April 23, 2003

Stromberg Speaks on Women and War

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Last night Vivian Stromberg, human rights activist and Executive Director of the international women’s human rights organization MADRE, spoke to a group of 60 students on “The Impact of War on Women” in Martha Van Rensselear Auditorium.

Prof. Andrea Parrot, policy analysis and management, coordinated Stromberg’s visit. In her brief introduction, Parrot explained Stromberg’s extensive involvement in the human rights world for over forty years.

“Stromberg has traveled to Colombia, Cuba, Guatemala, Kenya, Nicaragua, Palestine, Rwanda, and Mexico, helping to try to eliminate human rights violence against women,” she said.

Stromberg began her forty minute lecture with a brief history of the organization. Founded in 1983, MADRE is an international women’s human rights organization that works in partnership with women’s community-based groups in conflict areas worldwide to address issues of health, education, economic development and other human rights.

Stromberg then moved into a discussion on rape and war, and MADRE’s work with rape victims in Yugoslavia and Nicaragua in the early nineties that led to changes in international law in support of the victims of rape crimes during war.

“I think it is important to realize that a delivery of medicine can help a clinic, but making laws accountable and government accountable and law enforcement accountable is also very important to realize,” Stromberg said.

Stromberg’s lecture also addressed the sanctions imposed in Iraq during the Gulf War as well as issues pertaining to the current war on Iraq. Stromberg concluded her lecture with a short video on the “Milk and Medicine” operation that delivered provisions to Iraqi civilians in 1991. The film addressed the economic and political sanctions imposed on the Iraqis

and whether or not the war was targeting Iraqi civilians.

Stromberg asked the audience to “think about what life in Iraq is like now, 12 years later,” with the sanctions still in effect.

After her talk, Stromberg explained that she was delighted to speak at Cornell. “I was very happy to come here and to go to all of the colleges and universities that I visit. Each time I am reassured by the number of people who I meet who are determined to be informed and are determined not to be silenced. It gives me hope that we are going to win this war for justice.”

David Tatum ’05 participated in the question and answer session following the film as he asked Stromberg her personal opinions on the situation of women in Iraq before the war and the current situation of women in Iraq.

“Women didn’t have a hard time before they war in Iraq, they had the same hard time as men,” Stromberg responded.

Stromberg’s lecture and video had a personal impact on Tatum’s views. “I think she changed my views on how sanctions worked. Before I wasn’t sure on my position but now it seems to me like they are not an effective solution.”

Andrea Golden ’05 is also a student in Parrot’s human sexuality class.

“I thought this lecture was very interesting, when I think of war I have never really given much thought to women and how they are treated. I think that the best way to end this abuse and practice is to create and awareness worldwide,” Golden said.

Parrot estimated that Stromberg spoke to around 200 people over the course of the day, and was delighted with the overall outcome of this event, that Parrot

explained only came together within the last month.

Parrot invited Stromberg to Cornell to speak to her PAM 440 class, Global Perspectives on Violence Against Women, earlier in the afternoon where Stromberg spoke

on “Human Rights Violations Against Women Worldwide.”

Stromberg also spoke at Myron Taylor Hall to a group of law students early last evening on “How to Help Eliminate Human Rights Violations Against Women Globally.”

Parrot explained that in this lecture, Stromberg addressed how to get involved in human rights on a local, national and international level as she addressed “people who might be able to make an impact, like future lawyers who can affect international law.”

Sandra Fluke ’03, co-president of Students Acting for Gender Equality (SAGE) helped organize Stromberg’s visit. Fluke and Parrot were pleased that multiple groups were able to contribute to the funding package for the event.

“It was really good to see the women’s rights groups and the anti-war groups and human rights groups and peace groups all come together and try to add to the issues collectively. All of these groups have different schools of thought and have something different to offer, and putting them all together we get a more complete picture,” Fluke explained.

Sponsors of the event included the Public Service Center (PSC); Cornell University Police Department (CUPB); Department of Policy Analysis and Management; Community for Peace and Justice; Law School Dean of Student’s Office; Africana Library; Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies; Cornell Forum for Justice and Peace; Cornell Advocates for Rape Education; Women’s Resource Center; Cornell Chapter of Amnesty International and SAGE.

Archived article by Sarah Workman