The Story of Minnie James and the Mothers of Peace

Written by WCIA Volunteer Peter Garwood, for WCIA’s ‘Women War & Peace’ exhibition at the Senedd, Aug-Sept 2017; edited by Craig Owen and republished on WCIA Voices for future reference. 

In November 1938 Minnie James from Dowlais, Merthyr Tydfil, was thrust into the limelight when Lord David Davies, founder of Wales’ Temple of Peace, decided that he would like to have a Welsh mother who had lost sons in the Great War to open the Welsh National Temple of Peace and Health – on behalf of all mothers who had lost sons. She was the lead figure among 24 war-bereaved mothers from across the UK and Empire, who were invited following a publicity campaign through British Legion branches that the press sensationalised as the ‘search for our most tragic mothers’ – but fostered a nationwide recognition that despite the ‘men and military’ focus traditionally associated with remembrance, that women disproportionately bore the brunt of the impacts of war, and as leaders in peace making.

Who was Minnie James?

Minnie James was born as Minnie Annie Elizabeth Watkins on 3rd October 1866 at Merthyr Tydfil.

Minnie Watkins married William James, a bachelor, age 23 on 1st January 1891, at the Parish Church in the Parish of Merthyr Tydfil, Glamorgan. The 1911 census shows the family living in a seven roomed house, 8 Cross Francis Street, Dowlais. William is working as a Clerk, Minnie has no listed occupation. The parents have been married for 20 years and have had eight children, six of whom are still alive. David is 19 and single and working as a Draughtsman, John is age 16, single and working as a Apprentice Fitter, Thomas is still in school. There are two new children: Winifred James age 7 born Merthyr and William James , age 1 born Dowlais. The family are sufficiently well off to have a General Servant, one Elizabeth A. Murphy, age 22, a single woman, born Dowlais. Two children had died:

  • Elizabeth age 2 months who died and was buried 28th September 1901 at Merthyr Tydfil Council Cemetery Section.
  • Gwladys age 7, who died and was buried 6th March 1907 at Merthyr Tydfil Council Cemetery Section.

The impact of WW1 on the James family

In 1914 the Great War broke out and men were quick to enlist. Minnie’s first son, David James joined the Welsh Guards, enlisting at Merthyr. He entered the theatre of war on 17th August 1915 in France.

He had served in the Guards Division as part of the 3rd Guards Brigade, which was made up of 1st Battalion, South Wales Borderers, 4th Battalion, Grenadier Guards, 2nd Battalion Scotch Guards and 1st Battalion Welsh Guards. He took part in the Battle of Flers–Courcelette – part of the 5-month Battle of the Somme – but  was killed in action on 25th September 1916, age 24.

Western Mail article on the death of Private David James from Dowlais; and his entry in Wales’ WW1 Book of Remembrance.

Like many men who died in the conflict of 1914-1918, his body was never identified and he is named on the Thiepval Memorial. He was awarded the British Victory and War medal along with the 1915 Star. His death was reported in the Western Mail on 13th October 1916 (see aside).

The war ended in November 1918, but her second son Thomas James had joined the 13th Welsh Regiment and had been wounded in France – dying from his wounds, age 21, on Christmas Day 1918. He was also awarded the British Victory and War medal.

Her third son James, (known as Jack James) had joined the Royal Welch Fusiliers and entered the theatre of war on 1st December 1915. He was wounded during the war, and awarded the British Victory and War medal along with the 1915 Star and the Silver War Badge for wounds. He was discharged on 28th January 1919.

However, he died on 23rd June 1920 at 8 Cross Francis Street, age 24 with his father present, eighteen months after his brother Thomas. His death certificate records the fact that he was “Ex-Private Royal Welsh Fusiliers (Mining Engineers Pupil)”, and that the cause of death was “General Tuberculosis”. He was buried on 26th June 1920 at Merthyr Tydfil Council Cemetery, Pant.

All three sons who died in the Great War are listed in the Welsh WW1 Book of Remembrance held in the Crypt at Wales’ Temple of Peace to this day; and commemorated by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

Minnie’s husband William James died at the age of 68; he had served as a Special Constable in the Great War and was buried on 20th November 1936 at Merthyr Tydfil Council Cemetery, Pant.

Minnie as the ‘Mother of Wales’

In November 1938 Minnie, was thrust into the limelight when Lord David Davies had decided that he would like a Welsh mother who had lost sons in the Great War to be the one to open the Welsh National Temple of Peace and Health – on behalf of all mothers who had lost sons.

Minnie James was invited to see the Temple of Peace for a personal visit by Lord Davies on 10th November 1938. This was to give her an idea of what was expected, and to provide a news item to give extra publicity to the opening a few weeks away.

Interviewed by the press she explained that she had a “drawer of secrets”, at home in which she kept mementoes of her three sons who gave their lives for their country. This was their school certificates, fading letters from the front, little presents given to her by the boys when home on leave, and their medals. She stated that these items would be buried with her when she dies – that they were hers and belonged to no-one else.

She was taken down into the crypt where the Welsh book of remembrance would be placed. She told the press that she thought it was lovely. She thought her sons would be: “so proud of me – I am happy to be chosen for their sake.” She explained how her boys had served and died. She explained that on each Armistice Day she stays at home and during the two minutes silence goes to her sons bedroom alone but for the memory. She told the press that

“all who come into this building must feel strongly for peace. It will be lovely for the young people to come here. They will be so impressed. And the mothers and fathers, too, for the sake of their children must come here.” She explained that her three sons had worked at the Dowlais Works, where a tablet recorded their sacrifice.

As she left the Temple she turned for a moment to look at it again She said:

“I feel so happy for my sons. I shall feel them near me when I come back to open this beautiful building.”

Mothers of the World and UK

Lord Davies invited a total of 24 mothers from all over the United Kingdom and allied countries to the opening, laying on a special train from London.

  • Mrs R Struben form the Union of South Africa, spoke on behalf of the British Commonwealth mothers.
  • Mrs Cederlund of Sweden represented mothers of the Scandinavian countries
  • Mrs Moller spoke for the women of the United States of America
  • Madame Dumontier from France spoke for mothers of the European countries.
  • Representing Northern Ireland was Mrs Nixon of Portrush, Co. Antrim. Four out of five sons served and died in the Great War. Three were killed in action, one died from wounds received on active service. Her husband had served with Lord Roberts at Kandahar. Mrs Nixon wore 20 medals at the opening ceremony.
  • Representing the Scottish Highlands was Mrs Mary Lamont of Pitlochry (The home town of Lady Davies). Three sons served, one killed, one discharged, one wounded, one son still serving in India. I have identified one as 52268 Rifleman John Henry Lamont, who served with the 16th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles. He died on 24th August 1918, age 19, and was buried at Bertenacre Military, Flertre. Cemetery. He was listed as the son of George and Mary Lunn Lamont, of Fonab stables, Pitlochry, Perthshire.
  • Representing North-East England was Mrs R. Gibson, of Newcastle on Tyne. Two sons served, both killed. Husband was with relief force sent for General Gordon, re-enlisted in the Great War. I have identified one as M2/104574 Serjeant Charles Thomas Gibson, M.M. Royal Army Service Corps. He died on 10th August 1918. age 35 and was buried in Gosforth (St. Nicholas) churchyard , Northumberland. He was listed as the son of the late Robert and Jane Gibson, of Brandling Village, Newcastle-on-Tyne; husband of Isabell Gibson, of Council Chambers, High St., Gosforth.
  • Representing North-West England was Mrs Rachael Houlgrave of Liverpool. Lost four sons in the War, one dying a prisoner in turkey, another dying after discharge. A fifth son served and survived. I have identified
    • 5364 Lance Serjeant Nathaniel Houlgrave, “C” Coy. 10th Bn, Lancashire Fusiliers. He died 29th June 1916, age 25. He was buried at the Morlancourt British Cemetery No.1. He was listed as the son of Francis and Rachel Houlgrave, of 424, Mill St., Dingle, Liverpool.
    • 5484 Private Samuel Houlgrave, 10th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers. He died 7th July 1916, age 23. He was buried at the Thiepval memorial as he has no known grave. Listed as above.
    • 37051 Private W. Houlgrave, 3rd Battalion South Wales Borderers. He died 23rd April 1918, age 24. He was buried at the Baghdad (North Gate) War Cemetery. He was listed as above
  • Representing the Midlands was Mrs G. Henson, of Cotgrave, Notts. Lost one of two sons. Daughter served in the W.A.A.C.
  • Representing East Anglia was
  • Mrs E. Lewer of Aldeburgh, Suffolk. Lost her only son in the first Territorial Unit to go into action 1914.
  • Representing London, Mrs Mary Sawyer, of Battersea, Daughter of a Crimean veteran. Had three sons serving, one killed, one subsequently died and one incapacitated. 653491 Rifleman Charles Louis Sawyer, “B” Coy, London Regiment (First Surrey Rifles), died 6th November 1917, age 25. He was buried at the Naval Trench Cemetery, Gavrelle. He was listed as the son of James and Mary Sawyer, of Battersea, London; husband of Annie Caroline Dennington (formerly Sawyer, nee Blake), of 62, Ford Mill Rd., Bellingham, Catford, London.


Press Coverage of the Temple of Peace Opening, November 1938 – view on Flickr.

Opening Day of the Temple of Peace, 23 Nov 1938

The Welsh National Temple of Peace and Health was the first building to be constructed in Britain to specifically intended to symbolise the devotion of Wales and its people to these two great humanitarian causes.

On the day a special train had left Paddington at 8.20 a.m. to arrive at Cardiff at 11.20 a.m. Then coaches were used to bring the party of mothers and other representatives to the Welsh National Temple of Peace and Health. The weather that day was a typical November day – with a gale that had torn branches off trees in Cathays Park.

At 11.45 there was an introductory address on the Temple steps by Alderman Sir Charles H. Bird C.B.E, Chairman of the Board of Trustees. He said, “We are assembled here to day to take part in the solemn dedication of this building for the noble purposes for which it was erected.

“Much thought has been given to the question as to who should be asked to unlock the door on the occasion of to-day’s function, and it was felt that no better choice could be made than some representative Welsh mother, to represent not only the mothers of Wales and the Empire, who lost their sons in the Great War, but also to the mothers of other countries, the loss of whose sons has brought such poignant sorrow to them, whatever their nationality may be.

“So it is that we have with us today Mrs James of Dowlais who lost three of her sons, and we are all happy in the knowledge that she has been spared to join with us in this ceremony of dedication.

“It is, therefore , with great sense of the honourable position to which I have been appointed as chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Welsh National Temple of peace and Health, that I now call upon Mr Percy Thomas, the architect of this building to present Mrs James with the key, and to request her to perform the opening ceremony.”

At the ceremony Mrs James was wearing a hat and holding a large bouquet of scarlet carnations given by the Hon. Lady Davies, and was wearing all three sets of medals that had belonged to her sons. She was presented with a Golden Key by Mr Percy Thomas, the architect, to open the doors of the Temple. He said: “Mrs James I have pleasure in presenting you with this key and asking you to accept it as a little token of this what I know must be a memorable occasion for you.” Mrs James said “Thank you”.

Mrs James spoke into the microphone to give her short, but historic speech:

“We are assembled here today to take part in the solemn dedication of this building for the noble purposes for which it was erected. In the name of the women of Wales it is my privilege to open the building. I dedicate it to the memorial to those gallant men of all nations who gave their lives in the war that was to end war. I pray that it may come to be regarded by the people of my country both of our generation and of those that are to follow as a constant reminder of the debt we owe to the millions who sacrificed their all in a great cause and as a symbol of our determination to strive for justice and peace in the future.”

Because she was speaking in a low voice, and despite the microphone, the newspapers reported that not all the hundreds of people present were able to hear her.

She then took the key from the presentation box and symbolically put the golden key into the lock of the bronze doors, pushed the door open and was the first person of those gathered outside to enter the newly opened Temple of Peace. The guests entered the Great Hall and sat down. Mrs James and the bereaved mothers then entered the Great Hall and the assembled crowd stood up as the bereaved mothers and other representatives entered. They walked down the central aisle to the platform. Hundreds of guests from all over the world stood up in tribute and respect.

The Temple Opening Ceremony and Luncheon

The mothers chosen to represent countries from all over the world stood up and spoke. First was Mrs E. Lewer of Aldeburgh speaking on behalf of the mothers of Great Britain, then spoke Mrs R Struben from the Union of South Africa, speaking for the British Commonwealth mothers. Mrs Cederlund of Sweden, for the Scandinavian countries, said:

“In the name of the women of Scandinavia I associate myself with the dedication of this building. May it be a constant reminder to the people of Wales of their duty to further the cause of progress, freedom, peace, and justice and of the debt they owe to those who fell in the defence of these ideals.”

Mrs Moller spoke for the U.S.A., and Madame Dumontier from France spoke for the European countries.

Five of the mothers representing practically the whole world read messages of goodwill from their regions, speaking in their own languages.

At 12.00 noon Viscount Cecil of Chelwood began a service of dedication and gave an address to those present, followed by extensive speeches from a number of high profile figures, and messages from World Leaders (and Welsh figures) read out by Alderman Charles Bird – including US President Roosevelt, the US Ambassador to Europe Mr. Joseph Davies, the Rt Hon William Hughes of the Australian Cabinet, Mr Charles Evans Hughes, Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court, and finally Mr David Lloyd George, former Prime Minister.

The guests then sang the Welsh National Anthem and concluded with the National Anthem. As they all left the organist played Handel’s “Occasional Overtures”.

At 1 p.m. they were welcomed at City Hall, where a civic reception was given by the Lord Mayor, Alderman W. G. Howell J.P., and the Lady Mayoress of Cardiff and Corporation of the City of Cardiff. At 1.15 p.m. they were given lunch, with a list of speeches and toasts almost as extensive as the mouthwatering menu:

Temple of Peace Opening Luncheon

Grapefruit Cocktail
Crème Portugaise
Sole Bonne Femme
Roast turkey Chipolata
Croquette Potatoes
Brussel Sprouts Green Peas
Passion Fruit Ice Souffle
Fresh Fruit Salad and Cream
Cheese and Biscuits
Coffee.

Among the many toasts and speeches, the Lord Mayor, Alderman W. G. Howell, made particular mention of the mothers:

“And particularly, do we welcome within our borders the women of courage from all parts of the Kingdom and from other countries who gave their sons in the service of their countries in the Great War and who gave themselves, in reality, made the supreme sacrifice. Wee glad to have the opportunity of meeting with them within the precincts of this City and shall honour and revere them and their sons as long as memory lasts. It may be some solace for them to know that the heart of this City beats in sympathy and in admiration for them.”

The event closed later that afternoon and the special train left Cardiff for London at 4.20 p.m. At 5 p.m. Lord and Lady Davies gave a reception at the Connaught Rooms to 500 representatives of the branches of the Welsh National Council of the League of Nations’ Union. That evening the League of Nations’ Union held a meeting at the Welsh National Temple of Peace, of the representatives of the branches of the Welsh Council of the League of Nations. It began at 7 p.m. with a two minute silence, followed by a hymn, the Chairman’s’ address and an address by Lord Davies.

It is presumed that Minnie James went home after the afternoon’s proceedings. She later told reporters that it had been a proud moment and said that:

“I felt every moment of it; but I had a duty to perform in the names of my sons and the mothers of the world. That helped me.”

Minnie James’ Later Life

Minnie does not appear to have had any further recorded involvement with the Temple of Peace, or other functions after the opening. She seems to have withdrawn from Welsh society in general, being quite a private person – but was obviously well known in the locality.

Her family were one of the first to have a television, and they would invite all the children in the street in to watch the programmes. Minnie James obviously was very fond of the children in the street and enjoyed watching the reactions of the children to the events on the television. She always held a Halloween party for the children and invited everyone to it. She was at the peace party in May 1945 held in Cross Francis street to celebrate the end of the second world war. She was pictured resplendent in a superb hat sitting with all the children at the street party.

Minnie James died at the age of 87 and was buried on 3rd April 1954 at Merthyr Tydfil Council Cemetery, Pant. Her death was reported in the Merthyr Express on April 10th 1954 (Page 16.) This mentions that she had opened the Temple of Peace in 1938 and that she had been an active spiritualist for over 71 years. It reveals that at the time of her death, her youngest son William was alive and that her daughter, Winifred, was also living.

The paper stated:

“It is difficult for those who knew her to realise life without Mrs James. She had known great sorrow in World War 1, her three sons, David, Jack and Tom made the supreme sacrifice. This experience merely enriched her life and was responsible for her many ministrations of good. He home was a sanctuary to many and the obvious tributes paid reveal the esteem in which she was held by her close as well as by far distant friends.

She will long be remembered for her gentleness, her immense triumph over personal sorrow and serenity of spirit. It was a privilege to have known her. Her home and wide circle of friends gaze sadly at the vacant chair but gratefully recall the lines:- “The memory of the just is blessed”. She will long be remembered as the heroine of the spirit who was so aptly chosen as official opener of the “The Temple of Peace”.

Her daughter and son, Winifred, known as “Winnie” and William , known as “Billy” never married and moved out of 8 Cross Francis Street in 1968. Her surviving children do not appear to have had any children themselves and with their eventual deaths, the James family passed into history.

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Annual Law Lecture: Christine Chinkin: Violence Against Women and the Istanbul Convention

By Georgia Marks

On 3 May 2018, the Welsh Centre for International Affairs held their Annual Law Lecture at the Temple of Peace. This lecture looked at the violence women face and discussed potential solutions, both within Wales and worldwide, with particular focus on the Istanbul Convention.

The event began with a speech by Jeremy Miles, AM for Neath and Counsel General for Wales, who gave us a background on how the Welsh Government was committed to tackling all forms of violence against women. This can be shown, he said, by the introduction of the Violence against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Act 2015, which aims to improve the Public Sector response in Wales to gender based violence. This commitment is further reinforced by the National Strategy on Violence against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence which was published in November 2016, and the Delivery Framework which is still in development. With regards to implementing the Act, Miles drew particular attention to the “Ask and Act” training carried out on over 70,000 employers of the Public Sector. The training aims to encourage an open dialogue for people to share their experiences so that this violence can be stopped. I think this training is a proactive and welcome addition to any campaign, but particularly one surrounding violence, as raising awareness on such prevalent issues will help form a united front in order to try and prevent such violence in the future. However, of course, given the delicate subject matter it is crucial that we approach this with sensitivity.

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Live Fear Free website

Miles then touched upon events surrounding gender-based violence awareness happening in Wales, of particular note was the “Don’t be a bystander” campaign which reinforced the importance of positive intervention and the Live Fear Free guidance available online. This campaign has been circulating throughout Wales and yet again reiterates the active role we, as members of society, must play. This is true- change does not happen if people remain passive and being fully educated is all part of the process.

Miles then went on to introduce Christine Chinkin, and provided us with a little bit of her background. Christine Chinkin, FBA, is an Emerita Professor of International Law and Director of the Centre on Women, Peace and Security at the London School of Economics. Also, together with Hilary Charlesworth, she won the American Society of International Law, 2005 Goler T. Butcher Medal ‘for outstanding contribution to the development or effective realization of international human rights law.’ Her academic work has taken her worldwide, she is a renowned feminist and an expert in post-conflict resolution. This puts her in good stead to comment on the issue of violence against women as she is an expert in her field.

Chinkin

Professor Christine Chinkin

Christine Chinkin took to the podium and began her speech by explaining the Istanbul Convention and how it addresses crime against women. She started off by expressing the view of the UN that gender based violence is a pandemic. She then went on to list some statistics: ¼-1/5 of women have experienced sexual violence; 15-20% of women have been in an abusive relationship; and 26% of women and 15% of men aged 16-59 have experienced some form of violence. The period of most heightened vulnerability, Chinkin stated, is on separation.

A task force was set up to assess the impact on women which concluded that this violence reduces women’s productivity and lowers their overall educational development. The task force also stated that there was a clear need for a European wide convention, which is now the Istanbul Convention. Chinkin emphasised that this Convention was not negotiated in a vacuum, it was built upon a normative standard, with the idea of bringing violence against women into the discourse of human rights. This appears to be positive, as a Convention must reflect the needs of society, so it is quite right that a rigorous negotiation process was carried out to ensure that the Convention provided well rounded protection.

Chinkin then went on to establish violence against women in the background on international law, and gave us the history surrounding the creation of the Istanbul Convention in 2011. She stated that originally human rights advocates criticised the Convention on the Elimination on All Forms of Discrimination against Women 1979 (1979 Convention) due to the fact that in reality state action fails to address violence against women and by non-state actors. This focus on state agents is a problem, Chinkin stated, due to the fact that the statistics that she gave above concerned violence carried out by non-state actors, which is a major societal issue. However, it is worth noting that Article 2(e) of the 1979 Convention committed to take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women by any person, organization or enterprise. This horizontal application (private individual against another private individual) of Human Rights Law, which moves away from the classic human rights framework (which is vertical and focuses on violations of the individual by the state). Subsequent recommendations were made, by the General Assembly and in the Beijing Conference which both regarded violence against women as a concern. Chinkin established that the need to target gender based violence was only expressed in soft law form (in the shape of opinions and reports) at that point. The judgments of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) had to read issues of violence against women into their judgments as there was no legally binding instrument to refer to. The only legally binding instruments were regional, so the Treaties in the Americas and Africa. Therefore, Chinkin noted, Europe was lacking behind. As a result of the uncertainties of the scope of obligations, the Istanbul Convention was adopted in 2011, of which 30 states are party to it.

Chinkin then went on to establish why the Istanbul Convention is so important. First and foremost, it is a hybrid convention that brings human rights and domestic law into the Convention in an innovative way. The human rights Treaty locates violence against women within the family, community and state. The Treaty sets out state’s both the state’s negative obligation (to refrain from acting in a way that will contribute to the issues of violence against women) and positive obligation (to provide a legal and social framework through active measures). This requires compensation through reparations and provides a monitoring body for the Council of Europe. Importantly it is applicable in conflict and in peace. In terms of the criminal law element, the Convention incorporates legislative change domestically. Violence against women is not exactly an international crime, so within an international treaty there is a need to identify specific crimes within the rubric of violence against women. Importantly, criminal law incorporates specificity in comparison with human rights. This was one of the most important parts of Chinkin’s speech as what appeared to be lacking previously within the law was resolved by incorporating everything into a fused system, which can be positively viewed as providing a larger scale of protection to women.

The hybrid system meant that a lot of time was spent within the drafting process on deciding which crimes come within the Convention. Chinkin expressed that by bringing crimes within the concept of violence against women adds coherence, resolving the original uncertainty of what constituted such violence. The crimes that were discussed were regarded by some as social problems as opposed to criminal, but now crimes such as economic and psychological harm, stalking and sexual violence come within the Istanbul Convention and gives the first legal definitions of these crimes. At the end of the event, a member of the audience commented on the Islamophobia in relation to violence against women that is prevalent in today’s society and asked the speakers’ view of whether this should come under criminal law. Chinkin answered with the conclusion that it should be criminalised. The behaviour that the member of the audience described comes within the Convention and should be recognised as unacceptable. However, there are always others ways of accountability as criminalisation might not be appropriate in all circumstances. This is true, every response to a certain abuse must be tailored.

Chinkin remarked that during negotiations, there was particular debate surrounding whether the crimes would be defined in light of men’s perceptions, or by women’s experiences. However, the focus was on that of the victim in definitions. I think this is crucial to the Convention as the opposite conclusion could have easily led to the isolation and hostility towards women of which the Convention was supposed to protect. Importantly, the speaker stated that there are no defences on justification for violence against women for reasons such as culture or custom. Chinkin also noted that State parties are required to undertake assessment and management of risk of the overall social environment whilst also looking at the appropriate measures for individual women. In this sense, the speaker points out, the convention has a holistic and practical approach. This is a positive aspect of the Convention as it is important to place the Convention within the relevant society so that it can be at its most effective. In particular, Chinkin drew attention to the holistic approach of the Council of Europe of the 4 Ps: prevention of violence against women, protection, provision of services and participation of women in policy. However, the speaker also mentioned an extra P: integrated government policy. Therefore, the Convention brought together standards into a legally binding instrument. Such an instrument requires both pre-emptive and protective measures as well as accountability. The Convention builds on international law and supplements, whilst also recognising violence as a serious crime and within the problem of social hierarchy. When asked to give the audience a flavour of the impact of the Istanbul Convention and the difference it will make to women, Chinkin answered by stating that the Convention was the first step and particularly that actions that will bring in laws are important. There needs to be a holistic approach with reference to the CEDAW reports. Importantly, however, now there is a level of awareness surrounding these issues in most states.

Chinkin then went on to talk about the tensions within the negotiation stage of the Convention. These negotiations, she said, were not straightforward, particularly because the delegates were not human rights experts, but were more experienced in the field of criminal law. They did not understand human rights instruments nor which Conventions states were party to. There was a priority, however, to ensure that the language in The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) was kept. Chinkin expressed that the major issue within the negotiations was rooted in gender, in particular the definition of gender. It was argued, she said, that domestic violence is not gender based, and that the issue was regarded as social rather than legal. However, Chinkin argued, this contention was wrong as violence is disproportionate against women. She further argued that all children should be educated with comprehensive sexuality education, however, this in regards to gender sensitive policy is contentious as there are freedom of expression problems. For example, Croatia made an interpretive statement that there is no requirement for gender ideology. At the end of the talks, a member of the audience mentioned Chinkin’s reference to how gender ideology is used and misused and asked her to elaborate. Chinkin expressed that in terms of misuse, gender is becoming a code word for sexual identity and any mention was viewed as an attempt to bring rights around such identity, for example in the Columbia Peace Process gender was used to refer to family, homosexuality and gender identity. She went on to emphasise that this misinterpretation was beginning to spread and the further difficulties in trying to undo.

The most controversial definition given was within the context of domestic violence, which is defined as gender neutral, which in turn makes it inappropriate to have a woman specific convention. However, Chinkin established that a compromise was reached by providing a definition of gender neutral that is encouraged to all but with a particular focus on women. The Former Special Rapporteur stated that violence against men occurs but has less impact and is not grounded in structural discrimination, thus, to give the two issues the same treatment and resources would ignore reality whilst also ignoring the systematic nature of violence against women. This view has merit and appears to be a particular issue as if their resources are the same, Chinkin stated, that this would not be balanced in reality. Violence against everyone, she said, is important but the treatment needs to be adjusted, rather than having a one size fits all approach. This is a valid response which recognises violence generally while tailoring the treatment to fit with the reality, thus fully utilising all resources in an appropriate way.

Chinkin then continued her speech by looking at the United Kingdom’s role in the Convention. She said that the UK government would be a prominent country to become party, but they took a passive role, signing the Convention in June 2012 but having not ratified the Treaty yet. However, the UK are party to CEDAW and the Treaty of Rights Against the Child, as well as adopting some of the measures already contained in the Convention, such as criminalising forced marriage. The UK claims that it cannot ratify until all domestic law is amended. However, Chinkin noted, the UK exercises extraterritorial jurisdiction, so should it really be that difficult to ratify the Convention?

The speaker then established whether we have a global treaty to combat violence against women. The Former Special Rapporteur claimed that there was no such treaty. However, Chinkin noted, the Istanbul Convention would be a good model for such a treaty. There is potential for the Istanbul Convention to be universal, but no state outside of the Council of Europe is party to it. In this sense then, she said, the Convention being universalised would be problematic as it is European. Additionally though, CEDAW was updated through soft law in 1992; over 25 years of practice has endorsed the interpretation that the prohibition of violence against women has evolved into custom, which may remove the need for a global treaty. As a general recommendation, Chinkin suggested that violence against women in all spaces should be emphasised and that different legal responses should be devised. For example, the approach for disabled women who have undergone medical procedures without their consent should be different from looking at women’s vulnerability through immigration. Chinkin then established that a global treaty could have a large impact but could lead to dilution of what we already have. Having a global treaty would appear to have merit in building on well established custom, however, if countries have not signed the Istanbul Convention outside of the Council of Europe, would they be likely to ratify a global treaty? For now it seems that custom is the strongest route to globalising the approach to.

Chinkin concluded her speech by expressing that there is enough in the Convention to provide a framework, but it needs to be applied with resources and kept in review. The evolution of the Istanbul Convention should be with reference to CEDAW. She finished by stating that if the UK government became a party it would be of strength to the Convention.

Chinkin’s speech had many valid points, in particular that the Convention should keep up to date with reality. In this sense then, there is a push towards the Convention being a living instrument that is flexible to meet the needs of an evolving society. This idea should be welcomed.

The Chair of the event, Jackie Jones, Professor of Feminist Legal Studies at the University of the West of England, then came to the podium to speak about the UK and Wales’ response to violence against women. Jones started off by stating that there is a continued call for a global treaty for violence against women and girls. In regards to the UK’s response, they have taken a back seat role, having never nominated someone to CEDAW and are only finally considering doing so now. Jones rightly stated that from this it seems that the UK is not a leader in gender equality. Nevertheless, Jones established that the UK has done good work but more could be done, for example, ratifying the Istanbul Convention is just one thing that it could do. The issue of having to amend their domestic legislation is not a good enough reason not to ratify given their powers of extraterritoriality.

Jones then drew particular attention to Wales, which she said has proven to be good for normative instruments. However, she reiterated that there is always more to do, particularly within the pushbacks about gender in the making of legislation. Nevertheless, the 2015 Act in Wales, she said, is what due diligence looks like. It is also worth noting that the funding for these Welsh policies are coming from Westminster, which shows that Wales are prioritising the protection of women and that the money isn’t just coming from thin air. This point is of particular importance as it shows that Wales appears to be a lot more active than the UK in general but also this is a good thing as it could push the UK to be a leader of gender equality. The Istanbul Convention, she says, has added value in Wales, as putting a human rights perspective within criminal law is really important. Jones expressed that a lot of provisions were already there but more is needed, such as specialist measures and services because of need, for example FGM clinics. However, in the Q&A session after the event, the view was expressed within the audience that Wales have created effective policies but that she disagreed with the criminalisation of female genital mutilation and the introduction of the clinic. How is it effective, she said, if people are being stigmatised? In her response, Jones likened FGM to arranged marriage in that both should, and are, criminalised. She viewed the criminalisation as justified, however there were no successful prosecutions yet. Chinkin added to the debate by saying that human rights have to be crafted and put into effect in consultation. The top-down approach will not work, she said, as although we need normative standards we also need to include a bigger level of consultation. This idea of consultation appeared to be desirable in the context that the individual was referring to. Both of these responses are valid but it looks to be beneficial if the solution is to combine these views: FGM is a clear human rights abuse but consultation may be needed to try and work around the stigmatisation of the criminalisation in these cultural communities.

Jones concluded by reiterating the importance of the 2015 Act in Wales but that there is always more to do in the realm of violence against women.

Overall, this event provided the audience with a well-informed discussion on how the issue of violence against women is being dealt with both here in Wales and across Europe. This issue seems prevalent everywhere, which is why it seems a shame that the UK are not at the forefront of the debate. However, it seems hopeful that Wales’ commitment to eradicating violence against women will set an example for the rest of the UK. In regards to the Istanbul Convention, it appears to be having a positive impact in at least raising awareness to the issues discussed whilst also providing a newly legal platform which will hopefully pave the way for progress in this area.

Women to Women for Peace – Exchange between Cuba, the US and Wales‘, 1998-2001

Kathyrn Evans

Women to Women for Peace’ – The Mission

The mission statement of Women to Women for Peace (W2W4P) was “World Peace will come through the will of ordinary people like yourselves”. This encapsulates in a nutshell why the organisation – founded in 1984 – enjoyed thirty years of success.

“No young mother in this country or any other wants her son to go and kill the sons of other young mothers and I believe that if inter-visitations were arranged between parties of young mothers from Britain … and from other countries who chose to join in, bridges of understanding could be built … as a REAL contribution to world peace”

 

Lucy Behenna, founder of Mothers for Peace (later became W2W4P).

This was a powerfully motivated group of people who came together to build bridges between people from countries which have contrasting and conflicting political, philosophical, cultural and religious interests. The aim was to promote the message that war was not the answer to resolving conflict by supporting intercultural understanding on a transnational level. W2W4P had numerous highlights throughout their duration as a non-profit organisation that accentuate their success as an international solidarity movement. I will illuminate some highlights over the course of two articles about the South West and Wales group of W2W4P who achieved undoubtable success for peacekeeping from Wales to Cuba, America, Israel and Palestine, starting with their achievements in Cuba and America.

Why you need to know about Women to Women for Peace

It is my hope that when you read the articles I have written on the inspirational work of Women to Women for Peace, you will feel the same as I felt; that there are lessons to take away and how vital it is to have international solidarity movements. The work of W2W4P has left me feeling proud of Wales for being part of an amazing peacemaking organisation that strove for pacifism internationally as well as locally; they brought solidarity to our front doors. I feel positive that there is always something an individual or collective group can do to reach out and show support to other countries in distress. I am also questioning whether we are lacking this sense of solidarity and peacemaking now, which I evaluate further in a second article. I have had an uncomfortable realisation that many issues addressed over the course of these articles can be directly related to today’s struggles (inequality, discrimination, oppression, exploitation to name a few). Perhaps we are led to think about more conflicts going on around the world but we may be doing less to help now, than we were in the late 1990s and early 2000s. It is my pleasure to take you through some major turning points and highlights of W2W4P. I want to draw upon their links to Wales, explain what they stood for and to take some lessons from this organisation in the hope that you too are inspired to keep fighting to make a difference.

Women to Women for Peace visit Cuba, 1998

 

In 1998, four delegates of W2W4P (including a Welsh representative) were given the opportunity to travel to Cuba for the ‘International Independence, Sovereignty and Peace’ conference. There were roughly 3,000 women from 75 countries present and they were all women from dramatically diverse circumstances. This represents an amazing collaboration of peace organisations across the globe who were all striving for the same goal; peace. This was a chance to build bridges with other organisations worldwide and such links were made with peace workers from Brazil, Cyprus, US, Italy, Cuba, Ireland and many more. There were many positive far-reaching consequences from the experience; strong networks were built on cooperation and it showed that international solidarity can counteract powerful negative influences.

A highlight of the Cuba visit was a speech from Fidel Castro. In his speech he passionately explained his world view – that the world’s preoccupation with profit was at the cost of humanity … for the sake of the global economy. This statement rang alarm bells for me as it seems there are parallels with our situation in 2018, hence my view that we need a resurgence of a group such as W2W4P.

Women from Cuba and America visit Wales, 2001
The most successful outcome of the W2W4P visit to Cuba in ‘98 was the building of friendships with women from Cuba and America; this led to a reunion in Wales in 2001. W2W4P were eager to raise further, real awareness of the Cuban situation because they had witnessed first-hand the extent of the suffering that Cuba was enduring because of the blockade imposed by America; far more than had ever been published by the media. The ladies from the peacemaking organisations across the three countries all sought this opportunity to develop closer and stronger relations with each other, to deepen the understanding of the situations in each country and to bring awareness to Wales about the injustice of the American Blockade. It was the perfect opportunity for the ladies of Cuba and America, two conflicting countries, to tell their official and unofficial story of the US blockade as a method of spreading the message and fighting for peace. It was quite special to have women from Cuba and America over to Wales to enjoy and appreciate our city of Cardiff, vibrantly multicultural and home to fascinating buildings such as the Temple of Peace.

Veronica Alvarez, of the Cuban peacemaking organisation that visited was warmed by the kindness and concern of W2W4P because it showed a humbling sign of solidarity, that other countries and people care for peace in societies other than their own. One of the American visitors Robin Melavalin had some encouraging words about W2W4P; that they were impressive and showed an excellent model for peacemaking. Robin was able to meet people from Cuba in a neutral country and have time to get to know them. It really helped build bridges, relations and gain a key understanding of an array of perspectives on international issues confronting them.

Lessons we should take away from Women to Women for Peace movements
The W2W4P delegates who attended the conference in Cuba witnessed a multiracial society with no visible signs of prejudice or discrimination. This ought to be a lesson that many countries and communities today could take away with them. Cuban citizens also held a political and economic view about the blockade which was very reasoned and factual; the people showed no signs of aggression or bitterness towards their political oppressor America; another lesson that some nations could learn.

The ladies from W2W4P who spent time in Cuba noticed that partly because of the blockade Cuban streets were visibly deteriorating and crumbling due to lack of resources and materials, yet the atmosphere was still vibrant with a huge amount of culture that was itching to be shared. It was moving to experience a country who was suffering terribly but who still stood strong, where people were passionate and proud to be who they were. Isn’t this the kind of lens through which we need to look at Palestine, Iraq, Yemen or Afghanistan, for example? Each have their own cultural and political background yet are under immense pressure to conform to a particular version of democracy. The work of W2W4P brings me to the daunting conclusion that we still don’t seem to be capable or accepting a multi-faceted world.

One thing that is apparent here is that media has a powerful influence over international conflicts and issues, by promoting often superficial views. W2W4P’s visit to Cuba, and the return visit to Wales made it possible to witness and understand the true impact of the American blockade – aspects that weren’t seen in the media. What Cuba and America’s differences came down to and what we still witness today is that they have different political systems, a different ideology and different priorities which is part and parcel of a multipolar world. The government and organisations in Cuba were able to create solidarity with organisations across the globe, and it is in my belief that every country still needs to fight for this. Today, we are still witnessing vicious cycles of exploitation and suffering and although peace may be unattainable to many, the situation could still be improved. The first step is perhaps to create awareness, as is shown in the story of W2W4P.

For more information and stories from the Women to Women for Peace successes, please read my other article about the time when women from Israel and Palestine came to visit Wales!

Sources:
Mothers for Peace report on International Encounter of Solidarity among Women: Havana, Cuba – April 1998.
Jane Harries, ‘Pesar de todo…’, The Friend, 31 July 1998.
Emma James, ‘Mothers rise above the arguments of nations’, The Western Mail. 22 August 2001.
Sheila Ward, ‘A Most Remarkable Old Lady: Mother For Peace: Lucy Behenna’, Quaker Home Service, London, 1989

Women to Women for Peace – Building Bridges between Israelis and Palestinians in Wales, 2004

Kathyrn Evans

‘Women to Women for Peace’ – The Mission

The mission statement of Women to Women for Peace (W2W4P): “World Peace will come through the will of ordinary people like yourselves” encapsulates the vision behind the founding of the organisation in 1984:

“No young mother in this country or any other wants her son to go and kill the sons of other young mothers and I believe that if inter-visitations were arranged between parties of young mothers from Britain … and from other countries who chose to join in, bridges of understanding could be built … as a REAL contribution to world peace”

Lucy Behenna, founder of Mothers for Peace (later became W2W4P).

The organisation consisted of a group of likeminded people who came together to build bridges between people from countries which have contrasting and conflicting political, philosophical, cultural and religious interests. W2W4P had numerous highlights during their thirty-year history as a non-profit organisation working for international solidarity.

Why you need to know about Women to Women for Peace

I hope that once you’ve read my articles you feel the same as I felt; that there are lessons to take away and how vital it is to have international solidarity movements. The work of W2W4P has left me feeling proud of Wales for being part of an amazing peacemaking organisation dedicated towards pacifism internationally as well as locally, bringing solidarity to our front doors. I feel positive that there is always something an individual or collective group can do to reach out and show support to other countries in distress.

Jane Harries, who was a member of W2W4P for over 20 years, said:

“It is difficult to gauge the impact that W2W4P had on my life and that of my family for many years.  When our children were small we opened our home to a variety of extraordinary peace women.  There was Marina, who traipsed all the way from Moscow to Bridgend on the train, bearing traditional Russian ornaments which still grace our living room.  Then there were the women from the former East Germany who were part of the street protests in Dresden which started the decline of the DDR and led to German unification. 

As our children grew I was able to travel further afield and play an active role in visits that helped to break down prejudices and stereotypes between women from countries in conflict: Cuba and America; Israel and Palestine.  Thus W2W4P was able to contribute to building bridges of understanding and to help create networks focused on creating peaceful relationships. 

Even today when in Israel and Palestine I visit my dear friends Hanna (Israeli) and Violette (Palestinian).  They are both still working for peace – for a solution based on justice and mutual respect for both peoples.  I admire them greatly, and am grateful to W2W4P for the opportunity to get to know them and to support them in their vision.”

A successful example of W2W4P’s success in building bridges between people with contrasting values and beliefs happened in 2004 when 8 women from peace organisations from Israel and Palestine came on a joint visit to the UK, including Cardiff, Wales (where they spoke at The Temple of Peace). I would like to invite readers to explore the motives and outcomes of such an important visit, and to learn more about international solidarity in action.

Israeli and Palestinian women from peace organisations visit Wales, 2004

Aims of Visit

I have summarised below the aims of the Israel Palestine visit to show how these aims are relevant for today’s world which is characterised by ongoing international conflicts.  The story of the visit shows how a small group of dedicated individuals can make a positive difference:

  • To help build up a network of support for women and families in Israel and Palestine (two conflicting countries).
  • To raise public awareness:
    • Promote a more accurate international awareness regarding identity and presence.
    • The need to keep getting the message out so people will feel galvanised into activity out of conviction, not sympathy.
  • To engage in a mix of formal and informal meetings with the public, politicians, influential audiences and the media to promote awareness of the subject.
  • To help change how the conflict is framed:
    • For it not to be seen as solely a security problem .
    • Strong emphasis on occupation, inequalities, values and human rights.
    • Positive international intervention!
  • To break down international barriers and break through stereotypes, which are so often a big factor in conflict and crisis.
  • To promote a vision of peace and solidarity, and how it is possible through the will of ordinary people.
  • The opportunity for all members to meet in a neutral safe place:
    • To establish a real nucleus of friendship.
    • To work on existence and existing identities.
  • To develop a spirituality based on justice, peace, nonviolence, liberation and reconciliation for different national and faith communities.
  • To give the women a public platform, so their voice can be heard by the media, politicians and many other influential members of public.

Outcomes

Overall the visit was extremely successful. It was noted that the women from Israel and Palestine were brave, committed and shared the same hopes and concerns as women and families in Wales. Although they came from countries experiencing bitter conflict, the ability to meet and share their realities in a neutral safe space, enabled the women to develop a warm and affectionate relationship.  They fed back to members of W2W4P that they found the visit to the United Kingdom a positive experience and wished to continue their cooperation in the future. The visit encouraged a more informed understanding of the ways people were working for peace in the region. It was endearing that the women felt heartened and impressed by the level of support they were greeted with in Wales and England; they felt people’s concern for their respective communities, and for their work for peace under difficult circumstances.

The Israeli and Palestinian women returned home with a vision for the future.  They had gained inspiration from their visit and were able to formulate new ideas about how to move forward in their fight for peace and how people in the UK could support them in this. On returning home, they were able to organise joint initiatives and to meet in Jerusalem – building on the positive relationship that was made possible through the work of W2W4P.

The all important lessons of solidarity from Women to Women for Peace

Over its 30 year existence, the work and experience of W2W4P was tremendously valuable and rewarding. A lot can be achieved if we allow it to happen. The results from international solidarity movements can only be positive.  There is so much to learn beyond our borders and re-creating an organisation like Women to Women for Peace could allow us to make a positive contribution to peace in conflicting countries.

The motivation and dedication of members of W2W4P represents a desire for peace and friendship that can expand over oceans and cross national boundaries. It’s difficult to actually put into words how W2W4P held such inspirational and influential links to Wales in their fight for peace for thirty years. As an individual I am certainly proud of their achievements and want their successes to be heard.

What W2W4P has shown is how barriers and walls only perpetuate stereotypes, myths and fears; it is what the root of conflicts come down to. W2W4P’s motivation and passion have helped me to recognise what we have in common; Lucy Behenna, the co-founder of W2W4P in 1984 (originally called Mothers for Peace) states:

“Mother love is one of the greatest powers and it’s universal. Mothers of all creeds and colours, religions and no religions, whatever government they are under, desire the best for their children and I thought that great link between mothers we might use to help break down a little of the fear and mistrust.”

Lucy had “instinctively tapped into the most powerful peacemaking power in the world” and we need it back again!

For more information and stories from the Women to Women for Peace successes, please read my other article on their visit to Cuba and the time when women from Cuba and America came to Wales

Sources:

  • Sheila Ward, ‘A Most Remarkable Old Lady: Mother For Peace: Lucy Behenna’, Quaker Home Service, London, 1989
  • Women to Women for Peace Newsletter, October 2004
  • Women to Women for Peace Evaluation Forms
  • Women to Women for Peace Itineraries
  • Women to Women for Peace Meeting Agendas
  • Plaid Cymru press release October 2004, Jill Evans MEP.
  • Women to Women for Peace report and background statement, September 2004
  • Jane Harries, ‘Report of a Visit by Palestinian and Israeli Women to the UK – October 2004’. October 2004.

Those Marvellous Women: Welsh Women’s Petition For Peace

By Gwenllian Jones, June 2016; updated by Craig Owen, May 2019 (with additional references).

Following the death of thousands of men in the First World War, families and communities were in despair and in need of new hope. This came in the form of a social revolution for peace.

War destroyed the fundamental role women had adopted in Welsh society. The traditional roles as mothers, wives, sisters and daughters were invaluable to Welsh communities; however without sons, husbands, brothers and fathers, women lost the significance of the relationships they had with one another. Women in the interwar period adopted the role of peace pilgrims in Wales, as Welsh women sought to deflect the possibility of another great war to protect future generations from the destruction that war created.

Welsh women’s contribution to peace has been examined by pioneers of women’s writing in Wales by the likes of Katrina Gass and Sydna Williams. Examining the contribution women made to peace campaigns in Wales will not only offer new discussions on women in Wales but also challenge conventional ideas that women were not politically or socially active. The position and role of women in Wales has often been overlooked, neglected or downplayed.  A key contribution, often an overlooked campaign, that represented how women in Wales did indeed offer much of their support for the overall fight for peace was the American peace petition and memorial. This petition and memorial was an attempt to appeal to the women of America to plead the American government to join the League of Nations.

The idea of the petition was first discussed at the Welsh school of social service in Llandrindod Wells in August 1922. A national conference in Aberystwyth in May, 1923, proposed that the women of Wales had more to offer in their roles as peace pilgrims in Wales and were given the opportunity to take charge of collecting names, forming a committee, creating the memorial, to take the petition and memorial to America and present to Government officials and the American president Calvin Coolidge.

Mrs Peter Hughes Griffiths

Courtesy of Bangor Archives

The Welsh Council of the League of Nations Union was founded in 1922, with financial support from the MP David Davies and led by the Reverend Gwilym Davies. Many men from Wales, derived from non-conformist areas, did not desire to fight in the Great War and because of this certain areas in Wales became known as pacifist regions. These men, such as the poet Gwenallt, desired to create a Welsh council that fought for peace rather than war, and the Welsh Council of League of Nations gained mass support within Wales.

Within three years of its formation, the Welsh League of Nations Union ‘boasted’ a membership of 31,299, with 571 branches in Wales and Monmouthshire. Following the proposals made by the women of Wales, the League of Nations fully supported the women’s claim to create a petition and memorial that would appeal to an international nation and collaborate the campaigns of men and women’s organisations and guilds.
To successfully complete the process, a women’s executive committee was created with twenty members including Mrs Hughes Griffiths as president, Mrs Huw Pritchard as organiser of North Wales and Miss E.Poole as organiser in South Wales. A form was created in both Welsh and English and given to each house and farm in Wales. In total the petition was signed by 390,296 women in Wales and Monmouthshire, representing 30% of the female population (total Welsh population from the 1921 census being 2,656,000).

A script was created for the memorial and was written by Cicely West. The script highlighted the key reasons why women in Wales desired peace through emphasising the connection already made with America through Henry Richard and Elihu Burritt. Another key emphasis and also significant to highlight were how the women portrayed themselves as women who were not motivated politically. The key reasons why the women of Wales campaigned for peace were “their concern for the future of civilisation to live in a warless world,” to create humanitarian measures for trafficked women and children and to monitor the trade of opium and any other drugs. The repetition of the women emphasising the established connection between America and Wales, and emphasis on a warless world, highlights how determined these women were to portray themselves as peace pilgrims protecting the next generation from another Great War.

“Our constant hope and prayer is that our message may contribute something towards the realisation of the proud heritage of a warless world.”

RMS_Cedric

RMS Cedric by Charles de Lacy (died 1930) Creative Commons / Wikimedia.com

On the 19th February 1924, a delegation consisting of Mrs Hughes Griffiths, Miss Elined Prys and Miss Mary Ellis left for America on the White Star Liner, RMS Cedric from Liverpool with the memorial and petition. The women arrived in New York and were greeted by the welcoming committee of the United Association of American Women with Mrs James Lees Laidlaw as chairman. In total the welcoming committee were four hundred to five hundred women from America and represented the voices of twenty thousand American women in total. In New York, Mrs Peter Hughes Griffiths gave a speech on the origin, nature and purpose of the memorial and petition.

The following day the women were taken to Washington for a second presentation of the memorial and petition in order to meet President Calvin Coolidge, other government officials, the Committee of the World Court, the National League of Women Voters and the National Council for the Prevention of War. The Annual Report of the League of Nations in Wales stated in 1924 that the women, addressed their audience in saying “our constant hope and prayer is that our message may contribute something towards the realisation of the proud heritage of a warless world.”

Many national and local newspapers reported on the campaign, ranging from areas such as Belfast and Aberdeen. The Belfast newspaper reported that the script was “regarded as the finest pieces of manuscript written in modern times”, additionally “the first time in history that the women of one country have presented a memorial to the women of another country”. The reports indicate how significant this form of campaigning from women in Wales meant to the league of Nations and to women’s organisations across Wales and Britain.

Show solidarity with Women’s March on Washington- 21st January 2017

By Rosa Brown

On Friday, Donald Trump will be sworn in as the 45th President of the United States of America. Even if Mr Trump’s political inexperience, his inability to commit to clear policy outlines and those appallingly constructed tweets are overlooked, his ascension into one of the most prestigious positions in the world remains problematic.

Though it may be kinder to ourselves and our sanity to block out the US Election campaign trail, let us revisit that point in which 2016 reached new lows of shadiness. As of November 2016, there were seventy-five active lawsuits against the President Elect, ranging from fraud, unpaid bills and sexual discrimination. However, the presence of these lawsuits failed to damage the candidate’s campaign for good. As did the stories from women who claimed to have receive unwanted sexual advances from Trump, some of whom waivered their right to anonymity. Even Trump’s imitation of a disabled news reporter did not stand in his way to the White House. In summary, Trump ran a campaign focused on hate, mockery and lies and no one cared.

But they did. On Saturday 21st January 2017, there will be a Women’s March on Washington to stand against the demonising rhetoric of Trump’s campaign. The march is an opportunity to celebrate diversity as a strength of the community rather than a weakness. It is an opportunity to reject the fear of those who may look or sound differently, a fear that Trump’s success and certain figures in the UK is dependent on. Ultimately, it is an opportunity to recognise women’s rights as human rights, regardless of race, age, sexual identity or religion.

In solidarity with the event and its objectives, there are Sister Marches organised across the globe, two of which are scheduled in Wales: Cardiff and Bangor. Both marches encourage the participation of anyone and everyone to safeguard the freedoms that have been threatened by recent political events.

If you would like further details about these events please follow the links. More information about the global movement can be found at #breakthesilence.

Cardiff Sister March

Facebook page.

Bangor Sister March

march

 

A reflection on the positive developments the world has seen in 2016

By David Hooson

 Every year, December encourages us all to look back on the year as it comes to a close. In 2016 perhaps more than ever, upsetting events have dominated and can naturally dominate our memories of the year. However, there were also plenty of positive events this year, as well as things that can give us hope that the world is still progressing towards peace and understanding between all people. Let’s recall just a few of these positive developments.

The Paris Agreement on tackling climate change, which was drafted at the end of 2015, was signed in April and came into effect in November. As the most comprehensive international agreement on climate change, with the most international signatories, it has been hailed as a historic step towards tackling the environmental challenges of the future.

The terrorist group Boko Haram, one of the greatest threats to peace and security in West Africa in recent years, was further weakened this year and now appears to be on the brink of total extinction. The January release of 1,000 women held hostage was a big moment, and a further 600 people have been freed in December. The group are still holding many of the Chibok schoolgirls they kidnapped in 2014, but some have been returned to their families throughout this year.

The 52-year conflict in Colombia, in which hundreds of thousands of people were killed and millions displaced, was resolved with a peace deal between the Colombian government and the FARC rebel group. Negotiations had been ongoing for four years, and the first draft of the deal was rejected by a referendum in October. However, a revised peace agreement was signed by President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC leaders in November and the Colombian Congress voted to approve the deal. President Santos was also presented with this year’s Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of his efforts to bring peace to his country.

In June, the United Nations’ 47-member Human Rights Council voted to appoint an independent expert on LGBT rights to monitor violence and discrimination against LGBT people globally. Past attempts to make progress on LGBT issues at the UN have been frustrated or defeated by opposition from countries where the law actively discriminates against LGBT people, so this decision represents a significant breakthrough. An attempt to overturn the decision through the UN General Assembly was defeated in November, giving this new role an even more solid basis to campaign for an end to violence and discrimination against LGBT individuals.

The Council of Europe’s ‘Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence’ – known as the Istanbul Convention – was finally ratified by 22 countries, having been signed five years ago. In some of these countries, the Convention is now the strongest protection women have against gender-based violence, sexual violence and domestic abuse. The UK is now in the process of becoming the 23rd country to ratify the Convention.

In stark contrast to divisive media rhetoric and concerning hate crime statistics, refugees from Syria arriving in Wales were warmly welcomed by local communities. The number of refugees allowed into the country is determined by the UK Government, but Local Authorities across Wales have been more than willing to help families and individuals fleeing violence, with refugees being settled all across Wales.

Examples of refugees being welcomed:

Aberystwyth

Wrexham

There will be many challenges for the international community to address in 2017, some new and some continuing, but stories like these should give us hope that we can and will continue to make progress. Hopefully next year the stories of hope and progress will dominate, and 2017 will keep the world on track towards a peaceful future of justice and equality for all.