‘Long live peasant woman! Long live feminism!’: peasant women’s meeting in Sri Lanka concludes

“We understand that capitalism is the main source of inequality and that many forms of violence emerge from these inequalities.”

La Via Campesina
(Photo -La Via Campesina)

This article by Tanya Wadhwa, first appeared on Peoples Dispatch on November 28, 2018

On November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, a global peasant women’s meeting in Sri Lanka culminated with a clarion call to end patriarchy and violence against women, and fight the onslaught of capitalism.“Let us put an end to violence against women, break the silence, resist and confront patriarchy and capitalism…We must overcome barbarism, fascism and the lack of respect for the most fundamental rights. We must fight today and every day as a working class. We understand that capitalism is the main source of inequality and that many forms of violence emerge from these inequalities. That is why this struggle is such a class struggle”, emphasized La Vía Campesina (LVC) in a statement released after the culmination of event.

The Global Meeting of Women Articulation, organized by LVC, a global peasants’ movement, which began on November 22 in Negombo, Sri Lanka, concluded with a feminist solidarity meeting in Naula, a town in the Matale district of Sri Lanka. The conference was attended by over 60 peasant women leaders from more than 20 .countries across the globe. The main aim of the conference was to reflect on different challenges faced by peasant women and women in general, to strengthen organizational tasks at the regional and international level, and to construct an action plan for the training of women members of LVC.

A La Via Campesina poster calling for an to end to violence against women.

“I think it is our time now. Today, when I see women from different regions, with different skin color, speaking different languages, united by poverty and similar challenges, coming together in solidarity to fight against capitalism and patriarchy, I’m sure that in future all the women around the world will be free and will have equal rights”, said Torkia Chaibi, middle east coordinator, La Vía Campesina, Tunisia.

On the first day, peasant women from the Americas, Africa, Asia and Europe, associated with different social organizations shared experiences and problems they face every day. Some of the key challenges brought out in the conference were lack of equal rights, political power, decision making rights, and access to education, leading to exclusion of women; feudal mentality of men; differential wages and different forms of violence against women.

On the second day, a detailed continent-specific evaluation of the problems and struggles faced by women was carried out. The historical battles fought by women associated with LVC for their rights were recalled. Action plans to organize campaigns for issues pertaining to women on March 8 and November 25 were discussed.

Throughout the third day, debates were held on how to strengthen political alliances in the struggles of women and feminists and how to expand the reach of La Vía Campesina locally and internationally so that more and more peasants, small farmers and landless agricultural workers could be helped. Women were encouraged to continue fighting political battles within their country and to continue fighting for their rights based on the methods learned from the experiences shared by their comrades from different parts of the world.

“There is a need to strengthen peasants’ movements at the grassroots level. Farmers should be made aware of international policies and agreements, such as free trade agreements that affect them directly and how multinational companies are taking authority over seeds, food production, marketing and distribution. (…) We should encourage local production, local marketing techniques and promote local consumption”, said Nandini Jayaram, member of Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha, India.

On November 25, a field trip to Naula was held during which the delegates attended a session held by women leaders associated with the Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR) and Naula Women’s Federation. During the session, the members of these movements talked about the dangers of the Moragahakanda multi-purpose irrigation project inaugurated by Sri Lankan president Maithripala Sirisena in June. They talked about how this project had been publicized as an initiative that would strengthen the hydro-electric system of the country and provide irrigation facilities to 81,422 hectares in the dry zone of Sri Lanka, whereas the truth was that it had eradicated 12 villages and added to the misery of more than 14,000 families, making them homeless and landless.

‘No more violence against women’, ‘not one more’, ‘enough is enough’, ‘no means no’, ‘we are equal’, ‘it’s our time’, ‘long live peasant women’, ‘long live feminism’, ‘there is no socialism without feminism’ etc. were some of the prominent slogans that resonated through the conference venue over the three days.