Globalizing Rights, Hope And Struggle: The World March Of Women
FRIDAY FILE: An interview with Wilhelmina Trout of the World March of Women, a movement formed to put an end to social, political and economic injustice against women.
By Kathambi Kinoti
AWID: Who started the World March of Women (WMW) and why?
WILHELMINA TROUT: The World March of Women started as an initiative of the Quebec Federation of Women inspired by a successful march carried out in Quebec in 1995 called “Bread and Roses”. In that year, around 850 women marched 200 kilometres and they were able to achieve concrete victories like the rise of the minimum wage for women, more rights to migrant women and support to the solidarity economy. After that they started networking to build something similar on the international level. So, in the year 2000, after one and a half years of planning internationally, the first international action of the World March of Women was a huge worldwide campaign that collected more than five million signatures from women in more than 160 countries around our analysis and demands as women. We went to the streets to denounce the unjust political, social and economic rules that govern us and which only generate violence against women. Many actions were organized from March 8, 2000 up to the International Day to Eradicate Poverty, October 17, 2000 when the closing action was held in New York on in front of the United Nations building, where we presented the five million signatures. One day before, under the banner “2000 Good Reasons to Change Course” a document was given to the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund criticizing their policies, which had only created more inequality among women and people. The success of this action and the participatory way it was built led us to decide to continue building the WMW as a permanent movement in our countries and at an international level. So after this decision we continued to work both at local and international levels constituting our International Committee, writing our principles, discussing them in our International Meetings which are held every two years. In this process, we identify ourselves with what is called the anti-globalization movement; the movement for another kind of globalization - the globalization of rights, hope, struggle.
AWID: In which places around the world have your marches taken place?
WT: One common mistake is to interpret the march as a single event that takes place at a specific moment. It is not like that. We define ourselves as an international permanent movement, an international feminist action movement connecting grass-roots groups and organizations working to eliminate the causes at the root of poverty and violence against women. We are diverse women – urban and peasant women, youth and trade unionists - who come from different political backgrounds but have in common our desire to eradicate this capitalist and patriarchal system. We are present in more than fifty countries in various continents, organized in what we call National Coordinating Bodies (NCBs) and we organize actions all the time, either during some key dates for our movement (such as March 8, October 17 or November 25) or in alliance with other social movements such as demonstrations against militarization, free trade or the false solutions to the systemic crisis and to climate change.
Each country NCB has the autonomy to decide its action according the local contexts. However, every five years we come together to organize our international action under a common slogan and fields of action. After our first action in 2000, we organized our Second International Action in 2005 and right now, in 2010, we are carrying out our Third International Action in more than 50 countries.
AWID: Do you have different themes each year, and if so, how do you select the themes?
WT: Our key theme is the struggle at the root causes against poverty and violence against women, but these are very broad issues. As explained before, the March is not a single event. So, as women from diverse backgrounds we are involved in a huge set of struggles defined by women on a national level. For example: the struggle for equal and just salaries among men and women and women themselves, or the struggle over women’s territories - understood as not only our land but our bodies as well- , for public services and for punishment of perpetrators of violence against women. In our process to constitute ourselves as a movement, we arrived at the definition of four fields of action which are organizing our 2010 action as well: peace and demilitarization, women’s work (for women’s economic autonomy), violence against women, and common good and public services. These four fields of actions or “themes” are a synthesis of the national platforms of the Second International Action and they were defined at our sixth International Meeting held in Peru in 2006.
AWID: What achievements are you most proud of?
WT: So many! One of these is the way we have been able to construct our Women’s Global Charter for Humanity presented in 2005. The process was so consultative and so inclusive of the views of women around the world. It was wonderful that we were able to bring out a charter that is truly representative of voices of women at grassroots. The second thing is our ability to build solidarity. We bring messages and organize actions to support the struggle of women around the world like in Haiti, Honduras and Turkey, but more importantly this is done in consultation with the women in those respective countries. Third is our strong presence in the World Social Forums (WSF), our visibility in the opening marches with music, drums and our slogans. We are in the WSF to affirm our views on building another world, based on the values of equality, freedom, solidarity, justice and peace.
AWID: What challenges have you encountered?
WT: We have very positive challenges, like languages. For instance, my personal challenge is to learn Spanish or French to better participate in our international meetings. Another challenge is how to balance the work in alliance with other movements and the effort to build ourselves as a movement.
AWID: What are your future plans?
WT: 2010 is the year of our Third International Action. The actions are taking place in two key moments: from March 8 to 18, and from October 7 to 17. In the first moment we had decentralized actions in more than 50 countries. Now, we have the challenge to plan the next moments of our action, especially the closing action, which will be held from October 14 to 17, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), focusing on peace and demilitarization. Before that, we also are organizing our regional actions: the European action will be held on June 30, in Istanbul, Turkey, and the Americas action will be in Colombia, from August 16 to 24. Our International Committee is right now in Cape Town, in South Africa to assess the actions held in March and to prepare not only details of the next steps concerning our 2010 action but also to discuss our next strategic plan. The International Committee is composed of women from Pakistan and Philippines (from Asia), Galicia and Switzerland (in Europe), Brazil, Mexico and Quebec (from the Americas), as well as from Mali and South Africa (in the African continent). At this meeting, we also will have the presence of a woman from the DRC who has been participating with our International Committee members in various meetings with the authorities in the DRC in the past days to prepare our international mobilization there.
Note: This article is part of the AWID’s weekly Friday File series, exploring important issues and events from a women’s rights perspective. To subscribe to the weekly Friday File newsletter, click here.