Women Rising Radio Program XVI: Civil Disobedience

MEDEA BENJAMIN: After earning two masters degrees, in public health and in economics, Medea Benjamin set out to discover how the world really worked. “When I was in Guatemala, working with poor women, I was sitting by a lake one day and a truck drove up and dumped a load of bananas into the lake. Kids dove into the lake trying to save the bananas before they sank to the bottom…and I wondered why in the world anybody would dump bananas into a lake when kids were starving there!!” Medea found out that it was about price fixing by United Fruit company, a US outfit. Never mind kids’ hunger…So Medea joined forces with her husband and fellow activist Kevin Danaher and other activists, to create Global Exchange, an innovative effort to change the prevailing economic models and motives, and to get ordinary people involved in the crucial issues through experience of other cultures. She and Global Exchange have worked to establish fair trade standards and labels worldwide. She ran for the US Senate from California as a Green party candidate. Then she co-created Code Pink, a group steeped in the American tradition of street theatre, political satire, and civil disobedience, to counter the increasingly authoritarian and violent Bush regime. Medea and Code Pink have travelled worldwide to support democratic liveration movements.

SAW MYAT MAR: Burma, now also called Myanmar, was an open society in Southeast Asia until a military junta took over in 1960. A democratic protest movement arose there, headed by leaders of the civil society and university students. One of those students was Saw Myat Mar. Her father was a military official connected to the junta, so it took great courage for her to stand in opposition to Burma’s military government. But she did just that, joining demonstrations and sit-ins. She married and had children, but when she witnessed first-hand the brutal violence of the military regime against doctors and nurses at a hospital in Rangoon, she and her husband joined Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy. Saw Myat Mar became one of Suu Kyi’s close helpers, working to organize mass student protests. She was arrested and sentenced to three years’ hard labor…which broke her health. She and her husband then escaped to the United States, but she continues to work with groups like the Burmese American Democratic Alliance, to pressure Burma for the democratic and human rights of Aung San Suu Kyi and the Burmese people.