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Women's way to peace

Mariana Valverde — March 1984

March 8th has been celebrated as International Women’s Day all over the world for the past seventy years. In Toronto, as in many other cities across Canada, this year’s festivities will include a strong emphasis on the theme of peace. Moreover if Toronto is any indication, the peace movement has never been so well represented in the planning and preparation for International Women’s Day. The contacts resulting between peace and feminist activists will undoubtedly continue after the rallies and demonstrations are over.

These connections are important to the feminist peace activists involved in International Women’s Day because we want to encourage discussion of women’s issues within the peace movement. We think it’s crucial for peace and disarmament groups not merely to endorse but also to actively engage in discussions and actions to promote the status of women. both within peace groups and in society at large. Although there may be occasional disagreements over issues such as abortion, we believe that the peace movement cannot neglect, for fear of raising controversy, the concerns of women activists. The trade union movement has given support to non-economic issues such as daycare and choice, and has also implemented internal affirmative action programmes. We in the peace movement must also show solidarity with the women’s movement, and, like the trade union movement, provide an example of non-sexist practices. If. our goal is to build a better, less unjust world, we cannot ignore women’s oppression, even as we work together to stop the nuclear arms race.

At present, some peace groups have rules to ensure that women activists are not marginalised – for example, by having women as spokespersons and making sure women are present on leadership bodies. However, good as this is, it does not begin to tackle the more fundamental issues of the connection between women’s liberation and the struggle for a peaceful and just world. The feminist vision of a “non-sexist, non-hierarchical world should be of concern to all peace activists, and can provide us with valuable guidance about how to organise ourselves so that we don’t replicate authoritarian structures.

It is crucial that men as well as women take part in these discussions, for we can not afford to have a peace movement in which half of us are feminists and the other half are male chauvinists. We urge all peace activists to take part in International Women’s Day, and thus strengthen the important relationship between peace and women’s rights.

Mariana Valverde is a member of the international Women’s Day Committee (lWDC) in Toronto, and is active in the March 8th Coalition, which is responsible for co-ordinating Toronto’s lWD festivities. She is also the IWDC representative to the Toronto Disarmament Network (TDN). TDN has officially endorsed International Women’s Day, and is encouraging all peace and disarmament groups to participate in IWD events.