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World Women's Conference in Kathmandu – the movement of the “World Women” is gaining strength

by MLPD ("Rote Fahne" (Red Flag) 07/2016), 1 April 2016

World Women's Conference in Kathmandu – the movement of the “World Women” is gaining strength

The second World Women's Conference of grassroots women took place in Kathmandu from 13 to 18 March 2016.

Difficulties and problems caused by the heavy earthquake and the blockade of the Indian government could not stop the world women. 2,000 people, mainly women, joined the opening demonstration through the streets of Kathmandu. 1,300 to 1,600 took part in various activities of the conference as regular participants. Further hundreds participated in the cultural and supporting program. 74 elected delegates from 40 countries were representing women's organizations with partially hundreds, thousands and ten thousands of women members. Almost 250 women and men as volunteers – among them about 40 German brigadists, had been preparing and promoting this self-financed and self-organized conference and collecting donations already weeks in advance.

What is the World Women's Conference about?

The World Women's Conference of the grassroots women is an organizational form to promote the cross-border coordination and cooperation of the worldwide militant women's movement. Ten years ago this idea was born at the Women's Political Counsel in 2006, the incentive given by Monika Gärtner-Engel. The first World Women's Conference of grassroots women took place in Caracas/Venezuela in 2011. It was not least an answer to the tacit burial of the world women's conferences by the UN since their last meeting in Peking in 1995. At the same time it freed itself of the style of the UN conferences. They were strongly influenced by official government delegations and had the goal to put the women's movement on the leash of the UN on t. The parallel forum of the NGOs did mainly lobbying for contested formulations in the resolutions of the governments. They partially sounded wonderful – but ten years later the situation of the masses of women in the world had further deteriorated.

The “World Women”, as the activists of the World Women's Conference call themselves self-confidently, attach special importance to the gathering of real grassroots women. Its unique feature is the development of sustainable militant cooperation in the light of the conferences. Since Caracas the world women have been intensively and successfully promoting the militant women's movement in the individual countries as the foundation of the world women's movement. With the resolution to carry out the conferences every five years, the cornerstone for the further building of the World Women's Conference movement was laid. The world women are realizing their adopted principles, such as non-party affiliation, financial independence and democratic decision-making, in a relationship of mutual trust and equality. These are also unique features as opposed to non-binding and de facto often undemocratically acting groups like the World Social Forum, which are more and more degenerating to a critically decorative fig leaf of imperialism. The next World Social Forum will be taking place in Montreal (Canada) in August 2016. The organizers are stressing their hope in the liberal change of government in Canada.

The World Women's Conference of the grassroots women rests on two pillars: Firstly, the general assembly of the elected delegates of the militant women's movement in the individual countries. There the elected representatives of the grassroots women discuss core issues of the worldwide situation and struggles of women, take decisions and pass resolutions. Secondly, the large-scale open participation of women, initiatives and organizations conducting diversified events, workshops, cultural contributions and further activities.

The second World Women's Conference 2016 took place in a situation in which the proneness to crisis of the imperialist world system is increasing, but at the same time the militant women's movement is experiencing an upturn. Poverty, misery, economic crises, political oppression, wars, streams of refugee and environmental destruction characterize the living conditions of the masses in many countries. Women are especially affected – through low wages, poverty in old age, violence, sexism and oppression. At the same time the women's consciousness is developing worldwide. “We can see very important movements in which women are in the front line: we learn from the hard struggles of the young, female garment workers in Bangladesh! We learn from the tough and well organized struggles of the cleaning women and care workers in the Netherlands and the educators in Germany. We hear about the meetings of the women in Argentina with tens of thousands of women every year. We evaluated the experiences of the so-called Arabic spring! And: we are excited about the hard and successful struggle of the Kurdish movement, and especially the women, against ISIS/Daesh, their victory in Kobane and their message to the women of the world: the liberation of women is closely connected with the fight for liberated societies!” said Monika Gärtner-Engel in her welcoming speech. Indeed the international women's movement is beginning to overcome a phase of paralysis through the absorption in NGOs, institutionalization by state apparatuses and integration in controlled “gender” programs.

Societal issues

The decision of the world coordinators not to carry out the workshops on the burning questions of the women's movement parallel to the general assembly was exactly right. In ten workshops about 500 women discussed deeply, intensively and productively.

On the third and forth day the general assembly of the delegates was on the agenda. It accomplished a mammoth workload, partly under miserable technical conditions. After carefully prepared continental reports the following discussions testified to the life and struggling experience of the worldwide women's movement. The great suffering through imperialism and capitalism became evident. Such as when women in Mali are not allowed to step onto industrially used land and when the search for grazing land, water and wood for the most urgent necessities of life is doomed to failure. The women, however, are fighting and getting organized. This is shown by the representation of significantly more countries, especially from Africa, at the conference. Unfortunately there were only two delegates from Latin America.

The general assembly unanimously passed the Resolution of Kathmandu, as well as about 20 further resolutions, including ones from the workshops. Motions which would have changed and restricted the foundations of the World Women's Conference with regard to world outlook were discussed intensely and controversially. Such as the agreement on socialist goals or the advocacy of class struggle as the foundation of the women's movement as was demanded by some delegates. In the end, the general assembly positioned itself clearly for maintaining the non-party affiliated character and the openness regarding world outlook.

This World Women's Conference was a qualitative leap forward

The conference in Kathmandu was a qualitative advancement compared to the first World Women's Conference in Caracas:

  • It had a mass basis in the whole country. Hundreds of women from a broad party spectrum in Nepal had been preparing this conference for years. 15 to 20 big daily newspapers and TV channels attended the press conferences. In their reports they were fascinated about the women who had gathered there. At the end of the conference a delegation of 40 members was invited to visit the president of the country, Mrs Bidhya Devi Bhandari. “I signed the resolution of Kathmandu with my heart”, Nepal's president emphasized.

  • The conference represented a growing broad societal spectrum of organized Christian women from Uganda, rural women from Namibia, garment workers from Bangladesh, young industrial workers from Europe, trade-union women from Morocco, activists of the struggle against the violence against women, representatives of the World Women's March from Africa, representatives of international associations like Solvodi, important organizations of revolutionaries of the International Coordination of Revolutionary Parties and Organizations (ICOR) and ILPS or international women's organizations like the International Women Alliance (IWA), whose newly elected chairwoman Azra Sayeed took over a lot of responsibility for the success of the conference.

  • The conference set a signal for joining forces beyond differences in world outlook or political views. This did not exclude objective discussions over conflicts. On the contrary, it actually includes them! The eight women's organizations from Nepal, which belong to parties some of which are on bad terms with each other, took the lead in putting this guideline into practice. The Indian women also set a signal: After a women's organization had unexpectedly joined in in Kathmandu, others gave them a delegate's seat following lively discussions. Putting organizational interests aside for the benefit of delegation representation above party lines was also a signal for the process of unity in the Indian women's movement.

  • The struggle for the liberation of women in Kurdistan has become a part of the world women's movement. With Meral Ciçek and Özlem Yasak, two leading women from the Kurdish movement with formative influence are represented as coordinators in the world women's process. In Kathmandu the struggle for the liberation of women and for democracy and freedom in Rojava (Northern Syria) became the cause of the women of the entire world. And on the other hand, the Kurdish women have today consciously become an active part of the international women's movement. It was unanimously decided to send an international women's delegation to Rojava.

  • Young women are becoming „young world women“ and are taking over responsibility for the future of the women's movement. In Kathmandu for the first time there was a panel of young women as part of the general assembly. Self-confidently they presented their visions and positions for their future struggle in a liberated society.

  • Financial independence is one of the most well-observed, but also contested unique features. Financing this conference with donations is a gigantic achievement. Think of the traveling expenses of the delegates from 40 countries alone! Donations were collected among the population on the streets in Nepal till the very last day. The conference so made itself independent of state or semi-state sponsoring, which is often tied to a massive influence of the donors.

  • The conference not only held discussions, but also made a practical name for itself. The European donation collection for rebuilding a school after the big earthquake in Nepal gained nationwide attention. Prior to the conference there was a ceremony to inaugurate the school in Maga Pauwa.

  • Reports and analyses of the world women brought new insights. It was impressing that there is a class-militant tendency among the peasantry in the entire world. Because international monopolies are more and more becoming the opponent, there is a material basis for the orientation against this enemy. Land-grabbing is mainly conducted by monopolists (among them Thyssen), often with the goal of installing mega-projects. Peasants are opposing their displacement from extremely fertile land – and women are in the front ranks.

  • The conference was attained through political struggle! In Venezuela hundreds of Colombian women had been detained at the border. They could not attend the first world women's conference because the hosts prevented protests against „their left government“. In Kathmandu the biggest visa hurdles were taken. Some of the Nepalese women – especially Durga Paudel – engaged themselves for this day and night. Successfully! For example, the Syrian delegates from Rojava, as well as Shamla with an Afghan passport, who had already been sent back to Dubai, were „fought back in“.

  • Shortly before the first world women's conference, the ICOR had been founded in 2010. Its representatives had also already taken over a responsible role in Caracas. Prior to Kathmandu there had been lively discussions at the 2nd world conference of ICOR over the independent character of the world women's conference. Based on a common understanding to actively support the women's own goals and principles of the world women's conference and to persuade for a revolutionary perspective, the ICOR representatives now became a strong support of the world women's conference with great charisma. Almost 60 women from the entire world became „friends of the ICOR“.

  • The common desire for organized deeper discussion and theoretical assimilation of the broad practical experiences is an important result of the consultations. Unanimously a decision was taken to conduct a joint international seminar on the theory of the liberation of women in 2017 or 2018. Women from Kurdistan, India, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Nepal and Germany were assigned with the preparations.

A movement of world women has arisen

In Kathmandu it became clear that from a movement for preparing world women's conferences, a movement of the „world women“ has arisen with deep roots in relevant movements and organizations of grassroots women. There is much work to be done now for the decisions of Kathmandu: „Not until the mountains of Kurdistan, the valleys of Latin America, the deserts and villages of Africa and the cities of Europe hear the voices of the world women, then have we women climbed to the peaks of the highest mountains“. This is what Meral Cicek from the Kurdish delegation prophesied in her closing speech. The international militant women's movement strengthened and emphasized its determination to take on a significant role in important social controversies. A great potential for the future arose in Kathmandu! A new chapter has begun and „we are looking forward to the next World Women's Conference in five years in 2021 in another continent.! (Resolution)

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