In many parts of our world, early March is synonymous with bright beginnings. Hints of green find their way through monochrome winter landscapes like tiny figurines stretching their limbs as if waking up from a long nap. At first they appear exposed against the elements: awkward, fragile, and out of place. But before long, the green blankets the stark earth that lies beneath.
March is also a time in which we focus on women as the beating heart of social change. Today, International Women’s Day, offers a moment for reflection and coordinated action. This year marks a milestone in the retreat and rebirth of solidarity movements towards women’s liberation.
Just last week Grassroots International joined Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, World March of Women, and Indigenous Environmental Network in launching the Berta Cáceres International Feminist Organizing School.
The school is a space for organizers and social movements to build global feminist solidarity and strengthen convergences led by women and gender non-conforming people. Several of our partners and allies from geographies as diverse as Brazil, Côte d’Ivoire, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Nigeria, Palestine, and Puerto Rico were key in putting the process together and will be participating in the school as attendees and trainers of trainers.
Deeply committed to intersectionality – as both an analytical tool and as a political framework for system change – this space is curated by Black, Indigenous, and peasant women who are most oppressed by the interlocked levers of oppression of racialized capitalism, patriarchy, and colonialism. In other words, there is no room here for bourgeois “feminists” or other apologists for empire.
The school borrows its name from the beloved Berta Cáceres, an Indigenous Lenca woman who dedicated her life to the defense of territory and promotion of feminisms in her native Honduras. Berta’s commitment to her community and the river that is its life source flowed across the world. She was so effective that exactly five years ago this past week, she was murdered in an attempt to silence the resistance.
But Berta never organized as an individual; in fact, the movement that she founded, the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), has managed to protect Lenca territory by pressuring corporations and governments to withdraw from extractive projects. COPINH, represented during the launch of the school by Berta’s adult daughter Bertita, continues to be an indispensable social movement leader in feminist organizing.
Speaking to the group that was meant to have gathered in Kenya but met online due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Bertita shared memories of her mother and of the legacy she left for future generations; it was no coincidence that the school launched on March 4, Berta’s birthday. She said, “With her memory in my heart, we start a great day that will be a global outcry for justice.”
“Berta didn’t die, she multiplied!” answered many of the women in the virtual space, in several different languages. Just this past week on the anniversary of Berta’s murder, two Garífuna land defenders were detained by the Honduran police on trumped-up charges related to land conflicts. They are part of a movement that is continuing to build on Berta’s legacy.
It is said that in death we plant our loved ones as seeds. In Spanish, this is called siembra, which roughly translates to “sowing” in English. This life cycle also applies to our movements, because we always stand on the shoulders of our ancestors – especially the women who gave us life.
In this spirit, as we gaze toward the horizon with the winds of our ancestors behind us, we march towards women’s rights grounded in multiple feminisms. Or in Bertita’s words: “This is the struggle of a whole people who know they are thirsty for justice and have the wisdom to forge their liberation.”
For this is the promise of spring.