AFWW Masthead

 AFWW Newsletter #16  April 2010 - Women and Girls: Agents of Social Transformation

Sarah Palin, Conservatives, and Progressives
The Girl Effect
Women as Agents of Nonviolent Change
Women and National Security
Religion and the Suppression of Women
Global Action
Investing in Social Change
Female Police Keep Peace
Quotable Quote
"There is no development strategy more beneficial to society as a whole - women and men alike - than the one which involves women as central players ."
- Kofi Annan

Two Good Movies
Iron Jawed Angels starring Hillary Swank: dramatizes how suffragists changed the U.S. Constitution to give women the vote.
Pray the Devil Back to Hellstarring the women of Liberia: shows real women demanding and getting peace. Use this link to see a blog post. See also this AFWW blog post. If we want a model and example of how women can mobilize and persist over a long period, we need look no further than the suffragists. If we want a model for how women supported by men can bring an end to war, we need to study "Pray the Devil Back to Hell."

Follow us on Twitter

A Future Without War
Believe in it.
Envision it.
Work for it.
And we will achieve it.

"Activist women--the suffragists--of the late 1800s and early 1900s and the men who supported them worked to give women the vote. Activist women of the mid-1900s and the men who supported them worked to give women equal legal protections and access to jobs and educational opportunities. For this generation of activist women and the men who support them, their task, their challenge, could be to abolish war." 
Judith Hand
La Jolla Rotary, June 2008
Logo of The White House Project Dedicated to Electing Women

This newsletter highlights the role of women and girls as agents of positive social transformation. The women involved are progressives. They don't want things to remain the same, or to go back to some imagined past where men ruled, women knew their place, and things over all were "much much better."

These individuals see the possibility of an actually better future for themselves, their children, their and grandchildren. Indeed, they envision an altered paradigm of how we live as citizens of a more egalitarian and less violent culture that will shape human lives and societies into the far distant future. And they are willing to work and sacrifice to bring those changes into existence.

First, however, we need to consider why not all women are progressives. Many are not, and will not be. Reasons why are explored by AFWW Founder, Judith Hand, from several perspectives: biological, sociological, and psychological.
Sarah Palin, Conservatives, and Progressives

"So how do you explain Sarah Palin?" The founder of AFWW, Dr. Judith Hand, is often asked that question or some variant of it by skeptics. Hand argues that we could abolish war if our desire to do it is strong enough, and that one of the critical necessary requirements of doing so would be the empowerment of women. She argues that nature endowed women with traits that make them the natural allies of nonviolent conflict resolution, and that if more women served in government at all levels, if we had true parity governments, we'd be well on our way to ending war. Skeptics see women like Margaret Thatcher, the former Prime Minister of England who took England into war over the Falklands, and the feisty, gun-toting Sarah Palin as examples that refute Hand's arguments.

Dr. Hand answers the skeptics about this seeming contradiction in a blog essay, "Sarah Palin and why all women are not progressives." Women are fundamentally conservative, eager to facilitate social stability rather than change, but they are also fierce fighters in defense of their children. There is no real paradox. See the essay: "Sarah Palin and Why All Women are Not Progressives"

Women's Groups, Projects, and Movements-All Part of Creating a Positive Paradigm Shift
It's estimated that only 1% of the United States population was actually involved in working to pass the amendment to the U.S. Constitution that gave women the right to vote. Other estimates are that something like a mere 15% of any society, if it is a determined and persistent minority, can become a critical mass sufficient to cause a profound shift in behavior of the entire society.
So it won't be necessary to recruit all women to the cause of ending war. Most women, when they see what the goal is - a less violent, more peaceful future - and that things are in fact shifting that direction, most women will climb on board the ending-war bandwagon. But initially the leadership of this campaign of change will come from progressive women.

A look at the state of women as agents of change to date
A Useful Bibliography

Fisher, Helen. 1999. The First Sex - the Natural Talents of Women and How They are Changing the World. NY: Random House. This anthropologist, now at Rutgers University, was one of the first to write extensively on how women and men differ in critical traits affecting their lives and their actions as leaders, and consequently their influence on society.
Hand, Judith L. 2003. Women, Power, and the Biology of Peace. San Diego, CA: Questpath Publishing. This evolutionary biologist proposed that women have been selected to prefer social stability far more strongly than men, and as a consequence, women are the natural allies of nonviolent methods of conflict resolution rather than fighting. Their participation in leadership is essential to ending war and perhaps even more critically, to maintaining that state once achieved. See also her project,
Wilson, Marie. 2004. Closing the Leadership Gap: Why Women Can and Must Help Run the World. NY: Viking. An advocate of women's issues for more than 30 years, Marie C. Wilson is founder and President of The White House Project and co-creator of Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day. In 1998, Wilson founded The White House Project in recognition of the need to build a truly representative democracy - one where women lead alongside men in all spheres. See:
Mortenson, Greg & Relin, David O.  2006. Three Cups of Tea. One Man's Mission to Promote Peace...One School at a Time. NY: Viking Press. Mortenson's adventures among remote Afghan villagers led him to conclude that the most direct and powerful means to transform a village or a town in ways that would avoid fighting and war was to educate the girls. He has gone on to build schools with a focus on education for girls. See the website of the Central Asia Institute:
Myers, Dee Dee. 2008. Why Women Should Rule the World. NY: Harper Collins. Former White House press secretary Dee Dee Myers argues, and provides insider and often humorous illustrations showing, that if women governed, politics would be more collegial, businesses would be more productive, and communities would be healthier. Empowering women would make the world a better place-not because women are the same as men, but precisely because they are women. For an AFWW review of Myers's book and how it relates to war, see:
Kristoff, Nicholas & WuDunn, Sheryl. 2009. Half the Sky. Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide.  NY: Knopf. New York Times reporters Kristoff and WuDunn have traveled the world and detected a clear pattern: when women are empowered with a little bit of money or opportunity, they change not only their family's fortune, but that of their community. For Kristoff and WuDunn, women are not the world's problem when it comes to poverty, they are the solution, and their book provides compelling argument and examples to make their case. See also their N.Y. Times Magazine Article "Saving the World's Women".
In the extremely short time span covered by just this tiny selection of six books, from 1999 to 2009, there has been an enormous revolution in the way women and women's issues are perceived throughout the world. There are hundreds more books and essays and projects and studies pointing to the same inescapable fact: to leave girls uneducated and women out of the mainstream of our social, economic, and political affairs is a tremendous mistake that needs to be corrected ASAP.

The Girl Effect

The Nike Foundation and NoVo Foundation have produced a video and information site called: The Girl Effect. As the logo says: "Invest in a girl and she will do the rest."
Check out their extraordinary video on U-tube. will LOVE this video:
Then check out their pdf fact sheet, a global profile of the status of girls.
AFWW agrees with this insight into the importance of educating girls. We are moving from theoretical considerations that are the bulk of our website to embrace a hands-on project, to be initiated in Africa. The project will design and create non-sectarian, secondary-level peace and leadership academies. We will begin in either Liberia or Sierra Leone, and we'll concentrate on making sure that girls are included in numbers to equal the boys. Recognizing as AFWW does that the massive paradigm shift involved in abolishing war will take male/female partnership, the schools will also include boys. We'll be looking for A BOY EFFECT! as well.

 Empowering Women - Why We Need to Do So

Women as Agents of Nonviolent Change
Alice Paul
, a Quaker, was one of the key women behind the movement to make the right to vote a part of the United States Constitution. She would settle for nothing less. And she did it using the same nonviolent resistance used at about the same time in India by Mohandas Gandhi.

As Gandhi is famous for saying, we need to "be the change we want to see." To abolish war as part of creating a less violent future, we can't use violent means. We'll have to rely on the nonviolent techniques of change agents like Alice Paul and Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.
But are nonviolent means enough? Can a change as great as ending war be achieved using nonviolence? And how do women play a role in making that change happen?
An essay by Dr. Judith Hand entitled "Nonviolence: Before Its Time" describes the works of Alice Paul, Mohandas Gandhi, and the "Muslim Gandhi" Abdul Ghaffar Khan. It explains why nonviolent movements have not yet changed the world, but why at this moment in history they are now poised to do so. And why women are key to making it all work. See "Nonviolent Movements" for more.

Women and National Security

On March 12, 2010, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton  addressed the UN Commission on the Status of Women. Beginning with the extraordinary Fourth World Conference on Women fifteen years previous in Beijing, Secretary Clinton outlined the enormous progress women and the world have made in assisting women and elevating to reality the call she made then that "human rights are women's rights, and women's rights are human rights." She highlights notable progress with specific examples. She also limns the huge problems still outstanding. And she addressed the security skeptics:
"Now, I know there are those - hard to believe - but there are those who still dispute the importance of women to local, national, and global progress. But the evidence is irrefutable. When women are free to develop their talents, all people benefit: women and men, girls and boys. When women are free to vote and run for public office, governments are more effective and responsive to their people. When women are free to earn a living and start small businesses, the data is clear: they become key drivers of economic growth across regions and sectors. When women are given the opportunity of education and access to health care, their families and communities prosper. And when women have equal rights, nations are more stable, peaceful, and secure."
"....this principle is also at the heart of the foreign policy of the United States. We believe that women are critical to solving virtually every challenge we face as individual nations and as a community of nations."
"President Obama and I believe that the subjugation of women is a threat to the national security of the United States. It is also a threat to the common security of our world, because the suffering and denial of the rights of women and the instability of nations go hand in hand."
"History has taught us that any peace not built by and for women is far less likely to deliver real and lasting benefits. As we have seen from Guatemala to Northern Ireland to Bosnia, women can be powerful peacemakers, willing to reach across deep divides to find common ground. United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 reflects this principle. Now, we must work together to render it into action and achieve the full participation of women as equal partners in peace."
There was more meat in this speech. See the full text here:

Religion and the Suppression of Women

The Elders, Jimmy Carter, and an Indictment of Religion.

In a July 2009 Article, "Loosing My Religion for Equality," Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter addressed the relationship between women, women's rights, the suppression of women, and religion:
"....discrimination, unjustifiably attributed to a Higher Authority, has provided a reason or excuse for the deprivation of women's equal rights across the world for centuries."
President Carter is a member of The Elders, a group of senior statesmen and women drawn together by former South Africa President and Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Nelson Mandela. They "offer their influence and experience to support peace building, help address major causes of human suffering and promote the shared interests of humanity." And they "have decided to draw particular attention to the responsibility of religious and traditional leaders in ensuring equality and human rights and have recently published a statement that declares: 'The justification of discrimination against women and girls on grounds of religion or tradition, as if it were prescribed by a Higher Authority, is unacceptable.'"
Happily, The Elders "get it."
"The truth is that male religious leaders have had - and still have - an option to interpret holy teachings either to exalt or subjugate women. They have, for their own selfish ends, overwhelmingly chosen the latter. Their continuing choice provides the foundation or justification for much of the pervasive persecution and abuse of women throughout the world."
 Read the full article.

MarchGlobal Action - An End to Discrimination

Linda Tarr-Whelan, writing in the San Francisco Chronicle, explains why CEDAW, the Convention to End All Discrimination Against Women, is important; it provides a benchmark by which women struggling for change can assess what remains to be done and by which everyone can see to what extent progress is being made.
She also points out that as of the date of writing, December 18, 2009, the U.S. had not signed. The reluctance is over women's reproductive rights, and the U.S. inaction, as she says, "puts us shoulder-to-shoulder with strange partners - Iran, Sudan, Somalia and a few small island nations - in failing to recognize the universality of women's human rights."
"San Francisco adopted CEDAW more than a decade ago as the basis for women's legal rights in the city. City leaders began by assessing the different impacts of governmental policies on women and men. They examined where men's and women's needs are the same, and where they differ. They asked how they could reallocate resources for the greatest impact. By 2008, new resources were being made available in San Francisco to meet unmet needs, such as flexible work schedules citywide. Many more women were appointed to city boards and commissions. More streetlights were installed to prevent sexual abuse on city streets."
President Obamahas picked CEDAW as one of the three top UN Treaties or Conventions for Ratification. Read the full article.

CountdownWomen are Investing in Social Change

Kavita Ramdasis chief executive officer of the Global Fund for Women, the largest public foundation exclusively investing in women's rights groups globally. She serves on the advisory board of the Gates Foundation's Global Development Program and on the board of Princeton University. She keeps track of how women are spending and investing in social change.
Women are moving from being victims seeking help to being change-makers creating a better future for their communities, families, and most importantly, for their children.
"At the Global Fund for Women, we hear from articulate and competent women from every continent who represent a wide political spectrum. We support women's organizations working on issues of economic development, education and health but also those crafting new definitions of power based on collaboration, community and inclusion."
In an excellent article several years ago for the San Diego Union Tribune, Ramdas reviewed the status of and effects of these take charge and invest changes. Read the article.

Female Police Keep Peace in Liberia

In 2007, the United Nations sent a troop of 105 strong paramilitary police women from India to help keep the peace in post-conflict Liberia. This was at the specific request of the first elected female President on the African continent, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. Police departments in the U.S. and elsewhere have learned that women police officers bring a calming influence to tense situations, a fact that surely influenced President Sirleaf.
In 2006 the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1325which calls for a full and effective participation of women in peace building, peacekeeping and reconstructing efforts.
So young women of the world born with a spirit of risk-taking for progress, think about becoming a policewoman, or part of a UN Peacekeeping force!
You can read more about this fascinating action at the UN Website:

LinksEmpowering Women Links

Over the years AFWW has been collecting a list of links to organizations and groups working to empower women and girls. Globally, the numbers of these organizations are in the many thousands.

Our list, to which we add names now and then as new groups come to our attention, now stands at 49. Go there now.

A Future Without War
Contact Info
A Future Without War Dr. Judith Hand P.O. Box 270074, San Diego, CA 92198