A worldwide call to antiwar women

Help make International Women's Day all about peace.

Published January 26, 2006 4:29PM (EST)

A stirring essay by Medea Benjamin in this week's edition of the Nation asks American women one tough question: Why aren't you doing more to stop the war?

Benjamin tells of her shame when, while traveling abroad to talk about the war in Iraq, economic development and women's rights, she is invariably asked: "Where are the women in the United States? Why aren't they rising up?"

"I hear it from women in Africa, who have lost funding for their health clinics because of the Bush Administration's ban on even talking about abortion; from Iraqi women, who are suffering the double oppression of occupation and rising fundamentalism; from European women, who wonder how we can tolerate the crumbling of our meager social services; and from Latina women opposed to unresponsive governments that represent a tiny elite," she writes.

"The question is variously posed with anger, contempt, curiosity or sympathy. But always, there is a sense of disappointment. What happened to the proud suffragettes who chained themselves to the White House fence for the right to vote? What happened to the garment workers, whose struggles for decent working conditions inspired the first International Women's Day in 1910? What about those who emulated Rosa Parks, risking their lives or livelihoods to confront the evils of racism? Given their tradition of activism, why aren't American women today rising up against a government that dragged them into war with lies, that spies on their peaceful activities and diverts money from their children's schools or their mothers' nursing homes to pay for an immoral war?"

Benjamin admits our excuses are lame: We have no strong opposition parties, we have a corporate media that keeps us ignorant, we're either too rich to care or too poor to have any power. The answer, she believes, can only come from a belief in solidarity. One Brazilian woman tells her, "The struggle has to come from within and you in the US have more freedom to organize than we ever had. But US women [also] need to feel the support of their sisters overseas."

So in honor of this year's International Women's Day -- March 8 -- Benjamin and her colleagues from around the world have drafted a Global Women's Call for Peace in Iraq, in the hope that "the idea of women worldwide putting pressure on the US government would inspire US women to stand up as well." Endorsed everywhere from Mongolia, Albania and Mexico to Australia, the Philippines and Pakistan, the global call asks women to join together on March 8 by engaging in local peace actions. "Shut down a recruiting center, sit in at a Congressional office, hold a vigil on a crowded street corner, paint a peace mural," Benjamin writes. "Or join us in Washington, DC, where Iraqi, US and British women -- including Cindy Sheehan -- who have lost sons in this war will try to meet with US women leaders, from Condoleezza Rice to Hillary Clinton, to push our peace plan ... Let's make it a day to show our anger over the war, our compassion for our sisters in Iraq, our disgust with our leaders and our determination to change course. And let's commit to building, over the long term, a women's peace movement that will make our global sisters -- and our grandmothers -- proud. "

This Broadsheeter will be there. Will you?

By Sarah Karnasiewicz

Sarah Karnasiewicz is a freelance writer and photographer based in Brooklyn, N.Y. Until recently, she was senior editor at Saveur magazine; prior to that she was deputy Life editor at Salon. She has contributed to the New York Times, the New York Observer and Rolling Stone, among other publications. For more of her work, visit thefastertimes.com/streetfood and Signs and Wonders.

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