Years ago, I saw the documentary by Wide Angle (PBS) entitled, Ladies First, about the women of Rwanda putting their country back together. One of the most striking segments of the film was about the role that contrition and forgiveness was playing in healing the devastating wounds left over, not only among the Tutsi survivors, but among the Hutu as well. With the majority of the Hutu men in prison for their war crimes and the majority of the Tutsi men dead by the hands of these Hutu men, women had to run their lives, their communities, their economy and their government without them. There was no choice—they would pull their lives and country together or perish.
How did they accomplish this? They had been mortal enemies. There had been enough atrocities committed by neighbor against neighbor that it’s inconceivable to imagine how the Tutsi and Hutu women could have even sat in the same room, much less worked together and cooperated for their collective welfare. They did something that is unimaginable to most of us… the Hutu women asked the Tutsi women for forgiveness for the atrocities their men committed. And the Tutsi women forgave them. I’m not saying that it happened in one day. Or that it was readily accepted. It happened over time, begun by a few individuals.
Another documentary, Pray the Devil Back to Hell, chronicles the journey of the women of Liberia, who’d had enough of the years of war, of losing their children and men, of starving, of living in fear twenty-four hours a day. They determined together to put an end to it. They achieved this the way that women always do—by working together. Christian and the Muslim women put aside their differences and discovered they had more in common than they imagined. They stopped the violence with non-violent protests. They refused to be silent any longer, refused to be intimidated by the men, and even refused to sleep with their husbands until the violence ended. They used prayer, chanting and non-violent sit-ins. They did not back down. They would not go away. This is how they ended the war in their country.
It made me wonder. What if mothers, sisters, daughters, grandmothers all said, “Enough!”? Enough violence. Enough sending our sons and husbands off to die. Enough wasting our country’s time and resources on wars that never end.
What would happen if the mothers of Israel and Palestine stood together and said, “Enough”?
Better yet, what if the women of the entire world simply refused to cook or clean or have sex with their men until the war ended everywhere?
I’m sure women across the world have smiled to themselves during a quiet moment stirring a pot of soup, and fantasized about what might actually happen if all women, everywhere, were to simply stop—even for one day—taking care of minor things—like food, shelter, clothing, and raising children. How well could men run all those the important things, like politics, government and business?
© 2011 Stephanie Ericsson