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It must have been with this quote in mind that women anti-war activists from around the United States gathered outside the White House in Washington to launch a four-month protest called ‘Code Pink’ last November. The 24-hour vigil to protest against war with Iraq will culminate in a week of activities from March 3 to 9, including a march and rally on March 8, International Women’s Day. The women involved said that they chose pink, instead of the universally known US colours of red, white and blue because pink is “the colour of the dawn of a new era when cooperation and negotiation prevail over force”. On the final day, the activists are to decide on the way forward.
Appropriately, International Women’s Day this year is being observed under the theme ‘Women, Peace and Security: Women Managing Conflict’, and will focus on the international community’s commitment to addressing the devastating impact of armed conflict on women, their critical role in peace-making, peace-keeping and peace-building, and the need to ensure full and equitable participation of women in peace processes. And while it should be noted here that men are the current protagonists in the brewing war — George W. Bush, Saddam Hussain and Tony Blair — this in no way diminishes the role being played by others who are equally determined to keep the peace.
Women’s struggle for equitable participation has been ongoing for centuries and the issues have been diverse, for scarcely is one front conquered than another arises. Often too, several battles are being fought simultaneously. Even before the world’s first women’s rights convention was held in New York on July 19 and 20, 1848, setting the agenda for the women’s rights movement that followed, women had been making strides in education, politics, against slavery and promoting voting and other rights. But even in the United States, noted for its dedication to democracy, women’s history only became a subject for serious study in the 1970s. However, today most colleges offer courses on the subject as well as entire masters programmes and doctoral degrees.
Subjects of study include some not so well known women in history such as Candace, who was empress of Ethiopia in 332 B.C, Queen Anula 47-42 B.C of Sri Lanka, Empress Wu Chao 655-705 of China and Russian spiritualist Madame Blavatsky. Others include the famous and infamous, among them Boadicea, Queen of the Iceni, who ruled Great Britain between 60-61, Israel Prime Minister Golda Meir 1969-1974, spy Mata Hari, abolitionist Sojourner Truth, frontiers- woman Calamity Jane, French saint Joan of Arc and Alice Walker present day African-American novelist and poet. But this ‘new’ history also emphasizes the sociological and the ordinary and covers such subjects as the history of women’s education, birth control, housework, marriage, sexuality, and child rearing. The field continues to grow as women’s historians expand their definition of history.
History has also documented accounts of warrior women throughout the centuries: the warrior women of Eurasia, found buried with their weapons; Jeanne of Navarre, who led her army against that of the Count de Bar; Lady Agnes Randolph (also known as Black Agnes) and Margaret of Denmark among others. However, none of them had even heard of nuclear and biological warfare or weapons of mass destruction. It is because of these things — the risk of massive human obliteration and the enormous loss of financial resources foreseeable — that women have sounded a Code Pink alert.
If women ruled the world, serious war would be waged against poverty, disease, pollution, corruption and violence. Surely this would be money well spent.