We have sustained this Network for 18 years across wide geographical distances, differences of language and culture, and complex histories among our nations.
From the beginning we decided not to work only in English at international meetings as many women activists in the Asia-Pacific region who are doing cutting edge work are not fluent in English. Currently, the Network uses five languages: English, Japanese, Korean, Spanish and Tagalog. We have a number of dedicated interpreters/translators who see interpreting as vital political work [link to article on this]. They have compiled a dictionary of over 400 terms to allow for precise, consistent translation. But we are still learning how to work well with interpretation. This process can be slow and cumbersome. It requires time, patience and concentration as well as skilled interpreters. Despite our best intentions, English is still very dominant at our international gatherings.
Other practices of decolonizing solidarity involve sharing worldviews and building relationships among participants. When we gather, we discuss issues that our communities are facing, including the effects of colonialism and militarism on our lives. We visit military bases, war memorials and other military sites as places of pilgrimage, and as acts of memory-making that help us bring to the surface and grieve memories of colonialism and the traumas of militarism and war.
Building solidarity is very important to us. It is an ongoing challenge not to reproduce acts of discrimination in our process of resistance. Given the historical, political, and economic inequalities among women in the Network, it is important to explain the complexities of our diverse locations in the world, and to break through stereotypical assumptions. For example, knowledge of economic, political and social inequalities in the U.S. helps to explain military recruitment, and how military socialization and training spills over into communities across the Asia-Pacific region during wartime, preparations for war, and periods of “rest and recreation”.
Many Network women embody indigenous and postcolonial cultural and spiritual beliefs. We bring these to our gatherings through storytelling, art, poetry, and dance. Despite differences of language and culture, art helps us to express our intentions and commitment to solidarity. The courage to say what one feels among women of the Network creates opportunities for individuals and the wider group to shift our perspectives and to undo the systematic ways that colonialism and militarism have oppressed and distorted our communities.