Margarita Papandreou, former First Lady of Greece, has long been active in international women's and peace issues. She currently serves on the Board of the Center for Research and Action on Peace, a Greek women's peace organization and is co-ordinator of the network WINPEACE, a Greek-Turkish Women's Peace Initiative.
Ms. Papandreou helped found the Women's Union of Greece, a nationwide, independent feminist organization, in 1976. She served as President from 1981-1989. She was influential for pressing for numerous reforms enhancing the legal and social status of women in Greek society. Reforms include legalizing abortion, abolishing the dowry system, introducing civil marriage, mandating equal pay for women, enabling women to keep their own name after marriage and acquire equal rights over the children in case of divorce, getting pensions for farm women.
All through her work as president she kept the organization focussed and active on issues of peace, declaring this the highest cause women can work for. She brought many of the founders of the Women's Union to participate in the Cyprus women's marches in its sturggle for liberation from the Turkish occupation. That, and other anti-occupation actions were always a chief concern throughout her tenure as president of this organization.
An International assembly was held in Athens in 1986 to establish the network Women for Mutual Security and to set the strategy and foundation of the network. She became the global coordinator for that network. As a result, meetings were organized with decision makers on nuclear arms and defence policies. Along with the Belgian organization "Women for Peace" and the "Oxford Research Group", a meeting was held in Brussels between women from NATO countries and the permanent representatives, and the Secretary General Lord Carrington; a meeting was held in Sofia, Bulgaria between women from NATO and Warsaw Treaty Foreign Ministers, including Soviet Minister Shevardnadze; a similar meeting was arranged between women from Warsaw Pact countries and the NATO Foreign Ministers at the Headquarters in Brussels (a "first" as Eastern European and Soviet women peace activists walked through the security check!).
A Women's summit has held on the "Aegean Peace Boat" between Soviet and American women, as well as representatives from Third World and other countries, to develop a blueprint for the decisions WMS believed should be made at the Moscow Summit meeting Gorbachev and Reagan.This blueprint was presented to the American and Soviet delegations on June 1, 1998.
In 1991, Ms. Papandreou with WMS organized a group of women representing international organizations in all parts of the world, and took them to Baghdad (January 7-11) to work out a peace plan with the Federation of Iraqi Women in an attempt to avert war. A second Women's International Gulf Peace Initiative (May 16-24, 1991) brought a team of five women to Iraq after the war to study the effects of the war and to mobilize humanitarian aid.
A Greek women's peace organization was founded in 1986 of which Ms. Papandreou became president called Center for Research and Action on Peace (KEDE). During the year 1997 after a near clash between Greece and Turkey, she began contact with Turkish women's organisations that culminated in a meeting of Turkish and Greek women on the island of Kos and in the town of Bodrum in Turkey. After four days of discussion, the groups set up a network called WINPEACE (Turkish-Greek) Women's Initiative for Peace, which works on joint projects as part of a program of confidence-building measures. The women meet twice a year to set up joint projects such as youth camps in conflict resolution, translation of women's books into the other language, agro-tourism ventures. The 2002 summer youth camp included teen-agers from both sides of the divided island of Cyprus, along with students from Greece and Turkey.A conflict resolution seminar with professional trainers took place in May 1999 to discuss areas of conflict between their two countries. (See article by Margarita Papandreou, "WINPEACE - Vision and Action").
Throughout the past 12 years, Ms. Papandreou has been active in the movement to remove sanctions inflicted on the Iraqi people. In November of 2000, under the auspices of KEDE, she organized to break the sanctions barrier by bringing in the first Western Airlines airplane to Baghdad since the Persian Gulf War. One hundred peace activists took part from many Western countries, including the United States, as a symbol of protest against this abolition of all human rights of the Iraqi people. It was also meant to return the spotlight on the unprecedented suffering, and the thousands of people dying from these UN inaugurated measures.
More recently, in January 2003, she again went to Iraq with a group of peace activists with the goal of ascertaining whether a peace proposal or specific actions of the civil society anti-war movement could make a difference. This was an attempt to resolve a conflict through other means than a brutal war.
Margarita Papandreou became a TFF Advisor in 2003.
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