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

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

WILPF International Congress Begins

This report was written by the US Section Representative to the International Board, Catia Confortini.

Hello from WILPF International Congress in Costa Rica! This is your incoming IB representative's first email from Congress, and I hope this will not be the last, hopefully I will have some time each day to write a little something. The US delegation is 25-member strong and many of us have committed to write up short pieces from Congress for the next issue of Peace and Freedom, so watch out for it in the next couple of months.

I arrived on Saturday July 30, so I missed the apparently very rich and interesting Gertrude Baer seminar, but don't worry, you'll hopefully be reading all about it in Peace and Freedom!

During my first full day in Costa Rica we were delighted to go on a very interesting trip to a coffee plantation where we learned a lot about how coffee is grown, picked (by hand, mostly by migrant workers), and dried to be ready for export. Of course being WILPF women we all asked the difficult questions of our guide: how much do the workers get per basket of berries, do they get benefits, are they unionized, are they documented, do you spray the trees, how sustainable is your estate, etc. I have to say that, although workers are mainly Nicaraguans and often without papeles, they receive free housing and electricity from that employer as well as medical attention and schooling for their children for free from the government.

During the trip we also had the chance to start filming short videos, asking WILPFEers to explain what security means to them, as part of our 1325/Whistleblower campaign. They will be available shortly on the Facebook page of the campaign (which I encourage you to 'like' and make use of, including filling out the survey about security).

Later in the day we had a meeting of the US delegation, to get to know each other, brainstorm and help each other understand the subtleties and sensitivities of intercultural communication, but also to divvy up tasks and journalistic assignments for Peace and Freedom. We have a very enthusiastic and knowledgeable group, eager to contribute to International as well as communicate what happens at this Congress to their respective branches.

My second day began with a very interesting lecture by anthropologist Anna Arroba who talked about the history of patriarchy and the destruction of early civilizations' matriarchies due to the needs of war making. Sarah Masters, of IANSA, the International Action Network on Small Arms, pointed to the need of alliance between WILPF and IANSA across common action points, using the the women, peace and security agenda to work on the gendered impact of small arms in our communities and in the world. During the second part of the day we all attended several workshops. Because our delegation is so much bigger than other sections (the second largest section being Sweden, with 15 members. We make up in fact about 1/4 of the entire congress I believe), we made an effort to spread ourselves across all different workshops. You will also have the chance to read about some of theses workshops on Peace and Freedom.

Today is the third day and as I write I am multitasking and listening to the very interesting presentation of the new sections, namely the DRC, Nigeria, Mexico, Pakistan and Spain. These new sections were created through the support of other sections and the work of WILPF Vice-President Amparo Guerrero. Earlier we had a very interesting morning, where the French delegate presented her somewhat controversial vision for WILPF, followed by a response by WILPF Co-President Annelise Ebbe and then small group discussions.

This concludes my email from Congress for today. Let me however thank my two predecessors, Darien DeLu and Audley Green for mentoring me into this task and patiently put up with my inexperience and mistakes. I hope I will live up to their legacies!


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