Sep 262008

I am very pleased to share that the Women’s Visions For Peace issue of off our backs is out.  I was the guest editor for this issue which, sadly, may be the last print issue of oob, although a web presence will continue (see more about this on the oob website).  Below is the intro from their website as well as a list of authors.  If you are not a subscriber, there is info on their site about ordering copies.

I am very grateful to the entire oob collective for the opportunity to work with them and to produce this collection and to the authors all of whom it was a joy to work with, it was a deeply enriching experience.

Introduction from oob:

“What could be more important than peace? Peace with justice; peace with an end to all violence against women; peace that ends racism, classism, and imperialism; peace that is not just the absence of war.

Peace activist Lucinda Marshall, our guest editor, has compiled a magnificent collection of articles on peace from women in many parts of the world. Her introduction presents the vision for this issue and a summary of the many perspectives on peace our authors represent.

In a world whose so-called leaders don’t believe in the possibility of peace, much less strive for it, these visions provide an important counterbalance. We feel it is everyone’s duty—particularly that of citizens of the largest military power in the world—to work for true peace. We feel that only a feminist perspective—women of all nations working as equal partners—can bring peace.

We can’t thank Lucinda enough. She has brought together diverse voices, from the women of the Nyalebbe community in the Democratic Republic of Congo, to Selma James of Wages for Housework, to Nobel Peace Prize winner Jody Williams, to Muscogee (Creek) Nation citizen Sarah Deer, to CODEPINK founder Medea Benjamin. All of these writers present distinct women’s views on war and peace. Lucinda’s work has created a collection that we expect to stand the test of time and remain a publication you will want to read and refer to for years to come.”

Complete list of authors:

  • Riane Eisler
  • Sarah Deer
  • Bernadette Muthien (South Africa)
  • Gila Svirsky (Israel)
  • Jody Williams
  • Genevieve Vaughan
  • Kalpana Sharma (India)
  • Hisako Motoyama (Japan)
  • Selma James (UK)
  • Ellen Adokorach, Mama Mado Beriu, Unwanga Jeannette and Biwaga Tabu (DRC)
  • Susan Hawthorne (Australia)
  • Heide Goetner-Abendroth (Germany)
  • Jane Roberts
  • Frida Berrigan
  • Judith Witherow
  • Senka Knezevic (Bosnia)
  • Janie Rezner
  • Medea Benjamin
  • Carol Anne Douglass
  • Sonali Kolhatkar
  • Lucinda Marshall
 September 26, 2008  Posted by on September 26, 2008 Comments Off on Women’s Visions For Peace Issue Of off our backs Is In Print!
Sep 262008

Sit down and put your feet up, we’re going to be here for awhile.  All of the kerfuffle about Sarah Palin being saved from witchcraft is truly unfortunate because witch wisdom is precisely what we need in this time of peril.

There were 2 stories this week, that while not subjects that are directly the focus of the FPN Blog, stopped me in my tracks.   First, there is news that a U.S. Army Brigade will now be stationed in the U.S.  According to Army Times,

They may be called upon to help with civil unrest and crowd control or to deal with potentially horrific scenarios such as massive poisoning and chaos in response to a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or high-yield explosive, or CBRNE, attack.”

Isn’t that what we have local police departments and the National Guard for?  And what civil unrest and crowd control are we talking about?  This is a very scary development indeed.  Glenn Greenwald has excellent commentary about this story here.

Then there is the question of how Hank Paulson and gang came up with the $7 billion dollar pricetag for bailing out their Wall Street cronies.  According to Forbes,

“In fact, some of the most basic details, including the $700 billion figure Treasury would use to buy up bad debt, are fuzzy.

“It’s not based on any particular data point,” a Treasury spokeswoman told Tuesday. “We just wanted to choose a really large number.””

In other words, the guys who are supposed to be getting this financial situation under control are pulling numbers out of a hat.  If this is the underpinning of our national financial policy, we are in very deep trouble.

But getting back to Sarah Palin and witchcraft, Scott Swenson puts it oh so well over at RH Reality Check:

“As a native Kansan, I know the importance of distinguishing good witches from bad witches.  It is a skill that comes in handy when dealing with any religion — Pagan, Christian, Muslim, Jew, or any other. There is good and bad within us all.”

“We have power within us, through our own ability to use our minds, to reduce stress, make wiser choices, and tap into healing abilities of the body that science is beginning to recognize. Many of these “new” methods are coming from traditions thousands of years old, and in some cases the very witch-doctors that many want to dismiss. Again, there are good witch-doctors and bad.

The question then becomes: with all we are learning about the power of our minds, why do so many people fail to use them, especially when it comes to distinguishing good witches from bad?

Remember, in the end, my dear friend Dorothy, learned from Glenda the Good Witch of the North that she always had the power to leave Oz and return to Kansas, within herself.

It is easier to project evil, our dark shadow side, onto people we don’t know, or onto circumstances that seem unfamiliar. Change or crisis, especially in complex times, is a fine time to find scapegoats and shirk personal responsibility for our own actions. It is easy to take the fear we experience and externalize it. She’s good, he’s bad. Good side of town, bad side of town. Good values, bad values. Good church, bad church. We all do it — we all create our own evil.  As a political motivator that fear of “other” becomes an amazingly powerful tool.”

And that in a nutshell is why we need to bring forth the power of good witchcraft.  Earlier this week on the FPN Blog, I posted a missive from Starhawk about the current situation.  Then last night, I came across this passage she wrote that is quoted in my 2008 We-Moon calendar:

“Only a just world can be sustainable.  Only a world where the needs of all are balanced and met fairly can attain ecological balance.  Only a world in which all people are valued, where every mind is nurtured and every spirit cherished, can muster the creativity and sheer intelligence we will need in  the coming times.  To work for balance, to work for survival, is to work for justice.

To change, to face the crisis before us, we need to relinquish a very powerful story, one which all of us are in some way attached to.  That is the story of progress, which tells us that we humans have transcended nature, are no longer bound by her limitations and constraints.  We can fly across a continent in half a day, email instantly to friends on the other side of the world, cure diseases and light the darkness.  And yet with all our technological knowledge, we are still dependent on the elements of life–the air, the water, the living soil, the sun’s energy, the genetic heritage of our crops and seeds, and our mortal, animal bodies.  To save the world, we must accept that we are part of the world, and come back down to earth.”

Imagine a world in which this was our national policy!

Finally, one of the ways I stay grounded and strong when I spend so much time talking about violence is to read the words of the wise women in our midst.  Recently I have been reading Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai’s autobiography, “Unbowed”.  In it she writes about a situation where mothers in Kenya were protesting the disappearance of their sons:

“The mothers in the tent refused to be intimidated and they did not run.  Instead, they did something very brave:  Several of them stripped, some of them completely naked, and showed the police officers their breasts.  One of  the most powerful of African traditions concerns the relationship between a woman and a man who could be her son.  Every woman old enough to be your mother is considered like your own mother and expects to be treated with considerable respect.  As they bared their breasts, what the mothers were saying to the policemen in their anger and frustration as they were being  beaten was “By showing you my nakedness, I curse you as I would my son for the way you are abusing me.””

If ever there was a time to get naked and to practice good witchcraft, I believe that time is now.

 September 26, 2008  Posted by on September 26, 2008 Comments Off on Witch Wisdom
Sep 252008

Reprinted with permission:

Collapse and Elections:  My Lessons from Katrina

By Starhawk

“I’ve been meaning to write this essay for three years, since I went down to New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina to volunteer with a grassroots organization called Common Ground Relief.  I went to New Orleans because for decades I’ve been part of groups holding a few key beliefs, among them, that this current system is unsustainable and will eventually come crashing down, and the other—that small scale, directly democratic grassroots organizing is the most empowering and effective way to take action.  I wanted to see what it was like in a place where the crash had come, and to see if our grassroots, do-it-yourself mode of organizing could work in that situation.

Now, with the Gulf Coast battered by a new round of storms, Wall Street deconstructing and capitalism in meltdown mode, that prediction is coming true.  It seems a good time to review those lessons.

In New Orleans, the crash had come.  Not just the devastation left by the storm—every major system that was supposed to offer protection, succor or relief had failed. Starting with the faulty levees built by the Army Corps of Engineers, moving on to an evacuation plan that was no plan at all for those without means, to completely inadequate shelter facilities for those who remained, to disorganized and punitive responses for those who survived, nothing official was working.

What I arrived, a month after the hurricane, the only systems that were functioning were the decentralized, autonomous relief efforts.  Common Ground Relief was started by a local organizer, Malik Rahim, who lived in Algiers, a neighborhood that had not flooded.  He sent out a call that made its way into activist circles.
Continue reading »

 September 25, 2008  Posted by on September 25, 2008 Comments Off on Starhawk On The Economy And Elections–This Is The Kind Of Witchcraft That Spooks McCain-Palin
Sep 252008

According to a new report from UNICEF:

“Over 500,000 women die unnecessarily every year due to complications from pregnancy and childbirth, with 99 per cent of those deaths occurring in developing countries, according to a new report released today by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

Progress for Children: a report card on maternal mortality” shows that the worst regions in which to give birth are sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, which together account for 84 per cent of maternal deaths.

In the developing world, the risk of death from complications relating to pregnancy and childbirth over the course of a woman’s lifetime is one in 76, compared with one in 8,000 in the industrialized world. The riskiest place to give birth is Niger, where that risk is estimated to be one in seven.”

“According to the report, haemorrhage is the most common cause of death, particularly in Africa and Asia. A woman’s overall health – including her nutritional level and HIV status – also influences the chances of a positive outcome to her pregnancy and childbirth.

Poverty, inequity and general attitudes towards women and their health also play a part in maternal mortality rates, as did cultural or traditional practices that often prevent women from seeking delivery or post-partum care, the report stated.

UNICEF emphasized that most maternal deaths are avoidable, especially with better health care during the critical pregnancy, delivery and post-partum periods. It noted there have been improvements in maternal health interventions in recent years. Coverage of antenatal care in the developing world has risen by 15 percentage points in the past decade, with 75 per cent of expectant mothers now receiving some antenatal care.”

““Saving mothers’ lives is not only a moral imperative, but a sound investment that benefits their children, their families, their communities and their countries,” said Tessa Wardlaw, UNICEF’s Chief of Statistics and Monitoring.

“Indeed, there is a clear connection between maternal health and other Millennium Development Goals, such as eradicating extreme poverty, reducing child mortality, and combating HIV and AIDS and other diseases,” she added.”

Unfortunately one issue that isn’t a Millenium Development Goal and should be is eradicating violence against women.  As Monika Manke writes for IPS,

“Combating violence against women is what Inés Alberdi, executive director of the U.N. Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), calls the missing goal, because it is not an issue addressed by the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

But it is an issue with a lot of faces.

“Even though the problem is not explicitly addressed by the MDGs, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon emphasised in his latest report to the General Assembly that sexual violence is a human rights issue that poses a serious obstacle to the consolidation of peace and the achievement of the broader MDGs.

“The prevalence of gender-based violence has serious repercussions, including exposure to HIV/AIDS, other sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancy and the abandonment of victims by their families,” he pointed out.

With many member states starting to implement a resolution on “eliminating rape and other forms of sexual violence” that the General Assembly passed in February, the secretary-general will report on this progress at the General Assembly’s upcoming session next week.”

“”Violence against women is still an epidemic that does not confine to a specific culture or country,” UNIFEM’s Alcalá told IPS. The roots lie in historically unequal power relations between men and women.

But “culture has often been used to perpetuate violence against women and girls,” Aminata Toure, chief of the culture, gender and human rights office at UNFPA, told IPS.

“For example, female genital mutilation is practiced on adolescent girls, and in some countries, girls or women are killed in the name of honour, often without fear of impunity,” she added.

Rape is also still used as “a tactic of war”, as the U.N. Security Council declared in a resolution passed in June. Not only insurgent groups are guilty but also soldiers, police officers and even, in some instances, U.N. workers and peacekeepers. Every day, hundreds of women have been and are raped in Darfur, along with many others in conflict and post-conflict situations around the globe.”

 September 25, 2008  Posted by on September 25, 2008 Comments Off on Maternal Health And Violence Against Women–Unmet And Non-Existent Goals