|Why We Need a U.S.-Based Feminist Anti-Militarism Movement|
“We have leadership development schools for our children because they will decide if they will participate in these wars or not,” said Claudia Castellenos, a human rights lawyer from Popular Feminine Organization Against the War and for Peace in Colombia.
Claudia was among three GFW grantees who we supported to attend the U.S. Social Forum (USSF) in Detroit, where over 15,000 activists participated in 1,000 self-organized workshops on building social change and movements in the U.S. The motto of the World Social Forum is “Another World is Possible,” whereas the USSF motto is, “But Another U.S. is Necessary.”
The Global Fund for Women has an initiative Reclaiming Peace and Genuine Security, Women Dismantling Militarism, so I organized a workshop entitled, “Transnational Feminist Organizing to Resist Militarism and Empire,” with grantees from Colombia, Brazil and Guam. Lisa Natividad from the Guahan Coalition for Peace and Justice talked about the planned transfer of 8,000 U.S. marines from Okinawa to Guam, and the devastating impact that the transfer will have on their already heavily militarized island. “What does the legacy of militarism mean for Guam mean?” Lisa asked. “Poor health outcomes and short lives due to the toxicity caused by the [U.S.] military base.” Gwyn Kirk, co-founder of the International Women’s Network Against Militarism talked about how militarism is used to rape women, inflict violence on people, contaminate the environment, and strip farmers and peasants of their land and sovereignty. Alessandra Ceregetti from the World March of Women, an international feminist grassroots movement working to end poverty and violence against women, talked about how they promote peace and demilitarization. “War, conflict, militarization are expressions of violence that are not natural,” Alessandra said, “but generated by the system.”
But the U.S. military doesn’t just impact people abroad. Tomorrow, I’ll write about how it impacts us right here at home.
Although GFW primarily supports women-led efforts outside the United States, it’s important for our grantees to be connected to and in solidarity with a strong U.S.-based feminist, anti-militarist movement. That’s why we brought together Fabiola Torralba and Graciela Sanchez from the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center in San Antonio Texas, and Barbara Lott-Holland from the Bus Riders Union of the Labor Community Strategy Center. These multi-racial, multi-generational women shared their experiences of living near U.S. military bases, how their family is recruited into the military, the policing of their neighborhoods, and the school-to-prison pipeline for youth of color. We discussed the need to build a powerful grassroots women’s movement in the U.S. that can work across borders because it will take all of us to stand up to the military industrial complex. If anyone could do it, women can.
Graciela Sanchez, whose organization uses culture and art, shared these powerful words of how we might build a movement of women against militarism. “How can we organize against the military? How can we organize against poverty and racism? How can we organize for justice if we hate ourselves? We have to learn to do the work as mujeres to ground ourselves culturally and to change the culture of violence, of war, of hate of greed towards that of our abuelitas (grandmothers) that was a culture of love, sharing, compassion, respect, honesty and truth. All simple concepts, but hard to live by. We do that by recognizing that all our identities must come together. In this country, organizing has been centered and defined by men, by identity politics, separated. I can’t separate my queer self, my woman self, my working class background self, my immigrant family from Mexico self, or my curly headed self. We can’t separate our identities. We must look at issues holistically and make the connections.”
The women who came together at the USSF will continue to communicate and deepen our relationships, and solidarity actions are starting to be planned to support the World March of Women efforts in Colombia in August and in the Democratic Republic of Congo in October. Stay tuned to hear how you might join this transnational effort.