In 2006, the U.S. and Japan agreed to transfer 8,000 U.S. marines and their families from Okinawa to Guam, also known as Guahan to the native Chamoru people. “Not so fast!” challenged the Chamoru women of the Guahan Coalition for Peace and Justice. The infusion of U.S. marines, their families and contractors would “double the existing military presence on the island and eclipse the Chamoru population” of Guam’s 170,000, says Guahan Coalition member Lisa Natividad.
Natividad and Guahan women leaders are opposing US militarism in a place where it is very powerful, as it offers one of the few employment options on the island. Undeterred, their campaign ‘8000: How Will It Change Our Lives’ challenges the official rationale that the military is there to protect women. It raises questions about how the military base threatens the island’s natural environment and traditional forms of Chamoru livelihoods and culture, and increases the insecurity of its women and girls.
Recognizing that their struggle against the expansion of U.S. military bases isn’t theirs alone, the Guahan Coalition has become an active member in the International Women’s Network Against Militarism, joining women’s groups from across the Asia Pacific and Puerto Rico. In 2009, the Coalition hosted the Network’s seventh international meeting where women’s groups shared how military build up impacted women’s security and strategized on forms of advocacy against these bases.