Reflections from Beva Sanchez-Padilla
The SouthWest Organizing Project (SWOP) is a 36 year old social justice organization whose mission is to empower the disenfranchised in the Southwest to realize racial and gender equality and social and economic justice. New Mexico Con Mujeres is the feminist focus within SWOP and through the Grass Roots Global Justice (GGJ) we have become a working part of the World March of Women. SWOP, since its inception, has seen the need for international grassroots solidarity and to be able to represent the US, GGJ, SWOP materializes this intention. As a Xicana born and raised in the Southwest we have for generations experienced the results of a war – the Mexican American war – whereby half of Mexico was lost to the United States making us a colony of the US. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo which came about as a result of this war, which stated we could keep our language, was never enforced. SWOP as GGJ understands that sharpening organizing skills within our own historical context is enriched when we see the similarities and differences as spoken by the women at the 10th International Meeting of World March of Women outside Maputo Mozambique. The WMW actions of peace and demilitarization, recognizing the realms and multiple meanings of a feminist economy, witnessing and addressing the worldwide violence against women AND the pain of the privatization of our goods and services as well as the destruction of our mother, the supreme teacher Mother Earth with her life blood, the water, her minerals, her clean air are all missions of our work in the United States and New Mexico.
This profound gathering of women from five continents proved to fortify our work as organizers. The themes of non-judgement, learning about the different political and historic context that we live AND seeing the focus of solidarity and common experiences were fortified. Coming home to the United States after this gathering has strengthened my organizing skills, uplifted my motivation and encouraged my desire to do more intentional political education with women and communities who suffer poverty, violence and abuse and who do not really understand the mechanisms for creating this.
I met Lonhlanhla Mthethwa from Swaziland and she said “the reason I joined a social movement with women is that I grew up in a polygamous family where my grandfather had 17 wives. I experienced the oppression of women and the marginalization as girls and women. We have been forced to marry the man of the choice of our grandfather. It was for their own profit – ‘you will marry a man with cattle’. There is no equality for girl children - boy children are first to go to school. Patriarchy and colonialism still exists even though our country signs laws against these things, they are not recognized or enforced.”
Winny Obure from Kenya said to me “I am motivated to be a feminist and fight for the rights of women and particularly young women 18 to 35 years and adolescent girls 10 to 18 years. This is because of my rape ordeals since I was 10 years and my experience of gender based violence when I was engaged. I decided to start a safe house for girl victims of rape and to help give them a safe space to achieve their dreams. My testimony is that no matter what experiences we go through, we are seeds and will eventually germinate and be fruitful.”
In coming back to Albuquerque from the WMW Mozambique meeting I find myself with more facility, and energy to further “crochet“, with SWOP’s Con Mujeres, the work, events, organizations and people who are organizing poor, rural, and communities of color. Three days after returning from Maputo, Con Mujeres joined the work of American Indian Opportunity (AIO, a 48 year old leadership training organization), 7th Direction Residential Home for young native women AND Child of All Nations (urban native elder women healers). In reporting highlights of injustice and alternatives and the feeling solidarity experienced at the Mozambique World March of Women meeting, strong links with these Albuquerque groups were created. Of the 11 young women found murdered and buried in a mass grave here in Albuquerque in 2010, one was a Native American, one Black and the others were Chicanas. Violence against women in the Pueblos was discussed as was with the epidemic of the deaths of many young children in the New Mexico as a result of domestic violence, police violence, drugs and poverty. Support, healing, exposure and education are in the forefront of deconstructing and reconstructing our communities. A belief that the woman has deep sacred power to do this was articulated.
I am a better organizer, a stronger and more joyful person as we address our contradictions in this belly of the beast. I am thankful for this opportunity and responsibility to continue our work as builders of a better world. We will not stop until we are all free.