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Standing Our Ground: Going Beyond Maslow’s Basic Needs

1:38 pm in Uncategorized by On The Issues Magazine


By Mary E. Plouffe, cross-posted from On The Issues Magazine.

Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs tells us that basic needs (food, shelter, safety) must be satisfied before higher level needs (social relationships, self-esteem, self-actualization) can be given much attention.

A University of Illinois study published in 2011 challenges this assumption. In fact, even in countries where survival is a daily battle, people report a need for relationship, accomplishment and a feeling of effectance (personal power) in the world. We can, it seems, concern ourselves with many things at once.

The day after the election, the women’s movement needs to remember this.

The forces that want to turn back the clock on women’s rights, on reproductive rights and “issues of the womb” are counting on the old paradigm to be true. They are hoping that women will be so distracted with these core issues of safety and security in our own bodies that we will leave their war rooms and policy rooms bereft of our voices. This would be a big mistake.

There are extremists who want to put women and their bodies back under the control of a single conservative perspective. The laws and regulations they are proposing need to be challenged and beaten back. But I believe that this group is small, loud and beatable.

Women born in the last 30 years may have grown up without the need to grab the feminist flag, but they will rally if the rights they have enjoyed since they were born are in danger. And their mothers and grandmothers, who fought for those rights years ago in the trenches, will know how to lead them.

The larger danger comes from those who want to preserve and extend the balance of the past, the long-held reality that debates about economics and military policy and international policy are held almost exclusively in male voices.

Their use of Maslow’s psychology is simple: Keep the pot overflowing on the stove and the drawing room will remain cigar-friendly. Whether this is by chance or design, the resurgence of old feminist battles risks usurping too many women’s voices, and leaving critical issues without our influence. It will be no one’s fault but our own if we let that happen. Women have won many battles by uniting our voices. I believe, the day after this election, we need to hold our ground, and respond with a chorus of diverse feminine voices from every powerful position we own.

Here is how progressive feminists can do this.

Moving Forward with Four Action Steps

First, as a community, we need to encourage our members to put their energy and resources where they will make the most impact. I want female engineers talking about energy policy, and female economists talking about financial policy. I want them not only to feel free to do this, but to be applauded when they put their time and energy where they have the most credibility and where it will have the most impact for good.


Continue reading here.

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Your Vote Got Counted. Here’s Why

4:03 pm in Uncategorized by On The Issues Magazine

By Sheila Parks, cross-posted from On The Issues Magazine.

Yes, my side won. So, the argument could be made that I was wrong when it comes to election fraud. The real story is more complicated. I believe that my side – your side, the women’s side – won in part becausevoting rights activists were vigilant. They kept Americans watching, to make sureto document irregularities at the polls.

As the result of a fair election, women now have a far better opportunity to lead and influence. More glass ceilings were shattered, although we still await total demolition. We also won due to a heavy turnout from diligent voters. At one polling place in Boston, many were still standing in line to vote at 9:30 PM. Women voted in large numbers, as did African Americans, Latinas, LGBTQs and youth. They voted for our side – for their side – and thanks to voting rights activists their votes were counted.

Here are some ways in which activism worked:

  • Early in the day, a Pennsylvania voter caught an irregularity on his android (and it went viral) as he tried to vote for Obama and the machine kept highlighting Romney. A poll worker told him not to worry. But voting rights activists everywhere repeatedly told people to take pictures of all unusual events. It worked. At the time of this writing, there are over 9 million views on that Pennsylvania voter’s YouTube post.
  • At a press conference at the Washington Press Club on November 5, the day before the election, Harvey Wasserman announced: “We are in the process as we speak of filing a federal lawsuit in Columbus, Ohio, asking for the removal of some software that has been installed into the computer system…”
  • Also, bold and righteous acts in Ohio had all eyes on the state. These acts included research conducted by Gerry Bello, Bob Fitrakis and Wasserman of the Free Press and a lawsuit filed by Cliff Arnebeck, including an affidavit by Michael Duniho. The lawsuit charged that Ohio Secretary of State John Husted “has installed ‘experimental’ uncertified and untested software [experimental software patches on the ES&S machines] to count a large portion of the Ohio vote. It was also filed against ES&S. The judge “declined to interfere in an on-going election, but indicated that he would consider taking action as the case continues after the election if it was needed.”
  • In Boston, one of the lawyers I had approached as part of my own efforts to combat election fraud is Mimi Turchinetz. She initially said she was skeptical that the machines could be hacked and requested more evidence. I provided this evidence and ultimately we joined forces to enlist an election attorney to file an injunction in case the Massachusetts Senate race was very close due to possible irregularities caused by the machines – machines that would be used by 69 percent of voters. We wrote and circulated a paper about the dangers of these machines and also distributed a book I wrote about election fraud. Although our time was short, we had email, telephone or face-to-face conversations with lawyers in different specialties in Massachusetts and other states. Included among them were election specialists, radicals, non-profit attorneys, attorneys for the Democratic Party, Harvard law school faculty, a judge and attorneys for Albert Gore. Some disagreed with our position. Others said they believed us but were preoccupied with “Get Out the Vote,” (GOTV). We will continue this work.
  • Earlier Turchinetz told me in great detail what GOTV accomplished in Massachusetts this year. Volunteers knocked on doors, distributed literature and returned and/or repeatedly called those who were not at home. They went to those who voted regularly and those who voted infrequently.

On Election Night, as Obama was named the winner – even by Fox News – Karl Rove said those words everyone has heard by now: “I’d be very cautious about intruding in this process.” I heard that and stopped exhaling. I thought, oh my Goddess, they are going to rig it again. Rove mentioned Republican suburbs in Hamilton County, Ohio, where they use Hart InterCivic voting machines. The Romney family’s financial connection to Hart InterCivic has been widely discussed in the media (here, for one, is a Forbes report on this connection). Snopes says it isn’t true; but Forbes says it is. Who would you believe? Also, a dazzling roadmap details “Karl Rove’s Empire of Election Fraud.” It is by Jill Simpson, an attorney and former Republican and Jim March, a Black Box Voting Board member and a Libertarian.

Honest elections depend on a three-legged stool: stopping suppression  of the vote; overturning Citizens United; and getting rid of all electronic voting machines. The work by activists on stopping the suppression has been constant and brilliant and taken up by the mainstream media. The outcry against Citizens United has been ongoing and continues to be widespread and fierce. And we, as activists, will continue to ensure that Karl Rove and the Koch Brothers know forever, as they did this time, that they cannot rig our elections via the electronic voting machines. We will be everywhere, taking many actions.

Just imagine what you would be thinking and feeling now had the election not gone the way it has. As I write this, the GOP in Ohio has started to get the “Heartbeat Bill,” HB 125, on the table again. It would be the most prohibitive anti-abortion bill in the country, with no exceptions for rape.

And just imagine what it means that in 2012, the Voting Rights Act is being challenged in the Supreme Court.

No, Joe Walsh: Women Do Not Have Nine Lives

2:12 pm in Uncategorized by On The Issues Magazine

By Merle Hoffman, cross-posted at On The Issues Magazine.

A patient in a hospital bed on an IV

Photo: José Goulão / Flick

Congressman Joe Walsh says abortions never save women’s lives.

He’s wrong. Here’s one story out of many:

This happened in 1989. Very publicly.

Nancy Klein, a pregnant Long Island woman rendered comatose by a car accident, was finally given an abortion, woke up, and once again was able to recognize her husband Martin and her daughter Arielle, four.

I, along with another abortion rights activist — Bill Baird — joined forces with Nancy Klein’s husband to make this happen.

Klein’s husband wanted her to have an abortion because, based on medical advice, he firmly believed that continuing the pregnancy would kill her. The people I call the “antis” (they are not pro anything except controlling women’s bodies) took Martin Klein to three courts and the state supreme court to stop the abortion by fighting his petition for guardianship of his wife.

I can still see the pain in this accountant-husband’s eyes as he fought for his wife’s life against strangers who placed themselves as “guardian at litem” for the fetus.

So here we are in 2012, and people like Joe Walsh are still spewing dangerous misinformation about women’s bodies. If Mitt Romney is elected, it won’t be 1989 in this country. It will be 1971, before Roe v. Wade made abortion legal nationally. It will be very much like the year I opened one of the first abortion clinics in the country, in Queens, New York — a state ahead of the curve in reproductive rights. The first patient who came to Choices, my clinic, came from New Jersey because abortion was illegal in that state. If Mitt Romney gets his Personhood Amendment passed, abortion will be illegal in every state.

Women are not cats. They do not have nine lives. And the one life a woman does have could very easily be lost if she does not have an abortion when she needs one. Cancer, severe renal and heart disease, and severe diabetes are all pre-pregnancy conditions that can threaten a woman’s life, requiring her to have an abortion if she becomes pregnant. Now, that decision is a hard choice. Under President Romney, there would be no choice.

Since the nuance of medical literature is clearly beyond Walsh and his ilk, I’ll describe another situation in which, indeed, women do die when abortion is unavailable to them.

Even with the “modern technology” to which Walsh alludes.

Ectopic pregnancy is a complicated condition in which the embryo implants outside the uterus. With rare exceptions, ectopic pregnancies are not viable. They are also very dangerous for a woman, since internal hemorrhaging, a life-threatening complication, can occur. Ectopic pregnancy is a potential medical emergency and, if not treated properly, can lead to death.

I hope these facts help women see the truth. I will see it tomorrow — October 20 — when more than 200 protestors are expected outside my clinic to bully, harass, and intimidate patients on their way inside. Tomorrow it will feel like 1971 all over again to me.

So remember your family values, Walsh, Todd Akin, and friends: the life and health of women is the fulcrum around which the family and society turn. A woman’s life is a human life and one that must be honored. A woman’s choice is hers alone and one that must be protected.

Brilliance Outside the Box: Shulamith Firestone Remembered

4:51 am in Uncategorized by On The Issues Magazine

By Barbara Fischkin, cross-posted from On The Issues Magazine

Cover for the Dialectic of Sex

The Dialectic of Sex by Shulamith Firestone

It was a memorial service – and a call to action.

Shulamith Firestone, the brilliant, troubled feminist author, artist and activist who died in late August, was remembered at a sad but energized Manhattan memorial service Sunday night at St. Mark’s Church in the Bowery.

“The only box Shulie ever fit in was a simple pine box,” Firestone’s sister Laya Firestone Seghi told a tearful, multi-generational gathering, speaking about her sister’s funeral on August 31. More than a hundred mourners- including many feminist leaders- attended.

Seghi spoke about the life of her sister, a woman who fought a decades-long battle with mental illness, medications and hospitalizations. Firestone’s first book, ‘The Dialectic of Sex,” published in 1970, is still taught in universities throughout the country. It is a complicated work which speaks about the toll childbirth and child-rearing take on a woman – and calls for gestation and birth outside the womb.

Seghi said that her sister “burned with a life force that was so intense and so powerful it consumed her.”

But while Firestone’s death at 67, alone in her East Village apartment, was heartbreaking, it has also prompted many progressive women to call for continued and renewed feminist energy. National Women’s Liberation is organizing “The Shulamith Firestone Women’s Liberation Conference,” now planned for the first weekend in March 2013.

Kate Millet, another pivotal influence on second-wave feminism and the author of “Sexual Politics,” was among those who spoke about both Firestone and renewed action.

“I think we should remember Shulie because we’re in the same place now just about,” Millet said, referring to setbacks for women’s rights. “We should remember her because we have lost our nerve altogether. Let’s get it back!”

In an interview later, Millet said:

Read the rest of this entry →

Living Up to “The New Deal”: Half the Nation Is Still Waiting

1:17 pm in Uncategorized by On The Issues Magazine

By Susan F. Feiner, cross-posted from On The Issues Magazine.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt gave his fourth and final State of the Union Address in 1944. Because the defeat of fascism in Europe was in sight, FDR could frame a peacetime vision for the nation. He saw that the full realization of political freedom depended upon the elimination of material deprivation. FDR realized that the nation’s future well being would be undermined if some fraction of our people — whether it be one-third or one-fifth or one-tenth—is ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-housed, and insecure.

Roosevelt understood that true individual freedom can not exist without economic security and independence. ‘Necessitous men are not free men.’ People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made. He saw these economic truths … as self-evident and called for an Economic Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all — regardless of station, race, or creed.

Back then the nation’s emerging safety net was blatantly discriminatory. The progressive New Deal legislation did not cover the occupations open to Americans of color. Agriculture workers and domestic servants were exempted from social security, fair labor standards, minimum wages and the prohibition on child labor. Because some of these programs only covered full time workers, women (who were then and are now concentrated in part time work) were functionally excluded. Our inclusion in full-time paid employment was only tolerated while the war machine was marching along 24/7. Such overt discrimination is no longer tolerated. But we’ve made far less progress — if we’ve made any at all –on women’s fundamental economic rights.

Let’s examine the eight economic rights enumerated by FDR in 1944 in light of women’s contemporary economic situation.

1. The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation.

Since the beginning of the so-called economic recovery (June 2009), women’s share of new jobs has been just 20.7 percent. Of jobs lost during the Second Great Depression (that is, now, with 20 million people still without full-time work), women have regained only 26.7 percent while men have regained 40.6 percent of the jobs they lost in the same period. The excruciatingly slow growth of women’s jobs is due entirely to the ongoing attack on the public sector, where far more women than men are employed. Of the 3.4 million private sector jobs created since 2009, only 970,000 (28.7 percent) have gone to women. In short, women’s public sector job losses outweigh their private sector gains by more than 40 percent.

2. The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation.

Jobs in which women are concentrated — secretaries and administrative assistants; elementary and middle-school teachers; retail salespeople; nurses; maids and housekeepers — pay less than male-dominated jobs and the Department of Labor projects these jobs will grow faster than other occupations. Consequently women’s earnings will continue to lag behind men’s. The consequences of this occupational segregation are worse for single women and mothers. Single women’s earnings are 78.8 percent of married women’s earnings (and 57 percent of men’s) while mothers earn about seven percent less than childless women.

Continue reading here.

Why Right-to-Lifers Hate Birth Control and Love Mitt Romney, Part 1

6:05 pm in Uncategorized by On The Issues Magazine

By Bill Baird, cross-posted from On The Issues Magazine.

My wife Joni and I were  the only ones  protesting in front of the National Right to Life Committee’s annual convention this year, from June 29-July 1 in Washington, D.C.

I’d just turned 80, and this year’s event was the 37th time I had been there to greet them. As always, I came with an eight-foot  cross inscribed with the words “Free Women From the Cross of Oppression – Keep Abortion Legal.”

The convention’s organizers knew to expect us. I’ve been there nearly every year since 1973. They’ve even featured me in their newspaper as an “abortion entrepreneur”   — for the free birth control referral services I started in 1964, for the abortion clinic that was burned to the ground by an anti-abortion terrorist in 1979, and most of all for the 1972 Supreme Court decision, Baird v. Eisenstadt, which secured the right to contraception for all women. Eisenstadt, which I won after a five-year fight and a jail term,  is well known to be a cornerstone of 1973 ‘s landmark Roe v. Wade, which the Committee is sworn to overturn.

This year, that goal may have seemed closer than ever to the Committee, given the victories achieved in so many states. It felt more essential than ever  to come to the Hyatt to neutralize the anti-choice propaganda they were feeding the media, and to try to guess their next steps.

The day the conference began, the Supreme Court decision on health care was issued by Chief Justice Roberts, to the shock of organizers.  “Bill did you hear the news about the Supreme Court?” Ernest Ohlhoff, Religious Outreach Director for NRLC, asked me in the hotel elevator.  “[Chief Justice John] Roberts turned!” Others denounced Roberts as a “traitor” and “turncoat.”

An early speaker was Sue Thayer, who worked at Planned Parenthood as manager of Iowa’s Storm Lake and LeMars Planned Parenthood clinics for 18 years. After she was laid off as part of a regional PP downsizing last year, Thayer  began a 40-day prayer ritual outside of the Storm Lake clinic; after its pre-planned closure, she  proudly proclaimed that she and her allies had “prayed it away.”  Since that time, Thayer has worked closely with anti-choice forces, most recently by accusing Planned Parenthood of Medicaid fraud.

Thayer closed by telling workshop participants, “God’s people need to rise up.  I think God’s people are sick of [abortion.]” She was echoed by Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, who bragged that his state is now a total “pro life state.” This was more than three years after the brutal murder of abortion provider George Tiller, MD, killed in that state by an anti-abortion terrorist while attending Sunday services at his own church.

Saying that as a politician he only has “one constituent” – God – Brownback complimented NRLC for its “very strategic legislative agenda,” calling them very “tactical” (because they have sliced away at reproductive rights bit by bit, or what I call the “bologna method”).   Brownback said, “The place you change America isn’t in Washington, it’s in the states.”

Both confirmed what I’ve been saying for decades: that the pro- choice community must recognize we are in the midst of a “holy war” and change our tactics accordingly. Because in many ways, they’re winning.

And right now their goal is the Presidency.    While the convention attendees seemed demoralized by the  Roberts decision,  I have a feeling there will be a backlash that will find them rallying behind Mitt Romney even stronger.

“There’s one way of turning back Obamacare and it is who you vote for as president,”  Brownback said. Calling Rick Santorum a great hero of the pro life movement and a personal friend, Brownback stressed the ‘need’ to elect the nominee who defeated him: There’s a guy in this race that’s pro life and there’s a guy in this race that is not.  I’m going to push hard on Senate and House races too,” he added, stressing swing states.

The man they’ve chosen to support was ironically once a supporter of Roe v. Wade. When he was governor of Massachusetts, he endorsed the state’s long-established Right to Privacy Day in honor of Baird v. Eisenstadt.  “It is appropriate that all Massachusetts citizens recognize the importance of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Baird v. Eisenstadt,”  read Romney’s 2003 proclamation, “a decision that was quoted six times in subsequent cases including Roe v. Wade.”  But by 2005 Romney had deleted the Roe v. Wade reference from the proclamation, and the following year, 2006, refused to issue the Right to Privacy Day proclamation at all, withdrawing his support from birth control.

By then, Romney was already preparing for his 2008 presidential bid, but he might as well have been revving up for last month’s convention. That increased emphasis on restricting birth control was worse than we’d seen before.

The National Right to Life Committee leadership pretends to not take a stand on birth control, but its mostly-Catholic members individually tell you they believe only in abstinence  or rhythm (which I have called Vatican Roulette for decades).  They believe that the pill, IUD and anything that prevents a fertilized egg from attaching to the uterus are abortifacients: thus no RU486, no morning-after pill.

This past March, the 40th anniversary of Baird v. Eisenstadt, was greeted by a blistering editorial from Janet Morana, Executive Director of Priests for Life.  “The Catholic Church forbids the use of artificial contraception,” she wrote before reeling off a set of distortions about “increased risk of cardiovascular disease, cervical and liver cancer  [....] decreased desire and sexual dysfunction and stroke.” She finished with,  “Is a contraception prescription with every paycheck such a good idea?  Clearly the answer is no.”

That was a message dutifully repeated by the young people we met at the convention, some of them teenagers.


Read “Report From the Right-to-Life Convention, Part 2″ here.

Health Reform, The Supreme Court & What I Learned From My Mother

12:44 pm in Uncategorized by On The Issues Magazine

By Janet Mason, cross-posted from On The Issues Magazine.

A hand in bandages with an IV on a hospital bed.

Photo: José Goulão / Flickr

As the Affordable Care Act worked its way through the courts in the past three years, I began to reflect on how it might have affected my own life and that of my mother, who died of cancer in 1994. The Supreme Court is reportedly due to issue its ruling on the constitutionality of the health care insurance reform (“Obamacare” to some) on June 28, 2012.I don’t know what the justices will decide, but I do know that people like me and my mother need a health care system we can believe in — something better than what is in place.

The medical system is mostly a profit-making structure that overlooks the most vulnerable sectors of our society — especially older women.

I was a witness to this when my mother was dying from fourth-stage cancer that had metastasized to her bones. She initially became aware of the cancer when she woke up with a crushing pain in her sternum. Her doctor at a health maintenance organization (HMO) diagnosed her with arthritis and suggested she take extra strength Tylenol. He refused to give a referral to a specialist.

It’s often said that women become invisible after the age of 45. We also become invisible to the medical system. Older women are more likely to have complicated medical issues and are more likely to be low-income, having spent fewer years in the workforce because of raising children and caretaking elderly parents.

While there is much confusion over healthcare reform, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act offered relief – some already in effect that helps the elderly population. As of January 2011, Medicare provides no-cost screenings for cancer, diabetes and other chronic diseases. At the same time, the Affordable Care Act established a new Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation that tests better ways of delivering care to patients.

Continue reading here.

Gone Too Far? Reproductive Politics in the Time of Obama

1:12 pm in Uncategorized by On The Issues Magazine

Obama caves to the Catholic bishops. (Photo: RH Reality Check)

Obama caves to the Catholic bishops. (Photo: RH Reality Check)

By Carole Joffe, cross-posted at On The Issues Magazine

What about abortion gives it staying power as the central issue in domestic politics, even in the period of the worst economic situation since the Great Depression of the 1930s? This is a question well worth pursuing.

I sounded a much more hopeful note in my recent book, Dispatches from the Abortion Wars. The book was started in the administration of George W. Bush, a particularly harsh time for the reproductive justice community. I finished the book in the first months of the presidency of Barack Obama, ending on a note of “cautious optimism” about a turnabout for the fortunes of reproductive health services and particularly for the provision of abortion. Candidate Obama, after all, had forcefully voiced his support for legal abortion, and nothing — at the time — seemed to be worse than the endless attacks on reproductive health services (not just abortion, but family planning , sex education, condom distribution for HIV patients and more) that were a key feature of the Bush presidency.

Quoting from the distinguished historian Carroll Smith-Rosenberg’s work on an earlier period of abortion conflict in 19th century America, I even speculated that we might be entering a period in which abortion and related issues would no longer be “the central drama of (our) culture.” Given the devastating recession that had already become very evident around the time of the 2008 election, I, like many others, reasonably thought that the economy would in fact become the “central drama.”

But very soon after the 2008 election, it became very clear that social conservatives were not going away. On the contrary, they seemed more energized than ever. It also became clear that Obama the president was not going to be the forceful defender of reproductive rights that many of his supporters, including myself, had fantasized. Indeed, as early as January 2009, in his first weeks in office, reproductive politics emerged as a factor in the stimulus debates, and the new president blinked. The president’s proposal had included a modest provision that allowed states to spend more Medicaid funds on family planning. The Republican House of Representatives leader, John Boehner, publically mocked this provision, asking incredulously what “spending millions for contraceptives” had to do with “fixing the economy.” The provision was quickly dropped.

And, of course, many reproductive rights supporters are still smarting over Obama’s key concessions to anti-abortion forces, particularly the Catholic Church, in order to win support for his health reform legislation. By late 2011, it was still unclear whether Obama would again cave to the Church’s demands for very broad exemptions to the requirement that health insurance plans, under Obama’s health legislation, provide contraception without co-pays. But while that was pending, the reproductive health community was stunned when, in a clear bow to politics, the Obama Administration took the unprecedented step of overruling the head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and rejecting the agency’s recommendation that Emergency Contraception be made available without a prescription to women under the age of 17. Read the rest of this entry →

Letter to a Young Activist: Left to Learn from the ‘60s

6:54 am in Uncategorized by On The Issues Magazine

By Laura Whitehorn, cross-posted at On The Issues Magazine

If you saw the film The Weather Underground, you saw about three minutes of me. The film, through interviews, narration and clips, describes the genesis and decline of the radical activist group by that name from 1969 to the mid-’70s. I gave some reflections from my participation in it.

Learning about the sixties — a high tide of radical uprising, when masses of people in this country joined with people around the world who were fighting wars for national liberation and against colonialism and racism — can be useful to anyone engaged in political and social change. After all, learning the lessons of the past can help with figuring out what to do in the present.

The Weather Underground, unfortunately, focuses on white radicals, and, in the process, leaves out two important truths about our history. The film ignores the rise of mass incarceration in the 70s and its effects on political activism, and it skips over the valuable work of the Black Panther Party, many of whom ended up in prison. The connecting thread, and what I want you to care about in your activism today, has to do with those who were left behind — the political prisoners who are still incarcerated.

A very significant outcome of mass incarceration is how it contributed to preventing an effective revolutionary mass movement from emerging.

Read the rest of this entry →

No Women, No Peace: Time to Change Peace Building

12:33 pm in Uncategorized by On The Issues Magazine


"Peace" by stuckincustoms on flickr

By Shelagh Daley, cross-posted at On The Issues Magazine

You can’t build peace leaving half of the people out.

Women are a prime target in conflict, yet when it comes to building peace, they are being left out. The discourse around peace building often emphasizes the importance of inclusive and sustainable peace; however, many negotiations proceed amid blatant discrimination against half of the population.

Agreements made in peace negotiations set out the groundwork for post-agreement political, economic and social development, yet only a shocking one in 40 peace signatories in the past 25 years has been a woman. In addition to making claims of inclusivity highly questionable, this means experiences and issues affecting women are left off the agenda. Decision-making that is more inclusive and democratic is a better informed process and leads to better decisions and outcomes.

The “No women, no peace” campaign was created in the United Kingdom to mark the tenth anniversary of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 and to urge the UK government to honor its commitments on women, peace and security.

Issues such as sexual violence (including the widespread use of rape as a weapon of war), widowhood, women’s insecurity and the erosion of women’s rights in times of conflict are not paid sufficient attention. When women’s voices are not heard, their needs go unmet and wider power inequalities are perpetuated. Only 16 percent of peace agreements even mention women, and often when women are mentioned, it is to restrict their rights. In addition, the failure to empower women peace builders has been identified as a key barrier to the successful implementation of peace agreements.

The need to include women in peace negotiations has been accepted by the UN Security Council in Resolution 1325, which recognizes women’s experiences of conflict and calls for women’s participation in peace and reconciliation efforts. October 2010 marked the tenth anniversary of this landmark resolution, but its real impact is yet to be felt by many women who experience conflict. The “No women, no peace” campaign is working to change this. Read the rest of this entry →