Friday, March 19, 2010

Women of Courage: 3 Stories | International Women's Day 2010

Women of Courage. 3 Stories

International Women's Day

March 8, 2010
Shiprah, Puah and the Hebrew Midwives

The first recorded event of civil resistance is fittingly an event of women affirming life in the face of death. Circa 1300BC The Hebrew people were living in Egypt and found themselves under the power of a king (Pharoah) who was afraid of them. They were a strong people more numerous than the indigenous Egyptian population, and Pharoah conspired to a program of genocide lest the Hebrews overpower the Egyptians. The Hebrew midwifes in Egypt were then tasked by Pharoah to kill any male child born to them. But the midwives refused the command, risking their own lives in the process. Their story is immortalised in Exodus chapter one.

The Rosenstrasse Prison Protest

In 1943, Berlin, the Gestapo swept through the city to arrest and gather up the remaining Jewish men living in the city. They were brought to a building in Rosenstrasse, Berlin, very close to the Gestapo headquarters. Within hours of the arrest the "Jewish Radio", an informal phone network, flew into action and were able to discover the location of the arrested men. The wives of the men, nearly 6000 women, gathered en masse in front of the detention center and clamoured for their husband's release. After a few days the men were released. Some who had already been shipped to concentration camps were quietly released. Why? The men were married to Aryan women. These women stood in front of Gestapo officers and yelled for their husband's freedom, fully knowing the brutality capable by the most feared section of Hitler's war machine. Almost all these men survived the war.

You can read more in Michael Naglers The Search for a Nonviolent Future, and a full length study called Resistance of the Heart.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi

On August 8th, 1988 (8.8.88) Burma came to a stand-still under a General Strike across the whole country. Led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the National League for Democracy were attempting to create space where the military junta would be forced to work towards democracy. Two years later in 1990 the NLD win 90 percent of the votes in a national election. Tragically the junta did not hand over power. Aung San Suu Kyi's face is an iconic representation of the people of Burma / Myanmar and to the unending resistance capable of those who practice nonviolent resistance.

These are simply three stories of how women have, and continue to, battle violence throughout the world. Often women bear the brunt of violence - physical, structural and cultural - in the most heinous ways. Yet women continue to respond with compassion to both victim and perpetrator.

Today is a celebration of all women, as well as a call to continued vigilance of violence in our world, particularly that which is directed at women. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon can be seen here making a video message on "equal rights, equal opportunities: progress for all".

Chris Baker Evens

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