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Brazilian Peasant Women Embody the Spirit of International Women’s Day

March 2008

In celebration of International Women’s Day on Saturday, we at Grassroots would like to honor 900 peasant women who bravely seized and occupied a vast corporate tree farm in southern Brazil that they believe symbolizes the type of development that is destroying their communities and Mother Earth itself.

It could not have been easy.

The women, members of the Via Campesina, staged the takeover just before dawn on Tuesday, then proceeded to cut down the corporations trees and plant native trees in their place. At least 50 women were injured by rubber bullets and other material when police forcefully removed them from the 5,200-acre farm. Hundreds of them were reportedly arrested.

The farm is owned by the Swedish-Finnish paper corporation Stora Enso Oyj. Its located in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, near the Brazil-Uruguay border — a sensitive desert region where the planting of forest monocultures is severely threatening the local pampas ecosystem upon which farmers and other citizens depend. The women say Stora Enso is violating a 29-year-old law that forbids foreign companies from owning land within 95 miles of Brazil’s border. They are calling on the Brazilian government to annul land acquisitions made by Stora Enso, which they say is using a Brazilian front company to circumvent the law.

On Wednesday, the day after the protest, members of Grassroots Internationals partner, the Landless Rural Workers Movement (MST), blocked eight roads in the state to protest the alleged police brutality against the women.

We carry with us the energy and courage of millions of women peasants around the world that are fighting against the commodification of life and nature, the women said in a statement issued by the Via Campesina.

You might not hear statements like that in the scant, media coverage of International Women’s Day this Saturday. But these women are speaking loudly, and without fear.

At Grassroots International, we take this opportunity to express our appreciation for, and solidarity with, women all around the world.

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