Opening Plenary: Energy, song and feminist rituals to ward off evil
| By Flavia Fascendini
“We don’t like prisons but we don’t fear them.” - Yara Sallam, Egypt
The 13th AWID International Forum began on Thursday with an opening plenary to the tune of Bahian music, song and dance to honor Oxum, orisha of Brazilian hospitality, followed by inspiring presentations and questions posed by guest panelists on the topic of “our current realities.”
The commonalities in terms of concerns and pressing issues were overwhelming. This is, of course, not a matter of simple coincidence but the product of a fierce form of global capital, and of oppressive and sexist patriarchal structures that, again, not coincidentally, go hand in hand.
Here, close to the capital of the Brazilian state of Bahia, 1800 feminist activists from 130 countries gathered to shout “Enough!”, to celebrate our victories together, to form a sisterhood to resist conflicts, to build resilience through our intersectionalities, and to demand “Fora Temer!” because that battle belongs to all of us.
“There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives” — Audre Lorde’s spot-on and more topical than ever line was echoed by Myrna Cunningham Kain of the International Indigenous Women’s Forum and president of AWID’s Board of Directors.
“Until we are all free, we are none of us free”, another exemplary statement by Emma Lazarus, quoted by Cunningham Kain during her opening remarks, refers to the interconnectedness of our struggles.
The crises facing our democracies, the severe setbacks in terms of respect for human rights, the headway made by fascist and extremist forces, the growth of national and transnational corporate power, the worsening of the environmental crisis and natural disasters are all part of the harsh current state of affairs described by the activists on the panel facilitated by Sonia Correa, co-director of Sexuality Policy Watch and associate researcher at the Brazilian Interdisciplinary AIDS Association (ABIA).
Starting at Egypt with Yara Sallam and moving to Bosnia and Herzegovina with Azra Causevic, to Honduras with Miriam Miranda, to Fiji with Noelene Nabulivou, to Kenya with Awino Okech, and to Asia and the Pacific with Joe Wong, from the Asia Pacific Transgender Network, threats to rights and justice became evident as unavoidable items on the agenda of local and global social movements.
How can we make our activism sustainable? How can we take care of ourselves, and find ways to be and feel good while we fight our endless battles?
These were recurring questions among presenters — decades of struggles and of caring for others take their toll, and the only way to be able to go on is by taking a holistic path of self-care and wellbeing.
AWID Executive Director Lydia Alpízar highlighted the reasons why AWID’s Board of Directors made the political decision to hold this international event in the Brazilian state of Bahia: it is a symbolic site for the struggle of Black people, and the city with the greatest percentage of Afro-descendant persons outside of Africa. The topic of racism was given central stage in the forum agenda, as a pending issue in our feminist agenda and in that of broader society as well.
Congratulations to AWID (did you know that in 2017 AWID will celebrate its 35th birthday?), to its members, and — why not — to the planes, boats and buses that transported this wave of feminists so eager to share and build collaboratively. Many thanks, too, to those in our personal lives who supported us so we could be present at the Forum.
And last but not the least, thanks to the sun of Bahia that shone upon us so we could face our current realities and celebrate our victories.
Fora zika. Fora Temer. Fora injustice.