Women Who Struggle

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 Images via Global Justice Now / Flickr

Proclaiming "the most important of rights for all women - the right to live," over 3,200 women from 49 countries came together on New Year's Day for the second annual International Gathering of Women Who Struggle, organized by the fiery, indigenous, women-led Zapatista Army of National Liberation. The event, held in an autonomous Zapatista enclave in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas they control, marked the 25th year in power for the Zapatistas. Since their brief, bold 1994 uprising, they have continued peacefully fighting for autonomy and civil engagement and against patriarchal abuses, capitalist exploitation and gender-based violence, while serving as a model for other popular movements in the region. At this week's event, Zapatistas in brown shirts and green pants, their faces covered with ski masks, guarded the gates with bows and arrows. Over four days, visitors slept in tents and attended workshops on sexual trauma, childhood abuse, forced immigration and other "violence that women suffer for the crime of being women”; they also had dance classes, embroidery workshops and self-defense training.

In her inaugural speech, Comandanta Amada welcomed the "sisters and compañeras," citing the need to "shout to the world our pain and rage that we cannot live freely." Amada urged the women to listen to, learn from and respect each other's different struggles and stories; she also offered "a special embrace" to the families and friends of raped, disappeared and murdered women. Focusing on the ongoing violence and injustice endured by women around the world, Amada angrily dismissed the "precious few" women, cited by those in power, who "have advanced, triumphed, won prizes and high salaries - who have been successful, as they put it." "What is lacking is the most basic and most important of rights for all women: the right to live," she said, adding that no men or capitalist laws, even well-intentioned, will grant women their rights without a fight. "For women who struggle, there will be no rest," she said. "This is a war. They are trying to kill us, and we are trying to stay alive, but alive without fear - alive and free."

"They say there is now gender equality...(with) an equal number of bossmen and bosswomen.

But we are still being murdered.

They say that now there is greater pay equity for women.

But we are still being murdered.

They say now women have more voice.

But we are still being murdered.

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They say that now there are more laws that protect women.

But we are still being murdered.

They say there are men who understand our struggle as women...

But we are still being murdered.

They say that women occupy more spaces now.

But we are still being murdered."

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A Zapatistas civil society gathering. Photo by Hilary Klein

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