During the war in Gaza (Operation Protective Edge), in the summer of 2014, a group of 30 women gathered in a small room in Tel Aviv and decided that something had to be done to stop the next war. That was how, on September 14th 2014, Women Wage Peace came into being.
Women Wage Peace is a non-partisan grassroots movement. Its goal is to put an end to the conflict with the Palestinians through a viable political agreement and to incorporate women in decision making positions.
You would think that in a place like Israel everyone would know about Women Wage Peace, after all it is the largest women’s movement of all time (over 23000 registered members, and almost 40000 followers on Facebook), and a simple calculation shows that almost every Israeli has a friend or relative who is a member in the movement.
But unfortunately, although in the last three years there has not been a week without many peace promoting activities (lectures, film screening, home seminars, standing in intersections, rallies, etc) sometimes it seems that Women Wage Peace is a secret society like the Freemasons.
Apparently ten of thousands of women who work relentlessly and tirelessly to pressure our leaders to reach a diplomatic agreement could remain invisible if we don’t see them on television, hear them on the radio, or read about them in newspapers and social media.
It seems that Women Wage Peace has to contend not only with the momentous challenge of reaching a peace agreement in the region, but also with a mundane, yet crucial, problem: How do we get the media to pay attention?
The answer came from a foreign correspondent who lives in Israel and covers the region for her newspapers. I met her last year in The March Of Hope of Women Wage Peace. The March started at the far northern border with Lebanon and ended in a mass rally in front of the prime minister’s home. In the two weeks of the march (from Rosh Hashana to Sukkot) there were many local events at different points along the way, and the March had a special guest. The Nobel laureate, Leymah Gbowee, who was instrumental in ending the civil war in Liberia came to Israel and participated in the last days of the march.
Leymah Gbowee gave several speeches during the March Of Hope and spoke honestly and clearly about the power of women in the battle against violence and their special ability to resolve conflicts. That correspondent and I listened together to Leymah Gbowee, and when I looked at her I saw tears in her eyes.
And still she chose not to write about Women Wage Peace or The March of Hope, when I asked her why, she answered that movements like ours don’t interest anyone. However, if we do want attention we have to be creative and brave, we need to take off our clothes.
It made me sad that in one sentence a hundred years of fighting for women’s rights and social equality of the sexes, were reduced to “take off your clothes.”
To mark three years to Operation Protective Edge, Women Wage Peace stood yesterday in over 140 intersections all over Israel to remind the Israeli public that years have passed and nothing has been done to bring peace. There was no media coverage.
In one of her inspiring speeches, Leymah Gbowee said “Don’t waste your time running after the media, one day it will run after you” I hope she is right. But I expect public television and public radio to report about Women Wage Peace. After all it is their responsibility as well to alert the Israeli public that so many women demand peace.