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Teacher Newsmagazine Volume 18, Number 1, September 2005

October is Women's History Month: Women and war

by Jane Turner

The national theme for Women’s History Month this year is "Women and war: Contributions and consequences."

In the middle of the occupation of Palestinian territory, with rubble, bullets, suicide bombers, and curfew constant companions, women are growing flowers and herbs in tin cans and glass jars on their window ledges.

The women don’t work their plots of land anymore; mostly because the fields don’t exist or they are on the other side of the Israeli wall. But the desire to create a bit of beauty or to have flavour in the food they prepare still exists.

In Israel, women still go to the market, clean their homes, and send their children to school. Like their Palestinian sisters, they don’t know if their children will come home safely to them, but they still send them off each day. Not because they don’t care, but because life must be lived.

These daily acts of courage, hope, and defiance in the face of the chaos that surrounds them have been replicated by countless millions of women throughout history. But these acts, these things that define us as a civil society are not the foundations of written history. It is the opposite—war, death, and destruction that form the basis of the pages written to record our past and present and as such, most likely defines our future.

Women’s lives have been played out amidst the backdrop of peace and war, economic booms and busts. Bringing order to chaos created by men in power or by those few women who have gained power by acting like men, has been the lot of women everywhere. Perhaps if these acts of bravery, like gathering wood in the Sudan to keep cooking fires going, despite the risk of being raped or killed by raiding bands of men, formed the basis of our history texts we might be able to change our future to one of peace and civility.

In June 2006, Vancouver will play host to the first World Peace Forum. The vision that gives rise to the forum is a world where war and violence are things of the past. Just as we have changed our culture from one where smoking was cool and doctors advertised the healthful benefits of tobacco, the World Peace Forum wants to build on the efforts of those who are working to make war obsolete.

In October, Women’s History Month, we can contribute to that goal by focussing on the role women have played in promoting peace and creating a world that sustains life, instead of destroying it. Take your students to the library and have them google "women working for peace." There is a whole history out there waiting to be discovered.

Jane Turner is an assistant director in the BCTF’s Professional and Social Issues Division.

Resources

  • Status of Women Canada web site www.swc-cfc.gc.ca.
  • Ashton Garrison Military Museum, Saanich, has an extensive collection of the Canadian Women’s Army CorpsB.C., including the collection of CWAC founder, Joan Kennedy. For information, call 250-363-8340.



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