1325's passage last year, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared that she was going to push for the development of a U.S. NAP. “Countries are more peaceful and prosperous when women are accorded full and equal rights and opportunity,” she said.

Her announcement was met with excitement, and also many questions: How would we as women be impacted by the NAP? Would it have a domestic component? “We don't want a document that will make war safe for women,” said WILPF National Director Tanya Henderson. “WILPF strongly believes in preserving the original spirit of 1325: to advance the status of women and prevent future wars."

Federal representatives have not systematically consulted U.S. women on matters of international relations since 1994-5, when the Department of Labor organized ten regional consultations in preparation for the 4th World Conference on Women held in Beijing, China. This summer, WILPF published a white paper in support of similar consultations on the NAP. We were pleased that the State Department agreed to meet with women in five cities around the country.

The consultations have taken place, bringing attention to both local and national problems. In Milwaukee, participants discussed human trafficking and threats to the security of urban youth. As one woman explained, "Our children are in a war zone, and people are taking advantage of our children and buying them off with new sneakers and candy. The war is here at home." Another participant compared the city's poorer neighborhoods to Third World nations.

A more difficult issue has also been addressed. Not only are women victimized by violence, but here in the U.S. – the belly of the beast – we women are complicit in funding the greatest violence machine in the world: the U.S. military, which spends more on tools of war than all other nations combined.

The proliferation and misuse of small arms is a global crisis. As long as weapons are a major U.S. export, women around the world are not safe. We have been silent on this issue for too long. Will the Department of Defense and the State Department take our concerns seriously?

They must be listening. Young women – and men too – are taking to the barricades and occupying Wall Street and “Liberty Plaza” in Washington. They are demanding that our government represent people, not corporate “citizens.” They want the rich taxed, the wars ended, and the money moved from militarism to human needs.

Perhaps someday soon, U.S. women will receive the Nobel Peace Prize for successfully building a movement to disarm our country, and the world.

Robin Lloyd is a member of The Women's International League for Peace and Freedom and is the publisher of Toward Freedom.