Documenting Women's Activism
and Boycott

“I touch the future. I teach”
—Christa McAuliff,
Arab-American Astronaut
who boarded the space shuttle, Challenger.

“Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.”
—Marie Curie, Scientist

Documenting Women's Activism and Boycott
A Call for Information
July 2002: women in southern Nigeria occupied a Chevron oil terminal

We live in a world of imbalance and injustice whereby men have nearly all the say and women, by force or sometimes by choice, have a little or no say. As a result, women have not been effective in changing the status quo.

Despite the ineffectiveness, three major events had taken place since the 1960s whereby women have challenged and/or changed the status quo by directly protesting against or interfering with men's action and monopoly. However we do not read about these events in HIStory pages. Heroism seems to be a term only associated with men's actions.

In this age of utmost conflicts, wars and men's tyranny, it is important to acknowledge and record such incidents, which will expose women to ideas and role models whom they never thought possible or existing. The process of researching, writing about and publishing these incidents, we believe, will help inspire and energize women worldwide into taking action and into becoming innovative and independent of men's activism, politics and monopoly. It will help increase the desire to, at least shake, if not relatively change the status quo. Those events were:

1. Algerian women's action to stop a civil war in 1963 immediately following the end of the French occupation by acting as shields.

2. Saudi Arabian women's boycott of American businesses and products, a boycott which has been going on for a couple of years, following the Palestinian uprisings and has gained momentum in the Arab world after the wave of hate crimes against Arabs and Moslems that followed the US's September events and especially during the war on Afghanistan.

3. Nigerian women's protest against the Exxon oil franchises in 2002: Although it was documented in the media, the women's names that took part in it were never acknowledged nor were the details of the planning and execution of the Exxon raiding (see image above).

In event one: Algerian women, in an area said to be near the capital of Algiers, acted as human shields between two teams of men in conflict who were carrying guns and heading to fight. Had this conflict not been interfered with, a definite civil war would have erupted. Those women were family members, relatives, neighbors and friends of the Men in Conflict (MIC) and said to be numbering about two hundred. In 2002, direct contacts with Algerians and non-Algerian Arabs were made asking about this historic event, but sadly they had no knowledge of it. Any information you provide about this event will be greatly appreciated. You will be credited. Your help can be in any of the following ways:

1. Providing information about the Algerian women who were involved in this forgotten incident: Their names, location, relation to the Men in Conflict (MIC). Do you know of a woman who was involved in this event and do you have her contact information? Are you one of those courageous women who participated in it? Do you know or have heard of any eyewitness be that a journalist or a passerby who witnessed the event? It will be ideal for those alive and who have participated in this event to be interviewed. The MIC's can also be a valuable source in providing us with information about that occurrence.

2. Was there any documentation/coverage done about this Algerian women's event on radio, newspapers and/or TV? Do you have or know of any photographs taken on that day(s). Did the Algerian government document this event in anyway?

3. Sources that will help us: Books, journals and websites, which mentioned this occurrence.

In event two: Saudi Arabian women have been the leading force behind a boycott against American businesses and products. It has significantly challenged the American businesses and caused them considerable losses; about 35% in 2002. The Saudi government has done no publicity about this boycott, and the Arab world's media never portrays it as a boycott by women, rather reports about it as part of an Arab boycott (from various Arab countries) against American/Israeli products. This Saudi women's boycott has been relatively unknown and has not been covered in world's media. Here are the facts:

1. Saudi women with higher education are nearly double the number of Saudi men.

2. Saudi women as consumers have a higher spending power than men, which therefore made the boycott more effective and caused American businesses considerable losses.

3. Men (worldwide) consider events achieved by women (especially when challenging men) are not as important, if at all, and so they do not document them and if they do so, it is done superficially.

Here is how you can help us:

1. Put us in touch with some of these Saudi women via email, fax, tel. or mail to interview them and to update the status of the boycott.

2. Provide us with any sources; books, journals, websites, etc.. to document this particular boycott.

3. Refer to us those who have researched and written about or witnessed the Saudi boycott in any way.

In event three: Unarmed Nigerian village women stormed five Chevron Texaco pipeline stations, as protests against the oil giant spread in southeastern Nigeria on July 17, 2002. The 10-day takeover trapped 700 US, Canadian, British and Nigerian oil workers inside the terminal.

Although the Boston Globe, The Washington Post, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and other world media outlets published/covered the news about this event between July and August, 2002, none of them mentioned how the planning for this boycott/riots were conceived by the Nigerian women and none acknowledged at least its leadership and planners. In a Christian Science Monitor article dated August 12, 2002 p07. The article stated:

"The Escravos women, who ranged in age between 30 to 90, used a potent tactic: they threatened to take their clothes off Public nudity would have embarrassed the expatriates among the terminal's more than 1,000 workers and caused a deeper sense of shame for many Nigerian employees. "By the time the women bare their chests and go around, people are really in trouble," says Bolanle Awe, one of the founders of the Women's Research and Documentation Center at Nigeria's University of Ibadan. "It's a curse on whoever the ruler is." The tactics and determination of the Escravos women helped persuade Chevron to send senior executives to negotiate concessions. The company agreed to employ more local people, invest in electricity supply and other infrastructure projects, and assist the villagers in setting up poultry and fish farms to supply the terminal's cafeteria. The social gains apparently secured by the Escravos women contrast with the frequent violent and fruitless clashes that have taken place between young men and the police and army."

We hope to publish findings, conduct interviews with the women involved in these events, acknowledge them and document their planning prior to any of these events, and what made them successful. Crediting their struggle and boycott is important in this age of wars, globalization and men's monopoly. We are also looking for;

* Independent writers/journalists (men and preferably women) who have written about any of the three above mentioned incidents.

* Publishing Companies to publish the details of these incidents.

* Funding and/or cosponsoring.

To rely on media outlets anywhere in the world, being owned and controlled by men, is doing no justice to the recording of women's actions and achievements! It is time women and women organizations document women's heroism and enlist it in HERstory pages.

“Woman is creation in action, in process, in constant flow.
Woman is not created, but a subject of immense creative power.
If you are a woman, live up to your uniqueness, your individuality,
and stand alone against all mankind's past desire to make you into an object.
If you are a man, discover the feminine state of consciousness,
the constant becoming, and balance your goal-oriented ways with more receptivity. In front of God, we are all women and lovers: open,
like flowers, waiting to be impregnated by the divine.”

—Mathnawi quoting Jalaluddine Rumi on women

[Jalaluddine Rumi was born in 1207 EC in Balkh, Afghanistan,
to an Arab father, Mohammed bin al-Hussein al-Khatibi, and a Persian mother]

© Copyright INEAS, 2003
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