[WSF-Discuss] Fw: WSF 2015: Feminists Overcoming Challenges

jasper teunissen jasperteunissen at hotmail.com
Sun Apr 12 13:58:46 CDT 2015


  WSF 2015: Feminists Overcoming Challenges

*Source: *AWID


WSF 2015: Feminists Overcoming Challenges

FRIDAY FILE: Tens of thousands from around the world^^[1] 
gathered in Tunis, Tunisia from March 24th to 28th for the World Social 
Forum. It brought together social movements, civil society 
organizations, formal and informal networks and activists to oppose 
neo-liberalism, capitalism and imperialism, debating, exchanging, 
sharing experiences and developing proposals. This week AWID looks at 
some of the issues and challenges of building a feminist movement within 
the alter-globalization space.

By Mégane Ghorbani

The World Social Forum (WSF) is a space for a plurality and diversity of 
actors to articulate concrete actions with the objective of achieving 
“another world”. The space is neither denominational, nor governmental, 
nor partisan. Yet, given the context within which it exists, the WSF 
2015 gave rise to a number of challenges in bringing together actors, 
with different visions, in a substantive way.

*An underlying climate of violence*

Following the Bardo national museum attack in Tunisia 
on the 18th of March 2015 that left 23 dead and 47 injured, the World 
Social Forum Preparatory Commission issued a communique that same day, 
indicating that the event would still take place:^^[2] 
“The WSF organizing committee calls upon all WSF members and 
participants to intensify their efforts in mobilizing and making this 
moment a success, allowing the victory of civic and pacific fight 
against terrorism and fanaticism that threaten democracy, freedom, and 
tolerance.” Following the attack, Tunisia’s Interior Minister, feared 
under the Ben Ali regime for his repression of human rights activists, 
was put in charge of WSF security. It is within this context that many 
participants, opposed to the language of the “war on terror,” had 
concern over the WSF as an instrument of national politics; and the 
security climate proved problematic for most participants. In response, 
a  declaration initiated by the National Lawyers Guild 
was produced and signed by some twenty organizations, including AWID, 
warning of potential human rights abuses linked to the justification of 
the militarization of Tunisian society in a way that benefits the 


Young men trying to provoke with a "Blaa Blaa Blaa" sign during Women 
Assembly, 24 March 2015

Despite a Charter of Principles 
saying that the WSF is a space that rejects the use of all violence 
diverse forms of violence against WSF participants were witnessed 
throughout the week. A group of people said to have been sent by 
Algerian authorities disrupted several workshops and resorted to 
violence against other participants, ranging from sabotaging stands to 
knife threats. The symbolic, physical and verbal violence was equally 
spread by other participants around issues like the independence of the 
Western Sahara, Bashar el-Assad’s Syrian regime, the Israel-Palestine 
conflict and the Women’s Assembly. Likewise, LGBTQI activists present 
and visible for the first time in a public demonstration in Tunisia 
faced insults and intimidation. Sexual harassment as well as the 
masculinization of certain spaces were also perceived by female 
participants at the El Manar Campus, the very place of the WSF.

*Feminist movements in action*

Despite challenges, feminists at the WSF were still able to shine light 
on their concerns around gender equality, and to create new alliances 
around social justice.


Women Assembly, 24 March 2015

Opening the WSF, under the slogan “for equality, against violence,” the 
Women’s Assembly recalled the solidarity between women around the world. 
Regrettably, this assembly took place at the same as the Youth Assembly, 
revealing an absence of understanding around the inter-sectionality of 
gender within the WSF organization itself.

Following a minute of silence for the victims of imperialism, terrorism 
and all forms of violence; a diverse group of speakers from Tunisia, 
Morocco, Cote d’Ivoire, Mexico, Mozambique and France recalled the need 
to unite the struggles of all women across the world. One speaker from 
the World March of Women <http://www.marchemondiale.org/index_html/en> 
recalled that “women will continue on the march until all women are 
free.” “The convergence of our struggles is our exit strategy” said one 
Ivorian speaker. Despite an attempted provocation by a group of young 
and the challenge of allowing all women in the room a chance to 
the Assembly was an opportunity to recall the diverse aspects of 
violence, such as poverty, feminicide, racism and the establishment of 
imperial borders.

Self-organized events at the Forum presented an opportunity to highlight 
the diverse concerns of feminist movements, linked in particular to the 
inclusion of gender in the post-2015 agenda and the environment, 
building a sexual and reproductive rights movement – with regard to 
LGBTQI rights among others – in the Middle East and North Africa, the 
difficulties experienced by young feminist activists in the region, the 
impact of imperialism and religious fundamentalisms on women, the 
importance of a social protection system, economic justice, uniting 
feminist struggles against capitalism and patriarchy, and a feminism 
united in emancipating religion from patriarchy.

free hugs

LGBTQI activists sharing "free hugs"

The importance of individual rights within an environment focused on 
collective rights was also highlighted during a workshop on lesbian 
women’s rights in Palestine. “At the personal level people realize to 
what extent sexual education is important, but would never say so 
publicly,” said one of the speakers from Muntada - The Arab Forum for 
Sexuality Education and Health. The co-director of Aswat - Palestinian 
Gay Women expressed the idea that, “we cannot address gender inequality 
in terms of sexual orientation without addressing the social system of 
oppression,” while recalling the problematic way in which the State of 
Israel exploits the issue of Palestinian LGBTQI communities to promote 
its own political agenda and to appear progressive. FRIDA 
<http://youngfeministfund.org/>, the Young Feminist Fund, also focused 
on LGBTQI rights in the Middle East and North Africa by organizing a 
meeting with young activists to address the difficulties they face, 
namely around security and the protection of activists, the lack of 
historical documentation on underground movements, the place of the 
LGBTQI movement within the feminist movement, the generational gap with 
other activists, homophobia and access to marginalized groups.

AWID, in partnership with other feminist organizations, organized a 
workshop on “Feminist Imaginations for a Just Economy” looking at how to 
dismantle economic systems of oppression beyond the simple regulation of 
capitalism. Speakers at the event identified the need to target diverse 
issues such as fiscal justice, food sovereignty and land rights. Some 
twenty participants also had the opportunity to discuss the need to 
create alternatives to existing models of consumption, privatization, 
taxation, property, governance and capitalist rule, all of which are at 
the root of oppression, while underlining the need to consider the 
inter-sectionality of struggles for economic justice as well as 
transforming existing social relations.

This convergence of struggles was also underscored during a workshop 
entitled “Feminists Unite and Take Action” in which the struggles of 
Tunisian, Palestinian, Kurdish, Mozambican and American women were 
exposed in order to form thematic working groups dealing respectively 
with the autonomy of women, appropriation of common goods and gender 
based violence as well as war and militarization. Finally, feminist 
issues were included within the larger economic and social emancipation 
movement, namely at a Convergence Assembly entitled “Dialogue on the 
Liberation and Emancipation between Religions, Cultures and 
Civilizations” within which the Collectif féministe pour l’égalité 
(Feminist Collective for Equality) recalled the need to create 
convergences on the basis of equality of rights, social justice, freedom 
of choice and peace within a framework of equality between men and women 
as well as equality between all women.

Within a context marked by numerous challenges, ranging from the use of 
violence to a lack of gender inclusion within the World Social Forum, on 
top of logistical challenges,^^[5] 
feminists were still able to bring light to their issues, building new 
alliances and showing their determination in the struggle for a just and 
equitable world.

Most participants coming from the Middle East and North Africa region.

Some participants, namely Westerners, nevertheless cancelled their trip, 
despite months of preparation.

In an attempt to provoke, a group of about eight young men were armed 
with a sign marked “Blah-Blah-Blah.” Following altercations, the holder 
of the sign was removed from the Assembly.

Sahrawi women did demand that their voice be heard on several accounts. 
After a number of demands and altercations, they rushed the stage to speak.

Requests for translators were not always met, resulting in last minute 
room changes for workshops.

*Article License:* - *Article License Holder:* AWID
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