Report: Via Campesina seminar on feminism

Galicia, 18-21 October 2006

During this meeting, our basic objective was to place value on the meaning of equality, from a feminist perspective of women working in agriculture, and we want to demand and promote publicly at a global level that equality should become a reality.
Participating in this activity were women from all over the world affiliated with Via Campesina and feminists presenting basic feminist thinking. The first days were dedicated to feminist training as a way to approach the issue based on the concrete realities, to assess the advance of feminism for the fight for real equality.  The last days were dedicated to debating the circles of cooperation to advance women’s rights. Presentation by the compañera Juana Ferrer
We women who during our entire lives have been fighting and resisting in the countryside, who have sacrificed so much, but also we who have achieved things in the interior of the movement.  Positioning the work of women as central to the VC, via gender parity; has been a good achievement.  

The meeting on gender in the Dominican Republic in August of last year, marks an important milestone in the development and strengthening and transformed a taskforce on gender into an international women’s taskforce as part of Via Campesina, without men’s  understanding why this change was made.

Limitations remain, that impede participation and integration, as much within the organizations as in other spaces, in decision making, in political participation and in other spheres, without consideration of important contributions, even without recognizing our participation in the fight to construct a true equality to confront the neoliberal political model that destroys our lives and our agriculture, that exacerbates migration to other countries, and forces us from our lands.

This encounter that brings us all together, women of the countryside and feminists, we create an agenda of work, of struggle and resistance at the cost of experiencing violence— whether domestic, of the State, and of society—that has cost us our lives.  It is to overcome these and other difficulties that we came up with the agenda that we developed in these 4 days.

Contribution of Fabiola Soleto, Director General of the External Cooperation of the Council of Galicia.
In different countries, discrimination occurs whether or not there is participation and integration of women, and despite women’s capacity to fight.  There should be recognition of the female worker who creates wealth and confidence in overcoming crises in education, in culture, in health.

In the fight against poverty one of the objectives of the millennial (development goals) is how to arrive at equality and equity between women and men. This work will serve to support and monitor the situation of discrimination and violence against women.

Contribution of Came Adán, secretary general for equality in the government of Galicia.
Since August 2005 the women’s charter obligates governments to assume in their policies the demands of women and put in place a secretary of equality for women.  We should implement a global strategy toward the achievement of equality:

Education (a language campaign and against sexist toys, training of teachers, means of communication, to combat traditional stereotypes such as weak girls and strong boys, and the promotion of feminist contributions)

The social participation of women in every area: as producers, politicians, in associations and in the sphere of labor.
o       At the political level: Women should participate at the political and social levels to be a model for those younger.  Quotas and laws of parity.
o       At the organizational level: of every type (cultural, union, movement of campesina women).
o       Employment: The woman can liberate herself if she has a job that is a condition for her independence.  The problem of access to employment and to promotion in work.  To promote a promise from businesses for equality of opportunity.  Access to credit.
o       The problem of conciliation: we should achieve the assumption of domestic work on the part of men.  Women need time for social and public participation, and to care for themselves personally.  Men should share these responsibilities with women (paternity, education).
o       Elimination of violence: violence is an expression of inequality between men and women.  Prevention, information for women who have been the subjects of violence and those accompanying them.

The politics of equality should be universal.

Contribution of Maria Xose Agra: What is feminism?
Feminism is a movement, a theory, and an expert or international public policy.

An objective of feminism is to promote the development of the production of our own thoughts and the knowledge of women with the concepts that allow our advancement as humans until emancipation.

The degree of inequality makes it difficult to see the situation of oppression, violence, and the marginalization in which we live.

Feminism has a bad reputation, as an anachronism whose time has passed.  But in reality it exists (poverty, for example).

Three waves:
    * The French revolution (declaration of the rights of men that excludes women)
    * The suffragette movement: for political rights and universal suffrage.  New forms of the pacifist fight.
    * Movement of women’s liberation in the 1960s.  Since the second world war.  

Feminism is not a fight against nature, but against structure.  It is a movement that combines thought and practice.  We need reference points to think and act.  There is no unique thought because they grow from shared experiences.

Feminism is a question, not an answer.  How do we define ourselves?  How are we defined by others?

The problem is not difference but subordination and it is bad when we ask ourselves why there is inequality, to ask what should serve to put an end to these marks.

Equality is relational and not comparative.  We are not more or less than men, but we are equal as humans.

Women’s rights are human rights.  

Two political principles of feminist thought:
    * No person or action should be conditioned or forced in the private sphere (violence)
    * No social practice should be excluded a priori, if it isn’t designed to further invisibility

We should make a point of bringing up a common political agenda that addresses poverty, violence, rights, and equality.  Solidarity to put an end to infinite oppression but that has a similarity so that with the force of this resistance movement, the fight against inequality, oppression, and marginalization will serve to train us to fight to be treated equally.

Presentation of the working groups about what is feminism
In summary, it has been said that the term feminism is the defense of the rights of women; it is not the will of women to have more power than men, but something different.  It signifies solidarity among women, and is an instrument to regain self-esteem.

The inequality between men and women in work, education, salaries, economic status, access to land, recognition of work, access to the means of communication, access to power and domestic work is evident to all.  Some laws guarantee equality, but in practice they are not executed.  Part of the inequality of the economic situation, is due in large part to the limitations on the rights of women.

The importance of education, and participation in peasant organizations.

Recognition of the laws is basic for the goal of equality. We should take care of what are the values that we transmit because they can be sexist, as in religion and the means of communication where the work of the woman is not visible.  The voices of women should establish what we desire, not the voices of men.

Contribution of Sergia Galvan, feminist of the Dominican Republic about the different feminist currents.
Feminism, with a little more than 300 years of construction, constitutes one of the social movements that has achieved the highest level of consolidation and development in a relatively short period.  It is the movement where the most success has been achieved and opened for women, as much in the private sector as in the public.  Transcending spheres of thought, it has confronted and questioned consciousness, the state and social structures, patriarchy, religion, ethics, morality, the bodies and sex of women, relating this to the inequality of women in society.

The majority of authors identify 3 moments that they call the waves of feminism.
    * First Wave, since 1678, the first feminism, born with a minimal agenda which was the manifest desire for equality and emancipation, access to knowledge, and a certain margin of liberty.
    * Second Wave, the suffragist liberal feminism, or, neo-feminism, developed in the 60s and 70s, the surge of radical feminism, with a strong posture of rejection of patriarchy, giving rise to two strong feminist tendencies, that of difference, beginning with sexual difference, searching to deepen the feminist essence, and of equality, planting the recognition in spaces of equality, of its agenda of political, civil, and educative rights.
    * The Third Wave of feminism in the 80s and 90s, the surge of cultural feminism: Eco-feminism, lesbian feminism, opened a strong debate about prostitution, pornography, and permiscuity, that criticized the elitist, universalist, racist, heterosexual position for opening so little to cultural, racial, and sexual plurality.
    * The Fourth Wave: transsexual feminism with its agenda of cultural, sexual, and reproductive rights.

This is not meant to be seen as an evolution, but rather how these perspectives can take the same problematic in different directions.

Feminism in Latin America and the Caribbean, which began to take shape in the 1970s, brought together a grand proliferation of collectives and groups of women.  These organizations were made up of women of the middle and upper classes, without connection to the reality of women with low economic resources.

The celebration of the first World Women’s Conference in 1975 in Mexico initiated the Decade of the Woman.  Its purpose was to place in the public agenda of governments and in the international arena the situation and needs of women.

Up to this point the women’s focus had been the development to direct themselves in three lines:
    * equity
    * the fight against poverty
    * efficiency, which assigned the woman a function in the alleviation of the consequences of her adjustments beginning with an increment of the efficiency of her function in the family, production, and participation in the issues of the community.  

Feminism has the honor of having revealed women’s potential in terms of production and to have effectively drawn attention to instances of decision making on national and international issues about their role and contribution to development and concerning their needs.

In the decade of the 1980s, the movement of peasant women demanded that their agenda be included in the Feminist Movement.  This was the beginning of a shift in focus from issues of gender and work equity to the plane of equality of opportunities.

Therefore, there was a break with the movement of feminist peasant women standing in front of a globalized, neoliberal scenario that robs life, seeds, ourselves, nature, through transgenics.  Peasant feminists fight for real cultural, political, and econimc transformation.

Contribution of Irene Leon about the feminism of equality and the feminism of difference
The Feminism of difference
The feminism of difference naturalizes inequalities, does not see that difference is a historical construction, and that naturalization is a way to justify inequality (such as the differences in race, constructed by colonialism and justified by imperialism).  We have a vision of a world born of diversity, and because of this we favor a feminism of equality.

Peasant Feminism
It was only recently that the role of women in peasant organizations has been recognized, in the development of agriculture, biodiversity, and food supply.  But now the transnationals are addressing the appropriation of the knowledge of women utilizing the patent system to privatize this knowledge.  Because of this, women should fight against the transnationals.

For women, food sovereignty is necessary to guarantee a world without discrimination, where it is possible to be considered human beings.
The concept of food sovereignty has been taken up as a grand political question, with the goal of equality.

Feminists participate in the construction of the movement and thought of peasant women, but on the other hand peasant women give new dimensions to feminism, such as in the recognition of women’s knowledge of biodiversity.

There is a video being passed around about the women of Via Campesina, in which the necessity of integration of women’s contributions is established, as much in agrarian reform as in food sovereignty.  In both campaigns, I visualize the need to realize ongoing ideological work and defend the rights of women, until the goal of gender equality is realized.

I dedicate a moment of silence to compañera Loiva, from Brazil, who appears in the video and ended up dying.

Questions and comments
Question: In this space it is emphasized how the work of the campesinas can be known, and about the strategies for the integration of women in the organizations in order to promote the fight and the rights of property.

Answer: We need to develop the organizations, fight for reform in the legal realm, establish quotas and parity laws, support and promote the leadership of women by means of  capacity building, mobilization, training, national and international solidarity, intersectoral articulations against globalization and capitalism, and show the connections between causes, ideas, struggles, etc.

To fight against accords that promote the patenting and appropriation of biodiversity.

Comment: We do not need to justify our rights: we are human beings.  This is sufficient to justify our rights.

Response: Many women feel guilty questioning the privileges of men, and so sometimes need to recognize the contributions of women to humanity

Contribution of Miriam Nobre about the World Women’s March
In 1995, a march of women called Pan and Rosa occurred in Quebec.  The goal was to raise salaries and reassert the rights of women workers.  Later, the struggle was internationalized.  Then, in the year 2000 a much larger meeting was held and continued to strengthen as an international movement.

The global women’s march is a process of construction with the structure and agenda to construct its reflection.  The march is seen as a base material that makes up the value of women and constructs a force to confront the system.  It has in this moment 68 national organizations.

We have in common that we are women of the base, preparing to construct a common and collective project.  We are all feminist women because we adhere to the idea that women can achieve and construct what they desire in their lives.

It doesn’t seem important to rehash the debate about logistics, and this is the contribution of the peasants.

We are part of the fight against globalization, because we believe that we have to change the world in order to change the world of women, and to change the situation of women is a condition to change the social structures.

Therefore, in alliances with other groups, of women and men, we organize the spaces of agreement.

We are a feminist, anti-capitalist, and anti-racist movement.  It is not possible to fragment these struggles.

The action plan until 2010 includes:
o       Demilitarization
o       Combat Violence against women
o       Resist the increasing precariousness of women’s work
o       Defend Common goods (the privatization of water and food sovereignty)

With urban and rural women we can do away with alienated consumption, the consumption of industrialized products.

This is seen in the power of medicine: We intend to take medicine to not fatten this tension: the capitalism of diets.  Against this, we should rescue the integrity of our bodies.

Presentation of the working groups about peasant women and feminism:

Many women express their unfamiliarity with what is profound feminism, but the feminist fight against discrimination, violence, patriarchy, and for equality, all women understand as their own fight.  Many women have the impression that feminism is an issue of the urban cities, and so for peasant women it was difficult to integrate into these feminist groups.  Feminism in the rural area is very badly seen and interpreted as an bourgeoise issue.  Now we are conscious, in that there are not differences between rural and urban women, that all suffer violence and discrimination, that the difference lies in the lack of access to services, and so we should unify and work together to defend our rights.

The contribution of peasant women to feminism is diversity, we are indigenous, black, working, productive, and landless women.

The feminist movement needs to introduce into its agenda the demands of peasant women, such as the right to food, the defense of biodiversity, the fight against denaturalization of seeds and the environment.  

What have we learned during these 2 days of debate with the relation to fenimism:
These days of debate have given us the opportunity to be able to understand what  feminism is, and have given us the tools to be able to talk with women of our organizations, expressing that we don’t want to crush the men but to defend our rights, to transcend into other spaces.

Education is necessary to continue these spaces of training.

It is fundamental to talk of feminism for peasant women, after 50 years of feminism, and that we should enrich this word in the fields, that all of us say that we are feminists, accompany the fight, take action, and provide reflections from the field.

Now how do we bring this debate to our women and with the barons? of the mixed organizations?  Two days is not enough, we should continue with more meetings at the national, regional, and international levels.

Of what peasant women have given themselves, feminism is the most important.

Feminism has contributed to the fight in the countryside and visa versa, we have a challenge to stand up front to reassert our rights in whatever scenario where we meet.  We all conclude in the reaffirmation of our feminist sentiments expressed in the daily struggle.