By Erin Simpson
SUMMARY OF DAY ONE
This Conference is an Opportunity to
Strengthen support and solidarity among women; Acknowledge and nourish ourselves with our diversity; Strengthen the work for peace, equality and justice of the women Nobel Prize Laureates; Pay homage to the struggles of women; and Denounce all cases of violence again people who are persecuted, tortured, raped, and imprisoned for defending the rights of women and humanity.
Specifically, we denounce:
- The incarceration and isolation of Aung San Suu Kyi.
- The persecution of women defenders of human rights in Iran.
We are convinced that what is currently called democracy, in fact, is not democracy. Those who hold power have stolen the meaning of the term and have used it deceitfully for their own purposes. We understand democracy from the context of our bodies, experiences, dreams, and struggles for a free, just, and egalitarian society for all. This is why we call it a substantive, deep, or feminist democracy (although we are still challenged to find the best way to name this concept).
Democracy is a necessary condition for the fulfillment of the rights of women. The fulfillment of the rights of women is a necessary condition for democracy. We cannot move forward on the rights of women within patriarchal, authoritarian, and fundamentalist societies and systems. One cannot speak of democracy if half of the world, that is women, cannot participate in decision-making, defend their rights, and create favorable policies.
Democracy can never be based on or legitimized by violence. Peace is a principle and goal of all democracy. Nor can democracy be understood without the principle of laicism or secularism, which guarantees the exercise of fundamental rights, allows for religious freedom, and prevents the imposition of single or dogmatic truths. Democracy implies free determination over our bodies, our spirits, and our peoples. Democracy is both a public and a private issue. There can be no democratic State in authoritarian, exclusive, violent societies, and vice versa.
Democracy must involve suppressing the idea of the other as something contrary or inferior and avoid making differences a reason for discrimination and oppression. So that everyone in their diversity may make free and informed decisions, democracy requires minimal conditions of individual and collective well-being and good living. That is, democracy may not be understood without the acknowledgement and exercise of all the human rights in their entirety and indivisibly. Capitalism, which by its very nature generates inequalities and exploitation, may not be a system associated with our understanding of democracy.
Democracy is based on the principle of reciprocity and complementariness, and abolishes all borders so that all of us may commit ourselves and take on responsibility for the needs and struggles of each and every one of us. It is a collective learning process that allows society to build individuals and relationships that are free, respectful, and in solidarity, that is, which allows for citizenship. It is built from our hearts and spirits and is in constant dialogue with diversity, with ancestral wisdom, and with new ideas of society and the world. It is, therefore, an intergenerational and inclusive process.
Most countries feign democracy. Authoritarianism, militarization, impunity, corruption, the powers that be, etc., are a shared reality for most countries that call themselves democratic. This is why it is difficult to move forward in the application of laws and policies that are favorable to our rights, even among women who attain public office.
Because of this it is also difficult to apply quota laws and other affirmative action measures. However, we cannot deny that these laws and affirmative action have increased the participation of women in public offices. Parity is still far off. Countries in which there is minimal democratic governance will have to wait to 2033 or 2043 to attain parity.
Governments, political parties, and other groups in power, whether they define themselves as on the left or on the right, negotiate and allow for the violation of women’s rights in order to achieve agreements that work to their benefit. Peace agreements and conflict resolution processes tend to exclude the participation, voices, and demands of women. Those responsible for violence are the ones who sit down to define peace and the future of peoples and of women.
Violence, poverty, and the exploitation of women, which is found in most countries of the world, limits our ability to fully participate in life and democratic institutions, both private and public. Violence against women who defend human rights and are in favor of social change limits the opportunity to build democratic states and societies. The economic crisis is a challenge to the well-being and rights of the majority of women, but it is also an opportunity to transform the current economic model.
We also face challenges among ourselves and within our movements:
- To move forward with more holistic agendas that take into account the economic dimension and articulate the rights of women along with the rights of peoples, the environment, etc.
- Reexamine colonialist practices that are used in the name of feminism, or homogeneous western perspectives regarding women and their needs.
- Avoid patriarchal practices among ourselves.
- Favor strategies and language that attract more people to the struggle for our vision of democracy.
- Broaden the spaces in which we struggle for democracy, such as, for example, the mass media or financial institutions.
- Favor the participation of men in the struggle for gender equity and women’s rights.
What we do as women’s movements to promote democracy
Every victory in the struggle of women allows us to move forward toward true democracy. Women are continually broadening, deepening, and giving meaning to democracy. We democratize the State, social movements, our families, and personal relationships. We do this from within the institutions that we want to transform and through social movements.
Experiences are too numerous to count. Yesterday’s sessions underscored the experience of our own forms of self-government, such as the JAMAAT, cities of women, girl power city, etc. Also discussed were creative forms of alliances and connections between the struggle of women and other social movements, such as those promoted by the Petateras.