World Women’s Movement: “a way of building alternatives”

In the context of the Fourth International Action of the World Women’s Movement a debate meeting was held between the members of the South Cone. A place for analysis of the international context, with the goal of encouraging reflection on the challenges that popular feminism faces and the strategies that the Movement can adopt.

During the days of August 22, 23 and 24, the Southern Cone subregional meeting of the World Women’s Movement (Spanish:Marcha Mundial de las Mujeres, MMM) with the participation of militants from Paraguay, Brazil, Colombia, Turkey, Chile, Uruguay and Argentina, in the Eva Perón Amphitheater of the union ATE National –State workers Association-.

The Movement begun in 1995, in a context where neoliberalism was strongly hegemonic and imposed a single line of thought that proposed individualist ways to emerge from the crisis. Opposing this logic, social and women’s movements proposed alternatives of collective construction and a state of permanent mobilization. It was so that, after a demonstration made in Canada by more than a thousand women that traveled 200 kilometers in a struggle for their basic rights, emerged the need of sharing and replicating this experience in a women’s movement.

There, women organized in the United Central of Workers (Central única de Trabajadoras y Trabajadores – CUT) of Brazil became aware of this initiative and, together with other organizations, they participated in the first meeting in 1998, in Quebec, Canada. In this context they elaborated the platform of the Movement, which comprises 17 demands that include the end to poverty and of violence against women. Since the year 2000, international actions are being carried out, which commence every March, 8th —Day of the Working Women— and finish every October, 17th —International Day Against Poverty—. In this way, they make visible the explicit relation between Capitalism and Patriarchy.

This March 8th begun with the Fourth International Action, with the goal of strengthening the regional areas of the MMM in face of the need to unify the struggle for the women’s territories: their own bodies as well as the lands in which their life, work, community and struggle are carried out. The Southern Cone subregional encounter was a place for reflecting and making balances upon the current situation. Organized in panels, talks and workshops,  different experiences were shared, and the meeting ended with a demonstration outside the headquarters of the transnational company Monsanto, which is a clear example of the transnational violence imposed by the capitalist and patriarchal system on the bodies and the territories.

After welcoming the internationalist comrades that were present, the meeting started by pointing out the “current continental challenges”, which were a core topic in the formative debate. There, at the beginning, Nalu Farías, regional coordinator of the MMM from Brazil, recognized the complexity that feminism faces in the current juncture, since “this is a moment that demands a lot from us, because we are perhaps the movement with the harshest critics against the hegemonic domination system”.

Farías expressed that, although nowadays feminism has regained a relevant place in political debates —which she considers a positive situation of recomposition of feminism—, paradoxically, there is also the risk of settling upon a “legitimated and watered-down version of feminism catered to the market”, far from the organized and politicized feminism that the Movement proposes. Instead, the market regurgitates a feminism disembodied from its political roots, from the class struggle, it is an individualist feminism, tinted with postmodern and queer ideology. What the Movement strives for is feminism as a collective struggle, as organization from below, from the bases. The spokeswoman said that the goal is to “build a common political project from the articulation with other political forces but integrating the feminist perspective”.

Claudia Korol, popular educator from the group Scarves in Rebellion (Spanish: Pañuelos en Rebeldía) described the meeting as a positive event for unity and a key to the construction of the “identity of what we call popular feminism”. She emphasized the importance of having opened the event with a hommage to the 12 comrades, especially the 4 women, that were executed by the military in the city Trelew, during the de facto government of Lanusse in Argentina between 1971 and 1973. Because, she said, “our memory is a piece in this political construction”, because there is continuity in the different revolutionary struggles. She expressed that “walking and marching on with the subversive memories of our whole continent and search for the same unity that existed” is similar to the kind feminism “that we try to embody”, because “each body that is imprisoned is a defeat for us all, as well as each victory in freedom is a victory for all of us”.

To conclude, the militant said that, in these days, “we have to think about a unified anti-capitalist, anti-patriarchal and anti-colonialist horizon, disarming the violence that support these systems”.

After the opening act, six simultaneous workshops were held, where the common challenges of popular feminism across the continent continued to be shared, but this time from the experience of each of the women present in the meeting. The topics were:

  • “Sovereignty over our territories and common goods: the struggle against mega-mining, fracking, hydrocarbon exploitations, mega-dams and shortages in power supply”
  • “The right to decide over our bodies and sexualities”, with the presence of members of the National Campaign for Legal, Safe and Cost-Free abortion, among others.
  • “Forms of violence against women: trafficking, sexual exploitation, femicide”, a struggle that had a very visible side a few months ago when a massive demonstration took place all across Argentina with the slogan “Ni Una Menos” (Not One Woman Less), in response to the many crimes against women committed in the country, of which the most vulnerable are trans women.
  • “Militarization, criminalization and judicialization in the face of the advance of extractivism and the hegemonic model in the region”, which was nourished by the participation of the comrades of the People’s Congress of Colombia and by Relmu Ñamku, Mapuche activist persecuted by the justice for defending her lands against an oil company. She called for solidarity with each comrade, and to understand that there is a dual nature of struggles: there is a the common, shared criticism towards the model which unifies them all, but at the same time each struggle is singular and has its needs, therefore it is essential to accompany those who carry the struggle forward with their own bodies, in every possible way.
  • “Women and work. Gender division of work, reproductive work, formal work and precarious work. The economy of care”, where the topics included the role of working women and the tension this generates between social organizations, unions and daily life.

The following day, the conclusions elaborated at the workshops were collectively shared and the exposition of singular experiences, initiatives and struggles continued, around the core topic of confronting the mercantilization of life. There was participation of the members of the National Campaign Against Violence Towards Women and members of the Women’s House of the Dignity Popular Movement (Movimiento Popular La Dignidad), Network of Abortion Assistants (Socorristas en Red), Neighborhoods on their Feet (Barrios de Pie) and the Union of Workers of Argentina (CTA).

Sunday ended with a plenary in which all of the statements of solidarity with criminalized comrades were read, and then a general debate was held about the discussions that had taken place over the weekend.

At the closing of the event, Nalú Farías, spokeswoman of the MMM, said to the media that the event was “very positive because we accomplished the goals we had set beforehand, which were, on one hand, to define the actions for the subregion, and on the other, to call and coordinate Argentinian woman”. She also celebrated the demonstration against Monsanto because “it states our position as a Movement and our struggle. This symbolic action was chosen to express our rejection towards transnational companies and the model that they represent”, and said “our people do not need Monsanto, they need food sovereignty”.

This news story originally appeared on The Dawn  on August 26, 2015 and was written by Camila Parodi. The original source of the story is: Marcha.org 

Have you heard of the African Growth and Opportunities Act?

Probably not, because it’s gone under the mainstream radar. It’s not #TTIP or #TTP but in my opinion the African Growth and Opportunities Act is more important – because we’re talking about what looks like the subjugation and continued exploitation of an entire continent.

Later this month, US officials will meet in Gabon for a summit to discuss the US-Africa agreement (AGOA) which has recently been renewed for 10 years by the U.S. Congress.

The act, which was originally signed in 2000 claims to provide 39 sub-Saharan African nations with liberal access to the U.S. market.

But, and here’s the crucial point of my post. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield states that the agreement also allows the U.S. to export many of its intangible values — among them, an open-market system and an emphasis on development, democratisation and women’s empowerment.

I think this looks like a damaging neoliberal, unfair agreement that will continue to disempower and exploit the African continent and set up unequal trade and power relations that ONLY promote, further and benefit US interests to the detriment of African countries.

The comments from US officials imply that the emphasis on respecting human rights, press freedoms and rights of works will be of ‘significant benefit’ to African partners, but fail to mention the significant manipulation and damage the economic policies will do to to the continent and its people. To pretend that this self-interested, aggressive, immoral agreement is an act of altruism beggars belief.

I will be looking into this further, but really welcome your thoughts and comments on AGOA and anything you know about it too. They say we’re living in an era of post-colonialism, but ‘agreements’ like this just prove that it’s not true.  I’ll leave you to read the rest of the news story, originally posted here, and to make up your own mind. I’ll highlight in bold orange all of the bits (I could highlight the whole thing, but I won’t) which set off HUGE warning bells for me.

“We were delighted — I mean, absolutely delighted — with the recent 10-year reauthorisation of AGOA,” Thomas-Greenfield said during a briefing this week on the upcoming meeting. “The reauthorisation garnered bipartisan support here in the United States, and that’s a clear indication of promoting prosperity, opening markets, and inclusive development and stronger regional integration and good governance on the continent of Africa.”

Assistant U.S. Trade Representative Florie Liser claims that “The 10-year extension — the longest in the program’s history — will also provide more stability for all those involved.”

“Now that we are no longer worrying about AGOA expiring in the near term, the AGOA Forum will provide an opportunity for us to begin a more strategic conversation about the future of our trade and investment relationship with Africa,” she said.

Thomas-Greenfield added that AGOA also has a political element: “That has been an essential part of AGOA — encouraging countries to respect human rights, encouraging countries to respect press freedoms, and encouraging countries to generally respect the rights of workers. That has been a key part, a key component of AGOA’s success, and it’s something that our African partners, particularly the people, benefit significantly from.”

With that in mind, Liser said, the act holds a provision that allows nations’ status to be reviewed if they stray. That’s being considered right now, she said, in the central African nation of Burundi, which has been plunged into turmoil over the president’s decision to run for — and win — a third term, which is beyond his constitutional mandate.

“There is some discussion within the U.S. government of reviewing Burundi,” she said. “We have not reached the point of doing that review yet, but I think it will come sooner rather than later if the situation does not resolve itself very quickly.”

The act has also allowed African nations to move beyond just exporting raw materials, Liser said.

“What we’ve seen actually over the course of the last 15 years of AGOA is that the Africans have been able to triple the amount of non-oil exports that they have sent to the United States,” she said.

Last-minute lack of transparency weakens sustainable development goals

The US asked to replace the word “ensure” with the word “promote” in two targets (2.5 and 15.6, both about equitable benefits from natural resources) which, when applied would see rich nations – whose corporations and research institutions extract the vast majority of world’s natural biodiversity – share fairly the profits and patents reaped from those resources with the countries and communities from which they are extracted.”

This article appeared today in The Guardian about the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. It’s an important read.

“On Sunday 2 August, the 193 countries which make up the UN agreed to a document that will shape the next 15 years of international development policy and action.

Hailed “the people’s agenda” by UN secretary-general Ban-Ki moon, the sustainable development goals (SDGs), have taken some two years to negotiate. The SDGs in their final form will be agreed to by all governments at a special summit this September.

Yet, the final 48 hours leading up to this milestone moment were marked by closed-door deals and bad faith, I believe.

As a civil society advocate working on the SDGs, I have been witnessing the negotiations since March 2013. The negotiations had, until the evening of Friday 31 July, been a genuinely open and inclusive process. They were open to observers, included opportunities for civil society and the private sector to speak directly to the governments and were webcast on the UN’s own live TV channel.

But that weekend, as the 17 goals and 169 targets were being debated for the last time, observers were kept out and information was relayed by a small handful of specific negotiators to a small handful of civil society advocates such as myself.

After the negotiations stalled, the US delegation laid down an ultimatum, asking for changes to the language of the final outcome document, without which they refused to adopt the SDGs.

The US asked to replace the word “ensure” with the word “promote” in two targets (2.5 and 15.6, both about equitable benefits from natural resources) which, when applied would see rich nations – whose corporations and research institutions extract the vast majority of world’s natural biodiversity – share fairly the profits and patents reaped from those resources with the countries and communities from which they are extracted.”

Read the rest of the article here.

Photos: African cities are starting to look eerily like Chinese ones

It might not work straight out of the standard neoliberal playbook, but in my opinion China is engaging in a neocolonial war with the US and the traditional European relics…

“But China isn’t just providing the manpower to fuel quickly urbanizing African cities. It is exporting its own version of urbanization, creating cities and economic zones that look remarkably similar to Chinese ones.”

Video: Is Britain racist? #BESoM

Appearing on Frankie Boyle’s Election Autopsy 2015 back in May, rapper, poet and journalist Akala talks about Britain’s inherent xenophobia, touching on imperialism and colonialism and how that has bred and perpetuated racism and white-centricity in society today…

Akala starts speaking at 1.38…

“When we talk about race we often talk about individual acts of prejudice, which is why UKIP often come up because they overtly say stuff we find offensive. But unfortunately the issue of race if we understand it is a lot more insidious, and it takes a lot more of a historical view to understand the difference between individual bias and structural racism and privilege and the idea of Great Britain was intimately tied to the fact that Britain has invaded almost every country on the earth, literally. Literally there’s a map. You can Google it.  So the idea of our greatness was intimately tied to this idea of empire, which was intimately tied to what Rudyard Kipling calls ‘the white man’s burden’ – to go and  civilise all these stupid brown folks that have been writing and having civilisations for thousands of years but let’s forget about that.”

Let me know what you think – is Britain racist?

Julius Nyerere – “Mwalimu” (Teacher)

This is an interesting and informative account of the career of former Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere and his steering of Tanganyika towards independence in 1961. The post touches on the many economic challenges he faced, and the solution he presented in the form of a ‘unique blend of socialism and communal life” – the collectivisation of agriculture, vilification (Ujamaa – which I recommend you Google) and large-scale nationalisation. The vision set out in the Arusha Declaraion of 1967 sounds just beautiful to me, despite the flaws in its execution (more about this in the post below).

Nyerere was pan-Africanist, a socialist, and one of the first post-colonial African leaders to voluntarily concede power – he is widely respected for providing moral leadership to Tanzania, and Africa, in the aftermath of independence. He also led Tanzania to rely heavily on foreign aid and faced criticism on his domestic policies and human rights record. He was a controversial figure and worth reading more about!

“Capitalism means that the masses will work, and a few people — who may not labor at all — will benefit from that work. The few will sit down to a banquet, and the masses will eat whatever is left over.“

World Is Africa

Capitalism means that the masses will work, and a few people — who may not labor at all — will benefit from that work. The few will sit down to a banquet, and the masses will eat whatever is left over.

A man of ascetic and unostentatious personal habits, and instantly recognisable in his Mao tunic, Julius Nyerere was born at Butiama, on the eastern shore of Lake Victoria, into the small Zanaki tribe. He was 12 before he first went to school, but was immediately singled out for his sparkling intelligence by the Roman Catholic priests. After Makerere University, in Kampala, he taught for three years.

In 1949 he became the first Tanzanian to study at a British university, when he went to Edinburgh on a government scholarship. And it was there, under the influence of post-war Fabian socialists, that he developed his own political ideas of…

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Guest post: White supremacy, black liberation, and global development: The conversations we’re not having

This article from How Matters appeared in my inbox and on my Twitter feed recently so I knew I needed to read it. It’s a really interesting read and I’d like to know what you think…

Originally posted here and republished with kind permission from Jennifer Lentfer.

“Below all of the talk of “evidence-based approaches” and “taking interventions to scale,” there is an undercurrent of disquiet.

It happens when “local partners’ capacity” is maligned. It happens when two people have the same idea, but it is considered legitimate only when the white guy in the room offers it. It happens when people of color are passed over for leadership positions, jobs, promotions, or pay raises. It happens when different opinions would be helpful, but perspectives are not asked for, or are discounted. It happens when only 1% of humanitarian relief funds make their way to national organizations in Haiti, in West Africa to fight Ebola, and now in Nepal. It happens when people of color are assumed to have a lower job status than they do and are treated as such. It happens with every unclosed feedback loop and every feedback loop not yet opened. It happens when the stories and photos we use to describe our work reinforce harmful stereotypes. It happens when an approach is suddenly considered “new” or “relevant” only because now donors have “discovered” it.

People’s experiences of everyday, subtle racism, or racial microagressions – and the resulting anger, powerlessness, fear, humiliation, and sadness – are not just fleeting instances. They accumulate. And the resulting frustration can result in deep hopelessness in a sector that is supposed to be about equality, fairness, and lifting each other up. The very premise of our industry – that others should live as those in the “developed world” do – has to be acknowledged and exorcised.

If US-based development practitioners have learned anything from the discourse on race in our country over the last few tragic weeks (and centuries…), it’s time for some uncomfortable conversations. And if we can’t find the courage to have the conversation now, then when will it happen?

I hear plenty of conversations about risk, or rather mitigating it in our sector, over and over in fact. But we need to take the next step to talk about control and power. Who has it? Historically, how did they get it? Systemically, how do they use it? And as a result, who is not welcome at the table when decisions are made?

I’m uncomfortable talking about this. Going under the surface is scary. But unless we open up the conversation on racism, sexism, and privilege in the global development sector, we will continue to perpetuate the same, tired system and make the same mistakes – ones that right now we believe can be solved by best practices and improved indicators.

When we face uncertainty in the global development sector, we have two choices. We can design (make abstract) and manage (control), or we can inquire (make real) and listen (let go). When our sector focuses our language, our meetings, our reports only the first option, we assume “responsibility to only a certain extent,” as described to me by Semhar Araia.

We are too protected by the abstractions of our development lexicon. We can too easily claim our commitment to “results” or “locally-led development” and too easily skip over the racism at the root of the problems we seek to address and the prejudices that color the solutions we profess.

Every time I talk about racism on my blog how-matters.org, I realize there’s much more I can and should be doing to advance this discussion in the global development sector. Every time I go to a conference and see a sea of white faces talking about “their” help to poor, brown people in the Global South, I see how much work needs to be done.

So I am assuming more responsibility. I need to learn more about people of color’s experience in international aid and philanthropy, if they are willing to share it, and how this can be improved. I need to engage (and challenge) other white people about why they are not doing so. Our sector does so well at ignoring “the political,” but that has got to change, starting with me.

Forgive me for the mistakes I will surely make”