Explaining that women in Iraq are most affected by the ongoing war, women’s rights activist Vivian Stromberg urged students and faculty members to actively protest the war Tuesday afternoon.
Stromberg, the executive director of MADRE — an international organization dedicated to promoting human rights for women and families — discussed gender discrimination in the context of war during a talk titled “A Gender Perspective on the U.S. War with Iraq.”
In Iraq, women are responsible for maintaining their homes and for taking care of their families as well as providing basic needs now that many men are fighting the war, women’s and gender studies professor Laura Wexler told audience members in the introduction of her talk. The war and U.S. sanctions intensify the basic needs, and women are expected to haul water, prepare food, and provide health care in their community, Wexler said. In addition, the scarcity of jobs and resources during wartime translates into women’s needs being sacrificed first.
Stromberg discussed the role of MADRE in the war in Iraq. The group is raising funds through UNICEF for emergency support for Iraqi women and families, Stromberg said, as well as trying to raise awareness about the impact of the war. Most of the money the group raises would be used for buying milk and medicine, Stromberg said.
“The impact of the war is felt in every corner of the world and affects our daily, important processes,” Stromberg said.
MADRE is also working to pass the Uniting for Peace resolution in the United Nations, which would encouragea the use of diplomatic resolutions in the war. This resolution would allow the General Assembly to make recommendations to the United Nations, should the Security Council fail to act against the threat of security.
Stromberg emphasized the need for Americans to be “visible and vocal” in displaying their discontent with President George W. Bush and with the government’s decision to fight the war in Iraq.
“Every time you speak out, you can see it as an opportunity to give courage to somebody [who could bring about change into the current situation],” Stromberg said.
MADRE began in 1983 after a group of women activists visited Nicaragua to witness the impact of the contra war sponsored by the United States. The repercussions of the contra bombings interrupted all facets of Nicaraguan society, from community buildings to schools to homes, Stromberg said. Once these female activists returned to the United States, they brought back eyewitness accounts from women in Nicaragua, and hoped to inspire change in American foreign policy.
School of Art critic Daphne Fitzpatrick said she attended the talk to hear a new perspective on the war and on gender issues in Iraq.
“Being present, vocal and encouraging are the most important tools to understand the world and to bring about changes in society,” Fitzpatrick said.