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WILPF Italy Demands: Make Cheese, Not War!

WILPF Italy has joined a campaign led by Sardinian peace activists to convert an arms factory into a production facility for locally in-demand cheeses – a sustainable solution that will save lives and strengthen the local economy by supporting traditional farming practices. Learn more and get involved!

Split image with a piece of cheese on the left shaped as the front of a bullet on the left. Then the end of a bullet attached to it on the right. With the text: "Make Cheese, Not War!"
Image credit: WILPF
WILPF International Secretariat
26 May 2021

Versione italiana qui 

WILPF Italy has joined a campaign led by Sardinian peace activists to convert an arms factory into a production facility for locally in-demand cheeses – a sustainable solution that will save lives and strengthen the local economy by supporting traditional farming practices. Learn more and get involved!

Instead of producing weapons, why not make cheese? 

That proposition – make cheese, not war – is at the heart of an ongoing campaign to convert a Sardinian arms factory into a production facility for locally in-demand cheeses.

The campaign, launched in 2020 by Sardinian grassroots groups Sardegna Pulita and Donne Ambiente Sardegna, is being supported by activists throughout Italy – including members of WILPF Italy, who were the first to join forces with the two groups and are assisting with organising protests and raising awareness. 

The initiative has a two-fold goal: to stop the development and export of weapons and to improve the economic well-being of Sardinian dairy farmers, who are grappling with low sheep’s milk prices that prevent them from making a liveable wage. 

“In Sardinia, sheep’s milk is being used to produce Roman pecorino cheese – a cheese that is not consumed here, but rather exported to the United States and other countries,” says Ennio Cabiddu, an agronomist and one of the co-founders of Sardegna Pulita. “Production of the cheese was previously subsidised, but the subsidy has been cancelled – leading the production companies to recover losses by lowering the price of milk. This has created an unsustainable way of life for Sardinia’s farmers.” 

Meanwhile, a factory called RWM Italia in the island region’s southern province – home to many of Sardinia’s shepherds – is employing local workers to produce bombs and ammunition for its mother company in Germany, Rheinmetall. The weapons have been exported to Saudi Arabia and used in the conflict in Yemen, where they have been directly linked to the deaths of Yemeni civilians as the population struggles to survive in the midst of the largest humanitarian crisis in the world. 

While the Italian government recently announced that it would be revoking arms transfer licenses to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – a major win for peace activists – the move only applies to those countries and to export of missiles and aerial bombs; it does not apply to licences for other weapon systems still ongoing. RWM is also continuing to produce weapons that are now being sold to other countries in the region, such as Qatar.

A local solution to an international concern

In an effort to both halt the production of weapons and offer a sustainable solution for the local economy, last year the two groups – Sardegna Pulita and Donne Ambiente Sardegna – developed a proposal to convert RWM into a space for making cheeses commonly consumed by the local population. 

“This is a real, tangible solution that will save lives abroad and improve the lives of people in Sardinia,” says Cabiddu. “By transitioning this factory to a facility for producing a variety of in-demand cheeses, jobs will be retained, the price of milk will increase, and the local economy will become more prosperous.”

Together with WILPF Italy, the campaign organisers have taken a number of steps to draw attention to their proposal over the past several months. Last December, the activists held a press conference in front of the Ministry of Economic Development to share details about the proposal and demand government action. In January, the proposal was virtually presented to the Minister of Economic Development. The group is now waiting for a meeting with members of Italy’s current government following the appointment of Mario Draghi as the country’s new prime minister in February. 

As the activists made clear, there are many reasons why the government should support this initiative – primary among them the fact that Italy’s own legislation on the licensing of arms transfers (Art. 1 (3), Law No. 185 of 9 July 1990) envisages for the government to arrange “measures capable of supporting … the conversion of defence industries to civilian use.” 

WILPF Italy takes it up with the United Nations

In partnership with WILPF’s International Secretariat and other feminist Italian organisations, WILPF Italy has also taken a leading role in advocating for the collective demands of Italian peace activists through United Nations human rights mechanisms. 

For example, the groups have recently made submissions to the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women that highlight the negative human rights impacts of Italy’s arms transfers in importing countries. Both committees have asked specific questions about Italy’s role in arms transfers to which the government will have to respond in its upcoming reports on how the country is fulfilling its human rights obligations under these treaties. 

“Weapons produced in Italy are having horrific impacts on people and communities in Yemen and other countries, and we demand an immediate end to Italy’s role in the conflict,” says Enrica Lomazzi of WILPF Italy. “Through our grassroots and UN-based advocacy efforts, we stand in solidarity with port workers and arms factory workers in Italy who themselves are protesting Italy’s destructive military activity and calling for peaceful, sustainable solutions to job creation at home.” 

The campaigners are hopeful that the project will be funded through the European Union’s recovery fund, which is designed to support sustainable post-COVID-19 recovery solutions and is currently going through the process of ratification. 

Get involved by demanding action!

WILPF’s global community can support the campaign by putting pressure on the Italian government to take action. Speak out about the campaign on social media using the hashtags #MakeCheeseNotWar, #StopVenditaArmi, and #StopRWM, encourage activists and allies in Italy to get involved, and share this post with your network. Every act of resistance makes a difference! 

For more information

To learn more about the Sardinia campaign, please visit the following resources:


To learn more about WILPF Italy’s advocacy efforts with the United Nations, please review the following recent submissions or view the full list of submissions:

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WILPF International Secretariat

WILPF International Secretariat, with offices in Geneva and New York, liaises with the International Board and the National Sections and Groups for the implementation of WILPF International Programme, resolutions and policies as adopted by the International Congress. Under the direction of the Secretary-General, the Secretariat also provides support in areas of advocacy, communications, and financial operations.

Melissa Torres

VICE-PRESIDENT

Prior to being elected Vice-President, Melissa Torres was the WILPF US International Board Member from 2015 to 2018. Melissa joined WILPF in 2011 when she was selected as a Delegate to the Commission on the Status of Women as part of the WILPF US’ Practicum in Advocacy Programme at the United Nations, which she later led. She holds a PhD in Social Work and is a professor and Global Health Scholar at Baylor College of Medicine and research lead at BCM Anti-Human Trafficking Program. Of Mexican descent and a native of the US/Mexico border, Melissa is mostly concerned with the protection of displaced Latinxs in the Americas. Her work includes training, research, and service provision with the American Red Cross, the National Human Trafficking Training and Technical Assistance Centre, and refugee resettlement programs in the U.S. Some of her goals as Vice-President are to highlight intersectionality and increase diversity by fostering inclusive spaces for mentorship and leadership. She also contributes to WILPF’s emerging work on the topic of displacement and migration.

Jamila Afghani

VICE-PRESIDENT

Jamila Afghani is the President of WILPF Afghanistan which she started in 2015. She is also an active member and founder of several organisations including the Noor Educational and Capacity Development Organisation (NECDO). Elected in 2018 as South Asia Regional Representative to WILPF’s International Board, WILPF benefits from Jamila’s work experience in education, migration, gender, including gender-based violence and democratic governance in post-conflict and transitional countries.

Sylvie Jacqueline Ndongmo

PRESIDENT

Sylvie Jacqueline NDONGMO is a human rights and peace leader with over 27 years experience including ten within WILPF. She has a multi-disciplinary background with a track record of multiple socio-economic development projects implemented to improve policies, practices and peace-oriented actions. Sylvie is the founder of WILPF Cameroon and was the Section’s president until 2022. She co-coordinated the African Working Group before her election as Africa Representative to WILPF’s International Board in 2018. A teacher by profession and an African Union Trainer in peace support operations, Sylvie has extensive experience advocating for the political and social rights of women in Africa and worldwide.

WILPF Afghanistan

In response to the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban and its targeted attacks on civil society members, WILPF Afghanistan issued several statements calling on the international community to stand in solidarity with Afghan people and ensure that their rights be upheld, including access to aid. The Section also published 100 Untold Stories of War and Peace, a compilation of true stories that highlight the effects of war and militarisation on the region. 

IPB Congress Barcelona

WILPF Germany (+Young WILPF network), WILPF Spain and MENA Regional Representative

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Demilitarisation

WILPF uses feminist analysis to argue that militarisation is a counter-productive and ill-conceived response to establishing security in the world. The more society becomes militarised, the more violence and injustice are likely to grow locally and worldwide.

Sixteen states are believed to have supplied weapons to Afghanistan from 2001 to 2020 with the US supplying 74 % of weapons, followed by Russia. Much of this equipment was left behind by the US military and is being used to inflate Taliban’s arsenal. WILPF is calling for better oversight on arms movement, for compensating affected Afghan people and for an end to all militarised systems.

Militarised masculinity

Mobilising men and boys around feminist peace has been one way of deconstructing and redefining masculinities. WILPF shares a feminist analysis on the links between militarism, masculinities, peace and security. We explore opportunities for strengthening activists’ action to build equal partnerships among women and men for gender equality.

WILPF has been working on challenging the prevailing notion of masculinity based on men’s physical and social superiority to, and dominance of, women in Afghanistan. It recognizes that these notions are not representative of all Afghan men, contrary to the publicly prevailing notion.

Feminist peace​

In WILPF’s view, any process towards establishing peace that has not been partly designed by women remains deficient. Beyond bringing perspectives that encapsulate the views of half of the society and unlike the men only designed processes, women’s true and meaningful participation allows the situation to improve.

In Afghanistan, WILPF has been demanding that women occupy the front seats at the negotiating tables. The experience of the past 20 has shown that women’s presence produces more sustainable solutions when they are empowered and enabled to play a role.

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