Radio WIBG: Women’s voices from the Mediterranean: the state of play in Algeria

In 2011, women were in the forefront of the democratic movements in Mediterranean countries. Those movements of liberation didn’t fulfill the promises for women’s emancipation. In countries such as Libya, Syria, Egypt, and Algeria, the response of authoritarian patriarchal powers has been brutal. Women have paid a heavy price during these uprisings facing now a counterblast that sends them back to basic fights for gender equality. Nevertheless, they gained determination. In 2008, women activists founded the Mediterranean Women’s Fund (MedWF) to support and strengthen women’s organizations around the Mediterranean region. The MedWF has become an important articulation to shore up women’s movements in the regions.

The MedWF has adapted its action to the new needs of Mediterranean women’s organizations. Relying on networking and collective intelligence training for activists, the MedWF has worked on developing strategies to respond to the continuous attacks on women’s rights. In its efforts to provide a comprehensive support to these organizations the fund has organized meetings to gather women activists in six countries, Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, Croatia, Libya, and, last summer, France.

Amina, an Algerian activist with the Collectif Féministe d’Alger (the feminist association of Algiers) an organization that campaigns to stop violence against women, presented the situation in Algeria. She described the everyday struggle of Algerian women for recognition, organizing to gain emancipation and sexual and reproductive rights. A code of silence has been muffling women’s voices for women’s rights. Women demand to be heard and respected as full citizen with equal legal rights.

 

Brigitte Marti

In collaboration with MedWF and 50 50 magazine

 

(Photo and Image Credit: Mediterranean Women’s Fund)

A reminder of the responsibility of the state to guarantee rights and dignity to all people

Since his inauguration, Donald Trump has stepped up the offensive against the dignity and rights of immigrants, particularly undocumented immigrants who are caught in the web of ever harsher immigration laws. Candidate Trump pledged to deport 3 million undocumented immigrants, and let’s not forget that under President Obama, 2.4 million undocumented immigrants were deported. Attorney General Jeff Session, whose racist stands are no secret, has engaged in a trial of strength with the people who believe that respect for rights and dignity of all people is the responsibility of the state.  All of these policies aim at marketing a more xenophobic vision of the society that pits the “elected citizens” against the most vulnerable members of this society.

Patrick Young, an attorney for the Central American Refugee Center, CARECEN, in Hempstead and Brentwood, Long Island, New York presents the possible responses to the collusion between ICE and the police in making arrests and then deporting undocumented immigrants.

He also expounds on the impact on the immigrant community.

Finally, we asked him what were the main issues that immigrant women face in these particular times in the United States.

This continues our series of interviews with Patrick Young. You can read and hear the earlier interviews here and here. Along with being an attorney for Central American Refugee Center, CARECEN, Patrick is also an immigration law professor at Hofstra University, co-director of the Law School’s Immigration Clinic, a policy analyst for New York State Immigration Action Fund, and a writer for Long Island Wins, a website geared toward Long Island immigration communities.

 

(Photo Credit: Long Island Wins)

In Greece women’s solidarity faces and resists cynicism: Areti Karatasiou

A meeting at the Women’s Solidarity House

In Greece, in July 2015 the third memorandum imposed on its leftist government, elected in January 2015, has precipitated its dissolution. This change of government was also perceived as capitulating. The measures are now being implemented, devaluating pensions, especially the lowest, and dispossessing the country of its assets.

After having opened public spaces and institutions to the wrath of the private market, the Troika and especially the IMF has succeeded in conveying the message that the “very generous” pensions of the Greek people must be reduced drastically to “save” the Greek’s economy. It is worth noting that beside unsustainable cycles of austerity measures producing higher unemployment and pension reduction, 45% of the pensioners live under the poverty line.

We met Areti Karatasiou at the Women’s Solidarity House in Thessaloniki, commonly referred to as “the venue.”

As a teacher in the public school system, she knows the meaning of the Troika/IMF’s discourse: it demands people to work longer time in order to collect retirement, while many are being laid off or forced to retirement. This seems contradictory, but it is not. The result is well known: increased precariousness for a majority of people while reducing the social fabric of the society and its safety net to its bare minimum. It’s a clear example of necropolitics.

Areti mentions that the pension she receives amounts, at the moment, to only 700 Euros (about $700), after 30 years of teaching and contributing to the social safety net.

For many women like Areti in Thessaloniki it is a struggle to keep decent conditions of life. Areti explains here what it means to be part of the Women’s Solidarity House.

 

No women alone during the crisis!

 

(Photo Credits: Marie-Hélène Le Ny)

Radio WIBG: Sascha Gabizon and COP 21: “We need to include the language of gender equality”

Sascha Gabizon

COP 21 has opened in a difficult “climate.” After the attacks in Paris, a state of emergency has been declared. With that came the cancelation of all climate demonstrations organized by civil society. Nonetheless, a human-chain was organized gathering 10000 people; creative ways of demonstrating took place, thousands of shoes paved Republic Square to symbolize the march for the climate.

However, the abuses of the state of emergency are now being made visible and denounced, as 24 eco pacifist militants, some not even located in Paris, have been placed under a sort of house arrest during COP 21, marking the widening denial of democratic rights.

Climate change means the global elimination of people not only in Syria or Afghanistan but also generally in the global South. The COP negotiations work within the neoliberal market, shaping the climate paradigm as exchange value of the temperature degrees instead of taking into consideration the harshening condition of human lives, again ranked by gender, race and class.

In this context the task of Sascha Gabizon, one of the co-facilitators of the Women Gender Constituency, a large coalition of feminists and women’s movements, is going to be arduous.

Climate disasters target women. As Sascha recalled, in the 1991 floods in Bangladesh 90% of the casualties were women. As climate disasters occur regularly, as in the Philippines, they impact in majority women, mainly because of gendered distribution of labor and roles.

As a result, we see all kinds of radicalization against women with the widespread expansion of brutal practices against women, in their home, in their everyday life, in prisons and jails, as well as the erosion of women’s rights especially sexual and reproductive rights in an increasing number of countries.

Sascha insists: “We need to include, in the first article of the COP 21 agreement, the language of gender equality, of equality in terms of human rights as defined in the United Nations charter including the rights of indigenous populations. Moreover, she remarks that in the current negotiations, this language is shockingly deemed unnecessary even by countries such as Norway.”

By the same token, she underlines the impossibility of women’s groups even the largest to use the financial system for the climate as currently defined for any of their projects simply because it requires a 10 million Euros investment, an amount of money impossible to collect for these organizations. Additionally, locking up countries in the current public debt system has dire impacts on any initiatives, local or state especially in emerging countries.

Finally, the reality of the increase of temperature means the elimination of lands and therefore populations. While we are justly appalled by the deaths from blind attacks in the streets of Beirut, Tunis or Paris, our eyes turn away from the surviving struggles of the populations of the South who have not produced this climate disaster.

Listen to Sascha Gabizon

and a longer interview, in French, is available here.

 

(Photo Credit: UN Women / Fabricio Barreto)

 

Pierrette Pape: Women need to organize to face neoliberal fragmentation

This year’s CADTM Summer University insisted on feminist struggles as a starting point to understand the deleterious impacts of politics of austerity measures that have been applied in Europe and elsewhere. In Europe, the troika (the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank, and the European Commission), despite warnings from economists at the IMF, pressured by the United States forced austerity measures onto the population of Greece.

Representing the European Women’s Lobby, Pierrette Pape specifically addressed the pernicious ramifications between neoliberal capitalism and women’s rights. As Silvia Federici explains, women are the shock absorbers of economic globalization. Moreover, sexual and reproductive rights that have been won with so much difficulty are being attacked from various angles. Women, minorities, and generally low-income populations are being marginalized as bank bailouts with public funds become normalized.

Neoliberal strategies to rein in social advances and rights work hand in hand with conservative views that have traditionally hindered women’s emancipation. In the United States, for example, the situation of sexual and reproductive rights is dire with the constant attack on women’s rights especially with Planned Parenthood being currently pilloried on false claims. In Spain, after many failed attempts to curtail abortion rights, the recent “mordaza” (Gag) bill has effectively reduced access to abortion for minors requiring parental consent. Feminist movements have shown in Spain their ability to unite with large networks representing various aspects of resistance, which led to the election of activist women as mayors of Barcelona and Madrid, respectively.

Although women are on the forefront of the struggle against austerity, the neoliberal system lays traps to reduce the impact of resistance.

Let’s listen to Pierrette Pape:

 

(Photo Credit: RTBF.be)

Radio WIBG: Najla Mulhondi: Linking feminist struggles and the debt system

At the plenary session of the summer university of the CADTM, Amina Amzil from Attac Morocco reminded the audience how the Structural Adjustment Programs SAPs have changed the development of emerging countries in the neoliberal global market and what it means for women.

SAPs are the austerity programs of the South. The World Bank with the FMI institutionalize the neoliberal measures of austerity in the “there is no alternative” dogma. The World Bank impeded any plans for development of public investments instead becoming an instrument of economic blackmail for developing countries disregarding human rights.

Amina Amzil explained that in Morocco 78% of the GDP is engulfed in the debt repayment, slimming budget for education and health care reducing public services. Women are particularly hit by these cuts. Still, 52% of women are illiterate compared to 33% of men. The World Bank ordered a drastic cut of 30% in public employment the traditional sector in which women find services and work. Now, women unemployment is higher in all sectors; in particular 25% of women with higher education diploma are unemployed while women constitute only 6.7% of higher education graduate. In addition, women suffer of lack of access to health care especially evident with a maternal mortality rate of 112/100000 one of the highest in the region. Finally, SAPs were completed with trade agreements that open the emerging countries to the rich countries rendering women vulnerable as perceived as docile and exploitable in informal sectors.

Being a member of the CADTM in Liege (Belgium), Najla Mulhondi would not miss its annual meeting.

For Najla, the agronomist, the public debt system meant globalization of agro-industry merchandize that works only because of the existence of inequalities. But this year, she said, she had to focus on the link between feminism and the public debt system. Realizing that inequalities are gendered, she attended the “feminist struggles” workshops of the CADTM.

We talked with her after the workshop moderated by Christine Vanden Daelen entitled “Some pedagogical tools to arm women against all kind of austerity.”

This workshop presented some educative tools for women, chiefly vulnerable women, to regain control over the neoliberal discourse and understand that they don’t owe anything on the contrary their work has been largely utilized for free. Najla makes the connection with the land grabbing and globalized markets that forced the farmers of the South to produce crops, roses etc, for the North.

In her interview in French, she mentioned the issue of “all these natural resources purloined from the South”, she said, “I don’t know how one/we will give back to the countries in the South, we’ll have to ponder.”

Clearly, in these unequal relationships feminist struggles bring about another solidarity to open what has been closed by this neoliberal order.

Listen to Najla who felt the need, “to spread this new openness.”

For a longer interview with Najla, in French:

 

(Photo Credit: 50-50 Magazine)

Radio WIBG interview: Tijana Okic

 

Tijana Okic

Tijana Okic

(Editor’s note: Today we inaugurate Radio WIBG (Women In and Beyond the Global). Brigitte Marti interviews Bosnian feminist activist Tijana Okic.)

From the CADTM Europe Summer University: The second day offered many workshops to continue the exploration of “The debt in all its state” and moreover the resistance that is being organized around the world.

In Women in and Beyond the Global we look for the voices and analyses that the neoliberal establishment would like to smother. Tijana Okic is definitely a voice that does not want to be smothered. She talked to us about her feminist commitment against this fraudulent racket organized around the story of the debt. Listen to her inspiring and important Bosnian perspective and testimony.

 

 

Recording and photo  by Brigitte Marti