Day 1 of the 9th International Meeting of the World March of Women saw 124 international delegates and observers from 49 countries being joined by 1500 members of the Brazilian march for the first of three days of “feminist political training”. As we milled around the entrance of the Simon Bolivar auditórium at the Latin American memorial in Sao Paulo, the batucada (women´s drumming group) of the Brazilian march assembled outside. Their thunderous drumming, chanting and singing dominated the space, reverberating off the concrete walls. The baticada, composed of about two dozen March activists, pounding rythmically on drums made of repurposed plastic and metal containers, ushered all the participants into the auditórium, marching up a long ramp, down into the caverous amphitheatre, and onto the huge stage.
This fantastic act of public gathering inaugurated a day of conferences. The first focused on the trajectory of feminism in Latin America, and featured Sonia Alvarez, a well-known scholar of Brazilian and Latin American social movements, Sandra Moran, a long-time femininst militant and March activist from Guatemala, and Nalu Faria, a well-loved leader of the March in Brazil. Sonia offered an overview of the historical phases of neoliberalism from the perspectve of Latin American social movements, and proposed that the current phase, which involves a number of centre-left popular democratic regimes, confronts the movements with new paradoxes and contradictions. It is important to recognize these, rather than paper over them, as confronting them enables the movements to grow in important ways. Sandra´s presentation about the entrenchment of violent neoliberalism in highly militarized Guatemala, and the trajectory of social struggle in Central America offered an important counter-point.
The second conference of the day was entitled “accumulation by dispossession: work, nature and women´s bodies.” The central idea here, as explained by Yildiz Temurturkan from the March in Turkey, was that the exploitation of women, colonies and nature is fundamental to the system of patriarcal capitalism and that we cannot focus on just one of these. This conference featured rich and moving presentations: by Malalaia Joya, a feminist parlementarian from Afghanistan who has been illegally ejected from Parliament and threatened with rape and death for her denunciations of both the Taliban and the warlords ruling Afghanistan; by Jean Enriquez, who testifed about the extreme daily sexual violence experienced by many women in the Philipines and the contradictory confluence of religious and corporate forces in perpetrating this—the church through the repression of sexuality and reproductive autonomy, and corporations through their promotion of the hyper-sexualization of women. Jean works with the Coalition Against Trafficking of Women in Southeast Asia and is a member of the IC of the March. Feminist scholars Helena Hirata and Ariel Salleh offered remarks that placed the question of the exploitation of work, nature and women´s bodies in the context of globalization. Ariel presented some of the core ideas of ecofeminism which tries to understand and confront the persistent connections between the exploitation of women and nature.