Letter from Cleveland Branch on Visit by President of the WILPF Pakistan Section
The Cleveland Branch of WILPF, locally known as Women Speak Out for Peace and Justice celebrated International Women’s Day on March 10, 2012. We met at the Kan Zaman Middle Eastern restaurant in a revitalized Cleveland neighborhood near downtown. The ambience of the Arabic interior décor added to the international flavor and welcoming atmosphere for our speaker, Sameena Nazir from Pakistan.
107 people filled the spacious restaurant. Friends from the East Indian community added to the large attendance and international awareness. We enjoyed the Middle Eastern cuisine fit for even the strict vegetarians and queens of all kinds. Many greetings and hugging and chatting preceded our settling down for the meal. Fortunately our members had opportunities to enjoy informal conversations with Sameena before the formal introduction and program began.
Sameena’s quiet but very affirming energy filled the room and many of us felt as if we had known her for a long time. Her charming traditional embroidered black Pakistani tunic drew our attention as she spoke. She told us about the current situation in Pakistan and its impact on global politics, especially in Europe and the US. Her rich work experience related to the work of the United Nations made her over view comprehensive and current. It was refreshing to hear her speak from her perspective instead of that of our usual American media outlets. Her description of lives in Pakistan and their hardship was vivid and heart breaking. Their suffering caused by various occupiers including Russia, the British and currently the US took us back to reality in spite of our festive gathering. The importance of CEDAW and UN 1325 began to take clear image in her work.
Her sharing of her personal life as an unofficial diplomat for peace—jetting between New York and her homeland was enlightening and inspiring. Her description of women’s lives in that part of the world reminded us that we have much work to do yet. I am sure that our branch will be pursuing more about some positive steps we can take to alert our members and hopefully formulate more concrete action plans. Fortunately our branch has established a traditional annual Mothers’ Day Peace Party jointly sponsored by the Federated Indian Community Association and the local WILPF and Peace Action chapters. Sameena’s presentation will be remembered in May when we have another Mother’s Day celebration this year.
We would like to express our appreciation to the national WILPF office for enabling us to benefit from this kind of national speaking tour and we look forward to more international gatherings in the near future.