Updated: Jun 15, 2020
By Corey Greer and Jennifer Blemur
This piece was originally published in Girls Globe.
As the coronavirus continues to change the way our society and communities interact, we are left wondering what will happen to the momentum that the peacebuilding movement has cultivated. Will activists and advocates get pushed to the fringe? Or will they rise to the challenge and continue to build peace during a pandemic?
(Female Energy by Laiza Onofre)
International Women’s Day for Peace and Disarmament, May 24th, is an opportunity to showcase the innovation and resilience of peace activists.
The day celebrates the storied histories of those who have confronted creeping global militarism with courage and persistence. It reinforces the message that women are crucial to peacebuilding and disarmament as outlined in U.N. Security Council Resolution 1325 back in 2000 and strengthened by Securing our Common Future Disarmament: An Agenda for Disarmament in early 2020.
If there is anything we know about women who fall in the footsteps of Bertha von Suttner, Bella Abzug, and Coretta Scott King, it is that nothing can prevent them from pressing this work forward.
Activists across the globe use new and old techniques to help them achieve their goals—and we are taking note.
Here are six strategies and tactics that will bolster your activities to build peace during a pandemic.
1. Shape the narrative, tackle concrete policies
Achieving peace can sometimes seem like a problem so big that you don’t think you can tackle it at all. Peace is not just a state of being but an active factor in how institutions play a key role in our lives. In times of conflict, critical services like child care, court systems, access to food, and transportation are strained.
In many areas around the globe, women in particular have to travel far distances to retrieve water, food, or shelter, which can put them in harm’s way. COVID-19 has stalled court proceedings, choked our unemployment systems, and strained our health systems.
Rather than touting nebulous directives like “give peace a chance,” consider detailing a particular service or resource that we lose in times of conflict and then advocate for a policy that makes a difference.
There is no better example of a young woman who advocates for a set of stricter small-arms laws than Emma Gonzalez, a high school senior who survived the Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting.
2. Practice your pitch
In case you’re not quite tired of seeing your loved ones yet, start in the home. Engage your family and friends in conversations on supporting efforts for peace to help keep momentum. These discussions will help to shape the future of your activist work.
Maybe you share similar viewpoints with those in your household, maybe you don’t. Start by practicing having conversations with those who hold similar worldview—it helps to build confidence in your arguments. Then, familiarize yourself with the opposing viewpoints to get a sense of what people value and where it’s possible to find common ground.
3. Embrace cyberactivism
Lockdowns and stay-at-home ordinances may be forcing many indoors, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t turn your in-person protests and events into online demonstrations and learning opportunities.
Fire Drill Fridays, a climate activist project of GreenPeace headed by Jane Fonda, has moved its activism from the streets of Washington, DC to the interwebs. The organization hosts regular call-a-thons to show support for policies and teach-ins with emerging and established leaders in the field.
There is no better time to keep up with the latest information and let our representatives know where we stand!
4. Get creative with new forms of nonviolent protests
Cyberactivism isn’t the only way that you can show your support for peace and disarmament while in the COVID19 era. Activists across the globe are spelling out their demands with their cars and from their balconies.
The members of CODEPINK Los Angeles, a women-led grassroots anti-war and anti-militarism organization, are decorating their cars and spelling out “PEACE” to celebrate International Women’s Day for Peace and Disarmament. Then, they are using drone photography to snap a picture. Pretty neat! To top it off, they will be leading a caravan full of care packages to homeless populations in the city.
Activists across South America are employing a kitchenware cacophony deemed cacerolazo, the Spanish word for casserole. From the safety of their homes, thousands of people demonstrate their grievances through the piercing noise of banging on pots and pans. It will definitely get their attention!
5. Lean on state and local government
The fervor for the Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, exemplifies the impact that state and local officials can have in their communities. The U.S. federal government’s guidance has left much to be desired, leaving states, tribal, and local governments to fend for themselves.
A recent Gallup poll shows an increase in trust in governors to lead in the economic recovery of their states. If state and local politicians in the U.S. can respond to a pandemic effectively, we can turn to them to lead on peace initiatives as well.
The same is true for communities across the globe. The Women Legislators’ Lobby, a program of Women’s Action for New Directions, coordinated with the World Future Council and the Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament on a global appeal to commemorate International Women’s Day for Peace and Disarmament. The worldwide cooperation of local and regional leadership can be instrumental in reducing violence and conflict.
6. Make your voice heard
Phone usage is up—and so is demand for content. When you are ready to express your viewpoint, put your thoughts from pen to paper. Practice makes progress.
Start with a letter to the editor to your local newspaper. Then, move on to a site like this one! Girls Globe is a publishing platform committed to raising the voices of girls and women activists across the world, and they are open to new bloggers.
It is possible that the first few times you submit your written work it will not get published. That is okay! Take any feedback you get, ask friends and family to edit the piece, and then self-publish on a site like Medium or LinkedIn.
Coronavirus has laid bare many inequities that exist globally. But, it has also accomplished something else—it has given us the slightest insight into what happens when our government is at a standstill. If we are struggling now, we can only imagine what this would feel like with an extended, years-long conflict.
Don’t lose momentum in advocating for peace. New strategies can solve an old problem.