An Open Letter

To: Di McDonald, The Women and Nonviolence Project, Network Information Project, 30 Westwood Road, Southampton SO2 1DN, UK

Dear Sisters,

I read about the women and nonviolence project in the WRI Women’s Newsletter. I am a nonviolent activist living at Commonground Community near Seymour, north of Melbourne, Australia.

I was very involved last year with organising the WRI Women’s Conference ‘Women Overcoming Violence.’ It was a fascinating and wonderful experience but I won’t ever undertake that sort of project again. It brought a large number of women together from different backgrounds and experiences but the issues covered in the conference were too broad. On reflection, it was my feeling that it would have been much better to organise something smaller. Or to organise something such as you are, where women share their strategies and experiences in nonviolent action, and encourage action as part of an international campaign on nonviolence. I was pleased to discover you have it well underway.

One of my personal goals for the next few years is to work on building firmer alliances between feminists and nonviolent activists. The groups share similar values and are working toward a shared vision of the world. It seems clear to me that nonviolence is widely used by the women’s movement but often not in a systematic or conscious way. This results in women continually being drawn into patriarchal structures and systems—men’s business—instead of stepping out and away and defining action for ourselves. For example, too often we get drawn into reacting to the Nonviolence Network, I am hoping to initiate a women’s affinity group working with a group of women who have an explicit commitment to nonviolence. The affinity group is part of a broader experiment where six such groups operate separately but are linked through a common philosophy to support each other’s activities. I am open to what issue and focus we will be working with, though I am tentatively exploring the arena of violence against women and/or sexual violence propaganda.

From this context several questions arise for me:

  • How can we as women make our best contribution to social change? And what does ‘action’ mean for us?
  • What issues, with what focuses (this will differ from culture to culture) will get at the core of patriarchy without just reacting to or getting drawn into patriarchal structures, systems processes and issues?
  • How can we support each other more consistently to increase the access we can have to our power? What empowerment processes do we have? How can we integrate thespiritual in all we do?
  • What group processes best serve the interests of us and all life?

I would love to hear from women who have considered/are considering these things. Especially WHY women think particular issues might lead to undermining patriarchy in their cultures. And I hope you will keep me in touch with the process and outcomes of the project.

Yours in peace,

Margaret Pestorius, Commonground PO Box 474, 3661 Australia