Report of the Chairperson to the 2nd General Assembly
of the International Women’s Alliance (IWA)
Liza Maza, Chairperson
Warmest greetings to all our members, observers and guests who are gathered here today to participate in the 2nd General Assembly of the International Women’s Alliance (IWA). On behalf of the IWA Executive Council, let me thank all of you who in spite of financial constraints and your busy schedules were able to come to this important meeting.
Before I proceed, let me take this opportunity to honor our sisters in struggle who have given their lives for the cause of women’s emancipation and social liberation. Let us remember our sister, Irene Fernandez of Tenaganita, Malaysia who passed on in 2014 due to lingering illness. She devoted all her life championing human rights especially the rights of women, migrants and refugees. Let us also honor our three Kurdish sisters who were brutally murdered in their office in Paris in 2013. One of the women, Fidan Dogan, was our resource speaker in the women’s workshop organized by IWA at the Rio+20 CSO events in Brazil. May I request everyone to stand and offer a moment of silence for our dear departed sisters and comrades.
I was given the task to give a report on IWA for the period July, 2011 to the present. I will focus on the work of IWA at the international and regional levels, share the achievements and challenges we encountered in building a grassroots-based global women’s movement and identify some tasks necessary for the Alliance to move forward.
Background on IWA Formation and Tasks
The idea of forming an anti-imperialist global women’s alliance was conceived at the 3rd General Assembly of the International League of Peoples’ Struggles (ILPS) held from 18 to 20 June, 2008 in Hongkong. The ILPS Commission No.17 on The Cause of Women’s Liberation and Rights Against All Forms of Sexual Discrimination, Exploitation and Violence specifically called for “an international conference of women on March 8, 2010 to commemorate the centennial of the International Toiling Women’s Day leading to the formation of an anti-imperialist global women’s alliance.”
From 13 to 15 August 2010, the Montreal International Women’s Conference was held in Canada. Hosted by the Women of Diverse Origins, a Canadian multisectoral women’s alliance and their network, the Women’s Conference gathered 400 delegates from 32 countries who participated in plenary sessions, workshops and discussions on various themes and major issues like women workers and exploitation, racism, discrimination and genocide, struggles of indigenous women, religion, struggles of sexual minority women, women’s health and reproductive rights, developmental aggression, violence against women and women’s experiences with socialism and national liberation movements. The conference then passed a resolution that called for the formation of the International Women’s Alliance (IWA).
The following day August 16, 2010, the founding assembly of IWA was held. IWA as an alliance of grassroots women committed to fight against imperialism, patriarchy, racism, sexism and all other systems and structures that exploit and oppress women. It resolved to build a militant global women’s movement in the 21st century as an integral part of the movement for national and social liberation.
The 1st General Assembly of IWA, hosted by GABRIELA, Philippines, was held in Manila on 5 -6 July, 2011 with the theme “Advance the Global Anti-imperialist Women’s Movement! Strengthen the International Women’s Alliance.” The General Assembly was attended by more than a hundred delegates from 67 organizations from 20 countries. The Assembly approved the Manila Declaration of Unity, the Constitution of the Alliance, its General Program of Action and Four Year Plan.
IWA identified three general and ten specific tasks in its Four Year Plan. The three general tasks were: to draw in women in the struggle for democratic rights and freedoms and in the struggle against imperialism and all reaction; to strengthen IWA as a progressive and anti- imperialist alliance and to expand IWA membership at the regional level; and to launch local, regional and international campaigns to oppose imperialist attacks against the people.
The ten specific tasks included: 1) launching of local, regional and international campaigns; 2) issuing IWA statements and positions on major and significant issues of the day; 3) holding of timely conferences and meetings to study emerging issues; 4) projecting the position of IWA in international gatherings and activities and drawing in more women’s groups and individuals to her cause; 5) forging multilateral and bilateral support, exchanges and visits among and between women to strengthen solidarity; 6) organizing IWA at the regional level; 7) developing a platform for participation of young women; 8) regularizing the meeting of the International Coordinating Committee, and setting up the secretariat; 9) generating resources; and 10) forging cooperation and alliances with other progressive and anti-imperialist organizations.
At the General Assembly, the major issues raised by our members as their current concerns and campaigns that IWA should take on were landlessness, land grabbing and rights of rural and indigenous women, labor issues, migrants, immigrant and refugee issues, cuts in social services and security, mining, logging and development aggression and plunder, political repression, militarization and US war on terror, fundamentalism and rise of conservatism, sexism and violence against women, homophobia and discrimination against LGBT, environmental degradation and destruction.
IWA 2011 – 2015: Accomplishments and Challenges
The four years (2011 to 2015) of IWA were formative years. IWA was organized as the global alliance of grassroots women that drew in the mass organizations of women from the marginalized sectors of women workers, peasants, indigenous, rural and urban poor, youth, migrants and immigrants and women of color and of different sexual orientation and expressions. Organizations of professional women and women of different faiths also joined IWA. These organizations share the analysis that the common enemy of the world’s oppressed and exploited women is imperialism which shapes and reinforces patriarchalism and hinders the full development of women. The formation of IWA as a progressive alliance committed to fight patriarchy, sexism, racism and imperialism is a positive advance in the international women’s movement and the international movement for national and social liberation in the epoch of imperialist globalization, plunder and war.
Every year, IWA issued statements on March 8 International Women’s Day and November 25, International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. These statements contain IWA’s analysis and position on the situation and major issues of women in the context of capitalist crisis and war and the different forms of violence experienced by women at the country, regional and global levels and how women resist violence. Calls were issued to members to organize protest activities on these important dates. In March 2012, IWA held an internationally-coordinated launch of the IWA March 8 poster and the IWA 1st General Assembly proceedings which was published in book form.
IWA also issued statements against capitalist crisis and war, US militarism and wars of intervention, violations of women’s human rights, plunder by mining corporations, violations of rights of migrants and climate crisis. It issued support and solidarity statements to the struggles of women in different countries like Palestine ,Egypt, Canada, Philippines, Mexico, Ecuador, Kurdistan, Turkey and Malaysia among others. Some of the major statements were translated in French and Spanish. It also published one issue of the IWA newsletter which was distributed during the Rio plus 20 CSO forum in June 2012. It also issued a statement and a call for action for victims of the super typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) in the Philippines.
In April 2012, IWA started a signature campaign on US Troops Out of the Philippines and the Asia Pacific and Beyond at the Association of Women in Development (AWID) international conference held in Istanbul, Turkey. This signature campaign was expanded in 2013 as a full blown campaign dubbed “Women Building Peace, Resisting Militarization and US Intervention in the Asia Pacific and Beyond.” The campaign with the accompanying toolkit was launched at the Women’s Camp, a side event organized by IWA in cooperation with 14 other groups during the People’s Global Camp Against WTO held in December 2013 in Bali, Indonesia. IWA also endorsed and participated in the Campaign for Peoples’ Goals as an alternative progressive agenda to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. IWA endorsed the One Billion Rising campaign and her members joined the campaign’s various activities.
To project IWA’s position on important issues and for networking, IWA participated in various global, regional and country conferences, forums and gatherings as co-sponsor and/or organizer of women’s workshops, notable among them were the Militarization and Women: Build A Sustainable Future for La Pachamama at the Rio + 20 CSO Forum in June 2012 ( IWA issued a statement against the refusal of governments to include reproductive rights in the Rio+20 final document); the Migrants Tribunal held in Manila in December 2012; the International Assembly of Migrants and Refugees 4 held in New York in October, 2013; the Women’s Tent at the People’s Global Camp Against WTO held in Bali, Indonesia in 2013; the Women Resisting Mining Aggression workshop during the Permanent People’s Tribunal on Canadian Mining companies in Latin America held in Canada and Convergence of Women workshop at the People’s Social Forum held in Ottawa, Canada. IWA also participated in the DMZ Women Crossing calling for the reunification of South and North Korea and the Beijing + 20 review in New York in 2015.
IWA and its member organizations participated in protest movements and actions like the occupy actions in the US and rallies and demonstrations in protest against imperialist plunder, US-Israeli attacks on the Palestinian people and US war of aggression in the Middle East and the 75th year of World War II calling for justice for comfort women in the Philippines and other countries.
IWA established the Office of the Chairperson based in the Philippines which was tasked to coordinate the international campaigns; ensure the release of statements and positions; represent IWA; manage the mailing list and the internet sites of IWA and ensure the regular meetings of the Executive Council. A part-time staff was hired by the Office of the Chairperson. The Office of the Secretary General was in charge of IWA membership and together with the Executive Council members in the Americas, initiated the organizing of the core group for IWA Americas in 2011. In 2012, IWA decided to form working committees preparatory to organizing regional chapters in Asia and Europe.
Networking and solidarity visits were done in Mexico, Ecuador, Argentina, Venezuela and the US by IWA Americas and six meetings of the core group were held. In Asia, networking meetings were held in Manila, Taiwan and Bali, Indonesia. In Europe, networking and solidarity visits were done in the Netherlands, Germany, UK, Norway and Belgium and a networking meeting was held in Germany.
At the global and regional levels, IWA established coordinative and solidarity relations with the World Women’s Conference. IWA was also appointed second person for gender in the CPDE Southeast Asia sub-regional level. (For the full report on IWA activities, please refer to the Secretary General’s report)
The main challenge for IWA in her formative years is the consolidation of her members and expansion of her membership. Important in the consolidation and expansion of the organization is the identification of key campaign issues and concerns that IWA should focus on at the international and regional levels. These campaigns would effectively mobilize members, draw in new ones and serve as basis for networking and alliance building with other women’s international/regional/country-based organizations. It was only in 2013 when the campaign against US militarization was launched at the international level but was not sustained And while we have issued statements on various concerns, we still need to issue timely IWA statements and positions on many issues affecting women and ensure their widespread dissemination.
Another problem was the lack of structure at the regional/country levels and dedicated personnel that would ensure the implementation of the Four Year Plan. How to encourage member organizations to effectively link their work to IWA and project IWA’s analysis and statements on issues and concerns remains a challenge. The meetings of the Executive Council were only through the internet and were difficult to organize. It is important to organize face to face meetings for more in-depth discussions and planning.
There is an urgent need to draw up and implement a plan for resource generation. Membership dues should be collected regularly to build the yearly start-up funds of the alliance. For four years, IWA was not able to collect membership dues and survived through donations and volunteer work.
The worst crisis of the world capitalist system since the Great Depression has brought forth unprecedented global inequality. According to a new report by the Credit Suisse bank, of the estimated $250 trillion world assets, the top 1% of the population owns almost exactly 50% while the bottom 50% combined owned less than 1%. The report further said that 87.7% of the world’s wealth is owned by the richest 10 % while only 12.3 % of wealth is owned by the bottom 90% of the population. The rapid rise in inequality was noted after the 2008 crisis pointing to the reality that the bailouts and austerity measures implemented by capitalist countries only shifted the world’s wealth to the very few rich with US wealth rising to $4.6 trillion and China to $1.5 trillion amidst a global decline in wealth.
The world’s poor continue to suffer from unemployment and underemployment, depressed wages, decrease in income, homelessness, cuts in social services like education, health and social protection. The economic, social and political marginalization of the world’s poor and oppressed worsened. According to UN Women, the global unemployment rate of women remains higher than men at seven percent. Globally, only half of women are in the labor force compared to more than three-fourths of men. Across some regions, 75% of women are employed in informal work with low pay and poor job quality. The burden of unpaid care and domestic work largely falls on the shoulders of women who spend more than 2.5 times doing domestic work compared to men.
As imperialist countries compete for resources through bilateral and multilateral trade arrangements and direct foreign investments, wars of aggression and intervention were being waged in Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and Africa. The US which remains as the major global military power leads in these resource wars even as China, in collusion and competition with the US, builds its military might to likewise secure its global investments and influence. In situations of wars, women and children are the most vulnerable to violence and abuse.
The present condition calls for the advance of the women’s mass movement that will defend and assert women’s democratic rights and forward the struggle for national and social liberation. IWA is in the best position to resist imperialist plunder and war, patriarchalism, racism and sexism and advance the struggle of the grassroots women for liberation.
Let us continue to be a united voice and a broad platform for women’s resistance against imperialist plunder and war. Among the issues IWA can focus on are the heightening militarization of the planet and US wars of intervention and aggression in many parts of the world; the new trade agreements like the US-led Transpacific Partnership Agreement, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership led by China and other Free Trade Agreements that only intensify neo-colonial trade; issues of migrants (about 50% of whom are women), immigrants and refugees; inequality, discrimination and violence against women and the worsening climate crisis.
Let us recruit more members and organize IWA at the regional and country levels. An effective structure, mechanism and processes for the day-to-day implementation of our Four Year Plan must be set up at the global and regional levels. We should be mindful of the important work of resource mobilization and fund raising starting with the regular collection of membership dues.
Let us organize more exchanges for sharing of conditions and experiences in struggles. In the course of our networking, individual women and groups seek our assistance in organizing women. We should be ready to provide guidance and training to them in the spirit of solidarity.
Let us strengthen our solidarity with other organizations and movements that share our vision for a better future for all. ###
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