Ulla Eberhard / Kate Sheehan / Ann Davidon
Reflections on the WRI Women’s Working Group (WWG)
Article published on 29 August 2020
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My participation in the WWG of WRI had a big influence on what women in the non-violent movement in Germany thought and did. As I was a staff person in the office of non-violent action groups in Germany from 1987 to 1992, it was among my tasks to coordinate the FOEGA-Womens-Group (1).

Women of the FOEGA-Womens-Group
. published a lot of articles about feminism-nonviolence-antimilitarism in the Graswurzel-Newspaper
. made a lot of nonviolent direct actions, mostly as a women’s group in a bigger mixed activity, for example the blocking of the doors at the Hunsrück military base
. participated in women’s only activities, for example in the Hunsrück women camp
. gave workshops about women and antimilitarist during conferences of the peace movement.
The FOEGA-Womens-Group was the only anarchist-non-violent-action group in Germany. This point of view did not become mainstream in the German peace movement, but most activists got to know that position.
. Women’s working group participated in big actions where WRI was part of, for example, at Marches in Brussels, Grebenhain/Germany and Scotland.

I would describe the political impact of the women’s action group in Germany (that was influenced by the WWG of WRI) as:
. putting feminist analysis on the table of the peace movement in Germany
. taking action as women: this made women in the peace movement very visible
. bringing the connection between militarism and violence against women in the public awareness.

My involvement in some of the activities carried out by Women’s Working Group meant a lot and influenced my personal and professional live as well:

It formed my identity as a feminist and non-violent activist.
We managed to organize such a big international conference in Thailand (and before a little bit smaller in Ireland). This trust in women’s power led me through many occasions later in my life. It was an amazing experience.
After our gatherings I learnt how important it is international networking and successful fundraising. These were keystones in my professional life.

International Gathering of Women in the Nonviolent Movement
In recent years the issue of sexism has become increasingly important to women active in the nonviolent movement. They have emphasized two points:

1) that militarism and militaristic attitudes are nourished by the sexist social structures prevalent throughout the world;
2) that sexist practices are still widespread in the nonviolent movement.

To pursue these concerns the War Resisters International and the International Fellowship of Reconciliation organized in the summer of 1976 the First International Gathering of Women in the Nonviolent Movement, which met at "Les Circauds," a lovely farmhouse in the rolling hills near La Clayette in southern France. The rather primitive living—the old house and barn without electricity and running water—contributed to the speed with which barriers of language and political differences were overcome. Ninety women from fourteen countries shared ideas and feelings on topics like women in the military, crimes against women, building communication and support among the women of the nonviolent movement, lesbianism, women in religion, and education and nonviolence. The Gathering produced plans for two future projects: a slide show to illustrate women’s historical involvement in the nonviolent movement and an International Congress of Women for the Demilitarization of Society.

Kate Sheehan
Ann Davidon

(1) FOEGA means Föderation Gewaltfreier Aktionsgruppen
see Matthew Lyons: "The Grassroots Network"

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