The opening panel reaffirms the need for a feminist and classist struggles movement.
A platform with many left organizations, and workers and feminist movements marked the official opening of the first National Meeting of the Women in Struggles Movement (MML), a classist and feminist movement affiliated to CSP-Conlutas. The opening of the national meeting, which may become an historical event for working women, took place in Belo Horizonte and gathered 500 women.
The opening platform included representatives from CSP-Conlutas, Metalworkers Union of São José dos Campos, Front for the Legalization of Abortion, March of Bitches (BH), World March of Women (MML), MTST, People’s Struggle Movement, Feminist Network, PSOL, PSTU and LER-QI. Also attending were international representatives from Argentina, the Spanish State, India, England, Germany and Syria.
Joaninha Oliveira, representative of CSP-Conlutas, said that, “this meeting reassures us that the project we discussed for CSP-Conlutas is going in the right direction.” She was referring to the idea of building and boosting an organization to unite not only the unions, but the social movements and organizations that fight oppression, such as the MML.
Next, the leader of the PSTU, Vanessa Portugal, highlighted the historical character of the meeting, saying, “Perhaps younger women who are here don’t appreciate the dimension of this meeting, but we should highlight to them that this is the largest gathering of working women that has taken place in the last 20 years.” She went on to criticize the theory of “women’s empowerment”, because right now as this meeting is being held to discuss women’s oppression this country is for the first time ruled by a woman, President Dilma Rousseff. “While some beliefs are being destroyed, other dreams are built,” she said to huge applause.
Vanessa went on to establish differences with the feminist movements that reduce the question of women to a question of gender without taking into account the issue of class, she said, “Without men you can’t fight for socialism, but neither can you without women.” The women from different corners of the country chanted, “I’m radical – I ‘m fighting – I’m struggling at the National Meeting”.
Laura Symbalista, from the Front for the Legalization of Abortion began saying, “this meeting is extremely important to gather and organize the feminist movement.” Helena Silvestre, from the People’s Struggle Movement, which is currently leading a land occupation with more than a thousand families in Osasco (São Paulo state), highlighted the importance of the women’s struggle saying that, “Historically women have suffered in many areas: in health, in education, in the family; sexism has always imposed a place for her.” She concluded that, “we need to face that imposition and show that a woman’s place is in the fight and where she wants to be.”
Lola Write Lola
Lola Aronovich, literature teacher at the UFC and author of a Blog ‘Write Lola Write’ – which is a reference for the feminist movement, recalled a coincidence between the birth date of her blog and the MML, both in 2009. “My blog is personal, virtual, whereas the MML is collective and social … … Many women have learnt about feminism by reading my blog, and I would be very happy if these women were here to find a political tool like the MML, to strengthen their fight for rights.”
Lola praised the diversity present, and argued, “I think this is a fantastic women’s movement because there are so many black, gay, transgender, and women workers. It is necessary for social movements and political parties to give a further voice to these women,”
Lola did not fail to criticize Dilma’s government, “Although I believe that her election was important”, she said she was “very disappointed with Dilma’s government … I expected more from the first woman in the presidency of this country.”
The preparation for the meeting had already revealed the great enthusiasm that existed, with pre-meetings in the different states, as well as many financial campaigns that were organised by women to enable the delegations to travel to Minas Gerais, and maintaining financial and political independence from the government. The pre-registration level of 2300 women which exceeded all expectations, had already confirmed the lively activities that were taking place across the regions.
The theme of violence against women opened the debate on the final day of the national MML meeting
“Do not be quiet, shout when they attack your family, be strong”, says Elisabeth, widow of Amarildo.
The second and final day of the first national meeting of the MML began on Sunday with a platform to discuss violence against women. Two women whose struggle is symbolic in this sense were invited: from India Soma Marik, who fights against rape in her country, and Elisabeth Gomes da Silva, resident of the Favela Rocinha in Rio, who started a relentless search for her husband, the construction worker Amarildo, following his disappearance, torture and murder at the hands of the police.
Susana Gutierrez, coordinator of the Sepe (union of teachers in the state of Rio de Janeiro) and one of the leaders of the education strike, spoke about the largest mobilization of the education sector ever made in the state. In a speech widely applauded by the audience, Susana denounced the violence against workers by the Military Police and at the behest of Governor Sergio Cabral and Mayor Eduardo Paes.
Soma Marik, to loud applause, began her speech by expressing gratitude for the invitation and greeted the meeting. Soma is a member of an organization that fights against rape in India. She cited cases of brutal violence against women, and explained that the root of this serious problem is the violence imposed by the state.
Soma referred to cases of sexual, physical and psychological violence against the lower castes in Indian society. “When a woman is raped, the state criminalizes the victim and not the abuser,” she explained that, “the state only uses the death penalty as a trump card, but it has already been proven that it does not solve the problem, instead rape has increased.”
She recalled the tragic case of the young woman who was brutally raped in December 2012 which changed the situation in the country and the struggle of the social movements. “In India, an abuse is considered rape only if there is vaginal penetration. Our struggle is for rape to be considered as any aggressive touch or attitude in relation to our body,” defended Soma, “We strive to combat the idea of masculine behavior being at the expense of women’s oppression. We require a changing of the law, but we are against the death penalty.”
Soma concluded, “We all have a lot of hard fighting ahead, which will not be successful if a deep class point of view is not introduced into this question. Live long the feminist and classist movement.”
Violence of the UPP Police
“Olê , olê , olê , olá, the Rocinha wants to know, where is Amarildo!”, sung the women when Elisabeth Gomes da Silva began her speech. Amarildo’s wife Elisabeth, started by saying that she wanted to honor all the strong women attending the meeting.
“Do not be quiet; shout out loud when they attack your children, your husbands, your family. Many people stay quiet and hide the abuses that happen in their communities by the UPP police.”
Elisabeth then talked about the violence and torture that is taking place against poor community residents and she recalled how Amarildo was taken by the police without any explanation, “To me they are thugs in uniform. I am not going to rest until I see my husband’s bones,” she concluded “Women are strong, be strong.”
Campaign against violence against women
Following the contributions by Soma and Elisabeth, Marcela Azevedo from the MML of Pará, and Karen Capelesso from the MML of Curitiba, presented the proposal for a national campaign against violence against women to be carried on by the MML.