All about the Peace Pledge Union, how you can participate and support its work Publications available online as well as extracts from our journal Up to date details of wars and conflicts world wide plus wealth of other related data Resources for teachers and pupils not sure where you are or where to find what you are looking for call up help


pack information

WOMEN IN WAR 2 - (Pack pages 9-12)



What women have been saying
Being a mum as well as a scientist
A feminist viewpoint
India's silent revolution


Guerrilla Women
A Woman's Influence
Women In The Armed Forces
Annette's letter
Martha Gellhorn : death of a fearless reporter
Women Reporting War


Standing up to be counted
Greenham Common

Healing Wounds
Keeping Going
Women Writing About War

Hawks and Doves: Protesting for East Timor
Bianca Jagger
Aung San Suu Kyi
Mary Robinson

Women Journalists in War

1. Martha Gellhorn : death of a fearless reporter

War reporter Martha Gellhorn died on February 15, 1998, aged 89. This 'fierce pacifist' is remembered with admiration and love. One friend said, 'She was one of the greatest of all war correspondents, because she reported from the point of view of people, not power.' Another referred to her 'sense of rage occasioned by what the powerful could do to the powerless'.

Martha cared about people: the 'nameless millions' who nevertheless, she wrote, 'had their own names, and their own place on the earth until war swept over them, killing them, uprooting them: real people with feelings common to everyone. Grief and pain and fear and the despairful loss of home are emotions that have no nationality.'

She went on: 'Maybe hate has no nationality either, but I believe hate comes from killing; the first deaths strengthen and feed it. Until the killing starts, hate is an ugly idea, ugly words. War gives hate power, and deforms the killers.'

Why does war start? 'Leaders make wars,' wrote Martha. 'There are always aggressor leaders, even in civil wars.'

And Martha had her own idea of how we might begin to prevent war. 'Leaders who inflame their followers into war or oppress their people into rebellion must know in advance that the entire area of conflict will be quarantined, isolated, as typhus or cholera is quarantined. War refugees would be cared for outside the quarantine zone, but the combatants have to realise that they will receive no foreign help of any kind.' Her idea was that if war were to be boycotted like this, fighters would have to stop and negotiate instead.

Wistfully she added: 'Perhaps in the twenty-first century people will look back at this century in disgust. Perhaps they will think it more important to preserve the planet than destroy life. Perhaps they will get their priorities right. Perhaps.'

You can read more of Martha's observations and opinions in the collection of her essays and reports published by Granta Books: The Face Of War' (1993; £6.99 paperback)

What do YOU think might be done to prevent war in the twenty-first century? Share your ideas with each other, and with us too: write or e-mail us. In memory of Martha Gellhorn, we will publish the most interesting ideas here on our web site, so they can be shared round the world.


2. Women Reporting War

During the armed conflict in East Timor in 1999, three women were the last journalists left in the United Nations compound in the capital, Dili. The compound sheltered a skeleton UN staff and 1500 desperate East Timorese. All three women - Irene and Minka from Holland, and Marie who worked for a British paper - already had distinguished records for bravery.

Irene said: 'We all had the motivation to stay with the people, and we operated as a team. We shared information, we had companionship...with a man there it would have been more difficult.'

Victoria, another woman journalist who knows the three women well, says that men's response to fear is usually bravado, and in war that's what happens to some male journalists: they can become preoccupied with weapons and identify with military role models. Women, however, identify with the people whose lives are being shattered by the conflict.

Irene thinks that woman are, in fact, not only more courageous but kore sensible. 'None of my women friends who have worked, or still work, in war zones would choose a male photographer or companion, and neither would I. You can never count on men not to come over macho at a tense moment and put the whole team in danger.'

In East Timor all three women continued to send reports to their editors or news agencies as long as they could, even travelling into the town, before they finally ended up in the UN compound. 'I wasn't that scared,' said Irene. 'You just have to plan carefully and move around in the mornings when the militias aren't drunk.'

What drove them to go on working was the desire to tell the world what was happening in East Timor, and not to give up on the people who counted on them to do it.

Try imagining yourself in an armed conflict in the role of journalist. Journalists carry no weapons: they are there to report, not to take part. Next time you're part of a group argument or conflict, at school or at home, try stepping back from it and becoming an observer; later you could write a report on what you saw. Think about bravery: what do you think makes an action really courageous and not foolish or pointlessly heroic?


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