Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF)

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

WILPF Advancing Human Rights Committee Action Alert

Posted by Mary Bricker Jenkins, WILPF Advancing Human Rights Committee

Please join your colleagues and friends in participating in this important event! As we well know, across the country hundreds, if not thousands, of children are removed from their families (or not returned) because there is not safe, affordable housing for the families. Others fear losing their children. Others are homeless. Let’s help make a public issue of these private troubles.


The United Nations will hold a Regional Consultation on Women and the Right to Housing in North America with UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, Miloon Kothari. The Consultation will be held on October 15-18, 2005, at Yale Law School.

Your active participation is needed to make this consultation effective and useful for women around the world. Below, we list five concrete ways in which you can become directly involved. We encourage you to engage in as many as are possible for you and to contact us about them as soon as possible.

1. RECOMMEND THEMES FOR THE CONSULTATION. The consultation and the testimonies given will be organized around four or five broad themes of special relevance to North American women. We have identified six potential themes, but welcome your ideas on whether these most accurately reflect the special concerns of women in North America:
i) Violence against women/Intimate partner violence and housing
ii) State apprehension of children due to inadequate housing
iii) Discrimination in access to and retention of adequate housing
iv) Forced displacement and housing evictions
v) Physical and emotional dangers faced by homeless and inadequately housed women
vi) Aboriginal women and housing / Indigenous housing

Given space and time constraints and the dynamics of the consultation, only 20 women will be able to give direct oral testimony at the consultation. We need your help in identifying grassroots women who, based on their own experiences, can best represent the issues that affect women’s right to adequate housing in our region. Please let us know your recommendations!

3. COLLECT WRITTEN TESTIMONY FROM WOMEN. In order that the voices of as many women as possible can be heard (not just the twenty chosen to provide oral testimony) a larger compilation of written testimony, from as many women who are willing to participate, will be submitted to the Special Rapporteur for inclusion in his final U.N. report. We will also assemble these written testimonials in a formal publication related to the consultation for further use in domestic advocacy efforts. The testimonials will additionally be submitted to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to aid human rights promotion efforts at the regional level. We need your help to encourage and assist as many women as possible to turn their housing experiences and struggles into a form of testimony for the consultation. The testimonials can be as short as one paragraph to as long as several pages. While any and every form of written testimony is valuable, we attach a housing rights violation report form that may be useful in helping women plan or organize their responses. If you need help on where to begin, we have a range of experts on our consultation planning team — lawyers, social workers, organizers and others who you can call on for help at anytime. A form to complete when compiling documentation is available from housingwomen_un@yahoo.com.

4. PROVIDE IDEAS FOR MEDIA OUTREACH AND PUBLICITY. Key to the consultation will be getting domestic and international media attention drawn to it. For this to occur, we need your ideas and suggestions, your proposals and direct assistance!

5. PROVIDE OTHER IDEAS AND RESOURCES. Everyone’s ideas, perspectives and experiences are essential and we welcome any and every idea you have to improve the effectiveness and usefulness of the consultation. Please send us your ideas! Also, if there is a way that you can assist with resources (e.g., media, publicity, photocopying, organizing) please let us know. Everyone is welcome!

We look forward to working with you closely in preparing for and undertaking this important event to illustrate the extent of housing rights violations against women in North America and to advance overall, the fundamental human right to housing. Please feel free to contact anyone on the Planning Team for more information on this important Consultation. Please also send all of your ideas, recommendations, thoughts and written testimonies to us at:

Email: housingwomen_un@yahoo.com
Fax: +(312)-280-4526

When replying, please indicate if you are in Canada or the U.S.

Monday, August 29, 2005

US Shreds UN Document

The U.S. is demanding over 700 changes and deletions in the 'Outcome Document' for the 60th anniversary session of the General Assembly, scheduled to begin on 16 September. After discussion by the heads of state of the 150 nations attending the session, and after negotiation by the assembled delegates the final official Document will set the next decade's agenda for the world organization.

The massive overhaul, prepared under newly-appointed UN ambassador John Bolton slashes the 38 page draft document, negotiated by UN member nations over the past 6 months, down to 3 pages. Bolton eliminates any mention of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and poverty reduction targets. The MDGs were adopted by all countries including the US at the 55th session of the General Assembly in 2000 and contains its blueprint for eliminating poverty within a generation.

The US amendments strike out references to the Kyoto treaty and any efforts to slow global warming. It removes any mention of the International Criminal Court and of nuclear disarmament. Also gone is the statement that donor countries should contribute 0.7% of their gross national product for official development assistance by 2015 (the US gives 0.2%; Norway plans to give 0.95%). The US version rejects the UN's maintaining a standing military peacekeeping capability.

Bolton's attempt to radically redirect the UN could result in failure by the General Assembly to reach an agreement. UN effectiveness and credibility may be undermined further when the final report on the Iraq oil for food corruption investigation is released shortly before the UN's top-level summit.

Currently, most news media worldwide are depicting the US as scuttling UN efforts to alleviate poverty. However, President Bush has stated that reduction of worldwide poverty is essential for combating terrorism. His administration favors free market reform over direct aid. To be sure, funds donated through official channels have more often than not fed corruption rather than hungry mouths, and outside interventions in developing nations have often caused disaster. The Center for Global Development (CGD) presents discussions of ways to help poor countries help themselves that have not been put forward by the US. Many CDG suggestions resonate with WILPF principles and may be worth promoting.

It remains to be seen if the US makes any promising proposals at the forthcoming UN summit to rid the world of poverty or whether its underlying intention is to rid the world of the UN.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

U.S. Policy on Israel and Palestine Update

Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Welch held a briefing on Wednesday. The transcript is available from the State Department. (That page also has a link to a Real Audio file of the briefing.) Interesting discussion of the Separation Wall and Israeli Settlement Activities:
QUESTION: Hoda Tawfik, Al-Ahram newspaper.

Mr. Secretary, in spite of all the commitments we keep speaking about for both sides in the roadmap and also Sharm el-Sheikh, we see that the separation wall now will be built, or in the near decision of getting built around Ma'ale Adumim and which separates -- will separate and extends 25 kilometers on the Palestinians' land. And also we see that some of the settlers are moving to settlement in the West Bank.

So exactly what the United States role now in helping both sides to fulfill the commitments? What are you going to do? What are you doing now?

AMBASSADOR WELCH: Well, we would like to facilitate people meeting their obligations, but let me go one step beyond that. For people to meet obligations, they have to want to do so. There has to be real not just intention but seriousness of purpose in doing things on the ground. And let's be clear, these obligations are reciprocal. One party should not be discounted because of the visibility of the other party's actions. To rebuild confidence, it's going to take steps from both sides.

With respect to the fence, or the wall, as you've called it, we don't have any issue with Israel's right to defend itself and therefore the existence of a fence or a wall, per se. It's the course of the wall that would cause us concern, in some cases, in the areas you mentioned. These matters are being discussed and debated as we speak in Israel and I don't know what their final decisions would be. We would have to see.

Again, as I said in response to an earlier question, the same thing pertains as with respect to settlement activity. We have a concern with respect to unilateral steps that might prejudice the outcome of final status negotiations or complicate efforts to get there. And you can be sure that the Israeli Government is aware of those views. And I believe that because they're friends of the United States, they would take them into account. But we'll see what they do.
With all due respect to Secretary Welch, notice how he deflects culpability for Israeli actions? The U.S. is more than just a friend of Israel - we provide Israel with at least $3 billion in aid (including $1.8 billion in military aid) a year, which is a third of the U.S. foreign aid budget.* If the US government wanted to stop Israel from doing something, I certainly believe threatening to revoke some of our foreign aid would immediately change the actions of the Israeli government.

*Source of aid figures: "The Cost of Israel to US Taxpayers: True Lies About U.S. Aid to Israel," by Richard H. Curtiss of the Washington Report on Middle Eastern Affairs

Thursday, August 25, 2005

DISARM! Committee Action Alert

The following post was submitted by Carol Urner on behalf of WILPF's DISARM! Issue Committee:

October 1 to 8 is Keep Space for Peace week and WILPF is again co-sponsoring the week internationally with Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space, of which WILPF is a member.

For specific suggestions, speakers list and organizational kits, or to share information on your own plans, contact WILPF DISARM via Carol Urner at curner@qwest.net

WILPF and GN are also co-sponsoring a vigil October 8 at Vandenberg Air Force Base. You will find a flyer and information on the vigil, as well as on the WILPF A Space for Peace video, on the same website.

For background on the Peaceful Uses of Space treaty and efforts to upgrade the treaty to outlaw weapons and war in space go to PAROS on the WILPF Reaching Critical Will website.

Additional information on US space policies (missile defense and nuclear power and weapons in space) can be found on the DISARM pages of the US WILPF website.

Explore the GN website for more general information on the US programs to militarize and dominate space.

Sites linked in this post:

Monday, August 22, 2005

Advancing Human Rights Issue Committee Action

The following post was submitted by Laura Roskos, on behalf of WILPF's Advancing Human Rights Issue Committee:

Constructive Time-sensitive Action for WILPFers Concerned about US Human Rights Violations

On Friday, August 12, Ann Fagan Ginger—-executive director of the Meicklejohn Civil Liberties Institute and second-generation WILPF member—held a lunchtime human rights seminar for attendees at the WILPF National Congress. Promoting human security through the full realization of universal human rights is a priority concern of WILPF International, and supported through the work of WILPF US’s Disarm and Advancing Human Rights issues committees.

Through a fast-paced interactive lecture, Ann reminded us that Article 6 of the US Constitution outlines a role for state and municipal governments in upholding the terms of treaties entered into by the federal government. She then demonstrated how all of the key human rights elaborated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and even the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women are embedded in the language of the U.N. Charter itself (esp. Articles 55 and 56). Ann feels it is incredibly important that U.S.-ians realize that human rights are integral to our country’s own legal tradition and that U.S. NGOs focus their advocacy on domestic enforcement of those international instruments that the U.S. is a full party to: the U.N. Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention Against Torture, and the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

The U.S. government has often failed to fulfill its duties, or positive responsibilities, to respect, protect, and fulfill the human rights articulated in these international treaties, despite that fact that many, if not most of those rights, are also elaborated in U.S. constitutional law. Human rights treaty enforcement relies on a process of data collection and reporting, conducted in the spirit of self-study by all levels of government. The U.S. has failed to make timely reports on its compliance under the above mentioned treaties, and at times has brazenly flaunted the spirit and letter of these agreements. In her recently published book, Challenging Human Rights Violations Since 9/11: A Report to the People, the United Nations, and the Media, Ann collected documentation on 180 such abuses. As thick as this book is, its compilation is by no means exhaustive.

Therefore, Ann invites WILPF members from across the country to join her in filing reports of human rights abuses with the U.N. Human Rights Committee. Of current interest to the committee are incidents occurring since Sept. 11, 2001, and involving the infringement of the human rights of non-citizens, people of Middle Eastern heritage, library users, foreign students, in particular as pursuant to the implementation of the U.S. Patriot Act.

In order to be useful to the committee, the reports should be brief, accurate, and factual, and submitted by email before August 29, 2005. For help in writing and filing reports, WILPF members can contact Soula at
Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute: 2005@mcli.org.

What to put into the report:
  • Today's date
  • Date of Incident
  • Place where Incident happened
  • Name of Government official involved
  • Description of the violation/s
  • Name of Victim/s whose rights were violated
  • If Victim filed a complaint or filed a lawsuit, describe briefly
  • Tell current status of issue
  • Your name, address, occupation, contact info

Watch this blog for other tactics useful for building a tangible human rights culture in (y)our hometown.

Submitted by Laura Roskos (roskos@masscedaw.org)

Sunday, August 21, 2005

The Los Angeles Branch Keeps its Eye on Congress

The following links were sent to me by the Los Angeles, California Branch email list. The Rolling Stone article is a long, but straight-forward look at the current state of "democracy" in the House of Representatives. The second link provides a summary of the article.

"Four Amendments & a Funeral: A month inside the house of horrors that is Congress,"
by Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone Magazine

"Rolling Stone on the Courageous Fight Inside the U.S. House of Horrors,"
by David Sirota on the Huffington Post blog

East Jerusalem Israeli Settlements

An article was forwarded to the International WILPF listserv yesterday regarding Nof Zion, an Israeli settlement in the West Bank, half of which is on land owned by Palestinians in the East Jerusalem village Jabel Mukhaber. The Palestinian land was confiscated for "public services." The new real estate will be a gated community and many of the units are being sold to Jewish Americans who will probably never reside in the West Bank full time.

More info:
"Settlements go down, settlements go up: New Settlement Puts Pressure on Jerusalem Palestinians," by Jon Elmer in the New Standard, available on Znet

To subscribe to WILPF listservs:
First, please join WILPF.

The International WILPF listserv:
send a blank email to wilpf-news-subscribe AT igc DOT topica DOT com
Replace AT with @ and DOT with . (address written that way to prevent spammers from emailing it)

The US WILPF listserv:
send a blank email to wilpf-us-news-subscribe AT igc DOT topica DOT com

If you are a US WILPF member and would like to add information to this blog:
email me: cjminster AT gmail DOT com
I'll send you the blog protocol. If you're interested in contributing at least once every two weeks, I'll be happy to give you access to writing on the blog. If you'd like to contribute less frequently than that, I'll be happy to post your words for you.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Blogs Related to WILPF

Eventually, I'd like to start a WILPF blogroll. For now, here are some blogs directly related to WILPF's work:

UN Dispatch: A roundup of news related to the UN, with an emphasis on the blogosphere. Sponsored by the United Nations Foundation.

Water Well: Watering the Future: "Water conservation and Health. Watering the future of earth's most precious resource."

Regarding the Middle East: I learned at the WILPF Congress that we will never all agree on our analysis of U.S. relations with the Middle East, especially Israel and Palestine. Here are three sources I personally find useful:

Informed Comment: blog of Political Science Professor Juan Cole, which offers the best translation of news from the Middle East in English I have seen on the web.

Rafah Pundits: "Broadcasting to the blogosphere the word on Rafah!"

Jews sans frontieres: "anti-Zionist blog - browsing the media"

If Americans Knew: "what every American needs to know about Israel / Palestine"

Again, I realize that Zionist and anti-Zionist are loaded terms to a lot of WILPFers. We should have a longer discussion about the issue and perhaps you would feel more comfortable with a pro-Israel link added to this mix. If that is the case, please offer it in the Comments section of this post. Personally, I feel that the mainstream media offers one-sided coverage of Israel and Palestine, and I'm hoping to point you to alternative voices.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Grow WILPF - Become a Life Member

Mary Bricker-Jenkins, our new Program Chair on the national board, caught me at just the right time to ask me to join her in becoming a life member. I was full of excitement and brimming with ideas, having just finished a workshop on Fundraising for WILPF. Mary asked me if I was a life member. Life Membership costs $500, so clearly as a woman with no savings and $200 in her checking account, I'm not the average ask for this. Mary explained that you can pay for life membership as $50 a month for ten months. She said that my pledge would be doubled by the matching grant (which ends August 31), and asked me to join her in raising this money for WILPF. I thought about it (only briefly, because she seemed in a hurry and I was swept up in her enthusiasm) and realized that if I give up my disposable income for ten months, this is do-able.

My boyfriend thinks I should spend my time telling people about my thoughts and feelings around Congress and less on my monetary contribution. But I feel like very few people heard me when I explained how serious and deep this is for me. Life membership means I'm devoted to this organization for life. It means unlike most people, I think WILPF is important enough to seriously and deeply cut into my personal finances. It means I'm probably the youngest member to buy her own life membership. And I was the only person in her 20s to meet the 90s club challenge (looking for 90 good women in WILPF's 90th year to become life members).

A couple living at the same address can both become life members for the bargain price of $750.

Life membership is not tax deductible - since you have to pay membership directly to WILPF and not to JAPA, the Jane Addams Peace Association - our sister peace education organization. I've never personally understood everyone's obsession with tax deductions, but I thought I'd put it out there.

And to clarify to the fabulous women and men who donated money to pay for my Congress registration - I don't have any extra money and was only at Congress because of your generous contributions. I never thought I'd give up going to the movies for WILPF, but I have. I hope if you're related to me, you'll understand that in WILPF's 90th year, it is more important to me to grow this organization than it is for me to pay down my ridiculously high credit card debt or save for a vacation.

Join Mary and me. Become a Life Member. Use this link to pay US WILPF via Pay Pal.

Or print out this form and send in your $500 check today.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Saturday Exhaustion

There is so much to report. My hope for next Congress is WiFi availability, so I can tell you all about it as it is happening. I'm exhausted and still digesting all that happened today, including the fact that I committed myself in a rather significant way to the future of our organization...more perhaps tomorrow after sleep. If not tomorrow, then definitely during the upcoming week. I've practically filled a spiral notebook with my notes from workshops. Best wishes to all WILPFers who couldn't be with us. Help us reach our goal of $900,000 for WILPF's 90th and give now!

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Friday Teaser

I feel so conflicted - yesterday, I was on information overload and couldn't express all of the things I learned and experienced. I was sure I would recap the sessions for you this morning before the opening plenary at 9. But then I ran into Libby Frank (our amazing Educational Point Person on our WCUSP leadership team, and former US Section ED and former chair of the Middle East committee, and her accomplishments are too many to list). Anyway, Libby reminded me that our leadership team really should meet for breakfast since we didn't yesterday and we leave tomorrow and I should be there at 7:30, five minutes from now. So here's the teaser about yesterday, and hopefully later I'll flesh it out:

Kim Klein Plenary, 8am
Engaging, exciting, inspiring. I took notes on my PDA, so this will be the easiest section to recap in depth.

Workshop on the Iraq War
Yesterday there were four workshop periods, so my experience is just one of many. At the Iraq War Workshop, we heard from Marge Edwards, outgoing Program Chair and Nadjia (finding her last name before next update), a Gold Star Mother for Peace. Great workshop, where I was able to plug my sister's anti-recruiting work in L.A. public schools (with the Coalition for Educational Justice, a coalition of students, parents, and teachers working to end racist testing, get the military out of our schools, and get more money for all schools, especially those in the inner city).

Workshop on Christian Zionism
learned some terms, and learned about transforming Armageddon. Officially late so not writing much.


Workshop on War, Women, Water
I was at this workshop for both afternoon sessions representing the WCUSP campaign (it was a time for outgoing campaigns and incoming campaigns to bring a united focus on issues). I learned a lot.


Changing of the Guards
in which I was dismissed from being the At Large Membership Rep and welcomed as the WCUSP Campaign Rep and we heard great speeches from Darien deLu, Sandy Silver, Tamara James, and Chris Morin.

Jeannette Rankin Play

Youth Caucus Meeting
Possibly my favorite activity of the day.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Thursday Plenaries

Thursday was an interesting day. In the morning we had the plenary for the WCUSP campaign. In the afternoon was the plenary for the Save the Water campaign.

I am indebted to "The Daily WILPF," our unofficial record of the 90th Anniversary WILPF Congress - a newspaper that is being produced by Ellen Schwartz and Joan Bazar - for the information regarding plenary speakers.
"Women Challenge US Policy: Building Peace on Justice in the Middle East." Our panelists will confront powerful myths and stereotypes, investigate the role of the Christian Right in US policy toward Israel-Palestine, and look at ways to work in coalitions for change. Barbara Lubin is founder and executive director of the Middle East Children's Alliance, which since 1988 has delivered millions of dollars in humanitarian aid to children's clinics, hospitals, schools and women's organizations in the Occupied Palestinian territories and Iraq. She will speak about challenges she faces in her work. Joy Totah Hilden will tell how her experience as a Palestinian-American of Quaker background has influenced her belief that Palestinians and Israelis can live in peace. Rachelle Marshall is a free-lance writer for the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, and is active in various peace organizations including Jewish Voice for Peace. Libby Frank, former WILPF Executive Director and Middle East Committee chair, will speak on understanding the role of lobbies in US Middle East policy.
Personally, I was really engaged with the speeches made by our panelists. Those who have their speeches in written format are graciously making that available to WILPF and we will have them up on the WCUSP area of the US WILPF website soon. After the plenary, we had breakout sessions to discuss both the plenary and the campaign. As a member of the WCUSP leadership team, I lead a breakout session. I have to say, even more than being on the national board, it was a moment of true empowerment for me. I say this because strangers looked to me to organize and lead a discussion and accepting my format and leadership (I created a stack to facilitate constructive dialogue - a "stack" where people's names are jotted down in the order they raise their hands to enhance people's conversation and prevent cross-talk, where two people discuss back and forth leaving no space for others to join the conversation). I learned the stack from my experience on the WILPF board. Right, so a lot of stuff came out of our discussion group, including the fact that we're not all on the same page regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I realize that this is a taboo issue for many American peace activists, and I hope that our campaign serves as a model for how to increase education and activism on this important issue.

At the beginning of lunch, I participated in a Women In Black demonstration organized by an amazing woman I am priviledged to work with on the WCUSP leadership team, Yvonne Logan. She brought a script written by Women In Black in Rome and a large paper version of the separation wall. Yvonne and Libby Frank took turns reading about the life experience of Palestinian individuals and then our chorus repeated a question about why does this wall separate her from her work (and similar questions). It was very moving for all involved.

I ate lunch with the WCUSP team and our plenary speakers. We spoke a lot about what we learned from the breakout sessions.

There was a short break after lunch where I was able to purchase some jewelry from the WCUSP table (beautiful earrings made by Yvonne and a necklace made by the Hebron Embroidery Project, "Fair Trade Palestinian Embroidery," and brought to our table by Tura Campanella Cook, our campaign co-chair.

Then we had the Save the Water plenary session.
"Save the Water - From Pollution, Privatization, and Misuse." Gemma Bulos, award-winning representative from Women's World Water Movement, will lead the plenary in her song, "We Rise." Panelists on Thursday afternoon and in Friday workshops include Nancy Price, environment writer and activist coordinating speakers on privatization, pollution, and exposing the bottled water industry. Sylvia Kothe will come from Stockton to tell about the fight to take back the water resources from OMI-Thames. Caleen Sisk-Franco, leader of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe will explain why her people feel threatened by the proposed increase of the Shasta Dam on the Sacramento River. Juliette Beck of Public Citizen will give an overview of national and international water issues.
Caleen Sisk-Franco opened the plenary with a call to the four directions, heaven and water to bless our gathering and our journeys home from the gathering. She also sang to the sacred water in her language. It was a really moving experience. She spoke to us about her people and their struggle with the government for recognition as a tribe and how their land has been taken away, and their dead uprooted in the U.S. government's pursuit of water and development. Personally, I was not only affected by her presentation, but also in the way she was included in the program. This may not be politically correct, but I often see white Americans attempting to become part of the Native American culture because they do not feel connected to their own ethnic group. Instead of co-opting the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, I felt that we were really coming together out of mutual respect. She mentioned that it was particularly encouraging to speak to our gathering because we have so many elders present, and that shows our deep roots and the importance of our organization. The other panelists also had impressive presentations, including two speakers not listed in The Daily WILPF - Regina Birchem, our International President who gave a demonstration of how much water is on the Earth and how comparatively, only a drop of that is potable (drinkable) fresh water. Susi Snyder, our International Secretary-General spoke about how water connects every aspect of our international program and how our Water campaign relates to aspects of international WILPF work.

During the break-out session following the plenary, I was able to meet other WILPFers and learn about their local water issues and how water politics relates to the continuing struggle against corporate personhood. I was also able to introduce people to our at large membership and this blog. I hope to figure out a way to promote all of national WILPF's incredible activity to our Congress attendees and WILPF members in general with our amazing incoming national board.

I had dinner with some other Jewish WILPFers and we had an interesting discussion that ranged from Israel to the Holocaust to the current politics in Germany and the United States.

After dinner, I went to the joint board meeting, where members of the outgoing and incoming national boards were able to introduce ourselves and have some bonding time. We also made a few decisions, which I can't remember in full because of the final activity of my day yesterday. The decisions mostly involved offering US WILPF support for statements of solidarity to the Cuba 5, the International Women in Black Conference, and Cindy Sheehan, the Gold Star mother camped in front of Bush's ranch demanding a dialogue with him.

After the meeting, I went to the Castro (district?) with some members of the youth caucus. It was great to get off campus and bond with my fellow young WILPFers. (FYI, I'm 27, but no longer the youngest member of the WILPF board.) I am so energized by the enthusiasm of my demographic group. While the connection, support, and comraderie with WILPFers of all ages will continue to be a strong reason I continue to be active in this organization, I'm also thrilled to help form an active youth caucus (starting with a youth caucus meeting tonight after the scheduled activities). Showing my relative age and lack of sleep, I drank a double shot soy latte instead of an alcoholic beverage. We had a great time. Now, I'm off to breakfast. Egads. Running late again. Must be on time for the 8am fundraising workshop by Kim Klein.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

I Tell You About Last Night Instead of Being at a Meeting

So perhaps I shouldn't out myself like this, but I should be just about ready to leave for breakfast to meet my campaign leadership team. Instead, I'm telling you about last night.

So we had dinner. It was an exciting time to meet with old WILPF friends. Personally, I brought together members of the LA Branch and the WCUSP leadership team. I was also told to wear black today for a Women In Black demonstration being coordinated by a member of our leadership team.

Next we had the official introduction of the Congress. I figured it was okay that I didn't leave dinner on time because many other WILPFers were there. Then I got to the plenary room which had a sign that said "All Events Start On Time." So I missed some of the welcoming proclamations from local dignitaries. We got a proclamation from the Board of Supervisors, and the Mayor of San Francisco proclaimed August 10th Women's International League for Peace and Freedom Day. And we received a proclamation from the State Assembly.

Then we had introductions of US WILPF staff in Philly and International staff from Geneva and NY (at the UN). And the current WILPF board was brought on stage but not introduced (which will happen during the changing of the guards). We heard from Mary Day Kent, Executive Director of US WILPF; Sandy Silver, US Section President; Darien DeLu, US Section Member of the International Executive Committee; Regina Birchem, President of International WILPF; and Susi Snyder, International Secretary General. And then we heard from Jane Doyle, site coordinator, about the site committee's work and who they are.

Then we had Affirming the Dangerous Woman in Ourselves, our WILPF Founders, Sponsors, and Sisters. Through that re-enactment I learned that Rockford College did not give degrees when Jane Addams, co-founder of WILPF, was a student and she demanded a degree and was the first student to receive one. That Dolores Huerta, WILPF sponsor, co-founder of United Farm Workers, and creator of the Dolores Huerta Foundation which funds community organizing, coined "si, se puede" (yes, we can).

Then we had a social hour hosted by the WILPF Queer Caucus. And not only did our wonderful queer sisters provide alcohol, they also provided entertainment - the punk rock / do wop protest song was hilarious.

And then I stayed up chatting with some other young WILPFers, hence the poor grammar in this post. And now I'm officially late to my breakfast meeting.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Leadership Institute, Day Two and Congress Begins!

This morning, the Leadership Institute began with a discussion of radical democracy. We began by reviewing an explanation of radical democracy written by WILPF's campaign to Challenge Corporate Power, Assert the People's Rights. From that document:
Radical democracy is a state of political being. It is not a kind of government, it is an end of government. It starts when people assume they have the values, beliefs, and skills to govern themselves. Then they create processes and institutions to meet their societal goals.
Understanding radical democracy is a long process which I hope will continue to be a part of WILPF's work and the work of progressive people everywhere. It is an important part of the US WILPF mission statement: "WILPF members create the peaceful transformation they wish to see in the world by making connections that build and strengthen relationships and movements for justice, peace, and radical democracy among people all over the world."

We then moved onto a session on the Nuts and Bolts of Organizing, specifically understanding the consensus process. It was helpful for me to review consensus, since it is the decision making process used by the national board. We received handouts on Consensus, The Time to Consense, and Notes on Facilitation & Process. I was particularly strengthened by the knowledge of Sarah Seeds, from Berkeley, CA who helped us understand the roadblocks to watch out for during the consensus process. I also enjoyed the clarification on stating Reservations, Stand Asides, and Blocking.

Then we had lunch, where I was able to talk with Luz Morales about our mutual love for Pollo Campero, the best fried chicken in the world. (A few franchises have opened in the U.S., but their recipe is not as perfect as chicken directly from Guatemala.) I was also excited to see Susi Snyder during lunch - our superstar International Secretary General who I am lucky enough to be rooming with! Susi started working for WILPF in the International office at the United Nations in New York, and transitioned from being the Director of our UN office to being our Secretary General. She inspires me in many ways, including the fact that like me, she is under thirty and involved in WILPF.

After lunch, we ran through the structure of US WILPF - our national program, including campaigns and issue committees and our membership structure, including branches and at large members. Goodness, I forgot how complicated we are - its only when you explain organizational structure to new members when you really realize how much is involved in our ninety year old organization.

We were then joined by some WILPF superstars. Sonia Sanchez, a WILPF sponsor, spoke eloquently on the need to include young people whenever she is asked to speak. We also met Pamela Jones-Burnley, our US Administrative Director, Mary Day Kent, our US Executive Director, and Susi Snyder. Other WILPF staffers who have been involved in the Leadership Institute are Jody Dodd, our US Leadership and Outreach Coordinator and Kate Zaidan, our US Program Coordinator. Chris Morin, our outgoing Membership Chair and incoming co-President helped facilitate the Institute. Sha'an Mouliert and Evelyn Spears from the United for Racial Justice, Truth, Reparations, and Restoration (UFORJE) campaign faciliated our workshop yesterday on diversity and racial justice and also participated in our Institute today.

Then participants discussed what areas of WILPF they are interested in getting involved in - since by attending the Institute they agreed to be active for at least a year in WILPF. There was a lot of discussion around this which I unfortunately missed because I had to attend the final board meeting of the outgoing board. The attendees also participated in an evaluation process before the formal Institute concluded. We are going to be hooking up attendees with mentors for dinner this evening.

The final board meeting included a by-laws change, which created a standing Nominations Committee. I'm excited to report that this is a way for WILPFers to get involved in national WILPF - by helping to seek out and grow our leaders, facilitate the process of selecting our US representatives to the International Congress, and oversee the nominations process for the next board. The committee will consist of four non-board members representing the diversity of our geography and one Membership Committee board member.

Next up, I officially registered for Congress and bought a beautiful 90th anniversary long sleeve shirt and button. Now, I'm off to dinner. After that, we will have our Opening Social Event, beginning at 7pm. Tomorrow kicks off the meat of the Congress, beginning with my campaign's plenary session. (My campaign being Women Challenge U.S. Policy: Building Peace on Justice in the Middle East, WCUSP for short.) The Save the Water campaign plenary session will be held after lunch tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Blogging from the WILPF Leadership Institute

Greetings, blogosphere -

I'm blogging from San Francisco State University, site of the WILPF Leadership Institute for young women and women new to peace activism. Our training will conclude tomorrow afternoon, in time to join our fellow WILPFers at our Triennial U.S. WILPF Congress, from Wednesday evening through Sunday morning.

Our Leadership Institute started off with a bang and we're moving along nicely. We took time to introduce ourselves (an important beginning often forgotten at many political gatherings), discussed sexism, heterosexism, patriarchy, and diversity in the afternoon. After dinner, we saw a slide show on the history of WILPF, which was graciously provided by the Boston WILPF branch.

It was really great to present the slide show. I distinctly remembering watching it in 1999 at my first WILPF event - a Boston branch retreat - and thinking how amazing it is to be involved in an organization that has been an integral part of the peace and social justice movement for the last ninety years. I look forward to sharing WILPF's history and future via this blog and other forms of contact.

For now, I'm exhausted and off to bed.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Should husbands should be able to punish their wives?

"Husbands should be able to punish their wives, providing that they leave no mark of injury." This is only one of the proposed guidelines for the "new Democracy" for Iraq touted by President Bush. In other proposals for the new Iraqi Constitution women's rights will be defined by Taliban-style rules.
  • Rape, acid attacks and violence are OK to ensure women wear the veil
  • Polygamy entirely at husband's choice
  • Ditto divorce (husband merely declares it)
  • Honor killings
  • Adultery deserves stoning or beheading
Democracy cannot coalesce safely amidst the turmoil of foreign occupation, violent social unrest, marked civic disruption and intimidation by religious extremists. The US-led destruction of the previous governmental structure has reopened opportunities for oppression of women. The rights and welfare of 13 million women are being sacrificed as collateral damage in the rush to establish a face-saving Constitution.

Disenfranchisement will be preserved, but transferred: instead of shutting out the Shi'ite majority, the replacement Constitution will disempower the female majority.

And majority it is, since Iraqi men have been disproportionally killed over the past 30 years. Sixty percent of women are widows who are now heading households and facing sole responsibility for raising the next generation and caring for the wounded, sick, elderly and traumatised. The many women who became educated professionals under the once US-supported secular "axis of evil" may soon be unable to gather to defend their rights or prevent deterioration of their country into a chaotic civil war.

The Iraqi constitutional crisis is described in an excellent article by attorney Margaret Owen, founder of Widows' Rights International.