“Women’s Power of Building Peace - Weaving Together Women’s Initiatives Worldwide”

International Vice President, WILPF
(Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom)

【The article below is the same as the article that appears in the tenth issue of the CGS Newsletter.】

The Global Article 9 Conference to Abolish War was held at Makuhari Messe and in other locations in Japan from May 4 to 6, 2008, to disseminate the principles and values of Article 9 of the Japanese constitution around the globe.
The conference started with speeches by Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Mairead Corrigan-Maguire (Northern Ireland) and others, as well as live music and cultural performances.
“Women’s Power of Building Peace - Weaving Together Women’s Initiatives Worldwide” was one of the symposiums and workshops held on the second day. A total of six panelists from different countries participated in the discussion on women’s roles in peacemaking. As the facilitator of the workshop, I would like to report on some of the successful examples and suggestions for future activities that they shared with us.

Ms. Cora Weiss (USA), president of the Hague Appeal for Peace, started by bringing up the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000), the theme of which was “women, peace, and security.” She urged for the resolution to be put into practice.
Ms. Ann Wright, a former diplomat, spoke about how the war experience and PTSD were giving rise to sexual violence against female soldiers and women living in or near US military bases. After serving in the US army as a colonel for approximately thirty years, she had resigned in direct protest of the Iraq War.
Ms. Ellen Woodsworth shared her thoughts on the need for collaboration between peace movements and other movements dealing with social problems such as poverty, violence against women, and housing issues. A former Vancouver city councilor and president of the Vancouver Chapter of WILPF, her argument was based upon what she and other women learned from the 2006 World Peace Forum held in Vancouver.
All the way from Kenya came Ms. Florence Mpaayei, executive director of the Nairobi Peace Initiative. She spoke about the conflict following the recent presidential election, and how African women are affected by such conflicts and their low social status as women. She also gave some examples of women’s involvement in peacebuilding activities in Kenya, ranging from peace negotiations between governments to grassroots activism.
Ms. Jung Gyunglan from South Korea introduced the activities and networks of the Women Making Peace International Committee, an organization created by women working towards denuclearization and peace in Northeast Asia and the Korean Peninsula.
Ms. Suzuyo Takazato of Okinawa Women Act Against Military Violence detailed the history of activism by Okinawan women against sexual violence by American soldiers in residence at the military base in Okinawa. She also pushed for Articles 9 and 24 (gender equality) to be put into practice so that every human being could live in safety and equality.
Ms. Rumiko Nishino from VAWW-NET Japan and Women’s Active Museum on War and Peace argued that Article 9 requires the resolution of the comfort women issue.
Ms. Kimiko Takada from New Japan Women’s Association discussed the role that women’s grassroots activism has played in safeguarding the Constitution of Japan.
More than 800 people participated in the symposium and we ran out of copies of the handouts. We received numerous questions and comments from the floor, one of which I find particularly notable: “In order to promote women’s initiatives like these, we need an education system that teaches our children about sexuality and gender equality.”
The official summary of the symposium can be found at http://www.whynot9.jp/sb/log/eid50.html.
Records of the panel discussion have been uploaded on the page “From AJWRC” at http://ajwrc.org/jp/.