I met Meghan’s mum! So do you know why that is important? It’s because Meghan Walsh is our intern and Maureen, her mum, is a member in our Fresno branch. So…as I have just been to San Diego, I met her! Someone should research whether peace and WILPF membership travels in the genes!
I was in San Diego for the University of San Diego’s Women Peacemakers 10th Anniversary Conference, at the Joan Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice.
If you’re like me, you never want to chat on planes, especially not full ones where you’re stuck for 11 hours. I lucked out as they say – at least on the face of it. I found myself trapped next to a charming and chatty American couple. During the course of our conversation, the man described to me his pride at buying his first gun at the age of 9 – then appraised me of the state of American capitalism and the free market: its destruction and reinvention as a form of economic fascism. There is a link to the conversations that went on over the next few days at the conference, and I found it odd that a diehard Republican shared some of our thinking, if for different reasons.
The conference was remarkable. One of the very few male participants introduced his remarks with the comment, ‘ The room is full of beauty’, to which someone shouted out, ‘And lots of brains’. His words rang true, but perhaps not in the way he had meant. I was honoured to be speaking amongst such incredible women, working at community levels as well as revolutionising academia with their innovative stances on feminism.
And looking around the room confirmed the fundamental error in the opinion that men cannot find women to participate in mediation and negotiation. The intelligent and informed women at the Conference made excellent recommendations that can be used, not just as advocacy tools, but also as part of overall strategies.
The real question, therefore, is not whether women can be mobilised to participate. It is whether they will finally be allowed a voice in the discussions of the decision makers.
My job at the conference was to close it. I did so by trying to bring together what we knew, how we know it and what we need to do with all this knowledge so as to get to peace. WILPF has been doing it for nearly 100 years… we know it takes time.
Read the recommendations from the conference here.