In America, we don't have many companies that fund peace activities. Most American companies seem to be more interested in making money off war.
In contrast, I am on a three week speaking tour in Japan sponsored partially by Leila, a peace, social and environmentally-conscious women's cosmetic company. Wishing to make a major contribution to women's peace initiatives, in 2000, Leila established the Women's Peace Fund to be used to invite women peace activists to the annual World Conference against Atomic & Hydrogen Bombs held in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the yearly Japan Mothers' Congress, where 10,000 women meet from all over Japan. Leila donates one yen (one cent) for each cosmetic product sold to the fund (www.leila.co.jp).
In 2008, the fund also sponsored international women activists to attend the Worldwide Conference on Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution-Renunciation of War, which was undermined by the Bush administration's pressure (and continued by the Obama administration) for Japan's participation in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in violation of Japan's constitution. I was honored to be an international speaker at the 2008 conference on the importance of Article 9 to Japan and to the world.
The New Japan Women's Association (NJWA) or Shinfujin administers the funding provided by Leila and invites international guests to speak at these events. Over the past ten years, women from the Philippines, South Korea, Canada, China, Kazakhstan and the United States, as well as women representing international organizations have been invited to speak on issues of peace, anti-militarization of Asia and the Pacific and nuclear disarmament. From the United States, members of the 9-11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, Military Families Speak Out, Gold Star Families Speak Out, United for Peace and Justice, the Women's International League for Peace, CODEPINK: Women for Peace, Veterans for Peace and Abolition 2000 have spoken in Japan under the auspices of the Women's Peace Fund.
NJWA has five goals: peace and democracy, women's rights, gender equality, better living conditions, and children's welfare. With 200,000 members and a readership of 300,000 of its newspaper, NJWA is the largest individual-membership based women's organization in Japan.
For 43 years, NJWA, since the association's founding in 1962, has committed itself to peace. In the late 1990s, of 60 million signatures collected in Japan in support of the Appeal to Abolish Nuclear Weapons from Hiroshima and Nagasaki, NJWA collected 10 million signatures in Japan. In 2000, the signatures were submitted to the United Nations. NJWA was granted the special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council in 2005, and has presented reports and statements or sent representatives to numerous UN conferences.
AHAVA Funding Israeli Mining of Resources in the Occupied Territories of Palestine
The social and corporate responsibility shown by the Japanese cosmetic company Leila in establishing and funding the Japanese Women's Peace Fund stands in sharp contrast to another cosmetics company called AHAVA.
AHAVA Dead Sea Laboratories (www.ahava.co.il) is a privately held Israeli cosmetics company that manufactures products using minerals and mud from the Dead Sea. Labeled as 'Made in Israel,' Ahava's products--such as Grape & Avocado Body Wash, Dead Sea Mineral Mud, and Mineral Foot Cream--are widely available in high-end department stores and pharmacies throughout the United States and in Europe.
The Hebrew word "Ahava" means love, but there is nothing loving about what the company is doing in the Occupied Palestinian territory of the West Bank. Ahava uses in its products mud from the Dead Sea, excavated in an occupied area, and thus it exploits occupied natural resources for profit, which is a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. More information about AHAVA can be found on the website "Who Profits", a project of the Israeli Coalition of Women for Peace.
In July 2005 a broad range of Palestinian Civil Society organizations issued a call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel as part of a non-violent campaign to end the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. Individual consumers can show their opposition to Israel's occupation by participating in a boycott of Israeli goods and services.
In response to the call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israeli institutions and corporations that give tacit or material support to the Israeli government's continued violations of international human rights law,
CODEPINK Women for Peace began a campaign called "Stolen Beauty" that targets Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories.
CODEPINK launched the "Stolen Beauty" campaign in the summer of 2009, after leading four delegations to Gaza, Israel and the Occupied Territories where they saw the terrible impact of occupation. The campaign has educated potential customers in AHAVE stores and has forced Kristin Davis, "Sex and the City" TV star and spokesperson for the humanitarian and relief organization OXFAM, to stop her work for OXFAM until she ends her contract as a spokesperson for AHAVA.
For women who use cosmetic products, these two corporations provide a sharp reminder that we as citizens have a choice between supporting corporations that make products for war and occupation, or products for peace.
As a community, we must convince companies that peace can be more profitable than war!!
Ann Wright is a 29 year US Army/Army Reserves veteran who retired as a Colonel and a former US diplomat who resigned in March, 2003 in opposition to the war on Iraq. She served in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia and Mongolia. In December, 2001 she was on the small team that reopened the US Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. She has co-led 4 trips to Gaza and the Occupied Territories in 2009. She is the co-author of the book "Dissent: Voices of Conscience."