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in her own words





Dear friends,
I read the letter of our Yvonne Deutsch
and i had many associations on feminist politcs against serbian fascist regime...
I decided to send you the 2 pages of ethical priciples that Stasa Zajovic and I wrrote for the Ten years of Belgrade Women in Black, which was a conference in 2001 that some of you were there.
My story of choosing disobedience and a role of a traitor started with reading the essey of Adrienne Rich DiSLOYAL TO CIVILISATiON - feminism, racisim and gynophobia.   In the essey from seventies she tries to show how patriarchal system makes enemies - White women from Black women, White lesbians from Black lesbians... and so on. Therefore, if we are to hear each other, to support each other and stay different, we need to be disloyal to civilisaiton.  In fact in that very moment when the Arab and  Israely feminists shout out  WE ARE FRIENDS, WE CAN LIVE TOGETHER - in the wartime - this is an act of being disloyal.
We can continue discussion the next time...
with solidarity
lepa mladjenovic

Women in Black's ethical principles and peace policy
by Lepa Mladjenovic & Stasa Zajova

We, Women in Black from Belgrade started on the streets of a  state whose regime set the war machinery in motion trying to persuade their people that “Serbia was not at war” and that “Serbia is the biggest victim which gives her the historic right to shoot first in defence”.  The majority of people in this country was formed by the state media to live convinced that war was far away from home and has nothing to do with them.   

We WOMEN IN  BLACK were embittered, and as feminists we knew that our bitterness, despair and feelings of guilt had to be transformed into public political resistance. We did not want our deep political outrage against the generators of war to remain a mere moral revolt.  

On October 9th 1991, we walked to the stteets and founded Women in Black following women’s anti war hostiry from Israel, Italy and Spain.

We wished to transform our rage, despair and feelings of helplessness and guilt into peace politics. We learned about life and politics through living our experience of suffering and fear. We also learned from the support we gave to one another and from exchanges with the Other and the Different.  

By exposing ourselves, our bodies and our messages on Belgrade’s main square, we established ethical principles of our feminist peace policy:

  • DO NOT SPEAK IN OUR NAME, WE SPEAK FOR OURSELVES – which meant: assuming responsibility, PUBLICLY denouncing those who spoke in our name, who manufactured hate, ordered deaths and home destructions and   commited crimes in our names. 
  • WE WILL NOT BE CHEATED BY OUR OWN PEOPLE – started from the plitical beleif of feminists DESOBEDIENT TO CIVILISATION, as Adrianne Rich said long ago.  We also add WE WILL NOT BE CHEATED BY OTHERS, EITHER. This became a principle of noncompliance, first of all with the militant and nationalist features of the country we lived in, and also with all the others. “Because, no matter what side they belong to, whether they are the guardians of their homes or the aggressors, all soldiers bring destruction” (Neda Bozinovic, 1993). 
  • ACCEPTING THE ROLE OF TRAITORS – of women disloyal to the state and nation, convinced that being a traitor is the right attitude at times when, “in the name of higher goals” it is desirable to kill, terrorize, destroy… Loyalty to state and nation in those political times means accepting the patriarchal principle of separation and hatred among women.
  • BUILDING TRUST with women of other nations, above all with those who rebelled against war and against "one's own side".
  • BEING AN ANTI-PATRIOT – because patriotism means not only exclusion of ‘our traitors’ read feminists, anti war activists, lesbians, anarchists ...etc, but also eliminating Others.
  • ACCEPTING THE LABEL OF SOCIAL SHAME, MORAL CONDEMNATION AND SANCTIONS – because, in the eyes of a sizeable proportion of people in this country, we are still what we used to be, “a disgrace to the Serbian people”, meaning that we refused to collaborate with the regime.
  • TRANSFORMING FEELINGS OF GUILT INTO ASSUMING RESPONSIBILITY – responsibility for the pain and suffering the Serbian regime inflicted upon others.
  • SUPPORTING DESERTERS AND CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTORS – they are our allies in the changing of patriarchal mentality.
  • ENCOURAGING CITIZENS TO ACCEPT RESPONSIBILITY – responsibility means overcoming the role of victim and accomplice of the regime that was waging war.

We transformed ethical principles into concrete acts of disloyalty towards the state and nation. That was peace policy at work. How did we do that?

  • BY OVERCOMING ETHNIC WALLS AND BARRIERS, symbolically and literally, by travelling into the so-called enemy countries and rejecting all forms of homogenization, visiting difficult places
  • BY CONDEMNING ALL WARS, not justifying any form of militarism, including the militarist violence of the former victims,
  • BY DENYING ALLIANCES TO “OUR HEROES” AND MILITARISTS – which means deconstructing the meaning of “heroes” as killers and nationalist,
  • BY WIDENING WOMEN’’S SOLIDARITY - solidarity with our sisters of different names and denominations.  We agreed that solidarity with our sisters in the Balkans and elsewhere must not take the form of paternalism nor victimism, let alone touristic activism. It is a responsible act of an active  witness who cares.  Solidarity deriving from feelings of guilt is not our choice; this is part of women’s patriarchal history.  Responsible solidarity includes feminist ethics of care: caring for oneself and the Other equally.  Which entails work on changing attitudes towards others or, as Hagar Rublev said, “we need to work together in order to change the system”.
  • BY SUPPORTING ALL VICTIMS OF WAR – with no discrimination among them;
  • BY CONTINUOUSLY SEEKING THOSE RESPONSIBLE FOR WAR AND WAR CRIMES, first of all for those who committed crimes in our name, and then for all the others.
We transformed ethical principles into feminist and anti-militarist theory and practice by many activities, among them:
  • Introducing women’s resistance to war & militarism into alternative history.
  • Forming networks of women’s solidarity against war and militarism.
  • Creating an alternative women’s policy on the local, regional and global plan.
  • Developing a culture of peace through education in peace and non-violence, organizing workshops & seminars throughout the country.


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last updated: 21th of august 2006
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