Welcome to this special issue of the War Resisters' International (WRI) Women's Working Group newsletter. This issue is devoted to the Asking the Right Questions: Nonviolence Training and Gender consultation, which took place October 3 to 8, 2004, in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
This report can only give a taste of the insights, enthusiasm, questions, energy, and tears that were shared during the consultation. A longer report of the consultation is available upon request from WRI or from the International Fellowship of Reconciliation's (IFOR) Women Peacemakers Program (WPP). The consultation was co-organized by WRI and IFOR's Women Peacemakers Program, with support from the International Women's Partnership for Peace and Justice, a Thai-based feminist nonviolence training centre.
Some 35 women participated in the consultation, from 22 countries. Casha Davis organized a skillful group of professional interpreters who provided interpretation into and from English, French and Spanish throughout the consultation.
Every day began with a personal story from one of the participants. This sharing was followed by a panel of participants who addressed different aspects of the day's theme. Participants would break into small groups after the plenary session to reflect on some of the questions raised by the panelists.
After lunch, the first series of workshops would begin, followed by a break, then another series of workshops. After dinner participants would then gather together for more small group reflection on what they had learned during the day--and what questions remained.
The days' themes were:
- Day 1: Creating a Base of Understanding: Definitions of Nonviolence, Violence, Gender, Sexism, Feminism, Power, Empowerment and Training
- Day 2: Training Techniques and Methodologies: How Do we Integrate Nonviolence and Gender?
- Day 3: Integrating the personal and Political
- Day 4: Working in the World: How do we bring our trainings to broader audiences?
- Day 5: Creating Resources: How do we create and exchange resources?
The consultation took place months before the devastating tsunami that cost so many people their lives.
Several participants came from or were working in countries directly affected by the tsunami. The concerns expressed by the email communications among participants and organizers in the wake of the disaster show that the consultation did foster solidarity. Everyone involved in the consultation was saddened to learn in particular of the personal losses suffered by peace educator Zulfinar, from Banda Aceh. A special section in this report includes an update on some of the ways peace groups are responding to the disaster.