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CODEPINK co-founder Jodie Evans on women in activism

North America's leading female activist says women are "first responders" when it comes to standing up for peace and justice.

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“So yes, jumping the gun is what I continue to do. I think it’s what activism is. It’s like being the canary in the coal mine.”

Sometimes, “jumping the gun” to stand up for one’s beliefs takes a lot of courage—particularly when it involves public confrontations like the ones CODEPINK is known for. Sharing an example, Evans recalls trembling as she and Benjamin prepared for a planned disruption during Sarah Palin’s speech at the 2008 Republican Convention.

In spite of the nerves, the two women pulled out their banner and shouted until they were dragged out by security. Though that particular event didn’t result in charges, Evans says she’s been arrested over 70 times (a number she says is normal for a career activist). With that much experience under her belt, she doesn’t let the fear get to her.

“When you’re doing it, it would take courage not to do what you’re doing, because you know what would happen without it,” she explained.

Women pay the price

One of the reasons Evans and her friends started CODEPINK was to encourage more women to get involved in activism. In addition to their high-profile political actions, the group takes pains to help foster a new generation of female demonstrators and agents of change.

“CODEPINK is an activist school itself. The women across the world and across the country that do CODEPINK actions weekly and daily in their communities learn how to do that by doing,” Evans explained.

She and the other staff do their best to make time for small-scale community protests in various places they visit, and for three years CODEPINK even had a house in Washington D.C. where women could learn and take part in daily actions.

Evans explains why she feels it’s so important for an organization like theirs to exist, and to keep empowering women to create positive change.

“It’s not that women are better,” said Evans.

“It’s that men have been [the ones] who take us to war. We felt it was going to be the women’s voices that could end the war.”

And while women at home in North America are taking on the challenge, it’s equally important to consider women in other places—many of whom are victims of war.

“Women and children are who pay the price of war. And in Afghanistan, they were even using women as the reason we were going to war, but not doing anything for them. We know from experience that through rape, violence, poverty, PTSD…that war is on the bodies and backs of women,” Evans said.

Despite Obama’s recent suggestion that the U.S. should transition out of the war in Afghanistan, CODEPINK’s work is far from over. In addition to pushing for peace, the network has also joined forces with other ongoing movements like Occupy Wall Street, creating a female-focused offshoot called Women Occupy.

This Thursday for International Women’s Day, CODEPINK and Women Occupy supporters across America are engaging in a “Bust Up Bank of America” protest against economic injustices. CODEPINK is also part of an intensive “spring training” session for up to 10,000 people in the Occupy movement, happening in March and April.

Apart from these types of events, Evans said the organization doesn’t tend to plan too far ahead. Instead, they keep a close watch on Washington, and are ready to spring into action whenever the need arises.

“We call ourselves first responders,” Evans explained.

“We’re there, like women and like mothers who see the danger before it hits. And I think it’s so important…it’s not allowing these things to happen in the first place that women understand. Because they see the consequences, they know the consequences and we’ve experienced them in so many ways. That’s what we understand as women, and that’s what we understand as CODEPINK.”

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