[delivered on July 5, 2011 at the Seameo Innotech in Quezon City, Philippines]
Dear sisters and friends, militant greetings!
I am honored to welcome you to the International Women’s Alliance (IWA) First General Assembly and to deliver this opening remarks. I hope that the short unity walk from the University of the Philippines to down to this hall invigorated our collective spirit for the two days ahead in our noble task to develop and move forward the International Women’s Alliance in its first general assembly with the theme “Advancing a Militant Anti-imperialist Global Women’s Alliance in the 21st Century. Strengthen the International Women’s Alliance.”
We have indeed come a long way since the proposal for the formation of an anti-imperialist global alliance of women was brought up and adopted unanimously by the Women’s Commission of the International League of People’s Struggles ((ILPS) in June 2008 in Hong Kong. That time, immediately, two organizations – the March 8 Committee of the Women of Diverse Origins in Montreal, Canada and GABRIELA Philippines agreed to form the organizing committee for the holding of a women’s conference in Montreal, Canada to commemmorate the centennial of the declaration of International Toiling Women’s Day and to lead the organizing of the anti-imperialist global women’s alliance.
Since then, more women’s organizations from Canada, the United States, the Netherlands and Taiwan joined the Organizing Committee to prepare for the Montreal International Women’s Conference that was held last August 13-15, 2010 leading to the founding assembly of the International Women’s Alliance the following day, August 16.
The Montreal Conference and IWA Founding Assembly were organized by the following organizations – GABRIELA, Philippines; Women of Diverse Origins, Montreal; Mouvement contre le viol et l’inceste, Montreal; GABRIELA, USA; AMMORE, Taiwan; and Pinay sa Utrecht. With the addition of the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD), these organizations now comprise the Organizing Committee that prepared the holding of this First General Assembly. I commend these organizations for their hard work and for moving the Alliance a step further.
Let us give them a big hand.
Comrades, in Montreal, more than 400 women from 31 countries gathered in plenaries, workshops and cultural activities to discuss the myriad issues confronting the world’s women as moribund capitalism unleashes its most rapacious attacks against the poor and oppressed peoples of the world.
To get out from the bottomless pit of the prolonged depression, governments of the North are undertaking programs and policies to bail out the rich using public funds to the detriment of working people and the poor. These capitalist states in collusion with their puppets in neo-colonies and poor countries ravage the human and natural resources of these countries for profit under the bankrupt slogan of globalization.
In Montreal, women’s experiences were shared and stories were told not in whispers but in rage. In plenaries and workshops, we told our stories of how imperialism has wreaked the lives of millions of peoples across the globe and how imperialism has worsened the exploitation and oppression of the world’s women, of how patriarchy is intensified and given shape by imperialism, the number one exploiter and oppressor of the world’s women today.
The women workers talked about massive unemployment and underemployment, low wages, less benefits, flexibilization, contractualization and informalization of women’s labor rendering it dirt cheap, the growth of maquiladoras, the denial of workers rights to unionize and attacks against unions.
Rural and indigenous women talked about landlessness, land grabbing, militarization and dislocation as big multinational corporations target their lands and mineral resources for capitalist expansion and so-called development resulting to displacement of the rural and indigenous population and the destruction of the environment and the ecosystems.
We heard about how the crisis of monopoly capitalism has forced millions of women in semi-colonies and semi-feudal countries to migrate to other countries only to work in dirty, dangerous and difficult jobs with meager pay, almost always without protection and made to suffer from discrimination, xenophobia, racism and sexism. They also become victims of trafficking for labor and for sex.
We spoke of the various forms of violence against women: violence against marriage migrants or mail order brides; those experienced by refugees fleeing sexual violence from their countries of origins; the murder and disappearance of women in Guatemala and Mexico; the violence of sex trade and other forms of violence that sprung from racism, fundamentalism and conservatism that imperialism perpetuates to subjugate women and to profit from the sale of women’s labor and bodies.
We condemned the US-led global war on terror that brought unspeakable death and destruction, rape, dislocation, militarized prostitution, and other forms of violence as the US and its allies launch wars of aggression support militarization and repressive measures by states in the name of national security.
Sisters and friends, such is the lot of the majority of the world’s women who are exploited and oppressed under imperialism. Such is the condition that gives us greater resolve to march forward and carry our struggles to new and higher grounds. Such is the compelling reason that moved us to forge a global anti-imperialist unity under the banner of the International Women’s Alliance.
Sisters and comrades, we founded this alliance last year on the 100th year of the Declaration of International Toiling Women’s Day by the Second International Conference of Socialist Women in Copenhagen in 1910 imbued with the sense of the important legacy of militant resistance our forebears bequeathed to us.
Women’s persistent struggles won for us our most basic rights to suffrage, property, to wages for our work, to maternity leave and the right to unionize and organize. Our resistance in solidarity with the rest of the exploited and oppressed led to the victory of national liberation struggles and a chance to live the future of socialism where the conditions for the full emancipation of women and people are genuinely addressed.
We formed this alliance as an anti-imperialist, anti-patriarchy, anti-racist and anti-sexist alliance to organize women as a political force and to link our movement with the people’s movement for national and social liberation and gender equality.
Sisters and friends, through this alliance we share our issues and concerns to reach a common understanding of their roots and to clarify the anti-imperialist and democratic perspective in addressing these issues. Through this alliance we share our struggles and strategies of resistance from across the globe to learn from each other and to strengthen our movements. Through this alliance we express our collective will in solidarity with the other people’s movements to fight against imperialism and all reaction to the end.
In these two days of our assembly we have important tasks to accomplish. We will affirm our basis of unity that we initially discussed in our founding assembly in Montreal. We will adopt our constitution, general program of action and our four-year plan and elect our officers.
I am confident that we will accomplish all these tasks. Our very presence here today is a manifestation of our great resolve to carry forward this noble task of advancing a militant anti-imperialist women’s movement on to the 21st century. Today, we send our message to the world: that what the imperialist and their lackeys consider as the meekest, the most submissive, the most pliant, the most easily subjugated half of the world’s exploited and oppressed – the women are organizing and moving forward.
Long live international solidarity!
Long live the International Women’s Alliance!