Jameen wraps up our 2012 AWID International Forum on Women’s Rights in Development coverage with this inspiring entry!
The word "courage" comes from the Latin word ‘cuer’ meaning heart. Courage translates to possessing the confidence "to lay bare your vulnerability and speak from the heart."
Over 2,200 bodies are first hand witnesses to courage, being present at the AWID forum. At times, when listening to the realities and experiences of women and girls from their diverse lands/homes, our hearts have been left sore and our insides aching as we heard the scale and magnitude of the vicious impact of hardship: of militarization, violence - in all of its many and inseparable forms – land grabs, the financial crisis, the gambling of women's livelihoods, the holding hostage of food security for a billion people (the majority of whom, as we know, are women and children), the further deepening and exacerbating of poverty.
Other times we have marvelled at the ingenuity and the innovation - how women and girls are working to mobilise their communities and each other, to overcome the historic inequalities and discrimination they face on a daily basis. For example, the street art (pictured left) used to stand in solidarity with Samira Ibrahim, a 25 year old woman who took the Egyptian government to court after she was forced to have a ‘virginity’ test conducted by government forces, when she was arrested for her peaceful campaigning during the Arab Spring.
Slogans commending Samira’s strength destigmatised the taboo and shame - weapons which often hold women and their communities captive, and consequent in perpetrators of the violence/abuse escaping accountability – appeared not just in Cairo but across walls and public spaces throughout Egypt.
"We will go back to our own lives, but stronger," says Female Food Hero Mandiwe. "Stronger knowing that there are many other dadas ['sisters' in Swahili] like us working for justice in villages, towns, cities across the world. The change must start with women ourselves", adds Female Food Hero Ester. We must first appreciate what we do and value ourselves for our contribution."
The need for women to feel entitled to take time for self care was raised at the forum several times. Women, especially, are giving each and every second of the day. In many cases there is simply no time for their own needs. "Women are often the first to wake up in households, the last to eat (if there is food left over) and the last to sleep when night finally arrives," explained Lucia, a professionally trained counsellor on trauma.
Poverty, violence and conflict
Poverty, violence, and conflict have horrific short and long term consequences in the lives of women, which they often bear in silence, unsupported, alone. "We need practical government policies and programmes that deal with abuse and violence against women," demands Ester. "In the case of domestic violence, governments acknowledging it exists is not enough, we need real action against the men who inflict this violence."
The closing session attempted to encapsulate the complexity and the diversity of the many issues that are interrelated, and influence women’s right to Economic Justice at the family, community, national and global level. It was agreed that the notion of ‘self care’ had to become a political strategy which would feed and nurture women’s abilities to resist and be resilient. Women and girls’ access to resources – land, food and education must be democratised. Women must be heard and be able to exercise the right to use their voice. Female Food Hero Anna speaks for Masai women: "Masai women are often invisible - even to themselves. The majority of Masai women do not even know they have rights." Her comments from our first day’s discussions echo within me."We are not here to accompany, we are here to claim."
Francisca Rodriguez, feminist, politician and founder of the National Association for Rural and Indigenous Women in Chile (ANAMURI), says that women 'face double exploitation'. "Not only are we exploited but we are also oppressed by the dominant culture. The struggle for land rights is dominated by men. Spaces in the struggle for land resistance, even within Viva Campesina were not open to us.
"The leadership in this struggle was headed by men, which believed that we women were merely there to ‘accompany’ the struggle, not lead. We changed this. We conquered spaces that were previously closed to us, we called for our equal rights, we refused to support the discussions that had no women’s participation. The struggle for land rights must have women at the forefront; in leadership. Women’s rights must be included if land rights are to be a reality for all of us. Only rights can stop wrongs."Returning back into the ‘real world’ and next steps
Professor Radhika Balakrishnan stated that we must 'create a globalisation of resistance'. "We need to connect with other movements to transform economic power. The financial crisis of 2008 exposed the fragility of the world; it exploded the consequences for everyone, not just the economic crisis, but the crisis of ideas. We have to fill the vacuum of the crisis of ideas that the ‘big boys’ have created.
"We need to transform the system, transform ourselves. We need to take our movement to the streets, beyond the boundaries of discussion papers, reports and written articles, to challenge the hegemonic world that divides north and south from each other. We are facing an economic battle. It is important that when we speak of the victories of the Arab Spring, we must not forget the ongoing struggle our Palestinian sisters and brothers face."
After these words were spoken, a sea of women and girls rose up and the Halic Centre was electric with the air of all that was possible. Banners and placards were gathered and buses awaited to take our voices to the streets. The raw honesty, celebration and solidarity of the women and girls stopped trams, buses and cars. Many onlookers from shops, apartment balconies came down to join the singing, dancing and chanting of the movement crying 'Jin, Jiyan, Azadi' - 'Women, Life, Freedom' - transcending and transforming beyond–the heart of Istanbul.
You can support women like Mandiwe by joining Oxfam's GROW campaign to fix the global food system.
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