Adrienne van Melle-Hermans has been tirelessly battling the polarization of her native country for many years. She fights racism, fosters cooperation between religions, and spreads understanding between women of many cultures at many different levels. She has represented Women for Peace at conferences, workshops, and across all media. Adrienne also works extensively at grassroots level, setting up meetings and discussions in homes and community centers, reaching out to those women herself. Although illness curtails some of her activities, her fight goes on.
Adrienne van Melle-Hermans is not sure whether what she does is measurable. She thinks her mission – to raise women’s consciousness and change the way that people think – cannot be counted in terms of facts, figures, or statistics. The fruits of her labor are sometimes very, very real. She recalls the time when she, along with the Women for Peace group she helped to set up, was campaigning to set up the institution which eventually became the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague. The women began a petition and placed an advertisement in the national Dutch newspaper "De Volkskrant." It attracted thousands of signatures, and many, many contributions of money from people throughout the Netherlands. The women took the petition and their plea for a tribunal to the Netherlands parliament building to present it to the Minister of Foreign Affairs. The women told stories of atrocities suffered during the conflict in the Balkans: terrible tales of rape camps and mass killings. Their stories affected this otherwise rather cynical politician so much, that he broke down. “He was there and I was next to him and he started to cry,” recalls Adrienne. In fact, Adrienne remembers being astonished at just how generous her fellow country people had been. She says that there was so much money left after the appeal that, in 1994, the group was able to set up a therapy center to help ease the trauma of women and children who had been victims of the Balkan conflict. That therapy center is still running, and is still receiving money from the Dutch government, several hundred euros a month. And if that is not a concrete, measurable result, then what is?
Vrouwen voor Vrede (Women for Peace)