Goucher To Be Site of International Congress

by Susan DeFrancesco

“Hearts starve as well as bodies: give us bread but give us roses!”
     For the first time in 20 years, the International Congress of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) will be held in the United States--in Baltimore.
      The event will be held at Goucher College and the Sheraton Baltimore North Hotel in Towson from July 24 through July 31.
      Women from at least 45 countries--including Albania, Argentina, Bulgaria, North and South Korea, Israel, Palestine, Nepal, Japan, and Sierra Leone--will be coming to Baltimore for this historic event.
      The Congress theme is “Bread & Roses: Women Define Globalization.” In 1912, thousands of women factory workers marched through the streets of Lawrence, Massachusetts shouting “bread and roses” to protest inhumane sweatshop conditions and the exploitation of women. With corporate globalization degrading the livelihood and spirit of people worldwide, WILPF believes “bread and roses” remains an appropriate and urgent demand.
      Edith Ballantyne, WILPF International president, says, “We will challenge the notion that globalization by corporate rule is inevitable and that the best that can be done is to ease the pain....We will challenge ourselves to put forward a people-centered model of globalization based on cooperation and solidarity.”
      Participants at the International Congress will take a hard look at the process of globalization. They will analyze and discuss its impact on economics, social development, the environment and on fundamental human rights--particularly as these affect the lives of women and children.
      Two panels will explore the effects of globalization. One panel entitled “State and Corporate Oppression: The Political, Economic and Cultural Dimension of Globalization” will explore corporate and state oppression through trade and development policies, financial institutions, and the media. it will specifically focus on race, gender, and class oppression and the destruction of community and environment.
      A second panel, “Human Rights in the Face of Globalization: Claiming Justice and Building Solidarity,” will focus on particular human rights areas, including the marginalization and impoverization of individuals and groups of people and the creation of new “enemies.”
      The collective effort and creativity of the Congress participants will produce a comprehensive position paper on globalization and a related program of action.
      Another distinctive feature of the Congress will be the use of the Augusto Boal method of “theatre of the oppressed” to focus on the issues. Boal, an internationally renowned author and director, developed the “theatre of the oppressed” to transform theater from the traditional monologue into a dialogue between the audience and the actors. It is based on the assumption that dialogue is the common, healthy dynamic between all humans, that all human beings desire and are capable of dialogue, and that when a dialogue becomes a monologue oppression ensues.
      Boal’s innovative method provides a training ground for communication, critical thinking, action, and fun. At the Congress, he will lead a weekend session entitled, “Creating a Culture of Peace.” He will also hold two pre-Congress introductory and training workshops at Goucher College (you do not need to attend the Congress to attend these pre-Congress workshops.).
      Goucher is also offering a three-credit, 10-day course, “Organizing for Peace and Justice,” in conjunction with the Congress, taught by Dr. Betty Franklin and Dr. Janet Shope. Students will follow the model of action and reflection, attend Congress sessions, interview delegates, and then gather to discuss the issues, patterns of interaction, and the context for decision making. They will work as a group to create ways to more clearly understand local and global issues in organizing for peace and justice. Also, Congress participants new to WILPF and the peace movement, can sign up for the Gertrud Baer Seminar, a leadership institute, that will run concurrently with the Congress.
      Other features of the Congress include “Cuba Night,” a celebration, in solidarity with the Cuban people, with honored guests, food and music, and a rally in Washington, D.C. with labor leaders to support workers’ rights. Children of Congress participants (ages 4-11) can attend a Peace Camp emphasizing cooperation, tolerance, appreciation of differences, and creative conflict resolution.
      Goucher College, co-sponsor of the Congress, has had a long and distinguished association with WILPF. Gertrude Bussey, professor of philosophy at Goucher from 1915-53, was active in the organization at the local, national, and international levels and was known to use unusual activist methods in her teaching (one of her classes attended a demonstration of U.S. immigration policy). She also co-authored the history of the first fifty years of WILPF.
      Three of the four members of the committee that adopted the constitution of WILPF’s Baltimore branch were on the Goucher faculty: Elizabeth Nitchie, Esther Crooks and Mary Wilhemine Williams. A number of faculty, staff, students, and alumnae are currently WILPF members, including Baltimore branch officers Joan Parr and Marliese Diaz. In addition, Goucher’s Julia Rodgers Library holds the archives of WILPF’s Baltimore branch.
      It seems unavoidable that WILPF is taking a leading role in facing the challenges of globalization. Since its inception, it has consistently called for “the establishment of a just economic and social order founded on meeting the needs of all peoples and not on profit and privilege.”
      WILPF was founded by more than 1,000 women who gathered at an International Congress at The Hague, Netherlands in 1915, nine months after World War I began. Women from all over the world, including those nations at war, attended the Hague Congress to demand a permanent peace and to call for an end to the brutal military and commercial policies of their countries.
      Today WILPF is one of the world’s oldest continuously active peace organizations. Its vision includes: the equality of all people in a world free of sexism, racism, classism and homophobia; the guarantee of fundamental human rights including the right to sustainable development; an end to all forms of violence including rape, battering, exploitation, intervention and war; the transfer of world resources from military to human needs, leading to economic justice within and among nations; and world disarmament and peaceful resolution of international conflicts via the United Nations.
      WILPF has international offices in Geneva, sections in 33 countries, and consultative status with the United Nations as a nongovernmental organization (NGO). Its members include five Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, including Jane Addams (first international president of WILPF and the first U.S. woman to with the Nobel Peace Prize), Emily Greene Balch, Linus Pauling, Alva Mydral, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
      For more information about the Congress or to receive registration information, call 410-337-6045, e-mail Marliese Diaz at marmed@mailexcite.commarmed@mailexcite.com or visit the Congress web site.

Susan DeFrancesco, an attorney, serves on the Baltimore WILPF, Outreach Committee. She wrote this article at the request of this newspaper.

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This story was published on July 1, 1998.