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African Feminist Participation at the 2009 World Social Dwindles

 By: Carlyn Hambuba

The 2009 World Social Forum was held in Belem, Brazil from 27th January to 1st February 2009. The forum was held against the backdrop of the current global economic and financial crisis. Over one hundred thousand people from civil society Organisations coming from 140 countries participated in the forum although African feminist participation was evidently very low. Many African feminist did not make it to the World Social forum due to lack of funds.

The World Social Forum ended with the launch of a Global Week of Action against Capitalism and War. The campaign will begin from March 28 to April 4, 2009. The Global week of action will be used to mobilize actions by civil society organisations against war and the financial crisis which are posing great challenges for the world today.FEMNET participated in the women’s rally, feminist dialogues, inter-movement dialogue and other parallel workshops organized by partner Organisations.

The Women’s Rally marked the opening of the 2009 World Social Forum. Women from all parts of the world braved the rain to march in the streets of Belem, Brazil chanting anti terrorists’ slogans and anti capitalist slogans. The march was held under the main theme: “Another World is possible”. Evident from the march was call for the world to quickly address the financial crisis. Marchers called on world leaders to come up with alternative solutions for the global crisis which they attributed to capitalism. They also called for democratic control of the economies in the worldwid

Day two of the World Social Forum was characterized with a number events organized by various organisations. The women’s organisation hosted the Feminist dialogue which brought together feminist from various parts of the world. The situation in Gaza stole the lime-light during the dialogue. Ms Luna Barakat human right lawyer working for SAWA a feminist organisation in Israel shared how her organisation has been helping victims of war. SAWA was initially established to provide services to women survivors of Gender based violence, however during the war, the role of SAWA shifted from that of being providining services to just women. The centre began providing services to all victims of war.

The organizer of the Feminist dialogues also hosted an inter-movement dialogue which brought together civil society Organisations from various organisations. The panelists shared some of the challenges their organisation face. Panelist included the gay movement, women farmer’s movement in France and Brazil. The Gay movement expressed concerned that their rights have continued to be violated. They also expressed concern that that their movement is in many cases sidelined from many initiatives undertaken by civil society. The women’s farmer’ movement expressed concerned that that women farmers face many challenges especially with the current financial crisis.

 As part of the World Social Forum’s parallel events Amnesty International and Civicus organized a workshop under the theme: Civil Society under Threat. The workshop was aimed at bringing to the fall some of the aspects that hinder the work of civil society. FEMNET presented a paper that highlighted some trends which hinder the free operation of civil society such as lack of access to information, hostile relations between government and civil society, and the continued harassment of human rights activists. The presentation included input from some FEMNET member organisations.

 The Workshop organized by International Council for Adult Education (ICAE) secretariat brought together key stakeholders in adult education to discuss the significance of the forthcoming sixth international conference on Adult Education (CONFINTEA VI) which will also be held in Belem Brazil from 19th to 22nd May 2009. The workshop also provided a linkage between civil societies and UNESCO works in Adult education. During workshop Latin America disseminated a report on the situation of rural women in relation to adult education. The report noted that 12 years after CONFITEA there is still a large number of uneducated women living in rural areas of Latin America.

From adult education my agenda shifted to Aid Effectiveness on day three. Social Watch held a workshop aimed at review the Doha Conference which was held in November 2008. Roberto Bissio from the international committee for financing for development acknowledged the important role that women played during the Doha conference. He said the contribution made by women to the Doha report was very important in pushing the agenda forward for financing for Development.. Cecilia Alemany from AWID said the women’s working group on financing for Development is facing a lot of challenges and as such there was need for women to build synergy and strategize on how they can input into the UN system and other foras discussing financing for development.

The last day of the World Social Forum was marked by a Women’s Assembly. The Assembly was an open forum where women from various backgrounds gathered to denounce some of the sexual and reproductive health rights discriminations which many women face such as the right to abortion. The assembly also saluted women in conflict zones for their continued resistance to violence and called on the world to act now with regards to the war in Palestine and save women. The assembly also called for the world to be swift with financial crisis. At the end of the Assembly the women came up with declaration. And also reaffirmed their commitment to participate in the Global Week of Action 2010, and confront capitalism.

Conclusion;

Despite the forum being openly criticized as a carnival of wild dreams, with no political agenda, the WSF ended with concrete results among them a resolution and a call to action for a global week of action slated from 8th March to 4th April 2009. The global week of action will be used to mobilize action against some of the major challenges the world is faced with such as war and the financial crisis. The next world social forum will be held in Africa and FEMNET will as usual mobilize African women to participate the feminist dialogues and other activities. FEMNET call upon women organisation in African to participate in the global call to action week. For further information about the global call to action week contact: Femnet@admin.or.ke 

Carlyn Hambuba is FEMNET’s Communication Officer

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About FEMNET

FEMNET (The African Women's Development and Communication Network) is a pan African, feminist organisation working to advance the rights of women and girls in Africa. FEMNET has carved a niche in Informing and mobilizing African women in order for them to participate and influence policies and processes that affect their lives. FEMNET has hundreds of members in over 40 countries in Africa as well as in the diaspora. It has played a critical role in building the women's movement in Africa since inception in 1988.

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