Over the past four days we have seen various organizations that hold awareness raising events to combat violence against women. Today’s organization is different in many ways, but the overwhelming similarity it shares with its predecessors is that
this group these groups are made up of women who are saying no to violence.
Women in Black started in 1988 in Israel as an anti-war movement. Today Women in Black (and many translations of it) are active in at least 17 countries (with possibly as many as 150 separate groups) around the world, and are estimated to include roughly 10,000 members. The WiB motto “For justice. Against war.” is the minimal guidance new groups have in launching their own protests against violence. Annually the international chapters meet at a conference; this year’s meeting will take place in Bogota, Colombia in August.
WiB classifies itself as “not an organization, but a means of communicating and a formula for action.” Women in Black “is a world-wide network of women committed to peace with justice and actively opposed to injustice, war, militarism and other forms of violence.”
Women in Black is not a typical nonviolent organization; there is no formal structure, there is no recipe for a good protest or vigil, the only requirement is that women wearing black come together to take a stand against violence, usually on a weekly basis. Often these protests are silent, but placards are used to convey succinct messages.
Other forms of strategic nonviolent action used by Women in Black include occupying public (or forbidden governmental) space, marches or processions, vigils, masks, effigies, music, and obviously, symbolic colors. To download Gene Sharp’s list of 198 nonviolent actions YOU could be taking to speak out against violence, go here.
Seattle WiB is very active, as are the Northern California Bay Area Women in Black, Mujeres de Negro en Uruguay, Italy’s Donne in Nero and Zene u Crnom in Belgrade, and many other groups.
Other anti-war groups around the world respect and honor Women in Black and use their actions to exemplify what anti-violence should look like. One such group is Savaş Kaşıtları here in Turkey. But not everyone supports what WiB does, this video shows some of the attacks faced by anti-war, anti-violence, and anti-occupation protesters.
The main lesson to be learned from all of the participants in Women in Black is that if you are persistent, you can make yourself known, make your views heard, and make a difference.
- Gene Sharp: Author of the nonviolent revolution rulebook (talesfromthelou.wordpress.com)