Advances in building the foundations of popular feminism and an outspoken rejection of the commodification of women’s bodies and every kind of violence mark the most outstanding aspects of the Ninth International Encounter of the World March of Women (WMW), a movement that brings together grass-roots organizations from five continents.
More than 1600 women from some fifty countries — including a strong contingent of young women — came together in São Paulo, Brazil, from the 25th to the 31st of August, affirmed their dedication to "resistance, opposition and the formation of alternatives to the patriarchal, capitalist, racist, lesbophobic and colonial model" according to the final document (http://alainet.org/active/
Among the priorities at this stage in the formation of the movement, the March noted the need to deepen political education. Hence the first two days of the Meeting were dedicated to training sessions on feminist politics.
Mafalda Galdames, coordinator of the March in Chile, related that in these two days "we have discussed what sort of feminism we are talking about in today's world and we have seen, through different positions, that we are engaged in building a new feminism, in diversity, in plurality, and a popular feminism, which has moved on from previous denominations such as ‘institutional feminism’ or ‘autonomous feminism’ or other names that have been imposed in the past."
For the Guatemalan Sandra Morán, the idea is "to continue building a popular feminism which is the expression of women of diverse popular sectors, who are taking on feminism as a pledge and a proposal that will help them to change their lives and to make their presence felt in other movements in which they take part, because many of the women involved in the March do not necessarily engage in the women’s and feminist movements, but in other sectors: trade unions, campesino, indigenous or landless movements that tend to be mixed groups." Thus popular feminism will be a synthesis or alliance of different feminist currents: leftist, lesbian, communitarian, revolutionary campesino, indigenous women’s feminism…
Morán added that "for women it is important to know where we come from in order to build on that. The affirmation that 'without feminism there can be no socialism' has to be made concrete; we must act so that the alternatives that we are building, whether we call them socialism, or we call them living well (buen vivir) or Sumak Kawsay, or some other name, can recognize and integrate feminist proposals and the contribution that women have given to these alternatives."
Towards the Fourth International Action
The Ninth Encounter was also a chance to re-launch the political platform of the WMW, to bring new energies and to promote solidarity, as well as to move forward in the planning of the Fourth International Action, to take place in 2015. The Chilean-Quebecois Emilia Castro — who together with Sandra Morán, was reelected to represent the Americas in the international council of the WMW–believes that the Encounter allowed a much clearer affirmation of political orientation and the need for constant political education. And she also noted that "another step that was taken was to create a space within the encounter to enable us to understand the discrimination suffered by lesbian women, in order to express real solidarity with them, and this in a political sense. This was a step forward, the fact that these women could speak out, that we could share in their witness of the conditions under which they live in different countries", said Castro.
The Encounter also resolved the transfer, as of next January, of the international secretariat of the March from Brazil to Mozambique. Emilia Castro believes that this country has a strong women’s movement, that will infuse new life into the movement.
The future Mozambican coordinator, Graça Samo, in summing up the achievements of the Encounter, indicated that it allowed the WMW to debate the need to be a movement that unites voices to build solidarity with those women who are unable to travel to such encounters. “The WMW is the possibility for women to come together and reflect on these challenges and build alternatives and solidarity, where we can go and meet the other women, those who cannot really fight their fight, those who are in countries where the military is taking control of everything, and give them the hope that it is possible to overcome the challenges if we fight together, if we can resist and build the alternatives that can make our world a better world to live in.” In fact, solidarity has been a central factor in the March, whose concern, on this occasion, was directed especially to the peoples of Syria, Palestine and the Congo.
Among the actions brought forward by the March in the five continents, are the struggle for peace and against militarism, the struggle against forced prostitution, rape and trafficking in persons that–especially in Asia—tend to multiply around the increasing numerous foreign military bases. The Women’s March also struggles against all forms of violence against women, poverty, exploitation and precarious and insecure conditions in the workplace. Because of this the WMW International Action of 2015 will concentrate mobilizations around April 24, the date on which, during the present year, more than a thousand workers—mainly women—died in the collapse of a factory in Bangladesh.
"To build a feminist economy marked by solidarity involves changing the models of reproduction, production, distribution and consumption, in addition to recognizing the value of domestic work and family care as fundamental for the sustainability of human life. The capitalist and patriarchal state is organized under an androcentric logic that enforces the sexual division of labour and various forms of control over the bodies and sexuality of women. The hegemonic model of development works in favour of big business, expropriating the rights of workers of both sexes, violating the rights of women and making militarization one of its supporting pillars", so reads the final document of the Encounter.
One thing that has characterized the March from its beginnings has been the alliances with other social movements, based on common causes. The March is defined as anti-capitalist, anti-colonialist, anti-patriarchal and anti-racist. This definition forms the basis of common action with other movements. Emilia Castro explains that "we want to change the world and we know that we cannot do this alone." In addition, she notes, these alliances have made it possible to establish an anti-patriarchal posture in mixed movements. "There is a very interesting current involved, since we, within various social movements, bring our feminist postures to transform the mentality of some companions, mainly men", even if "at times some have trouble in analyzing the system as patriarchal, but in this we are working and making progress." Castro stressed the example of Vía Campesina, where there is now a woman in the post of general coordinator, and where campesino women are organizing on a basis of feminism. "I think we all learn from others at an organizational level. Now we are working seriously with respect to nature," she added.
While international delegates debated the orientations to be taken by the Women’s March, there was also a large encounter, principally of Brazilian women, with debates, cultural actions and a celebration of the feminist and solidarity economy. On the 31st of August, the Encounter closed with a festive march through the streets of São Paulo.
For Brazilian women, who denounced the displacement of the poor from the cities with the pretext of the upcoming World Cup and then the Olympic Games, a coming challenge will be to organize a campaign against sexual tourism and the commodification of women’s bodies on the occasion of these mega events.
Sally Burch is a journalist at ALAI.
(Translated for ALAI by Jordan Bishop)