Women in Black. For Justice. Against War.
I saw a line of a dozen middle-aged women, all dressed in black, standing silently in a town centre, information placards strung around their necks, as part of a moving vigil against the war in Afghanistan. Somehow it made a more powerful impact than the usual chanting rent-a-crowd demonstrations that are a more familiar backdrop to weekends in the city.
I looked online to find out a bit more.
"Women in Black… is a world-wide network of women committed to peace with justice and actively opposed to injustice, war, militarism and other forms of violence. As women experiencing these things in different ways in different regions of the world, we support each other's movements. An important focus is challenging the militarist policies of our own governments. We are not an organisation, but a means of communicating and a formula for action."
The group has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. It won the UN Millennium Peace Prize.
There are now WiB groups around the world – USA, Australia, Europe, Middle East, Asia – all campaigning against violence. The international website www.womeninblack.org will link to your national or regional group.
"A feminist perspective… Women in Black groups do not have an agreed constitution - our perspective is clear from our actions and words. We have a feminist understanding that male violence against women in domestic life and in war are related. Women experience a continuum of gendered violence, generated and sustained in masculine cultures.
Women in Black attempt to resist all forms of violence. WiB includes women of many ethnic and national backgrounds, co-operating across these (and other) differences in the interests of justice and peace. We also recognise that when people are oppressed as an ethnic or national group they may need to organize resistance in that name. We work for a world where difference does not mean inequality, oppression or exclusion."
From my own perspective, I don't necessarily agree with each and every stance they take. Sadly, I don't think that the world can yet live without a military option.
Certain interventions and wars have definitely saved civilian lives and helped remove oppressive regimes. Sadly, others have just added to the world's problems.
However, if groups like WiB help make populations and politicians think more carefully and consider long term implications, task limitation and exit strategies before making the choice of armed intervention then that has to be a good thing.
As recent and past history shows – it is much easier to start a war than finish it, and for all the brave words from politicians and pontificating journalists at the start – it is the civilian and military casualties who will face a lifetime of pain and suffering at the end.
Good group. Worthy cause.