First International Women’s Conference
Organized by Women Weaving the Future Network
Frankfurt, Germany | 6 – 7 October 2018
Mary Joan A. Guan
A Revolution at work
The number and composition of participants were impressive: 500 women and non-binary people from around the world. They came with various experiences about their struggles and movements. They had diverse issues but they gathered for one cause: to solidify women’s strength in facing the global war hurled against them.
The two-day international women’s conference held on Frankfurt, Germany last October 6-7, 2018 entitled “Revolution in the Making” brought together women to share experiences and to form a common struggle against the capitalist crisis that engulfed them. Women talked about patriarchy, capitalism, fascism, feminicide, sexual violence, war, colonialism, misogyny. At the same time, they talked about matriarchal communities, alternative media, and putting theory into practice.
The sharing about the different actions of women showed that the revolution is not just in the making but it is already at work.
Barriers to break
The organizers, Women Weaving the Future Network, was motivated by the resistance of the Kurdish women against the fascist attacks of ISIS in Kobane (Northern Syria/ West Kurdistan), Yezidi genocide in Shengal (Northern Iraq/ South Kurdistan), and Turkish State. They believed that the Kurdish women’s resistance can be woven together with the countless women in other countries.
The Kurds have been fighting for their liberation since the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, the state that controlled Southeast Europe, Western Asia, and North Africa between the 14th and early 20th centuries. But the most known struggle by the Kurds has been the PKK (Partiye Karkerên Kurdistanê/ Kurdish Workers Party), which existed for more than four decades now.
According to the Women Weaving the Future Network, the resistance of the Kurdish women has been more visible and has been contributing to the theory on women’s liberation around the world: “they have advanced from being anti-colonial freedom fighters of a country, to centralizing women’s liberation at the core of the national liberation struggle, to being the leaders of a social movement that inspires millions of women around the world.”
Indeed, the initiative of inviting 500 women from all over the world was a step forward to link up with other women movements that has also the same goal as the Kurds: to break the barriers and unleash the shackles of oppression.
However, identifying the root causes of the barriers and shackles came in different levels and analyses. Most of them recognized patriarchy as the root of all evil and the dangers of its new attacks in consonance with capitalism, misogyny, militarism, and racial discrimination. Others pointed out the power of capitalism based on the ideological pillars of sexism, nationalism, religionism, and scientism. Some analyzed that imperialism, the highest stage of capitalism, caused the systemic crisis, wars, gross human rights violations, exploitation, oppression, and sexual abuses in the different parts of the country.
The strategies in breaking the barriers were enriching: from issue discourses to peace negotiations, from networking to organizing, from holding placards to holding arms. The importance of organizing, education, and alliance building had been emphasized. Each story shared by the speakers became an inspiration, a message that the strength of the global struggle would rely on solidarity and internationalism.
The participation of IWA and GABRIELA-Philippines
The International Women’s Alliance (IWA) and GABRIELA, one of IWA’s founding members, attended the conference. IWA was represented by Ms. Coni Ledesma and GABRIELA was represented by Mary Joan Guan. GABRIELA was also one of the resource speakers to talk about its experience in organizing and in practicing the theory of alliance work. The topic was “Gabriela’s Successors: Women’s Alliance in Theory and Practice”.
For more than three decades, GABRIELA has been in the forefront of the struggle of the women’s movement in the Philippines. It has a strong 250-member organizations in the Philippines and eight chapters abroad. Its strength relies on its base membership composed mainly of women workers, peasant, urban poor, housewives, professionals, indigenous women, religious, lesbians, and students.
GABRIELA shared its rich experience in alliance building, highlighting the principle to build the broadest united alliances and network as the guide to achieve liberation and genuine democracy. It likewise emphasized that women’s emancipation can only be achieved within the struggle of the entire Filipino people, that the sectarian and anti-patriarchy fight can never be separated from the broader struggle against imperialism, feudalism, and bureaucrat capitalism.
It recognized the power of mass support for an organization to exist for decades. It reiterated that to build allies and supporters, one can never go wrong with the tried-and-tested method of Arousing, Organizing, and Mobilizing. It underscored the present need of the broadest alliance in the Philippines to unite against the two-year tyrannical rule of the Duterte administration, which had already been compared to the 14-year Marcos dictatorship.
Though the participants in the conference had varied political persuasions, they were linked with the desire to “weave a durable network of resistance.” There was a proposal to build a Women’s World Democratic Confederalism so as to sustain the connection built in the conference.
In the end, women of the conference declared: “we will continue our fight together for the freedom of each and all of us. We will not allow any woman to be hurt. We will win our fight against patriarchy. We will create the new institutions of a new and free society. We declare that a revolution is in the making, the recent crisis of capitalism is a result of our struggles and the now – the present – gives us the historical opportunity to turn this century, the 21st century, into the century of women and peoples.”
Guided by the principle of internationalism, IWA and GABRIELA recognize the importance of international unity to fight the monstrous enemy of imperialism and to achieve the world that women envision: a society where there is no place for class superiority and every one enjoys the real essence of freedom, justice, and democracy. ###