As the first woman General Coordinator of La Via Campesina, l want to acknowledge and appreciate the influence of the great struggle that the women of the CLOC had to engage in to make this possible. They played a key role in the transformation of the structures of the peasant movement we see and enjoy today. They collectively fought and resisted patriarchy and capitalism. Not that full victory has been won, but the milestones achieved are reassuring that our struggles as women are not in vain. Today peasant women are at the forefront of generating local knowledge, building and shaping the social justice we want, promoting our identity and culture, and strengthening the vision of the new society we so much desire.
As we celebrate the 25 years of the CLOC, there are many lessons to learn which are important for peasant struggles, particularly in Africa, my home. Our struggles have yet to achieve unity and are divided by colonial legacies of language, borders and NGO-ism. Looking back to the history of CLOC, it is clear that it was not easy to build collective unity and strength by pulling together 84 organizations from 18 countries to form the CLOC that we celebrate today. The peasants of CLOC overcame the divisiveness of neoliberal policies and together developed strategies to fight capitalism, a system of exploitation and destruction.
Today, while we cannot say there are no challenges, the structure and organization of the CLOC is mirrored in La Via Campesina. It shaped our peasant struggles and informed the capacities of member organisations to represent their base, leading to the development of new forms of coordination. The CLOC’s commitment to fight for human rights is greatly appreciated and thus, its history is alive and not easily forgotten in the history of La Via Campesina as a movement. It is from CLOC processes that we also learned the pathway that helped to empower women. It was during the 2nd congress that participation and actions of peasant women were amplified with great strength and the women of CLOC acquired more political relevance. Today, because of this historic struggle, positions and participation of women in leadership is a priority in global social movements.
However, despite all these victories, we are mindful as we celebrate the 25 years of the CLOC, of the new challenges on the horizon in the region. These challenges include the worsening migrant situation, increased climate change related disasters, the rise of ultra-fascists and other US aligned governments in Latin America, the opening up of previously protected areas for commercial exploitation (mining and agriculture) by corporations, increased deforestation of the Amazon under the new Brazilian government of Jair Bolsonaro, and regressive free trade agreements, all require us to fight resolutely. The CLOC should find ways to push back against the new wave of regressive influence of the US in the political economy of Latin America and the Caribbean. The increased isolation of Venezuela and Cuba through economic sanctions should be resisted. The Colombia peace agreement should be defended.
Radical social transformation is a must!
We the peasants, the indigenous peoples, the rural youth, should continue push for real solutions based on food sovereignty and agroecology to build a new society where dignity, equality, respect and prosperity for all is foundational. We should use all tools and instruments at our disposal to achieve this. This will entail using the recent gains of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of the Peasants and other People Working in the Rural Areas, the embracing of agroecology by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the Seed Treaty (International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture – ITPGRFA), the Voluntary Tenure Guidelines, and other legal frameworks, as levers in our struggle to radically transform our society.
Lastly, as we change world around us, we continue to also fight for the complete transformation of our movements to ensure that women and youth in particular have a stronger voice in decision making and have equal access to all opportunities (be it access to and ownership of resources, access to local markets, opportunities for employment, etc). We must deepen our struggle to end violence against women everywhere. I believe this is now within reach and we should fight with perseverance and conviction.
The paths we travel are not easy ones, but together we will WIN. As the General Coordinator of La Via Campesina, l take this opportunity to send my warmest and heartfelt congratulations to you as you celebrate and reflect on 25 years of existence. A lot of great things have been accomplished because of the unity and solidarity within the CLOC. It has been and still is a worthy struggle to fight, a big dream to see a better world free from hunger and exploitation; a world with peace and freedom for all. It’s one of life’s greatest joys to celebrate some achievements that you have been hoping for, and are working towards.
Elizabeth Mpofu, La Via Campesina General Coordinator
Globalize the STRUGGLE. Globalize HOPE!!!!!
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