Category Archives: Uncategorized

‘Talented People Deserve Worthwhile Jobs’

Women gathered ouitside the factory with a variety of placards.

Women gathered ouitside the factory with a variety of placards.

Women from WILPF joined Women in Black to demonstrate outside one of the gates at Aldermaston AWE (Atomic Weapons Establishment) on Friday 28th June. Fourteen women stood on the roundabout immediately outside the gate, holding placards.

We arrived at 4.30pm and the main purpose of the action was to appeal to the workforce as they were leaving their workplace.

'Talented people deserve worthwhile jobs'

‘Talented people deserve worthwhile jobs’

 

We wanted to highlight the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons and encourage them to choose for their families, disarmament and a peaceful future.

 

'Violence costs the earth'

‘Violence costs the earth’

 

 

We gave out a limited number of leaflets as the majority of workers left by car but were able to establish a very effective presence. The message was very clear and the placards were seen by hundreds of workers leaving AWE and also local rush-hour traffic.

 

And a policeman even offered to take a photo of us all outside the gates…

A friendly policeman takes a photo of the group outside the factory.

A friendly policeman takes a photo of the group outside the factory.

Letter to William Hague on Syria

“Dear William Hague,

In April the UK Section of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (UK WILPF) wrote to you to urge HM Government to use the United Nations processes to seek a negotiated outcome to the war in Syria.  We are shocked now to find that instead of taking the diplomatic road, you have worked with France to persuade the EU to lift its embargo on the sale of arms to rebel groups.

As a long-standing international women’s organisation, which has worked to achieve a peaceful world since 1915, WILPF attended the 22nd session of the HRC, where a committee of enquiry reported on Syria, highlighting violations of human rights on all sides and seeking the involvement of the ICC.

In June 2012, the UK Government as a member of the Action Group for Syria,  agreed to its Final Communiqué  http://www.un.org/News/dh/infocus/Syria/FinalCommuniqueActionGroupforSyria.pdf which Identified steps and measures by the parties to secure full implementation of the six-point plan and Security Council resolutions 2042 and 2043, including an

immediate cessation of violence in all its forms (our italics).  We are bound to ask how can it be possible to suggest that supplying arms to one side in this conflict can lead to an end to violence?

All weapons are used to kill, and the number of civilian deaths in this conflict continues to rise.  The quantity of displaced people is affecting the stability of the whole region.

We urge you now to use your diplomatic muscle, and powers of negotiation to bring the two sides in Syria to the conference table.  All conflicts must end with a negotiated agreement which is what is needed now.  The Action Group for Syria Communique states: ‘Women must be fully represented in all aspects of the transition.’  The UK Government is committed to UN Security Council Resolution 1325: ‘Women Peace and Security’ which must be at the heart of any agreement.

We are anxious to hear from you about the efforts of the UK to help Syria achieve a peace settlement.

WILPF UK”

A Tribute to former WILPF UK Vice President Mary Alys

Mary Alys for wilpfWe were deeply saddened to hear of the loss of longstanding WILPF member and feminist Mary Alys [pictured] on 18th May 2013 who had been involved with campaigning for peace and justice and women’s rights with WILPF for more than 30 years.

Those who have come into contact with Mary will know that she was a very humble and softly spoken woman who was also very determined, competent and not afraid to stand up and speak out on key issues or volunteer to take on the gritty tasks to get things done.  Her vision of fairness and equality for all was demonstrated in her work, over the last 12 years, as the Midland’s regional manager for the Trade Union Congress (TUC), building on her lifetime’s work as an innovative adult educator.

Mary, a proud feminist, began her involvement with WILPF at the age of 28, when she was a mother of two young sons.  She was invited to a picnic on the beach at Lancing, near Worthing, by a brilliant WILPF woman called Sibyl Cookson.  Sibyl then took Mary along to a local WILPF Branch meeting where manyretired women were gathered and it quickly became clear that the main agenda was to discuss the Branch’s closure as they were all becoming too old.  Sibyl protested that the Branch could not possibly close as they now had Mary as a new young member and by the end of the meeting Mary had agreed to go out and recruit some more younger members.  Using her innovation she succeeded in the task and remained an active member of the Branch for several years before relocating to Leicester.

In her early WILPF days, Mary was actively involved in many campaigns including the WILPF STAR campaign to Stop The Arms Race, protests  in the local town centre to draw attention to various issues including Hiroshima Day where the group averted arrest by singing! She was also involved in fundraising activities to send WILPF member Hazel Rennie to the embassies around Europe,  and supporting women at Greenham Common by attending when possible and sending supplies – including two pairs of bolt cutters bought from funds raised at a very conservative Mayor’s fundraising event!

Later on, in the mid- late 1990’s, she took on the role of International Board member for the WILPF UK Section and was relentless in her efforts to enable the step up to a greater and more aligned international focus for the Section.  Following the UN World Conference on Racism in 2001 she brought in an outside facilitator to help WILPF look at how it operated and to challenge ideas on how WILPF could be more accessible as an organisation to all women.  She worked with Alice Ukoko, a Nigerian UK WILPF member, to link her with other African WILPF women in 2004 at a WILPF international Congress to further strengthen an agreed pan-African approach for WILPF’s work, and with Lucinda Amara, the then President of WILPF Sierra Leone and WILPF’s first international Vice President from the African continent. Mary had previously arranged for Alice to attend a WILPF organised International Women’s Day two day event at the UN in Geneva to speak about  the proliferation of small arms in Nigeria and the Niger Delta.  Mary also ran several workshops over the years to help build a more inclusive WILPF.

Mary was UK co-Vice President with Ella Page from 2011-2012 and really helped to shape the direction of the organisation including the development of an operational plan.  She also recognised the huge potential in younger WILPF women and working women and really took the time to champion them, support them to link internationally and to find out their views.  Amy Worrall, a former WILPF intern says:

“Mary Alys taught me a lot during the time I knew her, although I’m pretty sure she didn’t realise it and if she did, she certainly wouldn’t have taken any credit. She taught me that the loudest voice isn’t always the one that gets heard, that diplomacy is as much about kindness as it is about compromise, and that true achievement will always be recognised by those to whom it makes a difference. Mary was an inspiration to me in the way she carried out her work; you could tell immediately that her devotion to WILPF was deep-rooted and unwavering. She was willing to overcome any obstacle to continue with what she believed in. Her calming presence (but also steely determination) will be greatly missed by all who worked with her, knew her, and loved her.”

There is so much more we could say about Mary Alys and her contribution, not only to WILPF, but to the many other organisations she was involved with and the people whose lives she touched while striving to create a better and more equitable world.   We are extremely honoured that she chose to be a lifetime WILPFer and ever-grateful to her for her vital contribution to the ongoing struggle for world peace.

 

In memory donations

Lorraine Mirham, would like to thank everyone for their warm messages and donations on behalf of Mary.   If you still wish to contribute you can do so via the WILPF Charitable Trust.

All funds raised will contribute to a WILPF UK international travel fund to help support women from less well-off countries to attend international conferences and meetings when they would not otherwise be able to do, enabling their participation and voices to be heard.

Please make sure you clearly mark your donation in memory of Mary Alys so we can allocate it to the right fund.  You can contact the WILPF Charitable Trust directly at trust@ukwilpf.org.uk  Please remember to include a gift aid declaration if you are a UK tax payer so we can claim an extra 25p for every £1 donated making a £10 donation worth £12.50!

Mary’s Legacy

The Mary Alys Trust

Mary believed that in order to change the world we must start with young people.  She had a vision in which children and young people would be able to work on peace, reconciliation, justice and equity through combining the principles of feminism and to this end she set up the Mary Alys Trust as a legacy to fund this work.  To find out more or to donate to the work please email info@themaryalystrust.org.uk or contact Lorraine Mirham via the WILPF UK Section.

Mary’s book to promote women

Raising consciousness and enabling people to learn and develop themselves to find how they can reach their potential was key for Mary and just days before she passed away Mary completed her book entitled Calling Time on Women’s Wasted Potential .  It is intended as a resource to generate discussion and awareness amongst women and men offering common sense suggestions about what needs to change to ensure women’s potential is not wasted.  Copies are available at £2.50 from Lorraine Mirham e: lorrainewilpf@gmail.com or phone: 0116 2857527.  Any profits will be directed to the Mary Alys Trust.

Recordings from Mary

Lorraine Mirham assisted Mary to record several of her memoirs about being involved in WILPF from the early days to more recently. These are being put together as part of the WILPF 2015 History Project but should anyone wish to hear them specifically before they are available, please contact Lorraine as above.

WILPF Starts the Movement to Ban Chemical Weapons

In April 1924 two of the delegates attending Science Congress held in Washington, USA, were long term WILPF members -  Dr Naima Sahlbom, Professor of Minerology at Stockholm University and Dr Gertrud Woker, Professor of Chemistry at Berne University.  They had met at the WILPF Congress in Zurich in 1919.

As delegates to the Conference, they accepted an invitation to visit the American Gas Armament Centre at Edgewood and saw demonstrations of smoke clouds, smoke screens, fire rain, and incendiary bombs.  After seeing the casualties which occurred during the manoeuvres, they started to ask questions about the use of poison gas and its effect on people.

A few days after the visit, they attended the WILPF Congress in Washington where they set up the WILPF Committee on Scientific Warfare.   By October 1924 WILPF launched a campaign through their national sections, appealing to scientists to condemn the misuse of scientific research for war purposes and to refuse to serve war with their knowledge.1

On their return to Europe, in collaboration with the French delegates and Professor Paul Langevin, Dr Naima Sahlbom,and Dr Gertrud Woker, began to build groups of scientists in many European countries who were anxious to question, expose and condemn the use of science for destruction.

In 1925 the WILPF Committee on Scientific Warfare lobbied delegates to the League of Nations Conference on the Control of Traffic in Arms.  Although chemical warfare was not on the agenda, the German delegates proposed an agreement to prohibit the use of poison gas in warfare and this proposal was adopted by the conference and ratified as ‘The Geneva Convention’  by 27 States by the following year.

In January 1929, the WILPF Committee, led by Dr Sahlbom,and Dr Woker convened an international conference of experts on modern methods of warfare and the protection of the civil populations. Invitations to attend were eagerly accepted by distinguished technical and scientific experts.  About 300 people took part, including numerous influential visitors and representatives from 58 international newspapers and 70 organisations. 2

In Geneva in May 1929, The Disarmament Commission of the League of Nations adopted a proposal for the prohibition of chemical warfare subject to reciprocity, and the absolute prohibition of bacteriological warfare; and recommended that states which had not yet done so should ratify the 1925 Protocol, known as the ‘Geneva Convention’ prohibiting the use of poison gas in war. 3

 Wilpf women protest chemical weapons 1960Although WILPF women achieved some success in limiting the use of chemical weapons in 1920s, new chemical weapons continued to be created and produced.  WILPF women were still aware of the problem and protesting the use of chemical weapons in 1960 – see photo.

 

Join the WILPF movement and find out more about its 100th Anniversary Campaign Women’s Power to Stop War at http://www.womenstopwar.org/

1 Useful documents can be viewed at   http://womhist.alexanderstreet.com/chemwar/doclist.htm

2 The reports from the conference were published by WILPF as: Chemical Warfare: an abridged report of papers read at an international Conference at Frankfurt am Main, 1930

3 More information is available in: Bussey, Gertrude & Tims, Margaret 1965 Pioneers for Peace: Women’s international league for Peace and Freedom 1915-1965 WILPF British section

Link to the text of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention Protocol for the prohibition of poisonous gases and chemical warfare signed in Geneva in 1925: http://www.brad.ac.uk/acad/sbtwc/keytext/genprot.htm

Dramatic Stories

Some of the stories of the peace activists of the First World War are dramatic and powerful.  They include:

  • The 1200 determined women from 12 countries who overcame multiple obstacles to gather in The Hague in 1915, as war raged.  They drew up 20 proposals for stopping the war by a negotiated peace – and took these personally to world leaders.
  • The courage of conscientious objectors, such as the group imprisoned in Richmond Castle, Yorkshire, who believed they were going to be executed, and scrawled heart-rending messages on their cell walls which are still visible there today.

Bruce Kent, a Vice-President of Pax Christi, said: “The courage of the women and men who opposed World War One deserves to be remembered and honoured.  Recognising today that they were actually right does not diminish our respect for the soldiers who died in the trenches – but it should make us more critical about the usefulness of wars now, and more determined to prevent them.”

1914-2014 – How will we remember the First World War?

Don’t forget the conscientious objectors and women peace activists who opposed it

How can we make sure that the courage of men and women who campaigned to prevent the First World War, who resisted the jingoism, and who, as conscientious objectors, refused conscription, is given proper attention during the First World War centenary commemorations?

In a new briefing – Opposing World War One: Courage and Conscience – British peace organisations suggest that local and national events to mark the centenary of the First World War should also honour those whose convictions led them to oppose it.

Public events, exhibitions, TV and radio programmes should include the forgotten story of conscientious objectors and women peace activists who opposed the war.

Over 16,000 men registered as COs after the Military Service Act became law in 1916.  Many “absolutists” were imprisoned repeatedly, and over 80 COs died as a result of their treatment.

A strong international women’s peace movement grew out of contacts made before the war through the international suffrage movement.