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Archive for the ‘Jameen Kaur’ Category

by Jameen Kaur, NWI rapporteur, Amnesty International Ireland

At 9.30 this morning we were again reminded of the humanity and inner resilience of Dau Aung San Suu Kyi and her continued struggle against an illegal military dictatorship as her presence overflowed from the giant screen. Her unjust absence from the conference is a cruel reminder of her long persecution by the dictatorship of Burma. How is it that the fourth largest army in South East Asia, a dictatorship that spends at least 40% of its budget on militarization and a mere 1% on health and education, can fear one woman who preaches non violence? Suu Kyi’s message to the international community is loud and clear. She urges us not to feed the dictatorship of Burma. Calling us to cut off all economic ties with Burma. End tourism and all other forms of engagement with Burma, which feed and nurture the dictatorship. As we note her forthcoming 62nd birthday: 19 June, and rush to scribble her address to send greeting cards, we were all conscious that this was our last and final day as a group.

The main question that stood before us like a majestic elephant, was how do we continue to most effectively voice our struggle and our resistance to the continual denial of our basic human rights? Our final moments were about magnifying the courage, the strength and the rights and needs of all the women in the room, and all those that they represented in each and every corner across the world. Ideas initially discussed on the first day were again given weight and focus: A mainstream media for women, by women was a vital and essential tool. It would make the invisible visible. Connections between advocacy and activism conducted at the local, regional, national and international level must be reinforced and developed. Women must be represented at every political level of society for real change to be negotiated and implemented.

Many hands were going up for comments and questions; a sense of urgency had taken over- that what had been so vibrantly and passionately discussed did not remain merely in the room, but effectively infiltrated through every level of society. Each statement was again re-enhanced by a woman’s human story of suffering. That at the core of all our discussions, our work was an over whelming unity of pain and resistance which was endured every minute of every hour of every day by women worldwide. The Laureates listened and took notes. They made a commitment that they would support the expertise that was being conducted on the ground. We were reminded again by Mairead Corrigan Maguire that we must all ‘live in the minute. That we must continue to celebrate life.’

As I walk away from the hotel, from the laughter and the electric vibrancy of 80 beautiful, strong women dancing and celebrating the essence and joy of life. I feel like a child that has just returned from a magical fun fair. I carry a huge bouquet of balloons in my hand, each one representing all the emotions I felt over the last three days, from anger to horror to joy and pain. I have been privileged to hear so much, see so much and be touched by so much. And I know within me that a window has opened in my heart, and I will never be the same. I know that I have a voice. That my voice with the voice of so many other men, women and children around the world will continue to fight for real change. I am reminded of what Suu Kyi said. That ‘freedom is giving joy to others. Freedom is understanding what is right within you, and exposing it without endangering yourself and others.’

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by Jameen Kaur, NWI rapporteur, Amnesty International Ireland

Today we danced. We moved our bodies to the banana song sang by Nani from Indonesia. However my heart feels sore as I write. The peace process causes me pain. The peace process requires a deep inner strength, which sadly governments do not initiate. I saw the real face of conflict today and the emptiness it leaves behind. We heard stories from Northern Ireland, the pain and suffering of conflict to the peace it has now set. People move on, but they do not, cannot forget. That is peace and reconciliation. But the journey as recounted by our speakers is not easy. ‘Peace is hard work, we suffer, emotions suffer, families suffer… yet we do it for our children, our grand children..’ said Anne Carr, Ireland. Families, communities accused each other of betrayal as hate made room for peace and reconciliation.

Though, not all our delegates shared this view. A Palestinian delegate spoke ‘Peace is a dirty business. In order to co-exist, first one must exist. Palestinians have been used in the peace process. Just another point on the Israel’s agenda? How can we be included, without being abused? Tough, hard hitting questions, for which as we all realise only time holds true answers.

However, the brutal experience of countries like Ireland and South Africa gave hope. Change is possible, but its hard work. Long work. Dialogues cannot be set in stone, there has to be manoeuvring at each step, for each side. Women must be at the negotiation table. That is vital for long term peace. There can be no long term peace without the women.

I witnessed courage in its purest form today. I heard two stories, which I will forever carry with me. One by an Israeli Jewish mother who lost her son: David to a sniper. The other a Palestinian, on the loss of her Harvard educated sister. Both whom have started a bereaved family support group. Which speaks to the ‘enemy’. Through projects in their most practical form, they change minds and hearts, by giving strength to the belief that there is another option. We also watched a moving documentary ‘Encounter Point’ which brought hope but also tears. We learnt that true compassion is about knowing your own darkness well enough to sit with others. It is a relationship of equals.

All the stories and the real experience of woman on the ground , whether in their homes or as they walk away from a burnt village resoundingly stress that it is not that women are voiceless, that they do not cry and shout at the violence that is being inflicted on them, but more tragically that the world is ear less. It is our biggest task and challenge to create ears for the ear less. It begins by owning our own story. And then deciding how we will use it, so it is not exploited by politicians and individuals for power and control.

It is good to see that friendships among the delegates are forming. Names are being remembered quicker. Night time activities bring a celebratory atmosphere and the trophy for party animals has great competition. The Laureates too bring a uniting factor, each one bringing her own unique personality and charm. As Shirin Ebadi stated : ‘Allow the tree of friendship to go into full bloom.’

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by Jameen Kaur, NWI rapporteur, Amnesty International Ireland

Suddenly there are faces to names. The First Nobel Women’s Initiative opened today, and with it the excitement of so many possibilities. Unlike many other conferences, this one opened with unexpected hugs from delegates from all around the world. Behind smiles, colourful outfits and vibrant languages were stories from the women’s human rights struggle from around the world, present are 80 women who had journeyed from 30 countries to be in Ireland.

Immediately, the tone has been set. The goal of the conference is not to act as monologue of the experience of women. But to provide an innovative opportunity to utilise the prestige and expertise of the laureates to gain further access and bring about real change. The sole aim is to improve the lives of millions of women from around the world. Whether this be of the woman who has been raped by militia forces in Darfur, or the young school girls in Gaza, who resist the occupation by continuing to go to school, despite daily harassment.

As a woman in my early thirties, I sit amongst women, humbled, intoxicated and energised by their decades of expertise and experience. I search for answers on their faces, what drives these women and the women their represent? The stories clearly illustrate that the ‘personal is political’ and ‘the political personal’. Words such as ‘Democracy’which have now been colonised by certain states, were giving meaningful definitions to reflect a reality to a woman: ‘Democracy is when a woman can talk about her lover without being killed.’

The emotions of the day shifted like the Irish Sea. We started upbeat, and celebratory, however as the stories unfolded, the real sadness and pain of the reality of the lives of women and girls in times of ‘peace’ and conflict hit home. How these realities were forced upon women around the world, without their consent. The ‘weaponising of women’s bodies’ a strategy used around the world and throughout time. Using rape as a weapon of war to humiliate the female victim and her community, and then women having to suffer additional abuse under patriarchal and religious fundamentalist structures.

The afternoon session with Antonia Juhasz’s excellent presentation almost had me running into the sea, screaming ‘is this for real, somebody please stop this brutal scary movie!! Antonia’s talk focused on the multi national corporations and the Bush administrations’ horrifying strategy of greed: the gobbling up the oil assets belonging to the Iraqi people. She stressed that 52 of the world’s largest economies were U.S. multi national corporations. That ‘for the first time in history of the United States we have a President, a Vice President and a Secretary of State who are all heads of Oil Companies’. She stated that Condelleeza Rice has more experience running an oil company then she does in government, she even has an oil tanker named after her, and ‘she has earnt it’.

Antonia laid out bare how the U.S government was essentially blackmailing the Iraqi government to ensure that this new legislative act which legally guarantees it controls and manages 63 of Iraq’s 80 oil fields and reserves under ground. If the Iraqi government refuse, the U.S. will terminate funding of Iraq’s reconstruction programme. Who is next, on the U.S multi national oil corporations shopping list? Could it be the third largest oil producer in the world – Iran?

‘Oh my God!! I just want to die’ said Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathi, as she remarked on these cruel facts. Delegates were in absolute horror as the Bush administration’s strategy was laid out bare, and the suicidal consequences this legislation would have on the people of Iraq and beyond, particularly the impact on women. As Yanar Mohammed stated ‘you state oil is cheap, I tell you it is hugely expensive. I tell you I queue for hours, to be told to come back tomorrow. My room is cold, my children are cold. Or if I want oil I must provide one of the soldiers a favour.’

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