At the V to the 10th in New Orleans, activism is the word of the weekend.
Playwright and founder of V-Day, Eve Ensler, informed us that “Our destiny will not be changed by the people on top.” In other words, this weekend was all about the grassroots movement. We can no longer rely on elected officials to eventually come around and see the light on issues that affect women worldwide; we must take back the power, motivate allies to increase our strength in numbers, and develop our own solutions.
Besides visiting the amazing Activistâ€™s Lounge where a ton of feminist and environmental groups were giving out information, we sat in on a number of panels, one being the fantastic discussion “From New Orleans to the World: Women in Conflict Zones.”
Eve interviewed six activists; Carol Bebelle of New Orleans, Rada Boric of Yugoslavia, Christine Schuler Deschryver of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zoya of Afghanistan, Yanar Mohammed of Iraq and Monique Wilson of the Philippines. Each woman represented a group of women who are suffering and have been spotlighted by the V-Day program. They discussed the major problems in their regions, the many causal factors behind them, and the work being done to improve the lives of women in war torn areas.
At the end of it all, Eve confirmed my belief that she may be the coolest person on the plant when she asked each woman to tell us about a specific project that they are currently working on. Here are their responses. I would urge you all to start checking these out.
New Orleans: The new theatrical â€œKatrina Monologuesâ€? work Swimming Upstream and the idea of getting New Orleans into the national conscience through art. The beautiful phrase “art for life” was mentioned a few times and it is the theory of developing art projects for the sake of social justice work. http://www.ashecac.org/
Yugoslavia: V-Day projects, including a triangle of performances in cities in Serbia, Bosnia and Croatia. Ms. Boric described it by using the Bermuda Triangle line in â€œThe Floodâ€? monologue. â€œNo one ever reports back from there,â€? but the women need to start doing so by speaking up, so she organized this large geographical space to air things out. She said this year they created a program on “Zero tolerance for violence with zero budget” and asked for support and help from the audience for next yearâ€™s endeavors. http://www.czzzr.hr/eng/
DRC: V-Day and UNICEF’s City of Joy project. This project is to create a shelter for the women of the DRC who are being raped and abused at an astounding rate. (Try 200,000 women, and that’s just a guesstimate.)
The city would be just a start, but a necessary one for a country that is being left alone to destroy its women. http://www.vday.org/contents/drcongo
Afghanistan: The primary focus is education for women. In a country fighting fundamentalists of every kind, Zoya says that the best place to begin this battle is by targeting ignorance through education for women and girls. http://www.rawa.org/index.php
Iraq: Yanar Mohammed described creating the Freedom Space. These are circles of peace where men and women can step out of the military mind set and find common ground in circles of art and poetry. The project now has 5,000 supporters, including men who have left the militias in order to try and create a more life-affirming culture. Wow. http://www.vday.org/contents/vcampaigns/spotlight/iraq/owfi
Philippines: The Purple Rose Campaign to stop sex trafficking! http://www.ffwn.org/
I think that these are amazing projects being put together by some of the activists who are fighting the hardest just to keep women alive and give them a voice. Now let’s give them some support!
(SMU in NOLA are students Jessica Andrewartha, Meg Bell, and Allie Thompson.)