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pack information

CHOOSING PEACE 2 (Pack pages 17-20)



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

1. Healing Wounds
In 1972 a photographer called Nick was in Vietnam, taking pictures of the war there. One of his photographs became famous, and he won a Pulitzer Prize for it. It showed a nine-year-old girl, naked and burned, running screaming from her village on which napalm bombs (fire bombs) had been dropped. The little girl was called Kim.
Over half her body received third degree burns in the bombing, which also killed two of her young brothers. But she survived.

Kim is now married with two children and lives in Canada. She still suffers pain from the scars of her terrible burns. In November 1997 she was made a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

Kim says: 'I hope to help people heal the wounds of hatred, and bring happiness. I forgive, but I do not forget.' In that way, she says, she is able to live without feeling hatred, and can experience some happiness too.

Think about, and discuss, forgiving and forgetting.


2. Keeping Going

Salima is editor of the Algerian paper 'La Nation'. In 1996 the military government banned this paper, but that didn't stop Salima from campaigning internationally against human rights abuses in Algeria.

She writes: 'When we moved to Algiers in 1995 journalists and activists were being targeted and killed. I sent my daughters to live with my sister in another town, and I move around the city, staying with friends and relatives. Everything in my domestic life is dependent on whom I'm staying with.

I became a journalist in 1990 and have always been a feminist, but even when the killings of intellectuals and activists began in 1992 I did not feel in danger - I had been a teacher and a trade union representative for years, and was respected. But in 1993 I began to receive threatening phone calls.

Most people in Algeria are opposed to violence and try to carry on with their lives. In the civil war between the government and Islamists, they are fighting and we are paying: over 80,000 people have died in only six years.

Five of us continue to work in the offices of 'La Nation'. We hope to be able to publish again. Meanwhile we earn a living as correspondents for foreign newspapers, and I talk at conferences and universities around Europe. My trips abroad are opportunities to speak freely, and I wish the international community was not so silent about Algeria's conflict.

It is not courage that drives me to keep going, it is anger. It would be a sacrilege to give up the struggle for peace. We owe it to the victims of the war and to ourselves to strive for the right to become free citizens.'

Think about, and discuss, what motivates people to keep the campaign for peace going despite difficult and dangerous circumstances.


3. Women Writing About War


Pat has written a series of three books about men in the first world war. The third book ('The Ghost Road') won a famous literary award, the Booker Prize. The second, called 'The Eye In The Door', also won a prize. The first book, 'Regeneration', has been made into a feature film (cert. 15), released in November 1997.

Like all good writers Pat is able to imagine what it is like to be someone quite different from herself. Here she is being a fighting man in the trenches, utterly exhausted after days of fighting and death:

'The sun hung on the lip of the horizon,
filling the sky....The whole scene looked like
something that couldn't be happening on
earth: partly the sun, partly the utter
lifelessness of the land around us, pitted,
scarred, pockmarked with stinking craters and
scrawls of barbed wire... And I stumbled along
at the head of the company and waited for the
sun to go down. And the sodding thing didn't.
IT ROSE. It wasn't just me. I looked round at
the others and I saw the same stupefaction on
every face. We hadn't slept for four days.
Tiredness like that is another world, just
like noise, the noise of a bombardment, isn't
like other noise. You see people wade through
it, lean into it. I honestly think if the war
went on for a hundred years another language
would evolve, one that was capable of
describing the sound of a bombardment.. There
are no words. There are no words for what I
felt when I saw the setting sun rise.'

Anne is a Canadian writer whose first book is also a prizewinner. 'Fugitive Pieces' tells how a young Jewish boy is rescued from death in the second world war. He is haunted by the moment when soldiers burst through the door and killed his parents.

'The burst door. Wood ripped from hinges, cracking like ice under the shouts. Noises never heard before, torn from my father's mouth. Then silence. My mother had been sewing a button on my shirt. She kept her buttons in a chipped saucer. I heard the rim of the saucer in circles on the floor. I heard the spray of buttons, little white teeth.'

The boy grows up haunted by the dead, 'torn from mistakes they had no chance to fix; everything unfinished. Even if an act could be forgiven, no one could bear the responsibility of forgiveness on behalf of the dead. No act of violence is ever resolved. When the one who can forgive can no longer speak, there is only silence'.

One can learn a lot from writers. How do these two show how to describe terrible experiences by using words in the way they are spoken, or by picking out tiny details? People are sometimes helped to face traumas in their lives by talking simply or by remembering something apparently insignificant. Have you heard the saying 'What's done cannot be undone'? What does 'no act of violence is ever resolved' mean?
These are ideas you can use in your own writing.


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