Transforming Economic Power, Transforming Ourselves
Blog entry by Rucha Chitnis, India Director of Women’s Earth Alliance
I had the honor of attending the 12thAWID Forum held in Istanbul last month. This was an astonishing convergence of nearly 2,500 grassroots activists, scholars, feminist economists, donors, artists and writers. We gathered to learn and share how global economic forces are impacting women’s human rights and our planet. The Forum–Transforming Economic Power to Advance Women’s Rights and Justice was a gathering to reimagine and reshape an unequal global economic paradigm that has further marginalized those who are already acutely affected by injustices and poverty — women of color, indigenous women and those impacted by militarism.
It is impossible to summarize the sophisticated level of analysis or share the diversity and vitality of the myriad plenaries, breakout sessions, evening events and solidarity roundtables that went unabated for four days. But here are a few personal learnings, takeaways and “Aha” moments that I wanted to share with you.
- “Another US is necessary for another world to be possible”: Maria Poblet, Executive Director of Causa Justa-Just Cause, poetically emphasized that those of us who live in the “belly of the beast” have a responsibility to build solidarity and joint struggle with international movements. Maria also underscored the need to expand and deepen the political vision of the Occupy movement, which is “largely white men” to include minorities and people of color to build a grassroots, multi-racial and generational movement that asserts a shared agenda for economic justice.
- “The comfort zone is the zone of prejudice”: Boaventura de Sousa Santos, internationally renowned scholar and one of the leading organizers of the World Social Forum, shared the need for the convergence of movements and elimination of stereotypes and prejudices. He also called for increased inter-cultural exchanges to share different concepts and ideas of equality. He observed that the feminist movement was best in combining urgency with a call for broader “civilizational change.”
- Embrace a feminist perspective to Economics: Rebecca Grynspan, working with UNDP Costa Rica, emphasized that we need to promote feminist economics and put issues of equity and equality in the center of the agenda and discourse. It was powerful to hear her emphasize that economic analysis needs to integrate paid and unpaid work of women into the indicators and that an inter-disciplinary approach is crucial to have a more gendered analysis of economics. Economists also need to begin to take stock of natural ecosystems, the extraction of natural resources and the externalization of costs on the environment and communities by corporations through degradation and pollution. We need to bring women’s economic rights into the larger human rights discourse.
- Think Eco-systemic not individualistic Approach: Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, a renowned indigenous activist from the Philippines, shared that the long struggles of indigenous women and the current ecological, economic and cultural crises, are an outcome of a capitalist, patriarchal system that has been reinforced for hundreds of years. She reminded us that indigenous women are living in some of the last intact ecological areas, a sign that they embrace values of reciprocity, solidarity and live in harmony with Nature. A reminder that indigenous peoples have their own indicators of well-being beyond mainstream monetary indicators and that cross-cultural exchanges could foster learning from indigenous peoples cultural and spiritual practices.
- FORUM ended with a solidarity march
by participants from around the world
- Embrace diversity and complexities: Many Forum participants urged the need to embrace the complexities and the diversity of feminist movements. We need to look at the intersections of race, class, age, religion, and sexualities and to engage in more inter-cultural dialogues and exchanges. This should allow us to challenge our own perspectives and have a more thoughtful and unified analysis of the issues facing women.
- “Disease of “projectitis” affects long-term impact of our work”: Joanna Kerr of Action Aid reminded us that there is no magic bullet for development, and this was powerfully highlighted by one of my favorite breakout sessions, Can Monitoring and Evaluation be Feminist?. The panel was moderated by feminist activist and scholar, Srilatha Batliwala. Participants candidly shared their challenges in using complex and stringent monitoring and evaluation (M&E) strategies, which reduced and simplified “change” into quantifiable metrics. The shared learning from this session was that donors and funders need to create a safe space for evaluations, where women’s groups have a sense of personal ownership to advance their programmatic and strategic goals, rather than experience evaluations like a performance review.
- Climate change resiliency begins with women: At a session where Women’s Earth Alliance partnered with our sister-organization, IDEX, Luciana Baustista Pedro, an indigenous woman from Mexico, who founded a group called Nepi Behna (Women of Dignity), shared how women are building their resilience in face of environmental and climate challenges by installing rainwater harvesting tanks, using wood-saving stoves and setting up women’s cooperatives through a Fair Trade Artisanship Program. Other Forum sessions also shared examples of how rural women are leading the way for food sovereignty by reviving traditional organic farming and seed saving practices, by asserting their rights as farmers and by playing a key role in large peasant social movements like the Via Campesina.
Think Eco-systemic is certainly a perspective which needs to be assimilated by each one if us!