There are many ways in which a broad understanding and incorporation of the feminist perspective is critical to the FoEI federation. Such an understanding can shed light on the ways in which the current neoliberal economic model affects men and women differently, both in terms of its social and environmental impacts. It also reveals the self-perpetuating nature of the patriarchal society: women frequently find themselves excluded from effective participation in decision-making, making it hard to change the rules of the game.
Together with allied social movements including La Via Campesina (LVC) and the World March of Women (WMW), we aim to support women to resist, transform and mobilize, both at the local and international levels, to bring about the world they want to live in.
We recognize that the incorporation of a feminist perspective into a broad, multicultural federation such as FoEI is an ambitious task that will require time: we thus aim for a step-by-step approach. Some of the policies aimed at gender equity within FoEI have already been effective - in terms of responsibilities for coordination and participation at international meetings, for example.
But we are seeking more fundamental and far-reaching changes in the way that FoEI thinks and acts. In 2009, we focused on integrating a gender analysis into our programs on Food Sovereignty and Economic Justice-Resisting Neoliberalism (EJRN). We were in close contact with WMW in the run up to FoEI’s Food Sovereignty Program meeting in April 2009, for example, and able to learn from WMW and LVC gender perspectives during that gathering. FoEI was also invited to participate in WMW’s Second Regional Encounter in the Americas, in August 2009, in Cochabamba, Bolivia.
We also worked with the EJRN Program during its 2009 gathering, and to support the inclusion of a feminist perspective into its analysis of the global financial crisis. Gender campaigners also supported the production of video testimonies from ‘Women Re-sisters’, women resisting mining, some of which can currently be viewed on the FoEI YouTube channel.
Members of Friends of the Earth also participated in La Escuela de Formación de Dirigentas (a school for women leaders) organized by the Coordinadora de Organizaciones del Campo (CLOC) and Via Campesina del Cono Sur, in Paraguay, in July 2009.
Overall, the gender coordinators are working to develop both theoretical and practical proposals that will help FoEI to develop its understanding and practice in relation to gender issues, as quickly and effectively as possible. A document on how to work from a gender perspective has already been completed and circulated internally.
Friends of the Earth Uruguay/REDES has been particularly active in promoting FoEI’s focus on gender, in terms of supporting the international coordination of this complex and cross-cutting issue, providing conceptual contributions, and engaging actively at the national level.
In June 2009, this included publication of a book “Estamos rodead@s: agronegocios, derechos humanos y migracione: el caso Uruguayo.” This considers the impacts of forest monocultures and soya on the displacement of rural populations, with a special emphasis on the consequences for human rights and gender relations. The book was also presented at a roundtable at the University of the Republic of Uruguay in November 2009.
FoE Uruguay also drafted numerous papers on food sovereignty and gender concerns including a report on the role of rural women in the defense of food sovereignty, based on investigation and interviews with women from la Red de Grupos de Mujeres Rurales (the Network of Rural Women) with whom they are developing a strong working relationship.
Building links with LVC and WMW has been very productive, both in terms of deepening our shared understanding of the gender/feminist perspective, its links to neoliberal economic globalization, and its relevance for FoEI’s work. We have exchanged ideas and perspectives, learned from each other, and inspired each other to move forward with our own and collaborative efforts in coming years.
This growing partnership has also been effective in engaging the interest of FoEI member groups, especially some of those participating in the Food Sovereignty and EJRN Programs. Many participants committed to taking forward concrete projects and actions integrating gender concerns in their existing campaigns. There is an increasing awareness that it is not possible to ‘change the system’ without incorporating an analysis of gender concerns, along with those of class, race, etc.
FoE Uruguay’s long-term commitment to collaborative work with la Red de Grupos de Mujeres Rurales is an excellent illustration of the way forward. All those involved deepened their understanding of the real world implications of differentiated gender impacts. The links between local communities, those working at the national and international levels, and people living in working in other countries have also significantly improved. These benefits were eloquently expressed by women from the Red de Grupos de Mujeres Rurales during an external evaluation of FoEI’s work.
FoEI aims to extend and deepen its collaborative work around gender concerns and the feminist perspective. Such efforts could include inviting and supporting the women from the Movement of Victims Affected by Climate Change (MOVIACC) to participate in the combined work of FoEI, LVC and WMW; fundraising for further collaborative efforts; participating in LVC’s campaign on violence against women; and a joint meeting of FoEI, LVC and WMW in 2010.
Specific projects such as the FoEI Food Sovereignty “Cook Book” are also underway. When complete the Cook Book will include testimonies, recipes, and information about food sovereignty, with contributions invited from FoEI members and our allies, including organizations members of LVC.
Other proposals include a study of the impact of agribusiness on productive and reproductive relationships at the local level; and research into family farming and how to fight climate change (an idea elaborated together with organizations from LVC and WMW).