Porto Alegre, 25th of january 2003
By Dieuwertje Huijg
Today, the second day of the WSF (World Social Forum 2003, Porto Alegre - Brazil), was great. The sun is shining, the wind is freshing up our brains, and feminism is alive. What do you want more?
Since it is impossible to pass by every location in one day, since the conferences, panels and workshops are decentralized this year, I use every opportunity to drop in and absorb as much experiences possible.
The first day I `did´ the Arco-Íris (Rainbow), the LGBT forum (Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transgenders/-sexuals), where I sat down and could listen to a panel about the visibility of lesbians in society in general, and within the gay movement. The LGBT has quite a prominent place in the center, near the Gasômetro. And they organized a lot. In the panel where I did my presentation, there was someone talking about the LGBT movement, but that panel was about diversity. It does not seem that the LGBT issues are so much incorporated in the rest of the Forum.
The Planea Fêmea (Female Panet) is on the other end of the walk from the LGBT forum, passing by the youth camp (also called a Cidade das Cidades, the city of cities), the Pôr-do-Sol (Anfiteatro), and ending up at the place where women (and men) separate from the offical forum and the other parallel fora, have stands, workshops, and even had a witch ceremony. Last year (WSF2002) the Planeta Fêmea was still located at the PUC terrain (the central WSF location), giving the opportunity to participate. Now, it is only to be found by people who already know of their existence. On the other hand, definately this year, gender and feminist issues are much more integrated in the official WSF program. The World March of Women and the Articulación Feminista Marcosur (Feminist Articulation Marcosur) organize two of the five areas with the official panels. And in the International WSF Committee, as wel as in the National, feminist are trying hard to push the agenda, and make the WSF more diverse.
Before leaving to Brazil, I wanted to be sure that I would be able to contribute more than only doing the presentation. Since I have been working for a short while with a feminist organization in Brazil (SOF), it was a good opportunity to see what they would organize. There were two workshops by/about young feminists I would join, one today.
So, in the afternoon I met Júlia (from the SOF and the Brazilian World March of Women, coordinating the workshop), Elsa (from the young department of a Quebec feminist organization), Elisa (from a young feminist collective in Rome), Isabel (pushing the feminist agenda in the student´s movement in Rio de Janeiro), Andrea (from a Portugese women´s movement), and someone from Argentina (working with a women´s solidarity network, within the Piquetero movement). In the workshop "Feminism and a new political generation", organized in the space of the youth camp, we shared our experiences.
We were afraid that there would not be enough people. The time changed twice, the location changed (the one mentioned in the program did not exist), but at a certain point about 90 young women and men were present. Sitting in the grass, trying to find a common language (Spanish, Portuguese, French and Italian), exchanging difficulties, listening to the others, and confronted with commonalities, an impressive inspirating atmosphere was created. It is touching to see so many young women, fighting for a feminist, a more equal, society. Strong, solidary and energetic.
Andrea talked about the Portuguese Social Forum, which will be held this summer. She told that the in the organization there is not only a strong feminist and LGBT presence (in the organization itself, but also inherently in the agenda, in the conferences, panels and workshops), but that they even seem to succeed in a 50/50 representation of women and men. She also said more about the abortus struggle in Portugal, and about the history of the Portugese women´s movement, and their strong alliance with the (feminist) LGBT movement.
The Argentine woman told about the unemployment in Argentina, and the Piquetero movement which came out of this. They chose not to start a separate women´s organization, but to try to strengthen the women and women´s issues in this movement. They do not have a lot of possibilities to talk about, for example, abortus, since basic issues as enough food are more important now.
In Rio do Janeiro, there is a strong student´s movement. Isabel, talked about the problems they are confronted with. The men are created to be/come political and public subjects, and occupy (physical) space, and, in the case of an organization, have the financial and chairman functions. Where women are created to occupy the private spaces, and do the secretarial work. The common reactions on their women´s only group in the student´s movement are expressing the lack of understanding. Isabel and her group are trying to push the young women to talk, to take the microphone in meetings and conferences.
Elsa was saying more on the general problems of young feminist in Quebec, in the courage they need to show identifying as a feminist, and putting gender and feminist issues on the agenda(s). It seems to be out of fashion to be young and a feminist, which partly comes out of fear to be seen as someone who hates men. Though, in september this year they are organizing a young feminist Quebec meeting.
Elisa talked about the right-wing government Italy has right now. And that a big issue at the moment is a law coming up, where the embryo is considered an individual, a political (thus moral) subject. Not seeing the mother, thus the woman, as the subject who has to decide over her own body, but by means of the government, imposing the old morals. She expressed the need to keep in touch, maybe to use the Europan Women´s Forum (november 2003) to see eachother (or some of us), and to establish a global young feminist network.
I talked about the Missing Link workshop that NextGENDERation gave at the first European Social Forum (november 2002), and about the links which are missing. About the excluding experiences in the organization of the ESF. And about the decision, together with the Europan World March of Women to organize an European Women´s Forum anticipating the next ESF. I also told something about the Association I am part of (Association Women and Diversity), and the missing links which are central at our meetings (may-june 2003). And about the ethnicity-gender exclusion-inclusion discours which is present in the Netherlands.
To try to keep in touch, and not see this workshop (or the whole WSF) only as en event, but as a process, we will try to make a global young feminist mailinglist, with Spanish and English as the main languages.
It is wonderful what a 4-hours workshop can do. How everyone felt stronger, looking for more possibilities to learn from eachother, to discuss with eachother, to echange information, to establish point where we can meet. Tomorrow there will be another young feminist workshop. We will re-produce (read: paint over) sexist ads.