Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom’s US-president Laura Roskos was invited by another old peace organization in Boston to reflect upon how to make best use of a century of history. Ms. Roskos recommended that in order to get strength out of that history to use it as „a touchstone“ and while touching it „simulataneously make changes in structure that will keep us relevant“.
The structural aproach seems tuned in. And yet, talking about structure does not really make sense and can be seriously misunderstood, if you do not right away say, what exactly the structural changes should be good for. As „Women for Peace“ we must always ask to whom do we want to be relevant and for what purpose. Even the very precious term ‘Peace’ has been misused. When we say peace, we do not want a piecemeal, we want peace with justice and we want it for every human being.
We definitely do no want to serve the 1%. We do not want do assist those who are responsible for warfare and who make a good profit out of it. On the contrary – as our foremothers – we do want to path ways that can help to overcome the war profit machinery.
Therefore if our anti-war stance is to be sound and serious we must dig into our rich historical archives and we must draw good advice from our sister’s expierence. We must do more than use it „as a touchstone“, we must go and to study one hundred years of struggle seriously. In doing so, we can learn from its errors and from the positive impulses, too
Our foremothers came out with serious proposals to end the butchering on the battlefields and with a vision how to prevent future wars. They wanted to eliminate war as an instrument to settling conflicts and to work for conditions under which a permanent peace could be constructed. The first WILPF women encouraged us to study the root causes of conflict and eliminating them.
They went out from Congress and visited those politicians who shared the responsibility for keeping the war going and they talked to the representatives of neutral countries, too. They made a joint effort as „sisters“ although their were citizens from countries at war with each other. As women they asserted their equality with men to have the same say in dealing with issues of war and peace and made concrete proposals. They went with a strong political will to end all wars and to create conditions for a more just society for all.
If they were not successful in their endeavour this does no mean that they had the wrong approach, not at all. Unfortunatelly their voices were too weak as the women’s movement was split over the question of war and peace and it still is! The professional women started globally united in the call for universal sufferage. But as women are not equal among themselves, they pursue different interests. Quite a few women have the same vested interests in the war machine as men do.
After the war the suffrage came. Women’s proposals had had influence and they have helped to lay the ground work for the League of Nations and later the United Nations. WILPFERS have been very successfully active within that framework of nations on the basis of the UN-Charter.
But since 1945 the Charter itself has been seriously underminded and even violated with the introduction of concepts like the „Responsibility to Protect“ serving to promote “Regime Change” under the pretext of helping out were “governments failed”.
As caring women we do feel strongly about Human Rights in its entity as laid down in the Human Rights Charter. But we cannot allow ourselves to be elusive, fluid, unconcrete. We must do much more than „allow space for imagination“. We must comprehend the process that during the last two decades lead to the weakening of international organisms. Not only WILPF has suffered from being influenced and from having their financial grounds shattered.
Let us been always clear. Never has it been WILPFs identity to remain marginal and to keep up the image of rebels. Our members did not define themselves as outsiders, on the contrary, they were marginalized under the conditions of war and cold war. Many WILPFERs have indeed taken responsible positions in their respective societies. They did prove that women can take on jobs on all levels of society and still work for peace and help transform the patterns of society. Ms Roskos should have pointed out to these fact, too.
When the US-president finalizes „our leaders do not live for ever“ , in my view this shows some disrespect of the elderly WILPFERs and their ongoing contribution to the struggle.
I can hear from such language serious disaproval of the achievements of those women who chose to organize for peace and freedom and not for gender equality one.
As women peacemakers we have always considered ourselves as equal and as competent to help promote progress in our respective societies in order to garantuee human survival which can only be, if war is buried forever.
The above Comments on WILPF’s US-President Laura Roskos Speech at Edwin Ginn Library at Tufts University’s Fletcher School“ at the World Peace Foundation, Massachusetts, January 13th 2014 were presented by
Irene Eckert, Berlin, Germany