How Women Wage Conflict Without Violence

Palestine v Israel, Russia v Ukraine, the Rwanda Genocide, The Myannmar Generals v the people or the Generals fighting each other in Sudan, even the Mandamanos in Nairobi ……. every time we turn our attention to the news, it seems like one more country has gone up in flames.

How we wish these conflicts would stop, or go away. Unfortunately, that prospect is not even on the horizon.

Julia Bacha instead of simply wishing to end conflict suggests we focus instead on how to wage conflict. What factors shape a political group’s choice of tactics: violent or non-violent is the basic question? And surprisingly, studies have shown that it has nothing to do with being more left-wing or right-wing, with being up against a democracy or a dictatorship, with religious beliefs or even levels of repression.

The greatest predictor of a movement’s decision to adopt nonviolence is its ideology regarding the role of women in public life.

And politically aware persons know only too well how our patriarchal society has, over the centuries, brushed out women’s activism and contribution in history. A very contemporary example is the depiction of resistance to Israeli oppression which is invariably shown as men and boys throwing stones at Israeli soldiers. And yet women have been the ones calling the shots behind the scenes: using unarmed struggle they have stopped and even disarmed the oppressor.

It is not that women are more courageous or more committed. It is just that in today’s world, women experience power differently. Having had to navigate being in the less powerful position, they are often more adept at how to surreptitiously pressure for change against large, powerful actors. The term ‘manipulative’, often charged against women in a derogatory way, reflects a reality in which women have often had to find ways other than direct confrontation to achieve their goals. Finding alternatives to direct confrontation is at the core of nonviolent resistance.

And this reality is a global fact, whether it is the US Civil Rights Movement, the indigenous people protecting their sacred lands, the Mau Mau struggle for Liberation, the anti-apartheid campaign in South Africa or the women of the Vietcong. And so many more! Only the narrative is lacking.

We live in a world where in humanity’s goal of building more democratic and peaceful societies the question is not how we can avoid conflict, but rather how we can choose to wage that conflict. Julia Bacha’s is a powerful call to us all to take heed of the ground-breaking work being done by women and to expand it further for ‘another world is possible’.

Watch this and be inspired and motivated.

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