Did I get your attention? While titles that draw attention to women’s physical features may summon most of the male population, a title like, Women, War and Peace was probably written off as a women-only television series. You know: “girl’s stuff” or women-as-victims drama.
Over the past month, the U.S. Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) aired a fascinating series that showed real women around the world in their roles as serious nonviolent organizers. The five-part film series, now completely available online, offers five cases of women’s activism in the following contexts (I have edited the website’s language with a nonviolent conflict perspective, bolding the significant political achievements of their efforts):
I Came to Testify is a story of how 16 Bosnian women who had been imprisoned and raped by Serb-led forces in the Bosnian town of Foca broke history’s great silence – and stepped forward to take the witness stand in an international court of law. Their courage resulted in a triumphant verdict that led to new international laws about sexual violence in war.
Pray the Devil Back to Hell is the story of the Liberian women who took on the warlords and regime of dictator Charles Taylor in the midst of a brutal civil war, and won a once unimaginable peace for their shattered country in 2003.
Peace Unveiled follows three women in Afghanistan who are risking their lives to make sure that women’s rights don’t get traded away in the deal for peace talks with the Taliban.
The War We Are Living travels to Cauca, a mountainous region in Colombia’s Pacific southwest, where two Afro-Colombian women are braving a nonviolent struggle over land. They are standing up for a generation of Colombians who have been terrorized and forcibly displaced as a deliberate strategy of war.
War Redefined, the capstone of Women, War & Peace, challenges the conventional wisdom that nonviolent leadership is a male domain through incisive interviews with leading thinkers. Although we in the nonviolent conflict community – thinkers, scholars, activists, writers and educators – don’t generally agree with the so-called “leading thinkers” interviewed in this episode, on this topic they are worth hearing out. Unfortunately, the world is short on policy makers, including women, who are committed to nonviolence. I wish the producers had instead featured leading thinkers who specialize in civil resistance, both women and men.
The film production team is mostly women, led by Abigail Disney who also produced the award winning film, Pray the Devil Back to Hell, which exposed Liberia’s women’s movement as a critical component of the end to Liberia’s bloody conflict. Just this year, we witnessed the film’s protagonist, Leymah Gwobee, win the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize along with Africa’s first female head of state, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. By the way, an excellent Al Jazeera People and Power documentary segment, titled, Yemen: A Tale of Two Protests, features the third Nobel Peace Prize winner, Tawakkul Karman, of Yemen.
Watching each of the recent PBS episodes, one can see how the women from each of these countries took on huge political struggles, albeit through a very local angle. If you can only watch one episode, make it The War We Are Living. The issue of local land struggles amidst political polarization, government and private sector corruption, and the tangled web of institutions and drug traffickers, offers important lessons for nonviolent movements around the world, including Occupy Wall Street.
Just this morning, I came across an article posted by the master of all feminists, Eve Ensler. Perhaps she is dismissed among male circles as the woman who’s always pissed-off about something, but she makes a point about rape that I and many women around the world have to agree with:
I am over the passivity of good men. Where the hell are you? You live with us, make love with us, father us, befriend us, brother us, get nurtured and mothered and eternally supported by us, so why aren’t you standing with us? Why aren’t you driven to the point of madness and action by the rape and humiliation of us?
And if you’re a guy, and I managed to get your attention with the title of this blog post, then Eve Ensler’s recent Huffington Post article, Over It, may be for you! Women’s rights, women’s community organizing, women defending land, and women fighting against rape is not just a “girl” thing. The episodes in Women, War and Peace help shed light on where some of the solutions to the world’s acute injustices lie . . . with the full inclusion and leadership of women. Now that is gorgeous.
A six-week strike by teachers has bolstered a movement against proposed austerity measures targeting Lebanon’s dangerously underfunded education system.
Drama helps movements draw attention to their issues, but it won’t come without creativity and direct action tactics that reach beyond the choir.
Kathleen Alcott’s new novel “America Was Hard to Find” puts the U.S. under a microscope to reveal its staggering beauty and rapacious violence.