How to Build Peace During a Pandemic

As the coronavirus continues to change the way our society and communities interact, we are left wondering what will happen to the momentum that the peacebuilding movement has cultivated. Will activists and advocates get pushed to the fringe? Or will they rise to the challenge and continue to build peace during a pandemic?

International Women’s Day for Peace and Disarmament, May 24th, is an opportunity to showcase the innovation and resilience of peace activists.

The day celebrates the storied histories of those who have confronted creeping global militarism with courage and persistence. It reinforces the message that women are crucial to peacebuilding and disarmament as outlined in U.N. Security Council Resolution 1325 back in 2000 and strengthened by Securing our Common Future Disarmament: An Agenda for Disarmament in early 2020.

If there is anything we know about women who fall in the footsteps of Bertha von Suttner, Bella Abzug, and Coretta Scott King, it is that nothing can prevent them from pressing this work forward. 

Activists across the globe use new and old techniques to help them achieve their goals—and we are taking note.

Here are six strategies and tactics that will bolster your activities to build peace during a pandemic.

1. Shape the narrative, tackle concrete policies

Achieving peace can sometimes seem like a problem so big that you don’t think you can tackle it at all. Peace is not just a state of being but an active factor in how institutions play a key role in our lives. In times of conflict, critical services like child care, court systems, access to food, and transportation are strained.

In many areas around the globe, women in particular have to travel far distances to retrieve water, food, or shelter, which can put them in harm’s way. COVID-19 has stalled court proceedings, choked our unemployment systems, and strained our health systems.

Rather than touting nebulous directives like “give peace a chance,” consider detailing a particular service or resource that we lose in times of conflict and then advocate for a policy that makes a difference.

There is no better example of a young woman who advocates for a set of stricter small-arms laws than Emma Gonzalez, a high school senior who survived the Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting.

2. Practice your pitch

In case you’re not quite tired of seeing your loved ones yet, start in the home. Engage your family and friends in conversations on supporting efforts for peace to help keep momentum. These discussions will help to shape the future of your activist work.

Maybe you share similar viewpoints with those in your household, maybe you don’t. Start by practicing having conversations with those who hold similar worldview—it helps to build confidence in your arguments. Then, familiarize yourself with the opposing viewpoints to get a sense of what people value and where it’s possible to find common ground.

3. Embrace cyberactivism

Lockdowns and stay-at-home ordinances may be forcing many indoors, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t turn your in-person protests and events into online demonstrations and learning opportunities. 

Fire Drill Fridays, a climate activist project of GreenPeace headed by Jane Fonda, has moved its activism from the streets of Washington, DC to the interwebs. The organization hosts regular call-a-thons to show support for policies and teach-ins with emerging and established leaders in the field.

There is no better time to keep up with the latest information and let our representatives know where we stand!

4. Get creative with new forms of nonviolent protests

Cyberactivism isn’t the only way that you can show your support for peace and disarmament while in the COVID19 era. Activists across the globe are spelling out their demands with their cars and from their balconies.

The members of CODEPINK Los Angeles, a women-led grassroots anti-war and anti-militarism organization, are decorating their cars and spelling out “PEACE” to celebrate International Women’s Day for Peace and Disarmament. Then, they are using drone photography to snap a picture. Pretty neat! To top it off, they will be leading a caravan full of care packages to homeless populations in the city. 

Activists across South America are employing a kitchenware cacophony deemed cacerolazo, the Spanish word for casserole. From the safety of their homes, thousands of people demonstrate their grievances through the piercing noise of banging on pots and pans. It will definitely get their attention!

5. Lean on state and local government

The fervor for the Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, exemplifies the impact that state and local officials can have in their communities. The U.S. federal government’s guidance has left much to be desired, leaving states, tribal, and local governments to fend for themselves.

A recent Gallup poll shows an increase in trust in governors to lead in the economic recovery of their states. If state and local politicians in the U.S. can respond to a pandemic effectively, we can turn to them to lead on peace initiatives as well.

The same is true for communities across the globe. The Women Legislators’ Lobby, a program of Women’s Action for New Directions, coordinated with the World Future Council and the Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament on a global appeal to commemorate International Women’s Day for Peace and Disarmament. The worldwide cooperation of local and regional leadership can be instrumental in reducing violence and conflict. 

6. Make your voice heard

Phone usage is up—and so is demand for content. When you are ready to express your viewpoint, put your thoughts from pen to paper. Practice makes progress.

Start with a letter to the editor to your local newspaper. Then, move on to a site like this one! Girls Globe is a publishing platform committed to raising the voices of girls and women activists across the world, and they are open to new bloggers. 

It is possible that the first few times you submit your written work it will not get published. That is okay! Take any feedback you get, ask friends and family to edit the piece, and then self-publish on a site like Medium or LinkedIn.

Coronavirus has laid bare many inequities that exist globally. But, it has also accomplished something else—it has given us the slightest insight into what happens when our government is at a standstill. If we are struggling now, we can only imagine what this would feel like with an extended, years-long conflict. 

Don’t lose momentum in advocating for peace. New strategies can solve an old problem.

Share your insights! Do you have other ideas for how to build peace during the pandemic? Or do you have an experience of cyberactivism to share? Let us know in the comments section below.

Feminism: a Guide for Young Women

In many countries, despite the presence of strong feminist movement, there are still many girls and young women who try to distance themselves from the word ‘feminist’.

Many understand the lingering problems of inequality, but feminism forces us to critically analyze our entire reality. It asks us to rethink our friends, our family, our schools, our workplaces. It’s no wonder so many girls and young women feel confused when they are first confronted with feminism. And as more experienced feminists, we have to be there for them. Here are 5 ideas about feminism I’d like to pass to the next generation.

No, we do not hate your dad/brother/boyfriend.

This is probably the most sensitive point for many girls and young women. Once they hear feminists talking about patriarchy, the counter-argument is usually something like: “the men I know are nothing like that – they are good men!”

That’s great! Most men are not rapists or perpetrators of violence. When feminists criticize structures in society, they are not pointing their finger at individual men and asking them to atone for their sins. They are recognizing that, despite the fact that most men do not commit acts of violence, the ones who do thrive in a system of impunity.

And many men do not realize the extent of domestic or sexual violence because women and girls who have been victimized do not usually tell their dads/brothers/boyfriends – they confide in other women. So, while I personally know many women and girls who have suffered sexual assault, our mutual male friends would probably say they don’t know any victims.

If you think the men in your life are pro-equality and make great feminist allies, fantastic! But remember not all women and girls have that same privilege. We need to acknowledge their experiences as well. 

Violence against women and girls is a major issue – but it’s not the only one.

When talking to girls and young women today, it can seem as though feminism is completely equated with ending rape culture. And although that is an important focus of contemporary feminist activism, feminism is about more than that. Feminist thought is applicable to economics, international relations, environmentalism, sports, psychology, artificial intelligence…to every area of our lives.

My generation is facing a climate crisis and we are the product of one the worst recessions in living memory. Feminist concepts such as care economics or gender-budgeting could prove a useful weapon to defend women’s rights and also a better economic and social system. We need to mainstream these concepts so younger feminists can take them further in the future.

It’s okay to have doubts.

Many girls and young women feel like they can’t share their doubts in online feminist communities or offline gatherings. They are afraid to go against feminist dogmas and so they keep their doubts to themselves until they quietly disappear from the movement.

But it shouldn’t be like this. It’s okay to have doubts. Most feminist issues are difficult and complex – the gender pay gap, for example, leads to hard conversations about work life balance, workers’ rights and inequality within the family. 

No one is born with the answers to every single problem that affects women. And that is fine. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and voice your uncertainties.

There’s more to feminist activism than protests and hashtags.

Online movements and physical protests are, and will remain, important components of feminist activism for the 21st century. But there is so much more we can do!

Start a feminist book club. Create safe spaces for women to discuss their issues. Write blogs and articles about feminist concepts and ideas. Campaign for free childcare in your city. Ask a local women’s organization to come to your school/university. Volunteer at a women’s shelter. Ask for bookstores in your city or neighborhood to feature more books by women – especially feminist women. Listen to interviews with women who have been change-makers for the rest of us – particularly those who are less well knowm.

If protests and social media are not your thing, think about your skills and what you like to do and then examine how you can use them to build a movement

Feminism = Solidarity.

This is perhaps the most important point. Feminism should be guided by ethics of solidarity and sisterhood. As a feminist, you should feel as if you are part of a global community who will support you and have your back. We are all in this together!

Mexico’s Glitter Protests are a Movement Against Violence

Content note: this post contains references to rape

On August 16, thousands of women marched in various cities across Mexico. One particular case may have triggered them, but these marches were an answer to the systematic violence against women and girls in our country. If you’ve seen news or photos through social media recently, you might be wondering what really sparked this mass-mobilization across the Mexico.


We are writing this article to inform you and encourage you to get involved in the Mexican fight against gender-based violence. Here are the facts.

On August 6, news started circulating of a 17-year-old girl making a legal complaint against four policemen who raped her in a patrol car in Azcapotzalco, Mexico City. Over the next week, the case went viral on social media because security forces were directly involved in the crime. Public outrage escalated due to the lack of professionalism in the response from local authorities.

On Monday 12th, around 300 women marched to the attorney’s office. Their placards read: “No nos cuidan, nos violan” (they don’t look after us, they rape us). The protest was not only to demand the legal prosecution of the policemen involved, but also the strengthening of public policy against gender-based violence, and the correct implementation of the General Law for Women’s Access to a Life Free of Violence. This law is supposed to ensure correct practice for any victim presenting a gender-based violence claim.

Later, it was confirmed by the local attorney general’s office (PGJCDMX) that the victim had opted out of the legal process due to a leak of her personal information – including her name and her home address. This left her and her family vulnerable to retaliation.

During the protests, demonstrators smashed the glass door of the PGJCDMX building and sprayed Jesus Orta, Mexico’s local security minister, with pink glitter.

In the midst of all of this, another sixteen-year-old girl was raped by a policeman inside the Museo Archivo de la Fotografía (Museum of Photography) in Mexico City’s historic center, and a 70-year-old woman was sexually assaulted and beaten to death in her house in Iztapalapa, Mexico City. And that’s only in the capital and only the cases that made it to the news.

In fact, from August 17 to 21, at least 17 women have been killed across Mexico.


In response to the demonstrations of August 12, Claudia Sheinbaum, Mexico City’s first female elected mayor, asserted that the protests were “a provocation for local authorities to use force.” She confirmed that an investigation would take place.

Days later, PGJCDMX stated that the victim’s initial statement did not match the now public footage from two security cameras. The same footage from private houses in the area was acquired by the media and shared through various outlets. It was said that the investigation “could not continue” because the girl had opted out of the legal process, and that the officers would be released to their duties.

This further fuelled the outrage. Although the mayor announced that six policemen related to the crime had been suspended, the damage had already been done.

In response, various feminist organizations and groups planned a new march across the country. The ‘glitter protest’ was held on Friday 16 August in Mexico City.


Like many other women across the country, we were part of the glitter protests. Bita marched in the city of Aguascalientes and Mariana marched in Mexico City.

We both agreed that at a time like this, being among women was where we felt the safest. It was only the possibility of retaliation from security forces that we feared.

After the march, a new source of dread appeared. The media response to the rally was to call it vandalism. They criticize the spray painting of the historical monument “El Angel de la Independencia” and focused on the fact that a reporter was attacked (by a man who was later arrested). 

Suddenly, the violent ways of the march were all that mattered. In fact, according to DataPopMX, there’s a higher number of posts mentioning the trashing of the monument than the actual rape case.

Some dared to say that “rioting is not the answer.” But in a country where ninewomen are murdered every day, where over 80% of women don’t feel safe, where 56% of the nation is under a Gender Alert, and where girls make up about 40% of sex crime victims, it seems that rioting might be the only way to get anyone to listen.

So here it is: this is why we marched, why we broke glasses and sprayed monuments. Because revolutions can be peaceful, but when they keep killing us and raping us – sometimes all that is left is anger and pain.

Join Mexican women’s fight against gender-based violence and use the hashtags #NoNosCuidanNosViolan and #FuimosTodas to learn more.

This post was co-authored by Mariana Lizarraga and Bita Aranda.

Women are Leading the Protests in Sudan

Since December 2017, protesters have been calling for the fall of Omar al-Bashir, Sudan’s leader of the past 30 years. They have staged sit-ins in front of the presidential palace and army headquarters and risked their lives in large protests.

Last week, their cries were finally heard, as Omar al-Bashir was taken into military custody.

One woman’s image has captivated the world. The photo is of Alaa Salah, a young woman standing on the roof of a car.

Her traditional thobe and moon earrings glisten in the dusk light. She is pointing her index finger to the sky, whilst a sea of protestors capture her image through their mobile phones.

This 22 year-old woman has become the symbol of the revolution.

For many in the West, the image of Alaa Salah is fascinating. Perhaps because she is a woman, perhaps because she is dressed in traditional clothing, perhaps because she is a Muslim.

However, anyone who has been following the protests will know that this revolutionary spirit runs in the blood of Sudanese women. It is therefore not surprising, nor revolutionary, that in the current protests, women are taking centre stage. They have played a leading role in the peaceful uprising, which has swept across the nation – and they are not about to stop!

Videos show Salah singing the following words, as protestors chant back “Thawra”, the Arabic word for revolution:

They burned us in the name of religion
Thawra
They killed us in the name of religion
Thawra
They jailed us in the name of religion
Thawra
But, religion is not to be blamed.

Her words resonate with the struggles of the Sudanese people, who have faced continued hardship during the decades-long rule of al-Bashir. In the name of religion, a state of turmoil, oppression and instability has faced the nation. And of course, it is women who have suffered the most.

Bashir’s 30-year role saw increased suppression of women through Sudan’s public order laws. Controls to women’s freedom of dress, behaviour and education all heightened during this period. Woman continually faced threats of FGM, child marriage, sexual harassment and domestic abuse with few policies put in place to protect their rights.

Many have commented that Salah’s outfit particularly speaks to these issues of women’s oppression, through the homage it plays to the traditions and historical revolutionary spirit of Sudanese women. Hind Makki, an interfaith educator, explained the significance of Salah’s clothing on twitter. She wrote:

“She’s [the woman’s] wearing a white tobe (outer garment) and gold moon earrings. The white tobe is worn by working women in offices and can be linked w/cotton (a major export of Sudan), so it represents women working as professionals in cities or in the agricultural sector in rural areas … Her entire outfit is also a callback to the clothing worn by our mothers & grandmothers in the 60s, 70s, & 80s who dressed like this during while they marched the streets demonstrating against previous military dictatorships.”

As Makki alludes, women have always been a central part of Sudan’s revolutions. Just as Mehaira, Mandy Ajbna and Fatima Ibhrahim before them, women’s involvement in these protests have successfully overthrown their oppressive regime.

Salah has become a symbol of the revolution in Sudan because her image represents the reality of women’s leading role in these protests.

Through one image, Alaa Salah has managed to tell the world the story of Sudan’s revolution and the strength in their resistance.

But, it is important that we do not reduce women’s involvement to a reaction to women’s oppression. Of course, women are fighting to remove their subjugation, but this is just one part of their protest.

Women stand equally with men to change their country as a whole. To fight for democracy. To fight for freedom for all.

Brazil’s Problem: Violence Against Women

The movement #NiUnaMenos started in Argentina, but its message and impact has crossed the borders of the country and is now the voice of all Latin America protesting violence against women.

On November 25th, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women established by the United Nations, women marched in Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and other cities against the epidemic indexes of violence against women in Brazil.

15235579_768149846676496_3681420844661227663_o
Photo: Midia Ninja. Translation: “The silence is also violence – shout together!”
In a video of the protests in Rio shared on Facebook by Hermanas, a page dedicated to bridge Brazilian feminism to that of the rest of Latin America, women were singing, “violence against women is not the world that we want.”

Data shows just how serious the reality of femicides and violence against women is in Brazil:

  • According to the UN, Brazil has the 5th highest index of femicides in the world.
  • According to PRI, “the number of women killed in homicides in Brazil keeps on increasing” (see Graphic 1 below).
  • Also according to PRI, this number is higher among black women (see Graphic 2 below), which highlights racial discrimination issues that also plague Brazil.
  • According to the Mapa da Violência 2015 (“Map of Violence 2015”), the main source of data and information on the topic in the country, there are 13 femicides every day in Brazil.

fullsizeoutput_e7cGraphic 1 – Source

fullsizeoutput_e7d

Graphic 2 – Source

15193607_345771262453324_6874364114791636979_n
Photo: Midia Ninja. Translation: “Brazil ranks 5th in femicides.”
Earlier in 2016, Brazil experienced a similarly shocking case of violence against women such as the one that shocked Argentina in October. A teenager from Rio de Janeiro was gang raped, and videos and photos of her undressed and unconscious were posted and shared around the Internet. As soon as the case became public, social media was flooded with messages, videos, art work, poems and more of people supporting the victim and protesting yet another case of violence against women in the country.

estupro1
Photo: Amanda Rocha/Tribuna Araraquara via G1. At a protest in Rio de Janeiro after the gang rape case became public, a woman holds a sign that reads “no to rape culture.”
A shocking survey came out recently where 1 out 3 of the Brazilians interviewed said that in some cases, rape could be the victim’s fault. Even more shocking is that 32% of women interviewed agreed with this statement. 30% of the interviewed agreed with the statement that “a woman who wears provocative clothes cannot complain if she’s raped.” The explanation for this attitude that many Brazilians – men and women – have is definitely complex, but the long lasting culture of machismo is usually mentioned when trying to explain the violence and discrimination suffered by women in Brazil.

The most common statement made on social media in the aftermath of the gang rape case was “I fight against rape culture.” Indeed, Brazilian culture remains largely complacent and indifferent about this serious issue that plagues the country. As someone who lived in Brazil for 16 years I unfortunately know well about this culture and how subtle, yet dangerous rape culture can be, from song lyrics that mention rape and violent sex, to a degrading comment guys will tell girls but then say “I don’t really mean that, it’s just a joke.”

Despite the dire reality and increased violence against women in Brazil, I, as a Brazilian woman, feel encouraged. So many women, activists and not, are not losing hope or quitting the fight to end violence against women in Brazil – and beyond – anytime soon.

You can learn more about Latin American women’s fight against gender-based violence by reading this post from fellow Girl’s Globe Blogger Bita Aranda.

Latin American Women Take to the Streets

#NiUnaMenos, Not Even One Less

On October 19th, women all over Latin America took to the streets and protested for all the women missing today from gender violence. As a plea to governments for a better justice system, women of all ages wore purple and black in solidarity for the cause. What we were fighting against was a system that promotes violence by allowing femicide cases to go unpunished, among many other things.

1
“We are the cry of those who no longer have a voice.” Photo: Caro Ruu

Women from Mexico, Chile, Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay, Brazil and Guatemala stopped activities and marched together on a strike.  Those who could not leave their jobs, wore black head to toe. The movement exploded after October 8th, when Lucía Pérez, a 16 year old girl from Argentina, was brutally raped and killed.

 “Black Wednesday,” as the strike was named, was organized by 50 activist groups in Argentina, and quickly went viral. Through the hashtag #NiUnaMenos, (Not even one less), women all over Latin America marched not only for the femicides, but against a culture that views women less than men, a culture that goes beyond law and bails those who have perpetuated similar crimes.

2

Unfortunately, this is not the first time women have marched against a system that protects the abuser. Last summer in Perú, women striked against gender violence not being a punishable crime. When men physically and mentally abuse their partners, it’s a process that becomes a burden for the victim and is often left unsolved by the authorities, leaving the woman and any children she has more vulnerable to further violence.

The feminist movement in Latin America, takes a special cry against the machista system and culture that we endure day by day. It is believed that a man who is “strong” is more attractive, so it is expected of him and his “temperament” to explode and be violent against their partner, or female population in general.

In Mexico, where I am from, we experience things from catcalling and harassing in the streets and public transportation, to facing trending topics that judge a woman about what she did at her bachelorette party, to the 70th femicide reported this year in Puebla, the 4th largest state in the country. It is now all so common, it is terrifying. They are killing us, raping us, abusing us, and our countries have done nothing about it.

Revictimization is something that women have to endure whenever they are harassed or abused. Most of the time, femicides won’t be filed as such because it takes a toll on the country or the state’s reputation and therefore tourism and foreign direct investment. Instead of calling it femicide, these crimes are only labeled “crimes of passion.”

Here is a look at a few numbers that show how women live among gender violence in Latin America:

  • In Argentina, domestic violence kills one woman every 36 hours.
  • In Perú, 50% of the population believes that if a woman is wearing a mini skirt, she is “stimulating” harassment.
  • In México, every 4 minutes a woman is sexually assaulted.
  • If you are Mexican, there is a greater possibility of you being raped or killed than getting cancer or AIDS.
  • In Argentina, the average time to report domestic violence is five years.
  • In 2015, Bolivia registered 93 femicide cases, but only three open cases had conviction.
  • México is the 2nd highest in the world for transgender killings.
  • The femicide rate in Brazil is the 5th highest in the world.
  • In 2015, in Chile, there were 45 femicides committed victims family members and 112 other attempts of femicide.
  • In Perú, 70% of the population justifies domestic violence in “certain cases,” especially in situations of infidelity.

3

5
“No more trans-femicides.”

6

So yes, we are fed up, we are angry, we are terrified. Whenever I see a woman, a person of the LGBTQ community, or a girl walking down the street, I hope they arrive home safely. I mourn for all the women and transgender women killed, and for those who are not here yet, who will be Latinas, and could become a part of these statistics.

Please, join us, march with us, ask your governments to pressure ours. Join the movement #NiUnaMenos on November 25th.

All photos by Caro Ruu. Additional photos can be found at The Common Girls.