WLOE Newsletter: 14 February 2004

What’s new from Women and Life on Earth; Peace News (Somalia; England; Japan); Ecological "Late Lessons"; Immigrant Workers' Freedom Ride; Women and the Australia-US Free Trade Agreement; The Afghan Women's Bill of Rights; Democracy and Women’s Rights in Iraq; Arundhati Roy in Mumbai - and more resources!

What’s new?

Greetings from Berlin, where our WLOE team has been super-busy since early January. New interns and volunteers are working on our website and newsletters, which will now go out monthly, in German and English versions.  WLOE’s Jean Grossholtz (Mass. USA), stopped off after attending the People’s World Water Forum and World Social Forum in India, and met with interested Germans in Bonn, Cologne and Berlin. Jean’s comments will be on the website soon. For information on the campaign that she, Vandana Shiva and the international network “Diverse Women for Diversity” have launched against the adulteration of food products with a dangerous, unnecessary artificial sweetener, see:

In January 2004 we also reached a new level in the international development of the WLOE project. In Germany we received tax-exempt status for our new association: “Women and Life on Earth: Women in International Cooperation for Peace, Ecology and Social Justice e.V.” We are just starting up and out, working on the development of the German section of our website, and our international work. We are looking forward to attending a German meeting of the Women in Black activists next weekend.

In North America, 2004 will see the development of a WLOE regional project in the southwestern US states. We look forward to learning and sharing more about women’s action for peace, justice and eco-health in that region. That is also the place to send US $ contributions to Women and Life on Earth. See:

Donations of any amount will help. If you can’t send a financial contribution, how about a word about our newsletters? Are they useful? What can we do better? Past newsletters are now on-line:


SOMALIA: ‘Please be my witness to the world. We want peace’
Anne Johnstone’s review of a new book about how Somali women experienced the war is well worth reading. The book is “Somalia: The Untold Story”, edited by Judith Gardner and Judy El Bushra (Pluto Press £15.99).

(from the review) "Women's experiences have a lot to do with the position they have in the clan structure. It's very common for Somali women to be married to men of different clans. When the clans fall out the women are caught in the middle. Their brothers and fathers are trying to kill their sons and husbands."
She describes rape and abuse of women, but also the role of women in working for peace:
…”women's exclusion from clan hierarchies has given them a unique role as peacemakers: "All over Somalia women have come together to use their ingenuity to bring an end to the war. In Erigavo, women refused to cook or even sleep with their husbands until they had agreed to peace talks. In Mogadishu, women ran between two militia groups and threatened to remove their Muslim headscarves unless they stopped fighting." The review is at:

Women protested in December 2003 against the Menwith Hill spy base in North Yorkshire, the largest electronic monitoring station in the world. Run by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA), Menwith Hill is one of a global network of Signals Intelligence bases, which monitors the world's communications and relays information to NSA at Fort Meade in Maryland, USA. The NSA was set up by Presidential decree in 1952 without any debate in the US Congress. Until a few years ago, the existence of the NSA was a secret and its charter and any mention of its duties are still classified. Find out more about Menwith Hill, the campaign to close it and news of recent developments at the site. The 20 year history of peace camps (many of them women’s actions) is also at:


JAPAN: Three years since the Ehime-maru disaster

Satomi Oba, Director of Plutonium Action Hiroshima, and a WLOE international advisor, ask us to: “Please take a few minutes to remember the victims of the Japanese training fishing boat ‘Ehime-maru’ which sank after being struck by a US nuclear submarine off the coast of Hawaii on February 9, 2001.  Among the nine Japanese victims were four high school students.

Greenville, the submarine, had civilians on board and reportedly was holding a "party" when the disaster took place. The US government apologized and a monument was built later, but there remains the mystery of why the Greenville could not avoid the collision with the boat. There have been suspicions that the Greenville's crew recognized the Ehime-maru above them through their periscope, but so far, the truth has been hidden behind a heavy curtain of military secrecy.

We should also acknowledge the history of Hawaii - Ka Pae'aina. It is a land which was 'stolen'  by the US from indigenous people - Kanaka Maori - by means of warships and troops, and later illegally annexed by the US. (Please see 'Reclaiming the Sacred 'Aina’ (land) by Kaloma'okaina Niheu, from 'Pacific Women Speak Out' edited by Zohl de Ishtar.)

The families of the Ehime-maru victims have agreed to accept compensation, but these young people have been lost forever. Please remember them, remember the tragedy, and also the risk and danger to security by the military system.”


 “Rachel’s News” offers well-researched information on environmental and health issues. The new issue presents part 1. of biologist/author Sandra Steingraber’s report on the dangers from arsenic in pressure-treated wood, and is part of a series on “late lessons.” One of these ‘late lessons’: “The earliest warnings on the dangers of asbestos, for example, came from a British factory inspector, Lucy Deane, who, in 1898, correctly documented the 'evil' effects of inhaling its tiny, glass-like fibers. One hundred years later, the United Kingdom finally banned white asbestos. The current death rate in England from asbestos-related disease is 3,000 people per year. An early warning unheeded.”

And the wood problem? Pressure-treated wood is treated with "a mixture of pesticides called chromated copper arsenate (CCA).… As of January 1, 2004, after seventy years of production, the manufacture of pressure-treated (CCA) wood for residential use has ended in the United States. It turns out that the arsenic in pressure-treated wood rubs off on the hands of those who touch it. When those who touch it are children, their risk of developing lung and bladder cancer are significantly raised…”


Immigrant Workers' Freedom Ride: "Somos Uno, We Are One"

Maya Raquel Anderson, from the San Francisco office of the American Friends Service Committee, wrote in the November 2003 issue of “Peacework” about the “Immigrant Workers' Freedom Ride, a bus caravan of 900 immigrant workers and activists rallying for immigrants' rights in 103 cities across the US…”

”Maria Elena Durazo, chairwoman of the Immigrant Workers' Freedom Ride, reminded us that an average of one person dies in the border area every day, as militarized US border patrols push immigrants to cross the border in the most dangerous desert areas. Freedom riders noted that they often face severe workplace exploitation and live with the constant threat of being torn away from their families and deported.”

Women and the Australia-US Free Trade Agreement  

From author/publisher Susan Hawthorne:

”2004 will see Australia enter a new era with the likely introduction of the Australia-US Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA). Don’t close your eyes to this one. It’s a very big agreement and its impact will be felt most by women. Indeed women will bear the brunt of the AUSFTA… Whether it affects access to community-run health services or reasonably priced public education, rural people or the literary culture of the inner urban world, the knowledge base and culture of Indigenous peoples or access to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, each aspect of the AUSFTA will profoundly affect the way we live. Because women are often structurally disadvantaged within these different areas, it is women who will bear the greatest weight of free trade."
Susan’s paper about AUSFTA is at:
and her recent book “Wild Politics” at:


“The Afghan Women's Bill of Rights was drafted, signed, and presented to President Hamid Karzai by women leaders from every region of Afghanistan, who participated in the third annual conference of Women for Afghan Women (WAW). This conference, entitled ‘Women and the Constitution: Kandahar 2003’, was held on Sept. 2-5, 2003 in Kandahar, Afghanistan, in partnership with Afghans for Civil Society and the Afghan Women's Network.

”The conference was pioneering for two reasons. First, it was held outside Kabul, in fact in the former Taliban stronghold of Kandahar. Second, it brought together 45 ethnically diverse women, community leaders in the movement for women's and human rights in Afghanistan, many of whom were grassroots women's rights activists, both educated and under-educated, from rural provinces all around the country.
“Each element of the document was debated and its wording unanimously agreed upon…”

See also the website of “Women for Afghan Women, an organization of Afghan and non-Afghan women from the New York area who are committed to ensuring the human rights of Afghan women.”

IRAQ: Naomi Klein on U.S. plans for bringing democracy to Iraq
February 23, 2004, The Nation

…”On March 4, 2003, with the invasion just fifteen days away, the United States Agency for International Development asked three US firms to bid for a unique job: After Iraq was invaded and occupied, one company would be charged with setting up 180 local and provincial town councils in the rubble…The 'local governance' contract, worth $167.9 million in the first year and up to $466 million total, went to the Research Triangle Institute (RTI), a private nonprofit best known for its drug research. None of its employees had been to Iraq in years.

“At first, RTI's Iraq mission attracted little public attention. Next to Bechtel's inability to turn the lights on, and Halliburton's wild overcharging, RTI's ‘civil society’ workshops seemed rather benign. No more. It now turns out that the town councils RTI has been quietly setting up are the centerpiece of Washington's plan to hand over power to appointed regional caucuses-a plan so widely rejected in Iraq it could bring the occupation to its knees…”

Shariah law in Iraq? “Thousands of Kurdish women have marched in northern Iraq against an interim Governing Council decision to repeal long-standing secular family laws even as 500 veiled women gathered in the Shia city of Najaf to support it…” see:

ARUNDHATI ROY’s January 16 speech to the opening plenary of the World Social Forum in Mumbai, India, is on-line, adapted by The Nation magazine:
…”New Imperialism is already upon us. It's a remodeled, streamlined version of what we once knew. For the first time in history, a single empire with an arsenal of weapons that could obliterate the world in an afternoon has complete, unipolar, economic and military hegemony. It uses different weapons to break open different markets. There isn't a country on God's earth that is not caught in the cross-hairs of the American cruise missile and the IMF checkbook….”

MORE RESOURCES! From “animal rights” to “wilderness”, find books, music and videos:

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WLOE E-News:  14 February 2004