World March of Women 10th International Meeting in Mozambique, October 2016
The World March of Women (WMW) is comprised of National Coordinating Bodies (NCB’s) from each of the 65 countries and territories represented in the global movement. The International Meeting of the World March of Women is the highest decision making body of the global movement, and takes place every three years. During the meeting, delegates from the National Coordinating Bodies adopt the political platform, decide on international actions, evaluate and review the work of the WMW in the previous period, elect new International Committee members, review financial picture of the WMW, and choose the location of the next International Secretariat (once every six years).
The 10th International Meeting took place October 11-15, 2016 in Mozambique. This was the first time the US chapter participated in the international meeting since our founding. We brought three representatives from the US chapter: Tanika Thompson (Got Green), Beva Sanchez-Padilla (SWOP), and Helena Wong (GGJ). Tanika and Beva represented the US chapter because of their leadership role in organizations that are preparing to launch the first local branches of the WMW US chapter.
The meeting was attended by about 100 women from 40 countries around the world, with about half of them coming from the continent of Africa.
Goals in attending our first International Meeting:
1. Participate fully as the US chapter, learn about the global context, share who we are and our work. We were able to share updates about the new US chapter through a large group presentation, as well as in conversations and regional breakouts. We attended presentations by panels that described some of the main issues taking place in Mozambique and in different countries.
2. Make a contribution to the conversation about LBTQ inclusion within the World March of Women. Helena spoke on a panel on diversity and co-facilitated a side conversation, giving examples of how the WMW can be more inclusive of LBTQ issues, such as trainings at the regional and international meetings, (on gender, sexuality, patriarchy, internalized oppression and heteronormativity), actively supporting LBTQ events as the WMW (where it is safe to do so and where they can try to push for more visibility), and pushing themselves to imagine the leadership of the WMW also including LBTQ-identified people. Lastly, we also started a listserve for LBTQ identified people to be able to get support and share information.
3. Build with other NCB’s (national coordinating bodies), especially in the Americas region. We spent half a day together with NCBs in the Americas region to learn about each other’s work, vote for new regional International Committee members, and discuss global days of actions. NCB’s participating from the Americas region were Quebec, Brazil, Venezuela, Chile, Peru, and the US.
Each day had a theme that built on top of one another. The first day, the theme was on Our Context. We learned about the context in Mozambique, with young girls being taken out of school when they get their periods to be trained on how to serve the future husband’s families, and on the land grabs that are taking place in Mozambique to grow food that gets exported out and for mineral extraction. Each NCB on the first day also spent a few minutes sharing their own contexts. The second day the theme was on Our Alternatives, where a panelist spoke about food sovereignty in Latin America, fighting for democratic rights in Kurdistan, and projects for women’s economic autonomy in Africa. Afterwards we broke out by language groups to discuss more how each country thought about alternatives, and how we can begin to think about building our work as alternatives. The third day was on Our Movement, where a panel spoke about how a diverse movement strengthens the WMW. There was a blind woman, a young woman, a lesbian, and a refugee who spoke. Afterwards, everyone went into their regional meetings to elect new International Committee representatives. In the Americas, the new IC representatives are Nalu Faria from Brazil and Mafalda Galdames from Chile, and the alternative representative is Alejandra Laprea from Venezuela. On the last day the theme was on Our Actions, where the WMW made the decision that in addition to March 8th and October 17th (traditional days that the WMW has always held actions on), April 24th will be 24 hours of feminist action moving forward, and that the first Saturday of June will be dedicated to taking actions around migrants and refugees. The WMW also affirmed that Kurdistan would be considered an autonomous region, where we would welcome a new NCB.
As part of the Justice for Berta campaign, we have been bringing the Berta fans to different spaces that we are in to get people to take photos and videos of support. We were amazed by how much support there was for Berta. Many women had already heard of her story and wanted to take their photo, and others who didn’t know who she was were extremely supportive, and also had their photo taken.
Beva and Tanika came back inspired to build out local WMW branches in Albuquerque and Seattle. For both of them this was their first time in the World March of Women space. (It was also Tanika’s first time out of the country!) They were both struck by the energy that comes from within the WMW, from opening up with music and singing every day to being in feminist solidarity with one another, and really understanding each other’s struggles even if we do not come from the same place.
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.
Attending this meeting gave me a stronger sense of the solidarity capable between women across the world and how we are all connected. It has strengthened my leadership abilities and broadened my network. I have made relationships that I would not have been able to make without traveling to Africa and having the opportunity to interact and bond with women with so much knowledge and experience. Together we are much stronger than any one person is alone.