“We must do this again -very soon”, said one of the twenty-two radical socialist-feminists from eleven countries in Europe, Latin America and Asia, who participated in the IIRE International Women's Seminar, 11-15 July. “It was so positive to have the time to explore these issues together and look at them in an international context."
The main themes discussed during the four-day event were: the impact of the global economic and ecological crises on women, women and migration,religion and women’ s oppression, the role of feminists in the anti-capitalist movement and the Encounter of Latin American and Caribbean Women (El Ecuentro) held earlier this year in Mexico. Additionally, participants provided reports on the state of women's struggles in their respective countries.
Participants noted that women's experience of the economic crisis was so far very different in different countries - in some places it has been mainly male-dominated areas of employment that have been hit with the service sector still to be hit - whereas in others women's rate of unemployment is already rising more rapidly than that of men. Attacks on the public sector which are a common feature of the crisis everywhere, affect women both as workers and as service users and seem set to continue apace. Women are at the sharp edge of climate chaos as those responsible in many societies for collecting and providing food and water, essentials of life that are becoming more difficult to access in more and more places.
A two-women delegation from the Philippines presented a talk on the causes and effects of migration in the Global South from a feminist perspective. Here, the vicious cycle of migration, the impact it has upon women (daughters and grandmothers) who stay at the home countries, the economic importance of domestic workers, violence and human rights were discussed in-depth.
In one of the sessions on religion, the way that the Turkish state uses Islam and the Vatican uses Catholicism were used as the starting points for an interesting debate on the rise of right-wing populism, cultural identity and resistance. One of the conclusions that were drawn from the presentations was that religious conceptions of what women should be is continuously being used by the ruling classes to defend their interests - and the so-called liberal democracies of Europe are no exception.
Finally, some reflections on the state of feminism in Latin American were provided by those who participated in the Encuentro. Important issues that sprang from this last experience were the need and possibility to organise as socialist feminists, generational gaps among feminist activists and women’s rights under the new progressive governments of Central and South America.
The seminar had three purposes. First, to continue the work of documenting the above-mentioned issues and struggles, a task that was set at the last Women's Seminar in 2006, in order to draft an updated Marxist analysis of how women's oppression functions in late capitalism. Secondly, participants aimed at preparing for a solid feminist intervention at the next Fourth International World Congress, to beheld in February 2010. Finally, the invaluable experience of sharing perspectives with women from different countries provided a base for strengthening the ties of solidarity. All three objectives were met and a working group for the drafting of theses was set up. A ten-day Women's Seminar is to be organised within the next two years