Always disobedient, and still in the streets...

Women in black - 30 years of resistance

9th october 1991 we took to the streets of Belgrade for the first time - that is when we began non- violent resistance to the war and the policies of the Serbian regime. So far, we have organized about 2,500 street actions. We are still in the streets ...
Women in Black / WiB is an activist group and network of feminist-anti-militarist orientation, consisting of women, but also men of different generational and ethnic backgrounds, educational levels, social status, lifestyles and sexual choices.


Panel discussion: Security is an absence of fear, violence, and poverty...

From military security towards a feminist concept of security


Dragana Dulic, Faculty of Civil Defense, Belgrade
Vesna Pesic, Center for Peace and Development of Democracy, Belgrade
Vera Markovic, Social Democratic Union, Belgrade
Nada Duhacek, Women in Black, Belgrade

Ruza Cirkovic, journalist for Danas

Ruza Cirkovic: This panel discussion is organized to mark the fifth anniversary of the adoption of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325, which is dedicated to women, peace, and security. Our country, in the five years after the resolution’s passage, has not managed to ratify and adopt it.

The state of security in Serbia is, in my opinion, in the physical and every other sense, determined by both specific and global circumstances. Serbia is therefore a country that, with difficulty, lives through traumas that are characteristic of post-conflict societies. Simultaneously and almost as traumatically, it is transitioning from socialism to a capitalist society. There is no doubt that the state of security in Serbia is also affected by the consequences of security measures enacted globally by the US after September 11th 2001.

Women are the group most vulnerable to open or latent discrimination and every form of violence. They are more vulnerable than any other group, in my opinion, more than ethnic or professional groups. Even the superficial analysis of our media – controversial as well – shows that children now are exposed to and inclined towards even greater violence. Women are left to raise and educate children within the home and outside of it. Today, women have ’smarter’ things to do than to care for their security. It is up to them to assume the responsibility to struggle with two monstrous values that prevail in Serbia today:

- No work and effort brings any good, especially if the work isn’t rewarded;
- Crime brings, in certain circumstances, some benefits, especially if it isn’t punished.

These two monstrous statements are responsible for a low level of general security for everyone, not just women.

The fundamental changes in value systems mean that women can’t achieve anything if they fight only for security in their private lives. They must also fight in the public sphere, even though their access to that arena is more limited now than it was in the period before the wars in the territory of the former Yugoslavia.

In this sense, there are only two statistics which are in favor of women. First, women are more numerous than men in Serbia. They comprise far more than 51% of the population. This ratio that favors women leads to one more positive statistic. There are more female students in Serbia than male students. From the ‘90s until today, women comprise more than 50% of students. Among the most educated, there are many more women than men.

Yet, it isn’t a surprise that working-age women are, on average, less educated than men. More than a half has a primary school education or less. Thirty percent of men have only that level of education. Women are lagging behind in employment rate, but not particularly substantially, since women comprised 43.4% of those employed in 2004. However, none of the aforementioned statistics justify the lack of women’s presence in places where war and peace are decided upon. Out of 250 members of the National Assembly of Serbia, 29 are women - and there is only one woman in the Serbian government. It is interesting that in Montenegro, which is, according to the prevailing opinion, very sexist, the situation is somewhat more favorable. In Montenegro, there are even two women ministers. Sometimes, I find it really funny how Serbia’s accession to the European Union is considered to be a remedy for all problems. It seems that for women, Europe is a solution for greater access to the places where decisions are made. So far, in all of the institutions which have been formed to prepare Serbia for accession to the European Union, women hold leadership positions. Our mission to the EU is headed by women. It is interesting that in neighboring countries, the ministries for European integration, where they exist, are led by women -- in Montenegro, Croatia, and Bulgaria women are heading ministries for European integrations.

Dragana Dulic: Thank you. First, I will cordially greet you. Maybe, I will have to repeat some basic things in order to move to the issue of human security and gender. The occasion for our meeting today is Resolution 1325, which, in spite of some good things that it has brought regarding security and women’s participation in conflict resolutions and peace processes, is criticized a lot, mostly by feminists. Primarily, they argue that Resolution 1325 acts in the realm of international law and as such it takes a masculine approach towards gender equality. Despite some limitations, the UN has always been a promoter of women’s human rights. For a while, they have cared about gendered perspectives and they have included gender analysis in their documents.

The other question is whether the law can fulfill all of its tasks - whether the ideas of the law can be successfully applied in practice. In 1994, the UN launched, through their development program, the concept of human security. The creator of that concept was the Nobel Prize winner Amartya Sen. The idea of human security began to capture the minds of political leaders and gradually affected foreign state’s policies. This year is Resolution 1325’s tenth anniversary. It has quite an important history. It has had a huge impact on international politics, primarily through the substantial financial help of three governments: Canada, Japan and Norway. But, the other ten countries which comprise the Network of Human Security should be mentioned.

Their idea was to share experiences and strengthen understanding and communication through unmediated contact and the organization of various peace missions and trainings. Among others, Slovenia is a part of that network. Japan and Canada launched the concept of human security in international politics and they actively work on various forms of help: from de-mining, which is removal of land-mines, to various projects in post-conflict reconstruction of society and initiatives regarding legal regulations – like the ban on recruiting child soldiers, the establishment of the International Criminal Court and the treatment of war rape and war sex crimes as crimes against humanity.

There are other initiatives as well, all of which lead us to the central question: what is human security? Why is all of this so important today? I will start by stating that the international situation is different since the fall of the Berlin Wall to what it was during the period of the Cold War. The great confrontation between the two superpowers was decreasing, and after the fall of Berlin Wall it is gone, at least in a visible sense. Instead of strong and Cold War-like confrontations, we have many small wars. These wars are not fought against states, but are caused by ethnic, religious, and civil conflicts. That means a lot of small wars which are causing many human casualties.

Of course, there is one superpower which, in the last few years, started to export so-called democracy through pre-emptive strikes, as Clinton named them. Now, through the rubric of a general war against terror, America promotes the idea that it can intervene on the territory of another country on behalf of some higher national interest or because human rights have been drastically infringed. There, accordingly, it’s about an erosion of the norm of sovereignty – states don’t have a right to sovereignty over their territory anymore, neither do “democratically” elected governments. Other states, acting on behalf of some higher interest, on behalf of human solidarity, on behalf of human rights, or to respond to a crime against humanity, are obliged to intervene.

Canada, Japan, and Norway are countries with so-called soft power. They are countries that think that they should help the international community and societies in conflict through peace interventions. Their support isn’t going to be military, or with weapons, which would further deepen and worsen the existing conflicts.

With this and similar strategies, the change in existing international relations was initiated. The changes mean that states can’t be considered sovereign enough to do whatever they want to their citizens, that territory isn’t so terribly important or even the most important, but that it is individuals who are important. Security isn’t something that should be protected by military or police. A state is obliged to provide citizens with not only security in the street, school, and workplace, but it should ensure that they have enough to eat, to wear, everything they need to live, etc. If a state isn’t capable of doing this, then it is the duty of international community to intervene.

That opens the big questions: until when, when, how, etc. One has to realize that national security isn’t the same thing as military security or border security. Security is something more intimate, much deeper, and more important. It has to do with the individual. What human security has introduced is that an individual is a referring object of security.

Gender perspective introduces one more aspect to this analysis. An individual is no longer something neutral; it always has an identity. S/he has a race, class, and a sex. Security takes into consideration gender difference, the social aspects of masculine and feminine. It is entirely different how men and women experience poverty; it is entirely different how men and women experience war. In sexual crimes committed during war, women are a symbol of national honor, etc.

My faculty conducted research last year on the state of human security in Serbia, as part of a national report for 2004. We touched upon domestic violence, women’s representation and women’s status in today’s society in general.

When we speak of a gender perspective or a gender analysis, it’s not reduced only to women. It is a constant concern for the differences between men and women. It also acknowledges the experiences of all marginal groups, all minorities – from handicapped people to people with different sexual orientations. All of these groups have to be included in an analysis of security that is measured in regards to the individual and recognizes differences.

Of course, human security faces numerous critiques: the most common critiques are connected to the belief that as military power increases, including nuclear armament, there will be more state security. It is no wonder that this approach is connected to the so-called neo-realist school in international relations – which considers that there is an anarchy in the world, that the world is an arena in which only big or strong powers can arrange relations and that the desires of the stronger states are the law which arranges all relations in the international sphere.

They argue that human security is a feminized, sentimental concept, that it is too broad, undetermined, and useless. They believe human security is empty rhetoric, since state power is based on force, specifically on the prerogatives of well-armed, well-organized states. They forget that individuals can suffer at the hands of strong states as well as by weak ones. Weak states can’t protect their citizens, since their institutions are eroding. Strong states have the power to oppress citizens with security forces and govern over their daily lives to the point of collective paranoia. Therefore, such critiques of human security come from political realists. However, it has to be said that what initiatives for human security have achieved on a practical level, is not to be underestimated. This has been shown by practical results.

I will mention some of those really important things. First and foremost, the International Criminal Court was established, which is directly connected with the initiatives of people who advocated for human security. There are also programs which advocate for the abolishment of child soldiers, for the encouragement of women on all levels included in CEDAW (UN Resolution on Elimination of All Forms of Violence Against Women), and for resolution 1325 - all sets of initiatives embodied in local programs which here – in our country too – are implemented.

Human security is connected to the fight against terrorism. It is connected because it relates to human development, to the struggle against poverty, and to women’s education. Human security is connected to numerous peace processes – to establishing, building, and maintaining peace. The aim of human security is to provide for the full potential of individuals, to allow them to fully realize their goals, and to protect their physical integrity. Additionally, the aim is to secure human rights for all generations, including the youngest ones.

Human Security means not only equal political and economic rights, but social, cultural and ecological equality. Equality today recognizes differences. A gender perspective introduces the perception of difference – difference that is empowering, not distancing. It is not excluding, but includes men too. It is important that differences are noticed; it is necessary that we see very precious details when we want to protect someone. Specifically, the question of all questions is: Who do we protect? Why do we protect him/her? How do we protect him/her? On the last one, how: we obviously don’t think of the military. There are internal conflicts, not only armed conflicts, but various forms of tensions amongst social groups. But these conflicts are not solved by the military.

Who are we protecting? Well, we are supposed to protect all, not just the elite, but even the last man at the bottom of the social ladder. That is, of course, often impossible in poor societies, but that is not a reason to discriminate in judicial processes, or in workplaces. As a matter of fact, wherever you turn, in all aspects of life, you see discrimination - not only between sexes, but between people who belong to certain social groups. The state is obliged to take care of individuals’ security.

Vesna Pesic: Before I move to the issue of the women’s role in security, I have to tell you what I saw the other night on BK Television. A journalist asked Zoran Stankovic, the current Minister of Defense, whether— since the law now requires that the Minister of Defense be a civilian—the law had been broken in his case. He answered like this: “should the Minister of Defense be someone who has never served in the military, someone who doesn’t know much about it?” He added, “a woman should not be Minister of Defense.” And there was no reaction from us. When a journalist told Stankovic that a Member of Parliament had criticized his appointment, he replied that the member who criticized him was “illegitimately born.” He said that the woman who gave birth to the parliament member left him in the woods and that animals had found him and brought him to his village. How will a minister like this deal with human security?

The issue of confronting the past and human security has many aspects, including a gender dimension. The whole war, from its start to its aftermath, has a very clearly expressed gender dimension. Confronting the past and human security are issues that are linked in the following manner: confrontation leads to reconciliation, which leads to security. Respect for human rights – political, social and cultural – is fundamental to our security.

This process of confronting the past, reconciling and becoming secure, is crucial to achieving a stable peace. In fact, that is the purpose of the process. No war ever again! This is how I understand security – to end the possibility of war. The reconciliation processes, the rejection of all negative feelings, should be done with one security project in mind, peace in the Balkans. That means no war ever again!

In the “Dayton triangle” which is Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Serbia, a truce has been imposed, but there has been no cultural or political reconciliation among these three countries that fought each other.

What would confrontation of the past be? It would have at least two dimensions: a legal dimension, which would be similar to what the Hague Tribunal and local Serbian courts are doing. We have a court for war crimes called “The Special Court.” Courts help to deal with the past by prosecuting individuals who committed war crimes and should be punished. Through this legal process, courts can provide at least some satisfaction. Some organizations also try to redress injustices done to refugees through returning property, obtaining citizenship, and other reparations. This form of elementary justice must be part of confronting the past, which is itself necessary in the reconciliation process.

We will not have human security unless we deal with the past. This process of reconciliation will also be a learning process. Conflicts have occurred here many times. In the Balkans, conflicts between nations— whether religious or political— repeat themselves. We have had the Balkans Wars, World War II, and the wars of the ‘90s. We have to learn. We have to remember and that is only possible through the reconciliation process and confronting the truth.

The other day, I listened to a colleague of mine, Elsa from Albania, say that their problem is lustration, the mass disqualification of those associated with the abuses under the prior regime. It means that they can’t remember and so they can’t heal. People don’t remember anything! In Albania, Berisha – who in the past ripped people off with pyramid schemes just as Jeyda and Dafina did here – is in power again. He is elected again! Elsa says that there is simply no social memory. People have already forgotten what happened yesterday. I was terribly shaken by that fact. They can’t remember what it was like! Now, all of this is connected with my next topic –the aims of the war.

If we continue to advocate for a Greater Serbia (Karlobag – Virovitica – Ogulin), who will reconcile with us? All sides should renounce the aims of the war in order to come to some kind of reconciliation. Therefore, when we talk about the war aims, we are talking about certain policies that were implemented. We are talking about ourselves, about policies that were implemented in Belgrade, in Serbia. We are not talking about Sarajevo and Zagreb. We must break away from previous policies. All of our policies from the end of the 1980s until the end of the 1990s were policies of war initiation for certain war aims. If we don’t renounce those policies, there will be no confrontation with the past. What we were forced to do from the outside through the Hague Tribunal, perhaps we should have been forced to do through our local courts.

However, a complete break with those kinds of policies didn’t happen. A measure of success for any government here should be how much it breaks away from those past policies. That measure isn’t paid attention to here at all. People say Parliament has passed many laws. Well yes, no one sits there and does nothing. Every government does something useful. We can’t be merciless. Maybe, the government has fixed the banks well. Economists bragged on the 5th of October about how much we have improved ourselves within 5 years. Let’s accept just half of it.

But if we look at the indicator of breaking away from the past policies of war, we will see that we are not improving. We are regressing. Meaning, that when we apply this criterion to our government, we can see that between the first government and this second government there is no discontinuity. This government has the same political aims and power structure as the previous regime. The same people have all returned! The worst proponents of the previous regime have the same place in all of the television shows as they did before.

It is like nothing ever happened. It is the same as if in Germany in 1950, Hitler were to be legitimately elected President of a political party. Joseph Goebbels would still sit in studios; he would just be in a new studio. Hitler would issue daily orders, telling his parliamentary party members what they should do, how to vote and what policies they should implement.

Well, you know what, if we are going to talk about security, if we are going to talk about the future, if we are going to talk about reconciliation, about these things that we have forced upon the international community, we should do it for real. We are slacking, but we have to do it. We are nervous and have doubts. The more the government returns to its former power structure, the less chance I see of securing a lasting peace.

It’s not just that there isn’t a breaking away from those policies; it is that there is a glorification of those policies. We see that it’s not like this only in Serbia, but the whole region is exposed to the danger of wars repeating. Foreign forces will not stay here and watch us forever. When things appear over, they will leave. Then some crisis will appear in a foreign country and it will be transferred here again. As it has been said, when they had a flat tire, we started a war. Well, that could happen again in the future as well! I repeat, if the aims of war stay as they are, if we stay at the level of latent revenge, then we will some time in future return to war. Perhaps, there is a “hole” in our memory, even in the memories of people who lived here during the war who weren’t children. And therefore, we have to work together in the future. Maybe this will be unsuccessful, but we shouldn’t stop our efforts.

Security relates to the issue of lustration, the mass disqualification of those associated with the abuses under the previous regime. The law was adopted here but it was never enforced. The law on lustration is pretty limited. Those who were police informants are not included, but officials, high-ranking government employees who violated human rights, are included. That law was not enforced for the same reasons that I already mentioned. That is, that we shouldn’t ostracize.

Some alleged that lustration laws would be used to seek revenge on political opponents. When it comes to lustration, the question which may be raised is if we will actually take revenge on our political opponents, and not really lustrate those who violated human rights. If the law is to be strictly applied, I don’t see how that mistake will be made. Why would someone use lustration to take revenge on a political opponent?

The proof of that was released few a days ago in the newspaper. It was the killing of 48 Albanian civilians in Kosovo, in a place called Suva Reka. Still, the names of the six accused murderers are not mentioned, that is forbidden, but six active-service policemen have been arrested. This illustrates the lack of lustration. Who are these officers? What is the structure of the police? Who works in the military? Are the officers connected to the security services? They are not cleansed, that is lustrated, because of their human rights violations or because we know that they took part in the killing of civilians—our citizens (please, I’m not getting into what is going to happen with Kosovo). Perhaps, someone doesn’t think that these are our citizens. These are citizens—that we advocate keeping as our citizens—who were liquidated. Six policemen in active service took part in killing 48 people.

Finally, I would like to address the issue of the mushrooming of private security agencies. Specifically, we came out of war with a huge amount of arms that people are keeping in their possession. These companies are operating outside of the law, because the law hasn’t been passed yet. All those guys who came out of war with a thick criminal file find jobs at those private agencies. As long as there is no law which will regulate small, medium and big security agencies, they can operate however they want.

Regarding the effect the global fight against terrorism has on human rights, it is really a fig leaf that is used by many regimes to deal with the “unsuitable.” In our case, every organization that shows its teeth to the regime, whether it is in regards to human rights or anti-militarist politics, or a simply a desire for a more transparent, better society with the rule of law, any of these organizations in a unstable state where the power is privatized, is a potential opponent.

If Women in Black, or the Committee for Human Rights or the Helsinki Committee, are endangering this state, I don’t know who is on the right side of the law. Globally, the interest in human rights has been reduced, and interest in security is increasing. That has happened in the last few years and I see a trap there. We used to design projects and write grants about human rights. Now, human rights have become a category that isn’t that important. And security is raised to the first place, as the most important issue.

Perhaps, I will be very harsh, but my impression is that they (the US and international community in general) support the politicians who are obedient, that everything else is based on that obedience. For example, there has not yet been a convincing denial of information which was recently presented on the TV show ”Insider” (TV B92) that Rade Bulatovic, the director of the BIA (Security Informative Agency) gave information to the United States’ CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) in 1994. If that security data contained something of interest to the US, then the American government will, in exchange for that obedience, overlook the Serbian government’s human rights abuses. I simply think that the great support received by Kostunica’s government— which contrary to the previous government labels itself patriotic— has made it very obedient. I think that this relationship between the governments will tremendously change at the end of next year, if promises are not fulfilled.

Vera Markovic: When we are speaking about security, we are not talking about how secure our state borders are and if there are enough of all types of weapons in the state, but we are thinking about inner security, about citizens having basic human needs satisfied, including those in the sphere of intimacy. One state’s security primarily depends on if there is an agreement between the state and society. If there is disagreement between a state and society, that state’s citizens are insecure. In Serbia, one of the topics about which there is conflict between state and society is the topic of reproduction. There are few states that are not conducting active population policies, whether they include encouragement to reproduce through pro-natal policies or restriction of reproduction through anti-natal policies.

States are trying to control women and their reproductive decisions. Regardless of which methods are used, there is force used against women, regardless of whether the methods or policies include national, religious, racial, territorial, or militarist aims. In each case, women are the target of those state’s policies. There are numerous examples in the world of where population policies were conducted by violent methods. However, even where population policies don’t contain violent elements or where they formally respect the right to choose, the very existence of the proclaimed population policy creates a certain climate within a society.

In that climate, right-wing and misogynous organizations use hate-speech and various forms of pressure against women who don’t conform to these population policies. These retrograde groups within society do not consider changing circumstances. We don’t live like our mothers did, because our mothers lived better than we do. We live like our grandmothers or great-grandmothers. The framework in which we are operating has changed. We have different lifestyles. We have different desires and needs. Population policies don’t respect that.

When it comes to Serbia, this kind of pressure is not subtle at all, and we are all familiar with it. Within the general trend of the country’s re-traditionalization, retrograde ideas hold a central position. Especially after the right came to power, there is much more space for these kinds of ideas.

One obscure organization fights against so-called white “plague.” They demand that those who are unmarried, as well as those who have only one child and sufficient material resources, should pay special taxes as punishment for not fulfilling their duty to the state, namely that they are not giving birth to future soldiers. They demand as well that abortion be abolished or limited. This right won a long time ago could be easily lost. These proposals were immediately accepted by one of the ministers in the current government. However, the public reactions were very turbulent and unanimously against the proposals, so the government altogether didn’t support the proposals. These proposals haven’t been talked about anymore, at least for now. New proposals like these ones will emerge and we have to be prepared for them.

There is a recurring statement in all politicians’ speeches: Serbia is faced with population extinction. Policies haven’t been formulated, but space has been left for hate-speech directed at educated, emancipated women. Actually, when Serbia’s future is talked about, it seems to be necessary to say something ugly about women. By no coincidence, the SPC (Serbian Orthodox Church) is the leader of that hate-speech. One highly-positioned SPC official offered a “salvational” solution. The church proposed that it will raise the children that women – today’s modern women, consumed by fashion and career — don’t want to raise. All a woman must do is give birth to the child. The church will take care of it in “the right way.”

The root of this disagreement among society, which is obviously deaf to the call of the state and politicians, is in its base political. In primitive politicians’ speeches, a concern regarding giving birth to new Serbs is shown. This concern is connected with concern about the territory’s preservation, or perhaps in the longer-term, territorial expansion.

The state doesn’t acknowledge society. Our society is multi-ethnic and there are huge regional differences. Among other things, there are huge differences in natality. The state doesn’t recognize or accept ethnic minorities with high natality. It doesn’t promote their right to have many children. That means that the state’s concern regarding whether Serbia will have enough citizens isn’t sincere. Serbia isn’t pleased about its newly born citizens if they are ethnic minorities, especially if they are Roma, since the Roma’s skin color is slightly darker. Therefore, the unwritten and undefined Serbian population policy is deeply racist, not just ethnocentric and nationalist, but racist. When we speak of natality, the state officials only think about it.

And now, when the solutions of Kosovo’s problem are talked about, when the start of final status negotiations are talked about, security is most talked about. If there is violence, in what way will the situation be resolved? It comes down to accepting the inevitable and that is Kosovo’s independence, conditional or unconditional. While Serbia was deciding about Kosovo’s destiny, no state officials considered that Kosovars are citizens of Serbia and that they are welcomed in this country. The same applies now when those in power, first and foremost the Prime Minister, are hypocritically telling us that Serbia’s sovereignty in Kosovo can’t be jeopardized. He certainly doesn’t want the Albanian population. All he wants is territory, or he only wants his cronies to stay in power. That is, until it comes to the final negotiations, when they will probably call for elections.

There is no sincere interest in natality in Serbia. It is all empty words. And there, where a rightist’s “sincere” voice can be heard, listen careful to what he is talking about – he is racist. I believe that the other misunderstandings come out of ignorance. Young people, young men and women are still leaving the country and they will reproduce in another country. In my opinion, there is nothing controversial about that.

However, as this state can’t keep those young men and women here through the appeal of its patriotic narrative, it can’t make women reproduce. No woman in Serbia today wants to give a birth for the military, for the church, or for the state. When we speak of security today, I think that Serbia will be an insecure state as long as the government doesn’t acknowledge the society it rules over. Accordingly, when the political structure acknowledges the society and communicates with it, understands people’s need to independently make the decisions that concern them and their families, then Serbia will have a chance to become a secure country.

Nada Duhacek: Since 1991, we have engaged with a human, namely feminist concept of security, primarily, through our anti-militarist actions:

- Since the beginning of the war we sent solidarity appeals to all who rebelled against war, that is, to all men who refused to go to war. We demanded amnesty for deserters.

- Since 1991, a men’s group for support of deserters was working within Women in Black. Jointly, concrete work and help has been organized – contact with international institutions and anti-militarist and human rights networks. There was, as well, a lot of cooperation with similar groups in the region of the former Yugoslavia.

- Since 1996, activities have spread to other fields as well. A bulletin on anti-militarism and conscientious objection, named Objection, was published.

- In 1999, unfortunately, there was reason again to organize a network for conscientious objection and to organize a ”safe house” in Budapest for men who refused to take part in war.

- Since 2000, mass campaigns for conscientious objection have been launched in more than 30 towns of Serbia and Montenegro. Namely, Women in Black joined YUCOM’s petition campaign (December 2000– May 2001) to collect signatures in support of shortening military service. These campaigns have been fruitful. As we know, today the government acknowledges a right to conscientious objection.

Regarding a feminist approach to security, that is, those aspects of security which are concerned with women human rights, Women in Black has been very active:

- Since 1996, we have celebrated May 24th – International Day of Women’s Actions for Peace and Disarmament, with street demonstrations and conferences.

- Since 2001, we have connected the aforementioned date with May 28th – International Day of Action for Women’s Health. Conferences, street actions, and performances have been organized advocating all kinds of demilitarization and the conversion of military spending into civilian purposes.

- During 2002, educational workshops throughout four regions of Serbian and Montenegro were held on the topic of ”Women and Anti-militarism.”

- Since 2003, workshops entitled ”Militarism and its Alternatives” have been held.

- We organized international conferences entitled ”Let Us Globalize Feminism and Anti-Militarism” during 2003 and 2004.

- ”All for Peace, Health and Education, Nothing for Armament” has been organized every May since 2002. This event always consists of panel discussions and workshops dedicated to the issue of security (”Security is Investing in Peace and Health Systems, Not in Arms and Uniforms”, ”Pregnant Women and National Security”, etc.);

- Regional campaigns: in 2004, we organized campaign ”Not in Our name, Not with Our Money” about the reallocation of military spending to civilian usage.

- The draft of the resolution ”Women, Peace, Security” was initiated on 31st October 2005.

- We have had numerous publishing activities connected with feminist and anti-militarist concepts of security: leaflets, fliers, brochures, the readers Women, Health, and Disarmament (2003) and Women, Peace, and Security (2005). In all editions of Women for Peace, we have dedicated one chapter to anti-militarism;

And now I will talk a little bit more about what we have done this year. In January of this year, the project “Women, Peace, and Democracy,” supported by UNIFEM, the UN agency for women, began. The main topics of the seminars that we organize as a part of this project are ‘women’s peace politics’ and ‘feminist and anti-militarist approaches to security.’ We also advocated for the promotion and implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325.

Through seminars that we have held in three different regions of Serbia – in Sandjak and in southern Serbia, where activists from Kosovo participated with us – we are dealing with issues of security, that is, clarifying the concept of human security. While clarifying the difference between concepts of security, we always incorporate theories and data from various research projects, but we insist on establishing a clear connection between these ideas and the everyday life of our workshops’ participants. The workshop on security usually begins with participants listing their own ideas of security. Those ideas haven’t been, in any of the workshops held so far, connected with the traditional, militarized meaning of security, except when activists used the traditional notions to stir up debate. No participants connected security to the military or the police. On the contrary, for women, synonyms of security are peace, absence of fear, freedom of thought, health, freedom of movement, equality, solidarity, true friendship, employment, the right to dissent and to be different, the implementation of law, a clean environment, life, clean air, clean water, etc.

The other part of this workshop is a game entitled “Money to Be Spent.” It is a role-play in which participants are divided into groups. Every group represents one family—that, is a community— whose task is to allocate one average monthly income to their needs, specifically the wants of family or community members. This game has instigated very strong feelings and reactions by participants in all workshops that have been held so far. When we did this workshop for the first time, we didn’t clarify what type of family or community it should be and all groups decided to live in student communities with their girlfriends. No group decided to live in the way they actually live in their own life.

Since then, we changed this workshop, and we decided how they will play, unfortunately. Our main impression from this workshop was a high level of “doing what needs to be done.” The main conclusion from the discussion that followed after this workshop was that the economy of “doing what needs to be done” was what maintained Milosevic’s Serbia in the ‘90s and the biggest price was paid by women, since the whole economy of war and completely militarized security was dependent on their “doing what needs to be done” (that is, their invisible, unpaid, and unrecognized labor).

Of course, women’s care for others – directed primarily toward their family members, freed the state of any responsibility for citizens. Patriotic discourse (which many women believed too, unfortunately) enabled the state to spend citizen’s labor and money on war or war-profiteering.

In one seminar (at Borsko Jezero in east Serbia), in which we more clearly defined the groups, that is families, women often talked about what they called black humor. Once they saw the way in which they had to deal with poverty, there were no conflicts within the families in which they had to agree about spending, and they laughed at all of this. When we have asked them how they made their decisions, one of them replied, “when we decided to survive, we easily agreed.”

In Predejane, near Leskovac, we did this workshop with women from the south of Serbia. The outcome from this workshop had the strongest impression on me personally. Groups most often spent money on food, and sometimes electricity. Often, the majority of other expenses were not on the list we gave them. They chose books, travel, and similar things. One of participants raised to our attention the great danger because most women were saving for health care and contraception, which is a critical issue in women’s health, especially in the health of young women. Most women, as well, in this game chose to live in smaller places, because the expenses are lower. They often refused to pay for water and heating bills in the workshop, and—I think—in their everyday life. I wasn’t sure if this was intentional civil disobedience or if it was simply a lack of choice.

After this workshop, a lecture on traditional and human security follows. At the end, there is a discussion in which each participant says if she personally feels secure here in Serbia. If yes, why, if not, why not? The answer is, of course, unanimously no. In the first place, all answers are focused on or related to economic insecurity, either for themselves or for their children, but most often it is about money.

(Edited by Danijela Jelisavac and Stasa Zajovic)