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

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Branch Reports at Northern California Cluster Meeting

East Bay / Berkeley: Don't have young members, so invited someone they know to attend a meeting. The young woman said that if an organization doesn't exist on the web, young people don't think it exists. So, the branch built a website. They're also doing a program on white privilege.

Fresno: Gloria, their new president, attending her first cluster meeting gave the report. Two interns from Fresno State, 200 members, weekly film event and many, many activities

Monterey County: monthly meetings, support for labor unions in area hotels, book sale, work in coalition with 27-organization peace coalition in the community

Palo Alto / Peninsula: was formed in 1922 by the wife of the president of Stanford. 4 areas of interest: disarmament, Middle East, health care for all, fair elections. Branch strongly recommend the documentary Stealing America, Vote by Vote; showed the film "A Single Woman," about Jeanette Rankin in coordination with five other organization; one of the founders of Raging Grannies within WILPF as a great way to do outreach. In November, potentially 65 initiatives on the California state ballot.

Pajaro Valley (14 miles between Santa Cruz and Monterey): our branch is on life support. Since September, 2011 did a weekly peace vigil until the end of October, 2009. Participated in an annual exhibit "Mi Casa, Tu Casa." Shed light on history of bracero program in Watsonville to the local community.

Sacramento: attempting to put the branch back together. We're holding regular meetings whether anyone comes or not (4th Sunday of the month). Focusing on Analyzing, Thinking and Planning Strategically.

San Francisco two proposals to the cluster meeting on future regional communications; several activities on the topic of Afghanistan, including a public session with a representative from RAWA

San Jose: Prop 1 Road Tour, full report available on paper

Santa Cruz 250 members, renewal rates strong now that it's included in newsletter address block. Dozens of activities, including two talks by Professor Stephen Zunes on the American invasion of Afghanistan and on Obama's first year.

Sierra Foothills: bring plays to Auburn, including "Women at Ground Zero: Stories of Courage and Compassion." This year they're hosting a play in tribute to Coretta Scott King, "A Song for Coretta."

Updates from Northern Califonria Cluster Meeting

  • SMART campaign planning
  • next National Congress: summer, 2011
  • next international Congress: August, 2011 in San Jose, Costa Rica
  • search for Secretary General almost complete
  • New program being developed to integrate UN advocacy with national and local activities
  • international WILPF's website will have a new URL soon
  • Advancing Women Peacemakers Project, celebrating Jane Addam's 150th birthday and the 10th anniversary of the passing of United Nation Security Council Resolution 1325nited
  • update on national section: Ellen Schwartz, new US Section Treasurer (in the position less than a month). One of her primary goals is sorting out our membership records and ensuring renewal notices go out and accurate lists are available to all branches
  • update from Jane Addams Peace Association: the Jane Addams Children's Book Awards is a great way to promote peace education and expand recognition of WILPF among librarians and parents. Branches can buy sets of the award winners at a discount and donate them to libraries, community centers, and schools. Santa Cruz Branch created bookplates that permanently explain that the books were donated by WILPF.
  • update from Membership Council: a self-organized group of WILPF members from across the country. Concerned about the lack of accurate membership lists. Shared copies of an article that appeared in the Winter, 2009 edition of Peace & Freedom. Update was cut short by additional explanation of the roots of the Advancing Women Peacemakers Project.
  • lunch, followed by Raging Grannies songs
  • presentation of reasons peace activists should be vegans by Paula Rochelle, who coordinated all food for the event

Why WILPF? Why Now?

I am attending the Northern California WILPF Cluster Meeting in Palo Alto. Below is my report on international WILPF.

Last summer, I started a global conversation among WILPFers about the meaning of our organization. Some people took this as a jumping off point for further criticism of the organization, others weighed in with reminders of the purpose of our organization as outlined in our international constitution and by-laws.

Get five WILPFers in a room, and you're bound to end up with ten opinions. I'm not sure we, as members of the League from California, will come to agreement today, but I'd like to offer a forward looking perspective based on my work on the Secretary General Search Committee, my participation in the International Board Meeting in January, and my eleven years of activism in the US Section.

Political advocacy can feel the most relevant when dealing directly with a local issue - for example, a local military recruiter pushing their “college” deals at the local high school; or the local utilities company pushing chemicals into the public water supply. These are extremely legitimate and important issues that must be countered. Through WILPF, we have the ability to tie these local issues to international treaties, like the International Rights of the Child. By connecting to an international sisterhood, we can learn from our sisters overseas, and coordinate our work so that every time we act on a local issue, we know that our sisters in Costa Rica and Japan are struggling with similar concerns, and that together – drop by drop – we will change the way governments enforce international treaties and we'll ensure those international laws are written from a feminist / peace-building perspective.

By nature, I'm a critical person. So I completely understand the instinct to focus on what's wrong and to be critical of the presumed centers of power in WILPF. I also try to understand the desire to support the peace & justice movement in general. And I definitely understand being overwhelmed by all there is to do as volunteers; my own branch has been on life support for several years and I often wonder if I should have been focusing my time re-energizing my branch rather than helping WILPF at the national and international level.

There are ways in which I'm biased. I think we need to learn from good examples and work to strengthen our capacity, through tools like SMART campaign planning and work plans. Next year, we'll have both a national and international Congress and we need to work towards building bridges of cooperation domestically and with our Latin American sisters (and indeed all sections) prior to those meetings.

Several staff members have moved on in the last few months – and soon all of those openings will be filled. Though I consider Susi Snyder among my closest WILPF sisters, I am so excited about the new Secretary General. The Search Committee went through a vigorous process of reviewing resumes and interviewing three finalists. We coordinated Skype calls across three continents – Los Angeles, Sweden, Berlin, and Tokyo. And we recommended a candidate to the Executive Committee who will raise the profile of WILPF internationally and help announce to the world that we are starting a new chapter in our history.

Make no mistake – members are not the only critics of WILPF. At the international level, funders and sister NGOs have already written our epitaph. People have suggested that our highly successful UN projects, Reaching Critical Will and Peace Women should break away from WILPF and become separate NGOs. Thankfully, none of our current leaders agrees with that idea and under the leadership of our incredible UN Office Director Anjie Rosga, the NGO community is beginning to understand how the projects are connected to our organization as a whole. Additionally, she has worked with members and interns to develop a new international program that concretely connects WILPF's UN advocacy with local activism.

As we move closer to our 100th anniversary, it's time to make a choice: it's time to work together, to build a stronger WILPF, to move our institution to the forefront of change, to allow WILPF to lead the way towards a better future. I've been working through WILPF for 11 years because I believe in the power of our women-led organization. I believe that we're stronger together than our individual parts. As exciting as the work of some of your branches is, it is our collective power, as an international league, that gives us our unique strength and promise.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

5 January: Campaign Planning Workshop

The second day of the board meeting began with a communications workshop, presented by Pia Johansson (Swedish Section Information Officer), Susi Snyder (WILPF Secretary General), and me. Prior to the presentation, we had a lot of help from Anjie Rosga, our UN Office Director.

Actually, communications workshop is a misnomer for what we did. Having experience in WILPF, we felt it was important to take a step back and provide a global view of campaigning that we might all agree upon and utilize in the future. Many people are familiar with the SMART acronym (Strategic, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely). First, Pia and Susi provided examples of SMART campaigns from WILPF's work in the recent past. Then, I used a presentation I found on the web as the basis of our explanation of SMART. I also wanted to provide some advice based on my years as the US Section Program Chair, so I added in some key points about why education cannot be the primary goal of a political advocacy campaign. Next, the attendees broke up into small groups to design SMART campaigns around upcoming UN events. Each group reported out to the larger meeting. Susi, Pia, and I provided feedback on their plans and then the group provided feedback on the workshop.

Below is the presentation from the workshop. I've updated the template and added the WILPF logo and posted the presentation on Slideshare.net:

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