(Chennai, India) Rallying behind the theme "100 years of Women's Resistance: Rights, Empowerment, Liberation," around 40 women rural women leaders, representatives and activists from eight Asian countries gathered for a 2-day conference here on March 29 and 30.
In a keynote speech, Liza Maza, Philippines' GABRIELA National Chairperson and International Women's Alliance co-organiser, reminded the participants about the historical role that Asian women have taken in the people's struggle against imperialism and its accompanying oppression and repression of the working class. Women have shown various forms of survival and resistance ranging from organising, parliamentary struggles to direct actions. The political unrest in the Middle East and North Africa regions also saw the active participation of women in street protests demanding immediate economic and political reforms.
Maza also recognised Asian women martyrs in recent history such as Aneta Theresa Fernando of Sri Lanka, Sarojamma and Censammal of India and Lydia Sicat of the Philippines. "These women represent the courage, readiness and determination of Asian women to continue our struggle against imperialist globalisation," Maza said.
Hosted by the Tamil Nadu Women's Forum (TNWF) and Society for Rural Education and Development (SRED), the conference highlights included panel discussions and simultaneous workshops. A wide range of issues confronting women have been tackled, such as corporate control over land and productive resources, workers and migration, climate change, sexual and reproductive health and rights, war and militarisation, ethnic and caste conflicts. In another keynote address, V. Geetha of Pengal Santhippu, an India-based women’s collective, particularly noted that rural women are disproportionately and negatively affected due to the onslaught of corporate globalisation.
"There is a pressing need to strengthen women's solidarity and advance the struggle of Asian rural women beyond the gains that have been achieved over the past 100 years," said Sarojeni Rengam, Executive Director of the Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific (PAN AP), a member of the ARWC Steering Committee.
"The worsening global economic crisis, food crisis and political unrest brought about by monopoly capitalism, not to mention the disasters aggravated and exploited by corporate greed, warrant an intensified resistance on the part of vulnerable sectors such as rural women," Rengam added.
On day one of the conference, the participants took stock of the gains that women's movements have achieved as well as trends and emerging issues affecting women. With Asia as the second largest host of farmland investments, landgrabbing by governments and foreign and local corporations was particularly noted because of its intensified pace and global scale worsening the food insecurity of many people, further displacing peasant and indigenous women and men from homes, lands and livelihoods affecting their health as well as exacerbating the climate crisis.
The next day focused on developing new strategies and alternatives for stronger regional and inter-regional unities of women's organisations and movements. A public meeting was also held on March 31. The women from India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Kyrgyzstan, Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines and Japan came up with a collective plan of action that identified various mechanisms such as organizing, building alliances, legal and meta-legal actions, exchanges and capacity building and advocacy to raise and advance women's collective strength and resistance. The plan of action with the theme, "Facing the challenges of corporate control: empowering Asian rural women through strengthening our movement", is ARWC's road map for the next 2 years.
100 toiling women to be honored for their continuing struggle for social and national liberation
Meanwhile, to commemorate the centenary of International Women's Day, the Asian Rural Women's Coalition (ARWC) launched a special award - Honouring 100 women to mark 100 years of women's resistance in 2011.
The citation will recognise 100 women from all over Asia who have demonstrated resilience and creativity in rural life, courage, empowerment, and resistance in the face of crisis and disasters, and who have tirelessly worked to improve the quality of life in rural communities.
"Asian rural women deserve to be honoured as they do not only constitute the majority of women in the world, they are also at the forefront of grassroots struggles, fighting for liberation, freedom, justice and survival," said Fatima Burnad of the Society for Rural Education and Development (SRED), an India-based member of the ARWC.
The award was introduced as the culmination of a historic two-day conference in India that brought together Asian women leaders and representatives of peasants and agricultural workers, indigenous women, minorities, pastoralists, fisherfolk, migrants and informal workers.
Meanwhile, the 100 women honourees will be announced officially on 15 October, 2011 - International Day of Rural Women as selected by a team of women leaders and activists. #
For more information on Honouring 100 women, please visit: http://www.asianruralwomen.net/html/events_000004.php
For reference, contact the Asian Rural Women's Coalition (ARWC) Secretariat: firstname.lastname@example.org
THE STEERING COMMITTEE MEMBERS OF THE ASIAN RURAL WOMEN'S COALITION IS COMPOSED OF 12-MEMBER GROUPS OF NATIONAL FORMATIONS/ALLIANCES AND REGIONAL ORGANISATIONS WORKING ON WOMEN'S ISSUES ON VARIOUS FRONTS: Society for Rural Education and Development (SRED) and Tamil Nadu Women's Forum (TNWF), India * Tenaganita, Malaysia * Human Development Organisation (HDO), Sri Lanka * INNABUYOG and GABRIELA National Alliance of Women's Organisation, Philippines * All Nepal Women's Alliance (ANWA), Nepal * Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific (PAN AP) * Committee for Asian Women (CAW) * Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD) * Asian-Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women (ARROW) * Coordination of Action Research on AIDS and Mobility (CARAM ASIA) * International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism IMADR)