Greenham Common; a significant protest seldom acknowledged

By Lydia Edwards

Greenham Common could have been an insignificant point in Berkshire if it were not for the Greenham Common Women’s peace camp that was established in 1981 to protest against nuclear weapons being sited at the RAF base.

Source: Welling, C. (2016). Towing friends Greenham Common. [online] Carywelling.co.uk. Available at: http://www.carywelling.co.uk/towingfriendsgre.html [Accessed 21 Jul. 2016].

Source: Welling, C. (2016). Towing friends Greenham Common. [online] Carywelling.co.uk. Available at: http://www.carywelling.co.uk/towingfriendsgre.html [Accessed 21 Jul. 2016].

In 1979, NATO decided the airbase located on the common was to be used as the site for the deployment of American cruise missiles, the missiles would arrive at Greenham in 1983. However even before the arrival of the nuclear weapons a remarkable protest had gathered with the notorious women’s peace camp at its center.

The camps origins began in a march organized from Cardiff to Greenham Common under the banner of “Women for Life on Earth”[1]. The march left Cardiff on the 27th of August 1981 and arrived at Greenham on the 5th of September. The original 36 women, 4 men and 3 children were there to protest on the arrival of American cruise missiles[2]. Upon arrival, the protesters decided that four women should chain themselves to the fence of Greenham and subsequently the press would be notified. Later on, the women wrote a letter to the base commander. The commander replied to this by stating “As far as I’m concerned, you can stay here for as long as you like”. This statement is one he would regret[3].

By the end of the week the women took part in chaining action on a rota basis, more and more women became a part of the movement and a peace camp came into fruition – by November it was firmly established and by March 1982, it became a women’s only peace protest.

The support for Greenham women became widespread. Many women across Britain became members of Greenham support groups. The camp also attracted women from other countries and inspired the development of further women’s peace camps “at least thirty on three continents by 1983”[4]. The slogan “Greenham Women Everywhere” formed a wider web of protest across Britain and beyond.

It accumulated further support throughout 1982 when Newbury Council were determined to evict the women from the common along with a series of activities by Greenham Women which ultimately led to arrests, court cases and prison sentences for some[5]. These activities included the first blockade of the base by 250 women in March, a symbolic die-in at the London stock exchange in June. A die-in is a type of protest whereby participants pretend to be dead. Furthermore there was an occupation inside the base in August as well as an encirclement of the base. This was known to many as “embrace the base”[6].

Many of the characteristic features of the campaign were taking shape during 1982. Women were learning techniques of passive resistance and how to plan and execute large actions within the principles of non-hierarchical organisation. They were challenging the legal framework and court procedures in ways reminiscent of the Suffragettes. It is argued that up to 50,000 women engaged with the camp by December 1983[7].

One of the women that engaged in the protests over the years was called Helen Thomas, who came from Newcastle Emlyn, Carmarthenshire. A woman who was inspired by the women of Greenham Common paid the ultimate price for peace. According to the sources, Helen went to the peace camp at the beginning of 1989 when the camp had a decline in media interest and they were short of women who wanted to be involved. Her mother once wrote to her asking her to come home, get a decent job and be involved at Greenham part-time. However, Helen was determined and argued that “peace and justice was not a part-time job”[8].

This decision was to be a significant and ill-fated. Helen was hit by a police car on August 5th, 1989 which proved to be fatal. Helen was 22 when she passed away, she was only at the camp for two months prior to the accident. Her death was ruled to be an accident although it is still contested by Helens family and friends who argue the verdict is questionable as standard procedures were not followed[9].

Source: Dicken, Paul. "Wales, Greenham Common And Occupy | Hiraeth". Hiraeth.wales. N.p., 2011. Web. 19 July 2016.

Source: Dicken, Paul. “Wales, Greenham Common And Occupy | Hiraeth”. Hiraeth.wales. N.p., 2011. Web. 19 July 2016.

Wales for Peace have a commemorative plaque for Helen, located within the garden of peace behind the Temple of Peace and Health in Cardiff and is available for the public to visit.

Although Greenham Common has been disbanded, and it seems we live in a society that seems to have more violence as time passes, the fight for peace continues. Helen Thomas along with the other women of Greenham played an active role in moving the struggle onward.

[1] Liddington, J. (1989) The Long Road to Greenham: Feminism and anti-militarism in Britain since 1820. United Kingdom: Trafalgar Square.

[2] Shaw, M (1993) “Women in Protest and Beyond: Greenham Common and Mining Support Groups.” PhD Thesis. Durham University. Print.

[3] Harford, B and Hopkins (1984) S. Greenham Common. London: Women’s Press. Print.

[4] We Are Ordinary Women (1985) Seattle: Seal Press. Print.

[5] Liddington, J. (1989) The Long Road to Greenham: Feminism and anti-militarism in Britain since 1820. United Kingdom: Trafalgar Square.

[6] Roseneil, Sasha. Common Women, Uncommon Practices. London: Cassell, 2000. Print.

[7] Harford, Barbara and Sarah Hopkins. Greenham Common. London: Women’s Press, 1984. Print.

[8] “The Woman Who Paid The Ultimate Price For Peace”. walesonline. N.p., 2011. Web. 13 July 2016.

[9] “Greenham Common Campaigner Helen Thomas Honoured | Women’s Views On News”. Womensviewsonnews.org. N.p., 2016. Web. 19 July 2016.

Volunteering helps Shoruk find peace

By Catherine Bony

On Wednesday evenings Shoruk can be found patrolling the streets of Riverside neighbourhood, clad in a tailor-made police uniform. If you take a closer look at her, you will see that a scarf frames her seventeen year old smiling face under the regular police helmet. If needed she can undertake first aid, or in any case, assist her senior colleagues.

She has been volunteering for a year in the police force and for a few years in other organisations. She loves it. “I feel peaceful when I do volunteering work”, she explains to the group of international volunteers who are listening to her testimony. She is not only committed to ensure that people’s safety and peace is maintained but she is also involved in raising money for the charity ‘Human Appeal’, which is a girls orphanage in Palestine. She has pledged to gather at least £10,000 for the charity.

The striking element of Shoruk’s story is the contrast between her engagement to promote peace and welfare to the Welsh people whilst a war is currently raging in her home country, Libya. She had left her home country seven years ago with her large family. They stayed in several different places: Czech Republic, Tunisia and America before eventually ending up in England. It was here that her brilliant father could pursue his PHD studies in electrical engineering.

So far, they have been denied the asylum that they have applied for, however, there is no doubt that they fully deserve recognition and will obtain it. Meanwhile, Shoruk remains as committed as ever but admits that she has not settled down entirely, for her heart still beats fast for her homeland!

This blog was written as part of a UNA Exchange / Wales for Peace project: A group of international volunteers from across Europe spent two weeks volunteering with a group of women  from Women Connect First based in Riverside, Cardiff. As they volunteered together, they shared peace stories.  

North Wales Women’s Peace March 1926

Stephen Thomas
Volunteer – Wales for Peace
Peace March

Following the horrors and destruction of the First World War (1914-1918) many women around the globe became activists in the campaign for arms reduction and for the end of war as a means of settling international disputes. Across Britain a variety of women’s groups came together to organise a peace pilgrimage to London for a mass demonstration in Hyde Park on 19 June 1926. In north Wales, under the leadership of two tireless peace activists, Mrs Gladys Thoday and Mrs Silyn Roberts, a procession of peacemakers travelled for five days through the towns and villages of north Wales to reach Chester. Eventually 28 north Wales’ pilgrims joined the 10,000 women at the Hyde Park demonstration.

World War 1 unleashed unimaginable levels of death and destruction across the whole planet. Millions of people, both military and civilian, were killed or suffered serious injury – estimates for casualties run from 30 million upwards, but the true number will never be known. From Britain alone over 723,000 service personnel were killed in the conflict and over a million more were seriously injured. The war had destroyed the lives of so many young men on the battlefield that by 1921, there were one million more women in Britain than men, aged between 20 and 39. It meant that many women were unable to find partners in life or have children and raise a family. The impact of the war on Britain was devastating both socially and economically.
As early as 1915 there were organisations of women around the world calling for mediation between governments to end the war. By 1919 the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) had become a permanent committee with a headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. The League called for international disarmament and an end to economic imperialism, supporting the US /France Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928, as the basis for creating a peaceful world order.
The women of Britain were very much involved in these quests for peace, freedom and equality. (Remember, in Britain, it was only in 1918 that all males over the age of 21 finally won the right to vote. And it wasn’t until 1928, and the Equal Franchise Act, that the same rights were applied to women over 21 for the very first time). In light of this struggle to have their voice heard, under the slogan ‘Law not War’, a variety of women’s groups from across Britain came together in 1926 – as wives, widows, mothers, sisters and friends – to organise a huge peace pilgrimage to London.
The women peacemakers of north Wales began their march in May 1926 with a meeting in the village of Penygroes, just south of Caernarfon. As was reported at the time “To the first meeting at Penygroes in South Carnarvonshire on May 27th came five streams of pilgrims winding their many blue flags down the hill-sides, and over 2000 persons were gathered in the little market square from villages far up in the hills.”
The pilgrimage continued across the towns and villages of north Wales for five days until, some 150 miles later, they reached Chester. At the time, a newspaper reported “There were on the main route 15 meetings and 16 processions besides many meetings on side routes…Through the villages the pilgrims in six cars and charabancs went along the Caernarvon Road, and at one place after another they found crowds across the road which insisted on speakers getting out and addressing them from the steps of the local war memorial… Everywhere they were welcomed, everywhere there was interest and enthusiasm, never once was there a single hand raised against the resolution.”
Without modern ‘social media’ to help, it was a great enterprise to spread the news of the pilgrimage to all the remote villages and hamlets of north Wales in the 1920s. They would rely largely on newspapers and post to carry their message. But it all needed effective organisation and for this the north Wales pilgrimage can be thankful for Mrs Mary Gladys Thoday from Llanfairfechan.
Mrs Thoday (nee Sykes) was born in Chester in 1884. She was a botanist having studied at Girton College Cambridge, which had been established as the first Cambridge college to admit women in 1869. In 1910 she married at Wrexham David Thoday, who later became Professor of Botany at Bangor University. Gladys was an intelligent and determined woman of her time and became a tireless activist for the abolition of war. She wrote in 1926 “We realise that the great success of the pilgrimage is due to the many helpers who in every place had done their part because they believe that it is full time that REASON shall take the place of FORCE and arbitration be tried first in every international dispute before there is resort to WAR.”
Among the 28 north Wales pilgrims who finally took part in the peace demonstration in Hyde Park on 19 June 1926 were Mrs Thoday and Mrs Silyn Roberts. These two women addressed the crowd of 10,000 that day in central London – Mrs Roberts spoke in the Welsh language. Following the peace pilgrimage these two women later became the English speaking and Welsh speaking secretaries of the North Wales Women’s Peace Council (NWWPC).

Cartoon
In 1928, under the professional guidance of Mrs Thoday and Mrs Roberts, the voice of women in north Wales was linked to other parts of Britain and the wider international peace movement when the NWWPC became affiliated to the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. Although the North Wales Women’s Peace March had ended, a Welsh women’s voice had been added to the international call for disarmament and world peace. Their actions played a part in the eventual signing by 62 nations of the Kellogg-Briand Pact, an agreement in 1928 which hoped to outlaw war between nations and prevent another World War.

A Little Goes A Long Way

The march towards gender equality begins with small steps

The march towards gender equality begins with small steps

Advancement of women in almost any aspect of the country is often linked to pages and pages of parliamentary statutes which effectively take women’s rights more seriously or thought-provoking speeches by female celebrities at the UN headquarters. While such movements are to be applauded, much of women’s march to total gender equality is actually made possible by the people behind the scenes, such as female office clerks who come into office to earn a living and female teachers who continue to do what they love to do even if their salaries are not much to be bragged about.

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Women Encouraged to Embrace Dying Platforms Under The Pretence of Feminism

02-12-world-radio-day

World Radio Day 2014. Credit: UNESCO

In the last year there have been many who have finally chosen to engage with feminism as a recognisable cause. Articles by Owen Jones have prompted the hashtag #MenStandingWithFeminism and in the UK the Say No To Page 3 campaign to eliminate unnecessary displays of youthful breasts has gone national. The world is starting to understand that being a woman is still a cause of casual discrimination and intimidation.

Many people in high places have deemed to commit themselves to equality by creating platforms for female exposure. This is undeniably progress and an aspect I hope will continue to develop.

However, I feel that although exposure is being boosted, women are only being notably encouraged and pushed into expiring public platforms and not the current and more important ones.

February 13th was UN World Radio Day. The main rhetoric coming from the UN was promotion of radio and that we need more women on radio. Sure, great! But is this the significant triumph that will expose more women to the global public?

Quite simply, no. It’s a nice idea but radio is a notably dying platform. The first point of World Radio Day is that very few people listen to radio anymore and it’s trying to boost it’s use. Why then does the UN deem radio a significant platform for women? I predict the medium of radio will soon be subjected to the obscure fringes of society and won’t expose female voices to any new global audience.

Secondly, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has declared recently that the comedy platform of panel shows will no longer showcase male only panels, with a woman on every panel being compulsory. BBC boss, Danny Cohen, said of male dominated shows, ‘You just can’t do that. It’s not acceptable.’ and he’s right; it isn’t acceptable. But why come out and just declare male panel shows unacceptable. Why not other platforms such as sports shows or other comedy shows that don’t consist of an ‘improvised script’ for a panel of guests.

I think it’s because panel shows have dominated British television for the past 5-10 years and it’s flagging. It’s become boisterous, cliched and predictable. Many male and female comics even refuse to do them because they dislike the concept.

I could be highly cynical and claim that in a few years the panel show concept will predicably decline and women will be blamed for these shows becoming obsolete because of the age-old stigma that women ‘just aren’t as funny as men’.

Some may argue that these efforts are better than nothing. They are better than nothing. But why do women constantly have to accept ‘it’s better than nothing’. The age of accepting mediocrity continues.

That is not to discredit all the wonderful efforts that display feminist values such as TED lectures and positive discrimination in some institutions such as the Welsh Assembly. However, there is too much media exposure to those publicly claiming more opportunities for women, such as these two examples, when in fact they are a very disheartening effort toward gender equality.


Find out more about UNA Wales’ core aim ‘to promote a greater equality of opportunity for all men and women across Wales and the World’ and discover ways that you can get involved. UNA Wales has created a petition calling for the appointment of a minister for Gender Equality and provides a list of useful resources to aid the proliferation of this important message.

Why gender inequality must not be forgotten post-2015

80-year-old Ratna Maya Thapa from the Central Region of Nepal shows her voter registration card after walking for one and a half hours to cast her ballot in the Nepalese Constituent Assembly elections.

80-year-old Ratna Maya Thapa from the Central Region of Nepal shows her voter registration card after walking for one and a half hours to cast her ballot in the Nepalese Constituent Assembly elections.

The advancement for global gender equality is a movement that has been focused on increasingly by intergovernmental organisations, NGOs and governments in the last fifteen years. The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that were introduced in 2000 have highlighted the problems of global gender inequality and its social, economic and political impacts. However, progress has been slow and gender inequality still persists as women face barriers to education, work and participation in government across the world.[1]

The MDGs have entered their last year of activity, with their success being a contested topic for the international community.  While certain countries have achieved the goals, many – particularly in the most needy areas such as Sub-Saharan Africa have made little progress.[2] MDGs related to education have not been fully met; this week a report was published by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) that stated 175 million young people in poor countries, which is equivalent to 25% of the most vulnerable young population are illiterate.[3] Education links closely with gender inequality, indeed, academics argue that gender inequality will not be eradicated without it.

UNESCO has highlighted the importance of a continued development agenda based around gender inequality. UNESCO believes that “gender equality is a fundamental right, a commonly shared value and a necessary condition for the achievement of all internationally agreed development objectives”.[4] Gender inequality is not only central to alleviate poverty, but is also related to the global quest of sustainable development and global peace.  It restricts the speed of a countries development, by ignoring women, 50% of the countries brainpower, creative genius and economic drivers is excluded.[5]

Justine Greening, the Secretary of State for International Development, has further issued a rallying call to promote the need for a continued emphasis on global gender inequality. “Women make up just 19% of parliamentarians; they perform 66% of the world’s work – but earn only 10% of the income, and own less than 10% of the world’s property; almost two thirds of the 750 million illiterate people in the developing world are women; and one in three girls or women has been beaten or sexually abused”.[6] It is vitally important that the international community remains focused on the issue of gender inequality; if the global community invests in girls and women this means that their children are healthier and better educated.

It is now important as we approach 2015 and the contested suggested completion of the MDGs to continue highlighting the issue of gender inequality. An approach is still needed to combat the problem, as it remains embedded in people’s values in the developing world.[7] Even though sustainability is critically important, issues such as gender inequality must not be forgotten when the expected 2015 sustainability goals are created.


[1] Collier, R. (2012). More support needed to meet Millennium Development Goals. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 184(12), 659.

[2] Africa Research Bulletin. (2013). Millennium Development Goals: Liberia Panel Meeting. Africa Research Bulletin: Economic, Financial and Technical Series, 50(1), 19830.

[3] UNESCO. (2014). Retrieved on 29th January 2014 from: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0022/002256/225660e.pdf

[4] UNESCO. (2014). Retrieved on 30th January 2014 from: http://www.unesco.org/new/en/unesco/themes/gender-equality/themes/

[5] UNESCO. (2012). From access to equality: empowering girls and women through literacy and secondary education. Paris: UNESCO.

[6] Justine Greening. (2012) Retrieved 30th January 2014 from: https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/justine-greening-gender-in-the-post-2015-agenda

[7] Unterhalter, E., & Dorward, A. (2013). New MDGs, development concepts, principles and challenges in a post-2015 world. International Bibliography of the Social Sciences, 113(2), 609-625.

Where are the women in politics?

Secretary-General Swears in Head of UN Women

According to UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon “Equality for women and girls is not only a basic human right, it is a social and economic imperative.” This speech highlights why gender equality has been recognised as one of eight global priorities in the UN’s 2015 Millennium Development Goals. Although, in such a culturally diverse global community, gender is far from being a unique factor in the division of power, wealth and status it marks a monumental step on to the ladder of equality. It begs the question: how can we implement this common aspiration worldwide?

The political sphere has long been perceived as the pioneer of the social contract and its gift to its citizens has been civil rights. But who deserved these rights has been in question for a long time. Preconceived notions of male dominance written in ancient religious texts and archaic constitutions excluded women from the political domain. In 2013 the suffragettes’ dream of the vote for women has been realised in a large proportion of the globe. Next on the agenda is not only equal representation in legislative bodies, but in decision-making bodies generally.

In Wales, women currently make up 41.7% of Assembly Members, in contrast to a pitiful 17.5% Welsh MPs at Westminster. Only 9 women are tasked with representing Welsh women, a place ravaged with health and unemployment issues, which according to the UN disproportionately impact on women. Even when the status quo that rules Westminster allows the entry of a few women into the legislative core, they have asserted that they must be malleable according to Norris, one in an army of academics currently analysing the under-representation of women in Politics.

There are few women who engage in politics, because there are few women in politics. This catch-22 situation has long challenged the legitimacy of British democracy. However, the promise of all-female candidate shortlists conceals the blemishes on the face of British democracy. This rings like music in the ears of the Feminist movement, which has a new generation of bras to burn. With the resurrection of the Feminist Times this year, it appears that Feminism is back, but has it had a facelift? For a long time the word Feminist has appeared like more of a swear word than a term of endearment. But why is this? The radicalism of the Feminist dialogue during the ‘70s created the misconception that all Feminists were men-hating lesbians. But now is the time to demonstrate that you don’t have to be a lesbian to love women.

If, like over 50 countries world-wide, we require legislatively bound quotas, then so be it. In response to claims that positive discrimination does not promote equality, I offer you this perspective: it is the special treatment of women which puts a stop to the special treatment of men in pursuit of gender equality. But, if as (Norris, 2002) suggests, women are selected according to their willingness to submit to their male peers, then we, women of Britain, need to reinstate girl power and show our support for putting women’s rights on the agenda.

I dedicate this article to Emily Davison, who famously, quite literally laid down her life in front of the King’s horse at the Epsom Derby in 1913, in order for British women to have the vote. Sadly it appears for the 36% of women that didn’t vote in the last election, she sacrificed herself in vain. So mums, sisters and daughters of Britain, don’t just say you believe in equal rights. At every given opportunity, please vote for them.

For more details about the current lack of female presence in decision-making bodies in the UK, please visit: http://www.fawcettsociety.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Sex-and-Power-2013-FINAL-REPORT.pdf . Last accessed: 24.11.2013.

Lowri Pritchard

Sources:

Krook, M. (2008). Quota Laws for Women in Politics: Implications for Feminist Practice. Social Politics. 15 (3), 345-368.

Lovenduski, J & Norris, P. (2003). Westminster Women: The Politics of Presence. Political Studies, 51(1), 84–102.

Norris, P. (2002). ‘Gender and contemporary British politics’, in C. Hay (ed.), British Politics Today. Cambridge: Polity.

UN Women. (2013) Available at: http://www.unwomenuk.org/ . Last accessed: 24.11.2013

UN Women. (2013). Available at: http://www.unwomen.org/en/news/stories/2013/5/op-ed-a-global-goal-on-gender-equality-womens-rights-and-womens-empowerment/ . Last accessed: 24.11.2013

UN Women. (2013). Available at: http://www.unifem.org/gender_issues/women_poverty_economics/ . Last accessed: 25.11.2013

Wales Online. (2013). Available at: http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/harriet-harman-wales-sends-few-2513104 . Last accessed: 25.11.2013.

http://www.ukpolitical.info/Turnout10.htm