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Celebrating Women’s Struggles and Victories

March 2011

Every year on March 8th – International Women’s Day – thousands of events are held throughout the world to inspire women and celebrate their achievements.  As I review Grassroots International’s past year in grant making, I am inspired by the many projects we made in support of women-led initiatives. From projects centered on securing women’s livelihoods through organic gardens in Guatemala, to empowering women biodiversity practitioners in India, as well as many others, we have stayed committed to supporting efforts that give women a key role in advancing social justice. Sharing our connection to their work with you is my personal celebration.

Last year on this day, Grassroots International ally and grantee, the World March of Women (WMW) launched a passionate Call to Action. In October 2010, we helped fund their Third International Assembly, this time held in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which they hoped would serve as “a way to strengthen women’s [key roles] in the resolution of conflicts”. The series of actions included a learning exchange between the WMW from different regions of the world and Congolese women; a food sovereignty fair; and a Women’s March for Peace. They achieved a huge mobilizing success, with 3,000 registrations at the international assembly and an estimated 20,000 present at the march. More than that, though, the confidence and trust they built among the women present, especially the Congolese participants, was particularly inspiring. WMW testifies that through presentations and discussions it became clear that “Congolese women no longer accept being considered victims, but rather seek to affirm themselves ever more as protagonists in the struggle against the causes of violence”.  This sentiment mirrors their mission of fighting “to eliminate the root causes of poverty and violence against women” and we are proud to have supported such strides.

La Vía Campesina, a long-time partner of Grassroots International and a close ally of the World March of Women, marked its own commitment through its Global Campaign to End Violence Against Women. Grassroots International has also funded La Vía Campesina’s Regional Women’s Commission in Central America, whose main objective is to incorporate peasant women as active and integral players in agrarian reform. Among other things, women’s access to the means of production (including land) is pivotal in ensuring that they can be an equal part of the struggle for food sovereignty.

Grassroots International has long known that paradoxically, women are the most severely impacted by the environmental and food crisis, and at the same time, hold significant insights to real solutions for these global emergencies. In 2010 we made a grant to our U.S. ally the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), supporting their work to publish a report titled “Women at the Center of Climate-Friendly Approaches to Agriculture and Water Use”. In their work, IATP recognizes how different communities have been coping with challenges in realizing rights to water and food, and how important it is for new policies on national development to take into account the strategies of marginalized groups, particularly women. “It is necessary to create an environment that recognizes a wide diversity of strategies and strengthens gender-sensitive approaches”. To accomplish this goal they drew on the experiences of the Tamil Nadu Women’s Collective in India as a case study on proven methods and practices for immediate and sustainable alternatives that support food sovereignty and the right to water. Ultimately, this work demonstrates the particularities of women’s struggles for food sovereignty as they deal with a multitude of challenges, from violence, sexual harassment, and other gender-based inequalities, and it highlights the very unique and profound contributions that only women can make in repairing many of our broken systems.

These are just a few examples of the great work we get to celebrate today, and although I will not be marching at any colorful rallies, parades, or demonstrations, along with Grassroots International, I do plan on honoring the work of women everywhere and continue to support our intrinsically connected challenges. We have come far and we still have work to do!

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