Women’s power to stop war: rereading Virginia Woolf
How essential it is that we should realize that unity the dead bodies, the ruined houses prove. For such will be our ruin if you, in the immensity of your public abstractions forget the private figure, or if we, in the intensity of our private emotions forget the public world.’ (Virginia Woolf, Three Guineas)
There appears to be something missing in coverage of the UK General Election: war and peace. It’s understandable, given the recession and subsequent cuts, that the nation’s everyday suffering is in full focus, but watching the news you’d be forgiven for thinking that Britain is not in fact a military force with the power of life and death over thousands of women, men and children.
Both the current Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government and the Labour opposition seek to replace our nuclear missile system, Trident, for £100 billion (the same money could fund 1.5 million affordable homes, or see 4 million students through university). Meanwhile, as some 900 more refugees died in the Mediterranean last week, we were reminded that it was the UK Government that cruelly withdrew funding for search and rescue missions. Iraq Body Count tells us that post-military intervention, civilian deaths are almost doubling year on year. A documented 137,248 – 155,338 civilians have died from violence since the bloody conflict began in 2003, 211,000 including combatants. The prevalence of violence is also bleak domestically: two women still die each week because of violence from a former or current male partner.
I carry this burden heavy on my shoulders as I head to The Hague today to report, with openDemocracy 50.50, on the centenary conference of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. ‘We still live in a world where women’s voices and experiences are excluded, bringing continued violence and war’ reads the programme.