skip navigation

Women's Conference Unites Activists, Stars

Originally published in:
Seatle Post-Intelligencer

The Associated Press

NEW YORK -- A weekend conference on women and power brought Afghan and Iraqi activists together with actresses Jane Fonda and Sally Field and "Vagina Monologues" playwright Eve Ensler.

The weekend-long Women and Power Conference was sponsored by the Omega Institute, a holistic health center, and Ensler's V-Day, a global movement to end violence against women and children.

Malalai Joya was a delegate to Afghanistan's constitutional council last year who received death threats after she called warlords at the council criminals. She said Sunday that holds out little hope that Afghanistan's Oct. 9 elections will be fair.

"I hope that the people of the world and the American people will help us lead the way to a democratic society with no warlords and no cruelty against women," Joya said through an interpreter at a press briefing in a midtown Manhattan hotel.

Fonda said it's important for women "to redefine and then own our power" because "we know that when enough of us do that it's going to create a critical mass and a tipping point. And everything depends on it."

Yanar Mohammed, who heads an Iraqi feminist group, said Iraqi women were better off before the U.S.-led invasion of their country.

"Of course there was this bloody dictatorship and nobody was free in the first place, but women were able to leave their houses," she said. "They were not assaulted in the streets, you were not pushed back in your house because you were wearing modern dress."

Ensler, whose group distributes "Vagina Warrior" buttons and T-shirts, proposed a new slogan inspired by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Referring to Schwarzenegger's derisive use of the term "girlie man," Ensler said, "I am all for girlie men. I think we should get buttons that say, `I'm a girlie man and proud.' ... Because what is a girlie man? A person who listens, a person who negotiates, a person who doesn't escalate violence."


Malalai Joya

Yanar Mohammed