Via Campesina Campaign to end violence against women

For Agrarian Reform and Food Sovereignty : No more violence against women!

Presentation document for the Vth conference of Via Campesina, Mozambique, Oct 2008

Call to join the Campaign
We, the women and men of La Via Campesina stand together to denounce violence in all its forms against all people, especially women.
Statistics on the injury and death of women in all countries unequivocally prove to us that women are more vulnerable to violence, not only from institutions and the state, but from men in their Rural women are particularly excluded and oppressed, economically and socially. This is why as a farmer's movement, we have to mobilise against this massive injustice.

We know that we women and men have to be truly united against the neoliberal system that takes our dignity, our livelihoods, and the resources we need to survive,  a system which steals our labor, exploits our powerlessness and poverty to gain more wealth, power, and control.

But in reality we men and women are often divided by the same lack of respect and rights as we are shown by the rich and powerful and the governments and institutions which support them. By reproducing this exclusion pattern, we show that we accept their model of the strong against the weak without regard for justice.

It is our tireless task to build a model of society from the grassroots up in which all people, men and women, reject violence in all forms; economic, social, physical, mental, sexual, and environmental, and ensure that our model has NO tolerance for violence.

A society where violence is excused, condoned, or covered up under the guise of culture or religion is not the model of society we are working to build. The whole community must confront and challenge violent individuals, institutions, and governments in every place and situation in this world. We need a society which will build safe and nurturing communities which value the worth of every human being, and recognize that womens' rights ARE human rights. To this end, we will demand laws at every level of society which will protect and defend equal rights of all women.

The end to all violence begins in our hearts, our homes, and our communities. We can never win our struggle until we focus our anger and indignation and will to create a new society on the systems and institutions which use violence to control and repress human beings for their own selfish needs, not against women who hold up half the earth!

Ending violence will require education and a new awareness that violence steals the vitality of the individual, the family, and the larger community by preventing true equality and participation of women who can and do use their intelligence, talents, strength and courage to grow communities and a world with justice for all.
Until we commit to ending violence against women, we will never build the model of a just society to which the principles of Via Campesina speak. Please join us in ending violence by supporting this campaign.

What is the campaign?  

The neoliberal model of agricultural production based on monoculture, export-oriented agriculture and high use of chemical inputs has destroyed rural livelihoods and pushed millions of farmers to the big cities, while destroying nature. It has created hunger, misery and exclusion for the benefit of large transnational companies. This system has particularly affected women: the inequality of the sexes, in the sexual division of work that keeps women as responsible for domestic work and the care of children, the sick and the aged in families. In salaried jobs, women who have the same or greater qualifications get paid less than men for doing the same work.

Moreover, women are also victimed by domestic violence where power relations are hidden, submission and violence are naturalized, where society “washes its hands” and applies the slogan “in a fight between a husband and wife, don’t get involved”. These values are handed down from generation to generation, perpetuated and reinforced by religions that use their tools, rites, and rules to justify and maintain patriarchy and with this, affirm that a woman should be submissive to a man.

The patriarchal capitalist culture is held up by four pillars of violence:

1)    Violence based on the economic dependency of women, unemployment, and underemployment in the cities. In the countryside, the work of women is not recognized as something that creates income and wealth; it is seen as a help to the husband/partner. Women have limited access to production resources, health, education, leisure, social protection and welfare, and security, among other things.

2)    Violence because women have no control over the decisions about her own body.  Men, the state, religion, family, and many social movements impose a pattern of obedience and behavior on women, preventing them from making their own decisions. For example, abortion rights are not garanteed in many parts of the world and trafficking of women occurs on a global scale.  

3)    Violence based of the exclusion of women from political participation – Women have little participation in the spaces of power and decision-making, from domestic spaces to leadership roles, these remain primarily with men (property, religious communities, political parties, the decision-making places of the state apparatus, social movements)

4)    Physical and psychological violence is used against women when men do not manage to dominate by other means (men’s honor, machismo, control, power). Some rites and customs also marginalise women such as initiation rites, marriages at a young age, mutilations, forbiden food items, and other practices humiliating and hurting women. Those parctices are culturally reproduced, by men and women alike. More over, the state reppresion of women in protests and demonstraton show an institutionalized form of violence.

Objectives of the campaign

•    To denounce and confront all forms of violence practiced against rural women in all the countries and also to give visibility to the violence against all women of the working class. The goal is to denounce and put an end to all forms of violence, to demystify violence « normalized »  against women and to show that violence is structural in a neoliberal and patriarchal society. We need to build mechanisms of social control, to publically expose violence, in the social movements and in society.

•    To strengthen the organization and the struggle of women for their emancipation and to advance in the equality of gender and participation of women in the spaces of power.

•    To increase the level of consciousness of women to understand the causes of the violence and the way out of it. Special training should be organised in all Via Campesina organisations to allow women farmers to know their rights and to defend them.  

•    To strengthen alliances with all the groups, movements, and people who may be disposed to take up the campaign as a banner of struggle.

•    To pressure governments to comply with the agreements and international treaties and implement public policies to combat all forms of violence against women. To confront the lack of political will by most governements to implement all the national and international laws, conventions and treaties related to women rights.

•    The final goal of the campaign is to put an end to all forms of violence against women and to contribute to the construction of a project for a global society that is just and egalitarian, understanding that in neoliberalism and patriarchal culture there is no space for changes.

The campaign should be ongoing, with a calendar of short-term, medium, and long-term actions and confrontations promoting concrete struggles and actions in each country.

Differences in each continent should be considered in the campaign, it’s necessary to eliminate inequalities, whether they are social, class, gender, cultural, ethnic.