A number of Advocacy Project Fellows who will be working with groups involved in women’s rights were invited to a Zonta International Meeting here in D.C. This was the perfect opportunity to gather my thoughts and motivations for my trip. The women of Zonta D.C., who have all had very distinguished careers in public service, business and the sciences, were kind enough to let us share with them our goals for the summer, and have offered to follow our blogs. I have included below the short speech I gave there, minus the shaky voice and nervous hand gestures I’m sure were part of the actual presentation. I was so overwhelmed and excited to be beginning this journey that I couldn’t hear myself talking over my heartbeat…
I first heard of Women in Black (WiB) at the local level, in my hometown of Tucson, Arizona, where they held silent protests against war, wearing black, every week. This is what WiB do all over the world, and every group addresses the issues that are most pressing in their region. The Women in Black Network from Serbia, or Zene u crnom as they are known locally, began in October 1991. They held vigils against Serbian military actions in Croatia, Bosnia, and later Kosovo. They insisted that war not be waged “In Their Name.” They reached out to women’s groups in Bosnia and Kosovo to offer support. Since the end of hostilities in the Balkans, WiB continue to hold educational workshops about women’s rights, religious freedom and ethnic tolerance, and to advocate for war criminals to be brought to the Hague.
When I learned about WiB-Serbia and their particular mission from fellow Georgetown student Gail Morgado, who served as an AP Fellow with them last year, I was immediately intrigued. I have long had an interest in both forced migration studies and countries in post-Communist transition. In fact, much of my interest in these areas can be traced back to a Bosnian refugee couple I tutored in English the summer after high school graduation. When I read the words and heard the stories of the WiB-Serbia through their website and the videos Gail had posted on her AP blog, I was immediately drawn in: it was like I was seeing a whole new women’s rights movement, combined with a civil rights movement and a peace movement, unfolding right before my eyes.
A key part of my outreach for WiB through The Advocacy Project will be building bridges between WiB-Serbia and groups like Zonta International. Like Zonta International, WiB emphasizes the role of women as agents of change, but invites everyone, including men, to be a part of their mission. I think you would have a lot to share with each other. Like the other AP Fellows I’ll be maintaining a blog throughout the summer, and I would like to use that to create a dialogue between WiB and groups such as yourselves. Using video, photos, email, maybe even a Skype conference call or two, there are so many questions and conversations you could have in order to build a platform of understanding from which to support each other.
The radical nationalist and isolationist voices in Serbia are trying to make theirs the loudest. But in Serbia, as in countries all over the world, the voices of women, men and children calling for peace and international understanding must not be drowned out. I want to let as many people as possible know that in Serbia and in America, there are people thirsting for peace with justice.
Posted By Janet Rabin
Posted May 21st, 2008