Young Feminist Activism In Brazil
AWID interviews Ana Adeve about being a young feminist activist in Brazil.
By Rochelle Jones
AWID: On a personal level, can you tell us how you became involved in feminism and what it means to you?
Ana Adeve (AA): I began when I was fifteen years old participating in a student union in my school. I took part in a group about Marxism and I was invited by a friend to make a feminism course for young women. The organization was not specifically for young people but we tried to form a group of young women. Since my first contact with feminism I have liked it. The main leaders of the student movement were all men and women were always at the back. My first book on feminism was ‘The Second Sex’ and it changed my concept of the world and life.
Feminism is my life. Feminism is a possibility of change - to create new relationships between women and men. Moreover, feminism questions patriarchy and misogyny and the structure of society. I started when the military occupied political spaces and it was understood that men were more valued than women. The possibility of thinking to transform society by means of feminism always made me move forward in the struggle. Feminism is the emancipation of women and men in search of a new possibility for social structure.
AWID: What kind of activities are you involved with at present?
AA: Presently I am involved with the following organizations:
-- Youth Feministas of Sao Paulo - feminist collective;
-- I was one of the co-founders of the Brazilian Coordination of Young Feminists and facilitator of the national network;
-- I am president of the Association Frida Kahlo – a joint organization that integrates various youth movements around the feminist struggle;
-- I am part of the team coordinating the REDLAC - Latin American Network of Youth Rights for Sexual and Reproductive Rights;
AWID: Is there an ideology behind young feminist movements in Latin America?
AA: Youth have always been present in the feminist movement. Many young women fought for the creation of a feminist design and freedom. However, the term "young feminist” was something that did not exist before. In a statement from the 8th Latin American and Caribbean Feminist Encounter in 1999 – held in the Dominican Republic - some thoughts emerged on political identity from the experiences of different generations. These ideas are present to date in the politics of young feminists:
Feminism is defined by its praxis and power;
- There is a lack of openness of the movement and lack of strategies for the entry of new activists;
- There is a hierarchy within the movement that excludes other ‘invisible’ women;
- "adultocentrismo" – adult centred - is a system of power which subordinates young women;
- There is a division of work where some feminists write, think and speak, while others take photocopies, distribute pamphlets, and format text. According to the statement this seems to meet the patriarchal practices of doing politics that result in the establishment of hierarchies.
Meanwhile, the statement says that they recognise the struggles of previous generations. But that the current generation lives in a different world marked by globalisation, neoliberalism, technological advances and New Technologies and that within feminist struggles feminists should incorporate these aspects from the experience of young women.
While we began building Latin American feminism, Brazilian youth also formed groups to discuss feminism from a generational perspective. The idea was to build groups that were spaces for the exchange of experiences and expertise on feminist theories and practices.
It is important to note that both in Brazil as in Latin America in the decades of the 80s and 90s there was a transformation in the way of action and organisation of the feminist movement and in the socio-cultural and political arenas of Latin America. Many experiences of young women’s groups occurred in that period of the 90s within NGOs, universities, the cultural scene, political parties, etc. But only at the beginning of 2000 did the young feminist identity begin to be defined as practical activism.
Also in that period, several groups of freelance young feminists appeared throughout the country, such as: in Sao Paulo (the Young Feminist of Sao Paulo), Minas Gerais (Active Black Women and Youth Replacing Idea), Pernambuco (Feminist Collective for Youth of Pernambuco), Paraiba (Youth Feminists of Paraiba), and Ceara (the Feminist Collective for Youth Ceara).
However, groups of young feminists that formed in 2000 were not just meetings or exchanges between young women. They had demands and claims too. Young women discussed feminism through their experiences from the aspect of constructing an independent political identity. They started to question the role they occupied in the feminist movement and the importance of autonomy and intellectual independence. Young women began to promote actions, seminars, meetings, activities and to produce knowledge.
The group Youth Feministas of Sao Paulo was founded in 2003 from the need of some young women who met at the Union of Women of Sao Paulo. The intention was to create a collective self that reflected the specificities and demands of young people. This work has contributed to the emergence of other groups of young feminists in Brazil. The key discussions are focused on the idea of a visible young feminist identity in the Brazilian political landscape and also in the spaces of the feminist movement.
The first steps were to build feminist thoughts, actions and methodologies of work for young women. In the beginning, inclusion in the feminist movement was so difficult. The fact that young activists nominated themselves as feminists was somewhat controversial. The discussions of the groups of young feminists are not based on equality feminism, nor are they based on the idea that there is a universal woman who represents all women. It is believed, in contrast, that in each season, group and space we must reshape the idea of women - and our diversity enriches practice and policy. It is important for us to reflect on the variety and difference of feminists and their projects of social transformation because diversity allows you to specify the struggles and create alliances between different groups.
AWID: Young feminism in Latin America is clearly strong and active. Why do you think this is so and how has it been achieved? Can you give us some examples of successful young feminist organising?
AA: I believe that young feminism in Latin America is strong because we work with diversity and question the very logic of hierarchy that has developed within the feminist movement. We work with the idea that all young women and men are subjects of rights and authors of their own ideas.
Diversity enriches feminism, so to speak in terms of youth it is important to include feminism and their projects of social transformation. But there must be a frank, open and respectful inter-identity dialogue. For young feminists, such a dialogue presumes that we leave that place behind that only speaks of equals and only exists if built between equals and does not dialogue with other identities or with those who have questions. We leave the field of feminist absolute truths to build new knowledge and new feminist relationships.
We of Youth Feministas of Sao Paulo believe that the feminism of young women in Latin America is strong because it proposes to work with the following ideas:
Promote inter-generational dialogue and discussion;
- Move away from particularity within feminism, to theorise and collectively work with young feminists;
- Write our own history and show our way of interaction with the other;
- Promote a dialogue between women and young men on feminism, masculinity, health and sexuality;
- Build discussions on co-responsible identities and feminism and promote a dialogue between identities;
- Reflect on our utopias and not simply respond to old questions with new answers. Who knows - we may create new questions that may not have answers yet!
The groups we consider to exemplify this strength include:
- Jovens Feministas de SP /Young Feminist of SP – Brazil
- Elige - Mexico
- Las Ramonas – Paraguay
- REDLAC – AL
- Articulación de Mujeres Jóvenes, trabajando en América Latina y el Caribe por los Derechos Humanos y la Ciudadanía (AMJ)
- Active Black Women and Youth Replacing Idea – Brazil
- Feminist Collective for Youth of Pernambuco – Brazil
- Youth Feminists of Paraiba – Brazil
- Feminist Collective for Youth – Brazil
- Incide Joven – Guatemala
- Mizangas – Uruguay
- Coordenadoria de Jovens - Chile
- Coordenadoria Juvenil - Ecuador
AWID: What are the realities for young women in Latin America - and the needs of young feminist movements?
AA: This is a complex question and to respond. I believe we can focus in two ways:
1) What is the context of young women in the region of Latin America
2) What are the needs of the movement of young feminists
In relation to the context, I believe we can emphasize that many young women suffer violations of their human rights. In many countries, abortion is considered a crime and this directly affects young women. The advance of fundamentalisms are visible in many parts of our region. An example of this is: In Brazil there are more than 42 proposals processed in parliament on the issue of abortion, of those, 31 proposals suggest the inclusion of abortion as a crime. The current law in Brazil guarantees abortion in cases of rape and danger of life for pregnant women, however, several proposals that are today in the national congress want to ban abortion even in those cases.
Today, we know that in Brazil it is mostly poor, black, young women who die as a result of unsafe abortions. Thus, the fundamentalist wave that has hit the country and consequently Latin America is a setback for all young women in that region.
Beyond this point, we must highlight the issue of violence against women, especially sexual violence that affects us directly. There are other questions such as access to employment, education, the fight for a life without violence, etc.
In relation to the needs of the movement of young feminists. We can say that the main issues are: how to intervene in areas of policy making; how to obtain financial resources for projects such as enabling youth and to implement interventions.
Moreover we have a need to redesign the spaces of the movement away from being "adult centred". It is important for young feminists to build dialogue with different movements, with an emphasis on rapprochement with the youth movement.
To conclude I believe that the assertion of the young feminist identity was associated with the empowerment process of the youth movement. In the 90s and 2000, there was a concomitant emergence of groups of young feminists, and the emergence of youth groups that discussed public policy of / for / with youth. That makes much difference to the organisation and mobilisation of young feminists.
So talking about public policies from / to youth is to think such policies are so complex – they build the basis of new parameters, which involves a reconfiguration of roles of state and society. What it is all about - feminism and young feminists – is that young women are in the arena of public policy for youth with tariffs still little discussed in this space, such as health and sexuality, gender inequality, and sexual and reproductive rights, which are interrelated with the feminist movement, black, human rights and sexual and reproductive rights movements. They bring to that arena positions on the subject of young feminism and bring themes dear to feminism. For us the path we take is based on the intersection of feminism and youth as a march of social transformation.