The Bernard and Audre Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice

Nairobi Peace Tent

"[At the Peace Tent] the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the victims of the Pacific nuclear testing, the women of the Third World who are victims of poverty, militarism, revolution, and wars of intervention [a]ll spoke. ... [It] was clear that there will be poverty, starvation, and injustice as long as the world arms itself. Our resources are finite. The link between disarmament and development became clear."
-Sissy Farenthold, in her speech "Women's Search for Peace"

Two women play the drums at the
Nairobi Peace Tent in 1985.
Photographer unknown.

The United Nations designated 1975 through 1985 as the Decade for Women. As a part of the decade, the U.N. held three world conferences for women, in Mexico City in 1975, Copenhagen in 1980, and Nairobi in 1985. The three pillars of the conferences were peace, development, and equality. The conferences were attended by governmental representatives, and NGO (non-governmental organizations) Forums were also held at each conference (Jain, 2005).

To address the pillar of peace, Sissy Farenthold and Genevieve Vaughan, along with other feminist activists, organized the Peace Tent. The tent was affiliated with the NGO Forum, not the official U.N. conference.

Their vision was to create a place at the conference where women could freely discuss conflict, providing an alternative to violence. The official Peace Tent staement said,

“The Peace Tent is the international feminist alternative to men’s conflict and war. It is the place where finding peaceful solutions to conflict, both in personal lives and in the public arena, is the priority. The opportunity is for every woman’s voice to be heard.”

As Farenthold explained in her speech, women from around the world spoke of their experiences with war and violence. Some from warring countries engaged in heated debates, but the organizers kept the Peace Tent truly peaceful through creative tactics like singing and poetry readings (F. Farenthold and G. Vaughan, personal communication, July 28, 2011).






Two women talking at the
Peace Tent. One is holding
a nuclear protest sign.
Photographer unknown.

The following are documents that Farenthold and Vaughan created in the process of organizing and implementing the Peace Tent. They include correspondence before and after the event and notes from Nairobi:

Letter on Early Peace Tent Planning, January 1985
Letter Introducing "Let Women Lead," April 1985
"Let Women Lead," Statement, c. April 1985
"Nairobi Notes," from the Peace Tent Event, c. July 1985
"The Peace Tent: Its Origin, Its Impact, Its Future," Report, October 1985
Post-Peace Tent Letter, September 1985

More information on these documents


Sissy Farenthold and Genevieve Vaughan discuss their work on the Peace Tent in a July 2011 interview with the Rapoport Center:

View the transcript.

If you would like to know more about 1985 U.N. Women's Conference and the Peace Tent, please see our selected reading list.