Updated: Apr 7
By Cassandra Varanka
In advance of his meeting with President Vladimir Putin, President Trump said to a reporter that the ultimate deal with Russia would be “no more nuclear weapons anywhere in the world.” Women’s Action for New Directions (WAND) agrees – but we’re not going to sit idly by and wait to see if President Trump can accomplish that goal on his own. Why? Because we know that the most successful moments in the history of nuclear disarmament have been in response to demands from civil society. More often than not, women have been at the center of these successful campaigns toward disarmament – and now is the time for us to do it again.
For anyone who hasn’t been closely following the topic of nuclear weapons for the last few decades, it may seem like daunting issue to get involved in now. Where do you start? What kind of information do you need to meaningfully engage on this issue? What can we even do about nuclear weapons, anyway?
Equip yourself with knowledge, not weapons.
This week, WAND launched the Disarm the Patriarchy Handbook — an introductory guide to nuclear weapons, nuclear disarmament, and anti-nuclear weapons advocacy. Check out www.disarmthepatriarchy.org and join the next wave of women working to make nuclear weapons history.
Learn from the successes of Cold War nuclear disarmament advocates.
One of the many notable women in the history of nuclear disarmament is Randall Caroline Forsberg. Forsberg was a defense researcher and helped engineer the Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign, which aimed to move the conversation about nuclear weapons away from management, pushing for abolition instead. She helped author the “Call to Halt the Arms Race,” which made the case for why the United States and Soviet Union should adopt a freeze on the testing, production, and deployment of nuclear weapons. Forsberg’s work empowered women and men alike to take part in thousands of protests and marches nationwide.
The nuclear freeze was eventually endorsed by 11 state legislatures, over 200 city councils, 40 county governments, and more than 150 national organizations. In 1982, nuclear weapons freeze resolutions appeared on ballots around the United States. The resolutions won in eight of the nine states and all of the major cities where they were considered. In total, 18 million Americans voted on whether or not to freeze our pursuit and deployment of nuclear weapons, and approximately 60 percent voted ‘yes.’
Join the resistance against a new arms race.
In the years after the Cold War, nuclear weapons took a back seat in public consciousness. But the last two years have seen a resurgence in public concern about nuclear weapons. The need to eliminate nuclear weapons is back at the top of the agenda — and once again, women are leading the fight.
Beatrice Fihn, the Executive Director of International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), is one of the many women who are now carrying the mantle of nuclear disarmament and abolition. Fihn has been working to mobilize civil society to support the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons — the first legally binding international agreement to ban nuclear weapons. As of July, ICAN won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017 for its work to prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons. We need to stand with her.
Women have been critical to moving the needle on disarmament before. Now is the time for us to arm ourselves with information, join our sisters already leading on this issue, and make history.