Amid torrential downpours, against a backdrop of high rises, yellow cabs and food vendors, crowds of determined activists pushed their way across midtown Manhattan on 17 June. The sea of umbrellas was punctuated by bright bold signs demanding an end to nuclear weapons, and calls and chants to ban the bomb. The Women’s March to Ban the Bomb was on the move in New York City and nothing would stand in its way.
Hosted by WILPF and organised with the strong support of co-sponsors and partners, the event built on a strong tradition of women’s leadership in mobilising for peace and disarmament that has existed since the start of the atomic age. The Women’s March to Ban the Bomb took place as negotiations resumed at the United Nations on a new treaty that will ban nuclear weapons. These negotiations are historic and transformative, following on from years of advocacy and rooted firmly in concerns about the humanitarian and environmental impact of nuclear weapons – an aspect of the discourse, that has unfortunately long been absent. WILPF has been a ban champion since day one.
Over the last several weeks, the Women’s March to Ban the Bomb has caught on as a movement around the world. At least 150 solidarity actions took place in nearly every global region and included marches, protests, photo actions, seminars and social events. Many of these were led by WILPF members and Sections and tailored to local contexts and realities.
Our event in New York was both a march and a rally that featured a line-up of women speakers and musicians who persevered despite the heavy rain in sharing their message to the committed crowds huddled under umbrellas. In helping to organise this event and reading the biographies of our speakers, WILPF has been impressed again and again by their respective stories and careers. Aiyoung Choi and WILPF International President Kozue Akibayashi have crossed the Korean demilitarised zone in the name of peace. Karina Lester was born to a father that had been blinded as a result of nuclear weapon testing in her home region of the South Pacific. Masako Wada was 22 months old when the atomic bomb fell on her city of Nagasaki. Cora Weiss and Leslie Cagan led the organisation of the 1982 anti-nuclear march that culminated in a rally in Central Park attended by one million people. Thilmeeza Hussain worked in the first democratically elected government in the Maldives and is now a dynamic climate justice advocate.
These are only a few examples from the whole group but demonstrate the many different perspectives and experiences that these women bring to their common call for nuclear disarmament – which, in turn, demonstrate the scope and breadth of the threat. Nuclear weapons are a problem that affect us all, regardless of race, sex, gender, nationality, and culture. They have repercussions for both people and the planet. The effort to ban them must likewise be intersectional and requires combined commitment across communities.
WILPF will focus all energy on achieving a strong and effective nuclear ban treaty. The negotiations continue until 7 July. The best way to follow along is to subscribe to our Nuclear Ban Daily, a publication of WILPF’s disarmament programme Reaching Critical Will. You can also follow the live feed on Reaching Critical Will’s Twitter (@RCW_) or search #nuclearban and #womenbanthebomb. WILPF women will be there and continue to be a mobilising force in banning the bomb.
Photos from the march can be found online on the WILPF Flickr page, and videos from the march in New York can be found on the WMTBTB website. We will be pulling together the details of the sister events soon to share widely.