International Women's Day 2000


Socialist International Women (SIW), in this United Nations Year of the Culture of Peace, invoking the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, in which millions of women from around the globe agreed to fight for an end to violence in all its forms, wishes to mark International Women's Day by proclaiming the need to build a genuine culture of peace, at the same time rejecting the dominant culture of violence.

Women, largely excluded from decision-making processes and absent from political life, are voiceless victims of inhumane policies. We women, who have battled so long for our rights, today add our voice as citizens to those of millions of people who, throughout the world, fight against violence in all its forms. SIW joins their protest against the destruction of lives, of economic and natural resources, of actual and future modes of coexistence. SIW joins their efforts to remove the causes of violence, including growing levels of inequality and increasingly efficient forms of exploitation.

War is a question of citizenship, of civilians

Today, seventy per cent of the victims of armed conflict are civilians. And it is the citizens – both of countries at war and their neighbours – who suffer the immediate consequences, in the form of famine, disease or massive migration. This new and indisputable dimension of war shows clearly that these have ceased to be affairs for soldiers and politicians and now involve all citizens, men and women.

Faced with violence, fatalism and impotence must be avoided as they always benefit the powerful. A feeling of impotence can seem justified both in the light of the enormous economic interests which are mobilised by war – not least the arms trade – as by the long tradition of a culture of violence, which manifests itself from domestic violence to the survival of the death penalty. It should be stated loudly that things can change, that it is possible to live in peace. And to bring this about we demand that we participate on an equal basis in public life and in political decision-making.

Women understand the value of life

Women understand the care necessary for life to develop adequately, the difficulty and the effort required to educate a human being so that she or he becomes a capable and free adult. As such we must speak out collectively against a culture based on competition, that has the accumulation of wealth as its aim, and which sees the embodiment of masculinity as bullying the weak. A culture which does not respect life as the most important thing, and which treats people, women, men and children, as objects or as merchandise, destroying the bonds of solidarity and warmth without which it is impossible to live as fulfilled human beings. This is why we want other values to predominate in our personal, social and political lives: values which put the individual and her or his inalienable rights first, which defend differences as part of the collective heritage, and dialogue and agreement as ways of dealing with conflict, which is inherent in the development of individuals and human groups.

Citizens, men and women, we must make use of the freedom we have and express our individual and collective rejection of the culture of violence. A culture which permeates the market and education, business and human relations, which militarises the lives of communities and which, when it erupts as armed conflict, brings with it an incalculable cost in terms of human life and economic well-being, as it destroys future prospects of coexistence and social integration.

SIW proposes, today, 8th March 2000, to send this message to all citizens, especially to those movements and institutions that work to encourage a culture of peace and that fight against the culture of violence. We will do so from all points of the compass, in every sphere of activity, by intellectual means and on the street, through formal and informal educational channels, via public institutions and party politics, in solidarity movements and in businesses.

We call on citizens, men and women, throughout the world and of all ages to join this struggle to build a genuine culture of peace.



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By Irmtraut Karlsson

This book tells the history of the first one hundred years of the Socialist International Women