Women's activities against Trident
Brief skype address by Angie Zelter (*) to the International Network No to War - No to NATO
Annual Meeting on 8th March in Gent, Belgium.
Greetings to you all on Women's Day. It is good to be with you in this way. Without increasing my carbon foot-print too much I can talk to you all and not have to travel physically to Gent! So, I wish you a Happy and Productive Women's Day. I hope your meeting goes well and we can support each other in the important anti-militaristic work that is so sorely needed today.
As most women know, everything is connected. The many frighteningly horrific systemic crises that are confronting us are all linked. The capitalistic, corporate controlled money-making, growth, system that is now seen in almost every country in the world is backed up by militaristic force, arms sales and wars. Many of the current conflicts are not only the wars we and other NATO countries are involved in directly but are also internal civil wars backed up by covert and overt support from the major nuclear weapons states acting on behalf of corporate interests. Most are about gaining control of scarce resources like oil, minerals, land, and water.
Many women see this pattern of systemic abuse as part of a specific male patriarchal culture where only certain qualities are highlighted as belonging to 'real' men and given superiority and status, leaving out the values of women, and the men who reject male patriarchy. These qualities are about being strong, hard, dominant, combative, exploitative, ready to use violence to defend honour and nation …. qualities that are deeply implicated in militarism and war and which disregard the humane qualities of co-operation, compassion, emotion and empathy.
Women can see that, when not leavened by a more holistic culture, these characteristics have distorted every aspect of our lives. The aggressive, controlling, narrow, hierarchical, growth at all costs culture, impacts women all over the world from their being ignored, de-valued, and bullied, to their giving birth to deformed and disabled children, to having little access to food or land, to being raped and killed.
A recent edition of the NATO Review Magazine admitted that it has become more dangerous to be a woman fetching water or collecting firewood than a fighter on the front line! ( see http://www.nato.int/docu/review/index_EN.htm#1 ) and they also provided some horrendous annual figures which included 5,000 honour killings, 2.5 million women trafficked, 60 million girls forced into marriages before the age of 18, 140 million female genital mutilation victims – this happens each year!
But there are even wider impacts, affecting the way the environment has been destroyed and polluted, eroding the space and respect for millions of other species that are fast becoming extinct, and the disastrous changes in climate that are now threatening all life on earth.
Maybe this is why so many women are involved in our anti-nuclear weapons, anti-NATO movement. It is because it is actually part of something much bigger. We are struggling for our lives. We are attempting to build a more sustainable, caring, and nonviolent world. And that is what makes it so very creative and important.
In the UK at the moment we are at a cross-roads in regard to nuclear weapons. Our Trident system is in the process of being replaced and renewed so it can continue to threaten the world for more decades. The estimated costs are around £100 billion – an amount that could prevent many of the key public sector cuts that are impacting upon the poor and disadvantaged, the most vulnerable sectors of our society.
The replacement of Trident would be a breach of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. It is not only against the wishes of the majority of us in the UK but also against the world's nations, who just a few days ago in Oslo, joined together to clearly articulate the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons. They were doing this as a first step to a global convention to ban all nuclear weapons, with or without the nuclear weapons states approval.
We are all being challenged to play our part in this massive campaign to finally implement global nuclear disarmament.
Here, in the UK, contracts have been signed and huge construction costs already incurred for the replacement of Trident at AWE Burghfield and Aldermaston in Berkshire, England. Only 7 miles apart, they are the nuclear bomb making factories. BUT the final decision has not yet been made and this vote is to take place in Parliament after the next General Election in 2016. We therefore have almost 3 years to ensure nuclear disarmament is high on the agenda and to only elect MPs who will promise to refuse to vote for Trident Replacement.
We have had success in Scotland - thanks to the support from many of you – our European allies - who supported the Faslane 365 campaign. The present Scottish Government is committed to getting rid of Trident from Scotland. And if the Scots win their referendum on independence in 2015 then there is a real chance that Trident will have to be moved from Faslane and Coulport. This is why, while the Scots continue to keep the anti-nuclear protests and demonstrations going at Faslane, we need to bring much more political pressure to bear on Aldermaston and Burghfield in England.
Last Summer I therefore initiated a new grass-roots campaign and now there is a committed group of activists (mostly women) co-ordinating the campaign called Action AWE. This is a re-naming of the AWE in front of AWE Burghfield and AWE Aldermaston, which stands for Atomic Weapons Establishment, whereas our AWE stands for Atomic Weapons Eradication!
We have a resource filled website at www.actionawe.org which has all the background information, maps, legal briefings and other materials needed to encourage and inform people to come and engage in nonviolent civil resistance at these 2 factories, and also in the 3 nearest towns. The campaign encourages other groups and individuals to plan and implement their own actions under their own banners but also as part of Action AWE. For instance, there will be a large CND demo on 1st April at Aldermaston, as part of Action AWE.
We launched the campaign only a few weeks ago and now the actions are starting.
We are going to need your help too. Having activists come over from other countries and explain why it is illegal, immoral and dangerous for the UK to renew it nuclear weapons system helps raise the profile of the issue and makes it more difficult for our media and authorities to ignore us.
Please do join in some of our actions.
For instance, a very woman centred, creative and imaginative event that is taking place as part of Action AWE, is Wool Against Weapons. This is a 7 mile long pink anti-militarist scarf that is being knitted or crocheted over the next 18 months or so. It will be stretched the whole 7 miles between Aldermaston and Burghfield on 16th August next year in 2014!
Each of the 11,000 units will measure 100 by 60 cm and will be joined together by hundreds of us on that day. But meanwhile we are organising little knit-ins in town centres across the UK, teaching people how to knit, and draping smaller scarfs around local places like clock towers or town halls …... starting the anti-nuke conversations and drawing new people in. Look it up on the wool against weapons website. Put it in your diaries and try and join us next year. Or send us one metre length of a pink scarf you have knitted. By the way, and this is a typical women's addition, it will not be wasted. After the event it will be taken down, un-sewn into the metre long units again, washed and then re-sewn into blankets for hospices and war zones.
If you would like to come over and help us a little sooner then please come to the Trident Ploughshares Summer Disarmament Camp which is being held at Burghfield from 26th August to 7th September with a big international blockade being planned for 2nd September.
(*) Angie Zelter is an activist known most notably as the founder of a number of international campaign groups including Trident Ploughshares and the International Woman's Peace Service. Zelter is known for non-violent direct action campaigns and has been arrested over 100 times in Belgium, Canada, England, Malaysia, Norway, Poland and Scotland, serving 16 prison sentences.