Women's Empowerment and Leadership Development for Democratisation

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International: WSF contradictions - Feminist Dialogues

Before the World Social Forum 2005, 250 women from feminist groups, networks and movements from different countries and continents gathered in Porto Alegre to take part in the Feminist Dialogues II.
It was organized by a Coordinating Group which was constituted by seven international feminist networks and organizations: Isis International (Manila); DAWN - Development Alternatives for Women in a New Era; INFORM (Sri Lanka); WICEJ - Women’s International Coalition for Economic Justice; AFM – Articulación Feminista Marcosur, FEMNET – African Women’s Development and Communication Network y NNAWG – India National Network of Autonomous Women’s Groups.

Most of the participants came from Asia (Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, Fiji, the Philippines), Africa (Zambia, Senegal, Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, Morocco, Algeria, Uganda, South Africa), Latin America (Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Paraguay, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador among others), and from the Caribbean (Trinidad and Tobago, Dominican Republic, Haiti). There were also women from Europe (Holland, France, Great Britain, Macedonia), from the United States, Canada and Middle East (Iraq, Palestine). There were women of all ages, and the number of young women between 20 and 30 years old was outstanding.

These Dialogues were focused on militarization and war, fundamentalisms and neo-liberal globalization, underlining the strategies that the women movement has used or may use in the future to confront those forces. Departing from the conceptual note drafted by the Coordinating Group (see electronic information booklet Nº 2), the meeting started with the lectures by Maxine Molyneux (Great Britain), Gina Vargas (Peru) and Vahida Nainar (India), who underscored the huge challenges that neo-liberalism, fundamentalism and militarization represent for the international feminist movement. They pointed out that the neo-liberal model globally imposed has not only intensified social tensions but it has also led to the emergence of extremist ways of policies based on identity, which have an enormous impact on women lives and on their rights, giving grounds for a profound analysis in order to the implement adequate strategies. During the second day, several working-parties went deeply into the debate, analyzing the current concerns that feminist movements are dealing with. The lack of laicism of various states, the absence of a social identity capable of substituting the religious identity as a main force within the process of social construction, were identified as the central dilemma. The feminist movements fragmentation during the last years was also pointed out, as the right-wing forces are currently strengthening. Regarding fundamentalisms, one of the crucial concerns was that they try to defend the victims of neo-liberalism and globalization, and therefore, sometimes they seem attractive to women.

The central subject of the third day was the discussion about how to broaden the collective strategy ways. One of the proposals was to form alliances within the movements of women, which would have to be more politicized and more inclusive. Several participants, especially young women, emphasized that men should be integrated to the political projects of feminist movements. The need for forming alliances with other social movements was expressed by most of the working-parties. What they meant by alliances was that the feminist agenda (particularly sexual and reproductive rights) should be included in the agenda of other social movements, but the analysis and the experience the feminist movement has with regard to diversity and plurality, should be conceived as an essencial contribution to other movements as well.

The Feminist Dialogues closure revealed the need to maintain this free space of reflection and exchange among feminists of diverse contexts, in order to deepen the analysis and to develop new strategies. We hope to have new Feminist Dialogues in Africa in 2007.

Diverse mouths, big mouths, mouths of all colors, present in all the spaces of the WSF express from the year 2002: “Your mouth, fundamental against fundamentalisms”. From the ship of the ARTICULACIÓN FEMINISTA MARCOSUR (AFM), mouths of hundreds and hundreds of people that have visited it express that, in order to oppose fundamentalisms, people are fundamental, and so is the open and plural expression of everyone. However, so far, the WSF has not integrated the struggle against every way of fundamentalism at the same level as its opposition towards neo-liberal globalization and militarism.

AFM proposes the WSF to integrate the struggle against fundamentalisms as one of its articulating axes. Because with different faces and masks, the religious, political, economical, cultural fundamentalisms uphold the single and immutable thinking as a rule for the society. Fundamentalisms take advantage of wars, racism, poverty, and in all cases, women are the ones to lose more rights.

The current patriarchy is a global patriarchy symbolized by George Bush. His immutable fundaments are the supremacy of the West, the neo-liberalism that must be extended throughout the world, the militarism to be imposed together with a model of traditional patriarchal family, the control over women bodies and a Christianity so fundamentalist as Bin Laden’s Islamism, and the Vatican, that, in Latin America, turns the Catholic sins into crimes for all the society.

The struggle for freedom and sexual diversity and abortion is one of the most extended ways of opposing the fundamentalisms within the WSF. Every day, in the different spaces, these issues were discussed, but those activities can not be visualized by those who only read the WSF official news. We, who have covered the 10 km of tents along the Guaiba River, know that the legalization of abortion, and legal and safe abortion are one of the main vindications made by those who took part in this Forum 2005.

So far, WSF has not yet been made equitable, the big activities of the outstanding male names evidence the need to make the Forum more democratic. The AFM wants the WSF to be an experience of radical democracy, with equality among diverse people.

We left the WSF 2005 with the idea to fight for the secular State in every space, as a guarantee of plural democracy, of equal coexistence among different people. We will also work each day so that our Forum of all the people becomes a secular Forum, a Forum where fundamentalisms will have no place, nor fundamentalists of any kind whatsoever.