- Peace and human-rights network that condemns Israel for allegedly oppressing Palestinians
Women in Black (WiB) is a self-described “world-wide network of women committed to peace with justice and actively opposed to injustice, war, militarism and other forms of violence.” “Challenging the militarist policies of our own governments,” WiB members around the world organize vigils “against any manifestation of violence” or perceived inequity that they observe. These women hope to “educate, inform and influence public opinion, and so try to make war an unthinkable option.” Toward that end, they seek to promote “a feminist view” to counteract the violent tendencies of “masculine cultures.”
Participants in WiB vigils wear black to signify their mourning on behalf of those who have died by violence. They usually stand together silently in a public place, at regular times and intervals, carrying placards and handing out leaflets that explain their position vis a vis whatever matter they are protesting. Sometimes WiB members use alternate forms of non-violent direct action, such as:
- sitting down on roads so as to block the passage of vehicles;
- illegally entering military bases and other forbidden zones; or
- refusing to comply with orders by law-enforcement or other authorities.
The first WiB group was formed by Israeli women in Jerusalem in 1988, following the outbreak of the First intifada. They held silent vigils every Friday, not to protest Palestinian terrorism, but rather to condemn Israel's alleged human-rights violations in the Occupied Territories – claiming that those abuses provoked retaliatory Arab violence. This WiB initiative soon spread to other locations in Israel, where black-clad women staged weekly vigils at city plazas, busy highway junctions, and other public places. Before long, similar WiB vigils were being staged in other countries as well; initially these were held in solidarity with the Israeli group, but their focus later shifted to other social and political concerns.
Since WiB is not a formal organization but rather a movement of likeminded women, it is unknown exactly how many WiB groups and members exist worldwide. Anecdotal evidence provides a clue, however. When WiB/Palestine called for vigils in June 2001 against Israel's “occupation of Palestinian lands,” at least 150 WiB groups (and some 10,000 women) across the world responded.
WiB members maintain regular contact with one another via e-mail and the Internet, and hold annual international conferences. These events have taken place in such far-flung locations as Jerusalem, Beijing, Serbia, Brussels, and Italy.
Among the countries where WiB vigils have been held are the following: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, England, France, Germany, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Maldive Islands, Mexico, Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Uruguay.
In 2001, WiB was awarded the Millennium Peace Prize for Women by the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and International Alert. WiB chapters in Israel/Palestine and in the former Yugoslavia were also nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and the Right Livelihood Award.
Some WIB chapters have been member organizations of the United for Peace and Justice anti-war coalition.