When was the last time that you went three days without being able to use your cell phone or access internet? Well that was me this weekend in Leskovac (pronounced Les-ka-witz). In Leskovac, I attended a three day conference hosted by Women in Black Belgrade and attended by individuals from the larger Women in Black Network. We left Friday morning by car and got plenty lost before finally finding our way to Leskovac.
Upon arrival, we met with activists from the WIB Network and participated in an anti-military demonstration. This demonstration consisted of activists holding banners promoting peace, illustrating the hierarchical nature of the military and showing that the military can be broken down. During the demonstration, WIB created a pyramid using boxes that listed names of various war-torn countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan, The Sudan, etc. One by one, activists removed a box from the pyramid until it eventually tumbled down, conveying that militarism can be conquered.
After this show of anti-militarism, WIB activists marched around town exhibiting other symbols of peace. For example, at one point they walked under a caterpillar costume, each activist being a bump of the caterpillar. Through this the activists were illustrating that while peace processes may be slow, peace does eventually come and win over evil. The activists also displayed a military parachute that was decorated with peace symbols illustrating that the military should be rebuilt into an instrument of peace.
After this creative demonstration ended, we packed ourselves into a bus and headed up into the mountains to reach our hotel, where we also lost all connectivity with the outside world. We spent the rest of the day attending a WIB workshop on alternatives to militarism. During the workshop, we broke into groups and debated what alternatives to militarism that countries could use and discussed them with the larger network that was present. The international attendees, including me, tried to participate as much as we could with the help of translators. Whoever told me that I didn’t need to learn Serbian to come to Belgrade was wrong. J I’m hoping to learn enough to get around in the next few weeks.
Workshops continued for the rest of the weekend and engaged women and male activists from the network. But the highlight of the weekend was the party held on Saturday night. That’s when the women of WIB let loose and danced the night away. Since the majority of the women are in their fifties and sixties, I didn’t expect much dancing to go on. But they surprised me. There was definitely more hip-shaking than I expected. I was shocked by how much energy they all had, but another activist explained to me that their energy came “from their pain.”
So on Sunday, after a few more workshops, our weekend in Leskovac came to an end. Before it was over, Donna and I got invited to the homes of many activists whom we could stay with while doing work outside of Belgrade. We’re going to be interviewing many WIB activists, both in and outside of Belgrade, so we’ll probably be taking them up on their offers soon. I’ll keep you updated on how it goes!
Posted By Simran Sachdev
Posted Jun 8th, 2009