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IWD Spotlight: WILPF US Organises for Peace at 33rd Congress

February 27, 2018

Leading up to International Women’s Day on March 8, WILPF will be publishing a series of articles spotlighting some of the efforts of our member groups to create a more sustainable, peaceful future for women around the world. Follow these publications and support International Women’s Day by sharing with the hashtag #IWD2018.

“When you look at history, the arc bends towards justice,” announced the Institute for Policy Studies’ Phyllis Bennis, invoking the words of Martin Luther King Jr., “but it doesn’t do it by itself. That’s our job.”

Bennis addressed a crowd of peace-builders who had flocked to Chicago in July 2017 for WILPF US’s 33rd Triennial Congress. The assembly of mostly women hailed from all corners of the US and touted colorful and varied histories, but all were linked by their shared goal of global feminist peace. As International Women’s Day approaches, the lessons imparted by this congress are especially relevant.

Phyllis Bennis & Leah Bolger

The congress convened under the friendly shadow of the WILPF Founder Jane Addams’ Hull House, the first settlement house for immigrants in the US. Addams, a leading feminist of her time, was referenced frequently and with high regard by the speakers at the WILPF US Congress, who 100 years later demonstrate the same commitment to feminist peace in their work.

For three days the women at the congress would participate in workshops, panels and dinner conversations, deliberate on high-level conflict resolution, and analyse humanitarian crisis response programmes, covering topics from regenerative agriculture to gerrymandering. WILPF invite you to be inspired by the full line-up of inspirational speakers and their speeches.

Activists argued for peaceful resistance, one vividly relating her experience planting corn over missile silo fields in Missouri, another matter-of-factly explaining her decision to fight BP and the Koch brothers for covering her hometown in tar sands dust from their oil rigs.

From one lecturer to the next, from each attendee to another, the foundational message of peaceful conflict resolution was reinforced. A pillar of International Women’s Day is the power of female collaboration, which attendees at the WILPF US Congress demonstrated through calm debate and discussion. The women exhibited the effectiveness of diplomatic resolution in their brainstorming sessions, during which they engaged in the exchange of ideas and planned initiatives for establishing peace.

WILPF US members walk to Hull House.

The weekend of “women speaking truth to power,” says WILPF US President Mary Hansen, exemplified a strong feminist ecology. Lectures were punctuated with performances by social justice folk singers and a community building gospel choir. Ultimately the weekend was a show of force, solidarity and innovation from women engaged in and promoting peaceful reform.

Jane Addams, explained Hansen in her closing remarks to the congress, “thought that part of [the] healing of the world was a gendered solidarity. Does that sound familiar? The familiarity is because we’re dealing with the same issues, the same need to join together in solidarity.”

Even though the Congress is over, the missions remain. The establishment of global feminist peace is the basis of all WILPF programmes, and in 2018 WILPF US will continue in this pursuit by demanding reform on wage inequality, fracking, water quality, immigration, refugee services, climate justice and more.

Please join the movement! Women’s International Day is about welcoming women to create a more equitable world. We welcome you to be part of the movement. Visit the WILPF US site for news and upcoming events.

In the meantime, happy International Women’s Day!

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