Who do you call when disaster strikes? Although there are always the sarcastic few who will say, “Ghostbusters!” most people would say their friends, family, or the police.
In 1983, Nicaraguan women were in the midst of a bloody civil war, and they did not have anyone to call. These women did not provoke the war, nor did they join a side to keep it going. They were the victims of a giant political divide, and they only wanted to keep their families safe.
Up until 1983, there had not been any kind of national awareness of this plight in the US (mainly because the US played a role in prolonging it). That is until Kathy Engel organized an expedition of other women, poets, teachers, and general activists to venture to Nicaragua, and they brought back the tales of its women.
The foundation that grew out of this venture, MADRE, was not only there to help in the aftermath of the war, but to establish preventative measures that would cut these conflicts at their roots. Members of MADRE met grieving mothers who had lost children to a fight they did not contribute to. They promised these women that their children would not be forgotten. Upon returning to the US, MADRE members made these women’s stories known, and highlighted the errors that caused their suffering.
With its huge history, MADRE is one of the few foundations, out of the thousands in the world, that is almost universally known. They have mobilized and organized people from every corner of the world to lend a hand in ending this pattern of universal destruction. Now, their mission of peace reaches beyond the terror of Nicaragua’s bloody history to countries around the globe. They fight the battles that others ignore, and they amplify the voices that are drowned out by the bombings and battles of these lands.
Women Climate Defenders is an initiative that personifies the ideals of prevention. When lands do not yield crops and water reserves dry up, the impoverished suffer before anyone else. Unfortunately, these people are generally in the same region. That leaves us with miles upon miles of starving populations. MADRE advocates for the education of women in these regions, teaching them how to farm and then preserve and enhance natural resources. These measures resolve to eliminate conflicts over the use of viable land and resources.
My Body is Not Your Battlefield approaches a sickening reality in our times. Often, women in war-torn countries are looked at as grenades, and people think that by violating them, they will weaken the people of their societies. These “grenades” do not raze villages; they bring down homes from the inside out. This initiative seeks not only to end the practice of wartime rape, but to educate the societies of the victims so that they do not blame these women who have done nothing wrong.
So what can you do? MADRE beckons, so get involved. If not with MADRE, then with another movement that speaks to you. You can also start your own movement to fight the battles you want to win. That is what Kathy Engel did, and today there are millions of women thanking her for it.
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