Porto Alegre, 27th of january 2003
By Dieuwertje Huijg
This monday was the last official day of the World Social Forum (WSF) 2003. Some big names speeched today in the Gigantinho (the big stadium), like Chomsky & co. So in the morning I had to choose whether I wanted to see them, and fight for a place, or to listen to the less famous people, who probably would come up with new things.
Today was a good day to find out some better options. The program I got hold of the day before was looking at me, wanting to be discovered. You need a strong cup of coffee for that, because how will you know for sure that the one of the 100s of workshops you picked out, will be exactly that one that gives you the right information, or that it is more interesting than the other one you could not go to (later there were people who told me that they would not open the program until on the plane back, afraid that they missed it all). How can you make choices between saving the environment, the alternative economy, LGBT rights, and every other subject you can give a workhop on? I wanted to participate in a workshop from a smaller women's group, and the workshop from MAMA (Articulated Movement of the Women of Amazônia) seemed a good idea. On the WSF2002 and on the National Conference of Brazilian Women 2002 in Brasília I had met Socorro before, from the MAMA in Manaus. She had told me about actions of the MAMA, for example against the FTAA (Free Trade Agreement of the Americas) and on traffic in women and girls, so participating in their workshop could be interesting.
But first I wanted to participate in another workshop. The PUC, the catholic university where most of the workshops take place, is maybe not so far, but competing with 100.000 people, the buses were full. This way it is easy to meet other participants. Like I did today.
In the State Rio Grande do Sul (RS) live a many 3rd, 4th, and 5th generations of Germans and Italians. This results in a hierarchy of first being German (or Italian), than Gaúch@ (being of the State RS), and then Brazilian. Once I went to the countryside of the countryside of RS, and the native language spoken was German, not Portuguese. I suppose it is some sort of exotic German, since researchers of Germany come here to record the preservated language, not spoken anymore in Germany itself.
So I was in the bus to the PUC, and someone felt the need to investigate me and show how good his German was. He had never been in Germany, nor did his parents, nor do I speak German (well). But, though, I could tell him that he spoke German using Portugese grammar. This, of course, he did not like. We had to share a sort of European connection, which I did not feel. I have to tell you that in RS there is another village, Nãometoque (Don't touch me), where Dutch immigrants live. The fact that I come from Holland, makes everyone tell me this. Apparently expecting that deep inside I have a strong necessity to feel related to it, or even visit it, which I do and did not. Now I remembered why.
The bus did arrive, so I jumped in the crowd. The Brazilian chopps (beer) the night before, when the real networking is done, made me come a little late, but soon enough I would be in the workshop to find out about feminist actions in the next couple years. The fact that I got lost between the buildings on the campus, and I repeatedly took the wrong way, did not help. This first workshop had already ended, are feminist actions organized so quickly? Puxa, why did I not program myself better? A phonecall later I went to another building, hoping to learn more on the commercialization of the body. But instead, I was listening to a workshop on Asia, and not on Asian bodies, nor female bodies. This was the wrong workshop, though the right place.
Passing by the Quilombo Forum, I took some time to check out the stand with books, clothes, music and information from/on Afrobrazilian movements. Where in the bustrip I was sucked into an irritating we-share-so-much-but-have-nothing-in-common conversation, this ended in an interesting cup of coffee. I met Aroldo from the organization SOL, who has been publishing the first kid's (Brazilian) comic, Luana, with a black girl as the main character. She is really cool, doing capoeira (Afrobrazilian martial art/dance, iniciated by Afrobrazilian slaves as a form of hidden resistance), going to primary school, fighting against strange and bad UFO-creatures, and having a grandma who tells stories about Africa, and Afrobrazilian history, culture and religions.
I wanted to see other stands, and not run late again for the next workshop. I will try to give you an impression on how this space is like. Lots and lots of people. Since I still did not get the logic of the PUC campus, I had every opportunity to experience the WSF feeling. On exactly every corner there is at least one stand from the PT (Labour Party), PcdoB (Communist Party Of Brazil), and/or from the PSTU (Socialist Party of the Unified Workers). In the Charter of Principles of the WSF, political parties are not allowed to be in the organization, nor to participate as official delegades or to organize workshops. Since there is enough revolution for everyone, you can, besides Che Guevera & co, pick out black, indigenous and women's movements (the LGBT had their own Forum), the Hara Krishna, theatre acts (for example from the Theatre of the Oppressed), the Palestine cause, environmental groups, you name it and you will find it. One can wonder what all these groups and movements have in common. This is a good question, which I cannot answer that, accept that they all, we all, want another world, which is possible ...
Passing by this spectacle, I ended up in the grass 'joining' an informal meeting. Feminists from Latin America and Asia were discussing how they can try to push the feminist agenda over the ocean to the next next WSF in India. It was good and interesting to hear about the experiences from other women, some who are involved in the organization of the WSF. In India and Asia different women's movements, non-gouvernamental organizations, environmental, popular and autonomous movements are organizing themselves. They already started to mobilize women/feminists to keep the women's and feminist issues on the WSF agenda. Without getting into too many details, it was mentioned that there are maybe enough women present, but that this does not always mean a feminist presence. Not integrally in the WSF itself (as the event and/or process), nor integrally in the (international) organization committee. The feminist spaces were fought for, but after three years there is still a lot of resistance on feminist issues, actions and thinking in the WSF (again in the event of the Forum and in the organization of the Forum).
Besides this, the feminist struggle still seems something by women for women. No (almost no) men are present in the gender/feminist workshops and panels, and often do not feel responsible to integrate gender/feminist issues integrally in the WSF. Economy, for example, is still seen as a neutral issue, thus lacking a gender-analysis. From others I heard that on a workshop on gender and economy, from the World March of Women, the issues was de-gendered by the non-feminist speakers.
Something else that was mentioned, is the threat of a change that might occur within the Charter of Principles. This one is clear about the non-participation of political parties, and at the same time a bigger presence of these can be noticed. This might be facilitated by the move from the WSF from Porto Alegre to India. Another problem seems a change in focus, from a global (transnational) vision, to a focus on national representatives.
It appears that also within the women's and feminist movements there are different visions on these subjects.
Now I wanted to tell you about the interesting MAMA-workshop. I was on time, but the MAMA's were not. Because I waited so long for the MAMA's to come, I missed a feminist theatre spectacle. What a pity. This monday was not my workshop day.
But still full of energy, I decided to go already to the Gigantinho. This is another location, a big football stadium, where the 'big names' speak. I find it strange that everyone is so eager to see these big names you normally read books from (mostly men, and mostly white). They normally have already said everything in these books, and are only there to show those who believe more in books than in people that the WSF is important. Ok, and to give the possibility to those who cannot read these books to hear these names say important things. Like being against war, the FTAA, capitalism, imperialism, (neo-)colonialism. And everything else you can be against. And if you are lucky they support our anti-sexism, -racism or -homofobia club! But don't count on this, I understood the Noreena Hertz forgot to mention the gender-issue... Their rising importance is visible. The stadium was gigantic, and the amount of people impressed me. So I made a picture for those who want to be impressed too, and got out as soon as possible (it was so hot and crowded).
I had enough of all these talking. I wanted action. Since today, monday, was the last official day, the closing march was the dessert. Personally I found the in front of the revolution tactic (from the opening march) good and working, but the soundcar was first, and some Che Guevara's slipped through. Still, the women (and other pro-feminists) were there, present, shining and shouting, in purple, with drums, banners and a huge flag, singing and dancing. It was fun, it was cool, it was great. You have to be exhausted after a forum like this, so to walk some kilometers more is only strengthening the activist heart and soul.
The closing ceremony was on a big square. We (the women, most from the World March of Women) tried to get as close to the podium as possible, in which we succeeded. There were some nice speeches, and there was a beautiful guitar-playing woman (from a Latin-american LGBT organization) who touched our hearts with her song. It was a good moment to get crazy for a bit, to dance, and enjoy the company of our companheiras. We will meet each other again, in real life, maybe at the next WSF in India, at the European Women or Social Forum 2003, or on the coming-up global young feminist mailinglist. Or maybe even at a World Women's Forum anticipating the WSF2004 in India?! But for now we could enjoy each other's company, so that we can bring home some global feminist energy and inspiration
With so many people, with so many struggles, and so many differences, we all fight for this other world which is possible. Um outro mundo é possível. Um mundo feminista é possível!