What makes a peace activist?
What makes a 58 year-old, well-behaved woman, who had never stepped forward in public, take red paint and write, 'The Killing has Started!' on statues outside the USA Consulate in Melbourne? What does it take for a woman who had described herself as daughter, sister, wife, mother, teacher, friend, neighbour, now call herself a peace activist?
The answer: the attacks on New York and Washington on 11 September 2001, and the saturation bombing of Afghanistan by 8 October 2001 even though not a single hijacker was Afghan. The injustice of a collective punishment of the Afghan people and of Iraq by the USA and its Coalition shook me. My old certainties made no sense anymore. I see wars as male, white and black males in power domination; the women and children don't exist. We had enough wars in the 20th-century. I cannot deal with the injustice of another century of wars and suffering.
A friend asked, 'Why are you so upset?' They (Afghans and Iraqis) are not your people. 'Who are my people?' I asked her in anguish.
Another friend asked why I had only reacted now and never before with all the other wars. I have no answer for this.
Forming Women for Peace: No Weapons No Wars
On Sunday, 1 September 2002, I addressed the capacity crowd in the Melbourne Town Hall and asked Dr Germaine Greer to lead a women's peace movement against all wars. (She was here for the Writers Festival). The media and a lot of women spoke to me that night and in the following weeks.
Women for Peace (WFP) was formed within the month. The group was inaugurated by October 2002, flyers, banners and badges made, we bought a megaphone, portable tables, and began distributing information in the Bourke Street Mall. We affiliated with the Victorian Peace Network, attended meetings, and participated in demonstrations and peace actions. WFP wanted strong peace actions with street theatre, and visual displays. We wanted to question and challenge the war ethos in our society, and the pathology of indifference.
Knowledge and experience of peace activism
Most of the women in the group had little or no experience and none had participated actively in the anti-war movement. We did not know where to go for information; there was no mentoring from more experienced people.
We had no skills in networking, publicity, recruiting, or training volunteers. No one from the more established groups stepped forward to offer advice, support or training, or told us where we could go for information. We knew of no organisation or individual who would assist us in the establishment phase of the group. A lot of women joined and supported the group as the anti-war sentiment was very strong towards the end of 2002 and in 2003. Membership fees, donations and the sale of badges helped fund the group.