FEMINIST INTERNATIONAL RADIO ENDEAVOUR
CREATING A DEMOCRACY IN
THE NAME OF ALL WOMEN:
May 10, 2009
FIRE – Feminist International Radio Endeavour
Antigua, Guatemala – Arriving from more than 50 countries around the world, over 130 women activists, policymakers, journalists and communicators, and Nobel women Laureates are meeting to explore ways of redefining democracy from women’s perspectives and experiences, as part of an international conference organized by the Nobel Women’s Initiative, and JASS (Just Associates), and the Rigoberta Menchú Foundation. Entitled “Women redefining democracy for peace, justice & equality,” four Nobel Laureate women welcomed the group in the morning of the opening day.
Mairead Corrigan (1976) of Ireland stressed the urgent need for change in our way of practicing democracy that today is based on so much violence and fear, and how governments have been given the power to use violence against other governments as a means of “creating democracies,” which “takes away hope and destroys human dignity.” MacGuire called for “fresh thinking and a new vision” from the women noting that “we cannot afford to stay with the status quo and think the status quo will change things” She also emphasized the importance of seeking a world free of violence: “I think that nonviolence and non-killing must be built into our democracies, human rights and international law need to be built into democracies, to create societies where non-killing and nonviolence is a way of life.”
Jody Williams (1997) focused on the constant “othering” by the more powerful that feeds conflict and erodes democracy. “There will be no democracy in the world as long as we view some groups as ‘the other’ and talk about tolerance instead of acting for peace, justice and equality, we are still creating the other. “
She noted that language is often used by governments as a means of “othering.” For example, the US administration talks about “extreme measures” rather than torture because “it’s much nicer to say extreme measures to protect Americans,“ and likewise the use of “collateral damage which is dead people whether it’s in Darfur or Burma or Palestine….it’s dead people. ..Every time we allow language to divorce us from human reality, it’s easier to get rid of the other.”
In looking ahead to the next three days of the conference, Rigoberta Menchu spoke on behalf of the Nobel Women’s Initiative saying, “We have not come here to give you advice, but we have asked you to come to give us advice so the Nobel Women’s Initiative will be and continue to be a small light, a candle that helps so many women hear our voices, and know about our experiences. Menchu listed some of the questions facing the conference: “what is the role of women in democracy, in assessing democracy, and what type of democracy do we women dream of? “ A number of participants began calling for a feminist definition of democracy.