The International Women’s Assembly (IWA) successfully held its First General Assembly (FGA) on July 5 and 6, 2011 in Quezon City, Philippines under the theme, “Advance the Global Anti-imperialist Women’s Movement! Strengthen the International Women’s Alliance!”.
The FGA which was hosted by GABRIELA Philippines was attended by 99 delegates and observers from 67 organizations from 20 countries namely: Argentina, Australia, Canada, Ecuador, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kenya, Kurdistan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Philippines, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, The Netherlands and the USA.
In the morning of July 5, participants to the IWA FGA joined hundreds of individuals from all over the world in opening the International Festival of Peoples’ Rights and Struggles (IFPRIS), a space for workers, peasants, women, migrants, indigenous peoples, youth, artists and many other sectors from around the globe to learn, share and interact with one another as they confront the issues and challenges in the struggle against the exploitative and repressive system of patriarchy and imperialism.
As co-sponsor of this event, the IWA organized the panel of grassroots gender experts composed of Azra Talat Sayeed of Pakistan who talked about the struggle of oppressed women and people against imperialist attacks and terror in general and Pakistan in particular and Lina Solano of Ecuador who discussed women’s resistance against foreign mining corporations in Latin America. The speech of Keynote Speaker, Leila Khaled from the General Union of Palestinian Women who was unable to come due to a family emergency, was read by Liza Maza of GABRIELA.
Khaled said that the vision of the Palestinian people is to build a democratic state in Palestine, where all citizens have the same rights and duties regardless of religion, ethnic identity and gender. She also called for solidarity with the Palestinian people by joining the growing BDS movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel.
The organizational meeting of IWA commenced in the afternoon of the same day with participants performing a ritual of unity led by dancers with flowing colored streamers from GABRIELA’s cultural group Sining Lila (Purple Art). The performers punctuated the following two days with their rhythmic harmonies and progressive songs.
Liza Maza of the IWA FGA Organizing Committee delivered the opening remarks. She noted that the FGA is a continuation of the process that started in 2008 when the Women’s Commission of the International League of Peoples’ Struggles (ILPS) unanimously adopted a resolution calling for the formation of an anti-imperialist global alliance of women. The call was realized when the founding assembly of IWA was held in August 16, 2010 following the two-day Montreal International Women’s Conference in Canada.
She acknowledged the hard work done by the IWA FGA Organizing Committee composed of Marie Boti of the Women of Diverse Origin (Canada), Liza Maza and Lana Linaban of GABRIELA (Philippines), Azra Talat Sayeed of the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (Pakistan), Valerie Francisco of GABRIELA-USA, Rita Acosta of the Mouvement contre le viol et l’inceste (Movement against rape and incest, Canada), Hsiao-Chuan Hsia of the Action Network for Marriage Migrants’ Rights and Empowerment (Taiwan), and Coni Ledesma of the Support Committee for Filipino Women and Children (The Netherlands).
She stressed that the Alliance was formed as an anti-imperialist, anti-patriarchy, anti-racist, anti-sexist and anti-homophobic alliance to organize women as a political force and to link the women’s movement with the people’s movement for national and social liberation and gender equality.
The Organizing Committee presided the plenary approval of the agenda of the FGA and the approval of application of 30 new members bringing to close to a hundred IWA’s membership to date.
Marie Boti reported on the accomplishments of the Alliance for the past year: representation of IWA in various regional, international and sectoral conferences and meetings; issuance of March 8 statement and solidarity messages; holding of internationally coordinated action on March 8 International Women’s Day; participation in campaigns for the release of political prisoners and preparation for the FGA.
The Accomplishment Report was followed by the panel presentation on Women’s Resistance Against Imperialism. The panel was composed of Sarojeni Rengam of the Asian Rural Women’s Coalition and Pesticide Action Network Asia-Pacific (Malaysia) for Asia; Clelia Iscaro of the National Encounters of Women (Argentina) for Latin America; Emime Ndihokubwayo of Kenya for Africa; Daphna Whitmore of the Auckland Philippines Solidarity (Australia) for Oceania; Monica Gail Moorehead of the Women’s Fightback Network (USA) and Kelti Cameron of the Ontario Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (Canada) for North America; and Monika Gaertner-Engel of the Women’s Political Caucus (Germany) for Europe.
The panel of speakers coming from different regions across the globe spoke on the intensifying imperialist attacks on women’s lives and livelihood and shared their strategies of resistance and the need to unite in the struggle against imperialism and all reaction.
The assembly deliberated on and adopted the Manila Declaration of Unity of the International Women’s Alliance that called for a global militant, anti-imperialist women’s movement that will “link ourselves and our struggles to fight our common enemy-imperialism and feudalism including patriarchy, to stop the economic and political domination of the capitalist system, and to end imperialist wars of aggression and measures against the oppressed peoples of the world.”
The Manila Declaration further stated that “as the global economic, political, social and environmental crises deepen, there is urgency for us women to unite, heighten our militancy and join the wave of the people’s struggle to defend our hard won rights and advance our liberation.”
The IWA Constitution was also discussed and adopted by the assembly.
Workshops by global regions were held to deliberate on the draft General Program of Action (GPOA) of the Alliance and to draw up its Four-Year Plan of Action cognizant of the major and important issues and context of the regions.
The plenary then approved by acclamation the GPOA, Four-Year Plan and resolutions on particular issues and concerns the Alliance would work on. The Plan of Action includes the work of projecting IWA’s analysis and positions on major issues affecting the majority of the world’s women and oppressed peoples, building IWA regional chapters and enjoining women youth to IWA among others.
The Assembly elected the members of the Executive Council. Below are the elected members of the EC and their responsibilities:
Chairperson – Liza Maza (GABRIELA, Philippines)
Vice Chairperson for Internal Affairs – Azra Talat Sayeed (Roots for Equity, Pakistan);
Vice Chairperson for External Affairs – Lina Solano (El Frente de Mujeres Defensoras de Las Pachamama, Ecuador);
Secretary General – Marie Boti (Women of Diverse Origins, Canada)
Deputy Secretary General – Maitet Ledesma (Pinay sa Holland, the Netherlands)
Treasurer – Retno Dewi (ATKI, Indonesia)
Auditor – Daphna Whitmore (Aucklands Philippine Solidarity, New Zealand)
Member – Lana Linaban (GABRIELA, Philippines)
Member – Monica Gail Moorehead (Women’s Fightback Network, USA)
The EC assigned Valerie Francisco of the USA who energetically facilitated the two-day FGA to lead the development of a platform for participation of women youth to the IWA.
In the closing ceremony, the participants recognized and honored four Women of Valor – Edith Ballantyne of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (Canada), Leila Khaled of the General Union of Palestinian Women (Palestine), Carmen “Nanay Mameng” Deunida of Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Philippines), and Clelia Iscaro of National Encounters of Women (Argentina). These courageous women were recognized for their “steadfast commitment and invaluable contribution to the promotion of women’s emancipation, freedom, peace and social liberation”. Each woman received a dedicated plaque in the shape of the IWA logo designed especially for the occasion.
The assembly then offered a moment of silence for Magda Maasbommel of the Red Morgen, the Netherlands who just passed away last June. She gave her whole life in the service of the people. The participants also called the presence of all the other women comrades who have passed and whose legacy continues to inspire and strengthen the women’s movement for a new system founded on genuine democracy, liberty, equality, peace, freedom and justice.
Singing songs of struggles and shouting slogans, the Assembly participants linked arms forming a large circle symbolizing greater unity and strong resolve to carry the struggle forward to the 21st century.