Interview with Miriam Nobre, Global Feminist Activist
Miriam Nobre is a Brazilian feminist activist and current coordinator of World March of Women (WMW), an international feminist movement that connects grassroots women to eliminate the root causes of poverty and violence against women. She is also an agronomist, and has completed a master’s program in Latin American Integration at the University of São Paulo (Brazil). Miriam recently received an award from Grassroots International as part of our 30th anniversary celebration in Boston. While in Boston, she talked with Grassroots staffer Jonathan Leaning about her work with the WMW and her activism. WMW is a grantee of Grassroots International and a recipient of Grassroots’ Global Partnership Award which Miriam received on behalf of WMW at Grassroots’ 30th anniversary.
JL: Can you explain what World March of Women does?
MN: The World March of Women (WMW) is a feminist movement organizing women at the grassroots level in 60 countries and territories around the world. We are composed of local women’s groups, neighborhood associations, and rural women’s groups which are struggling for greater autonomy for women, women’s workplace rights, as well as more equitable sharing of work in the home, and caring for children and other family members. Other issues that we are focused on include stopping violence against women, expanding public services for women, stopping the privatization of nature and women’s bodies, food sovereignty, and building public recognition for all the work that women do in rural areas and all the work they do to produce food for their communities.
We are organized at national and local levels [in each country] but we also have international actions every five years; and we are now preparing our next action. For 2015, we want to raise our voices to reclaim women’s bodies and women’s lands, show how women have resisted successfully in rural and urban areas, and show the alternatives that women are building in their daily lives. How did you start getting involved in this work?
I have been an activist since I was a teenager in São Paulo, Brazil. It was a time when there was a dictatorship in my country, so I started working as an activist in the student and workers’ movements in my city. But when I started, I also wanted freedom for my thoughts, my behavior, and the freedom to freely express my ideas and feelings. At that time, in the traditional left, it was not easy. I began meeting and talking with other activist women and discussing how we could express ourselves and live our lives as we wanted: we discovered that we were feminists!
So in 1993, I started working with a local feminist group in São Paolo which was part of a trade union. We wanted to do something about reproductive health and violence against women. We began organizing ourselves as women, and thinking about how women’s rights could be part of the process of rebuilding the country in new way. At the same time, we began pushing for better health services for women, and building a different system of health in our country. What is your most memorable moment as a feminist activist?
I remember when we organized WMW’s second international action in 2005. The idea was not to have a big international gathering, but to take our Women’s Global Charter for Humanity (WMW’s global campaign advocating for greater rights for women) around the world. It was going to start in my city, São Paulo, with a demonstration. At that time, people thought it would be impossible to have a large and strong feminist movement. People said “first you need to have access to education, you need to struggle to increase wages, then after that you can have a feminist movement. But you have to start with a very strong and large popular social movement first.” There was kind of a hierarchy.
But as we started organizing, women’s groups began joining us from all around the country. And we ended up with a demonstration of 30,000 women! We [the organizers] had no idea if the demonstration would even happen or not. That day, I was standing on the sound system truck and when I looked out and saw so many women gathered, coming from different regions – white women, black women, lesbian women, with all their signs and their colorful banners, at that point I realized: We are really strong. We are really building a very strong movement.
What is the WMW planning next?
We are continuing to organize locally and resist conservative attacks on women in many nations. In many countries, we have seen more criminalization of women, violence against women, and attempts to stop women from going into the streets to reclaim their rights. We would like to stengthen our presence in the Arabic world. And we would like to strengthen our links and work in the US, too. We are working with Grassroots Global Justice Alliance to reinforce our presence here in the US. We are also in the process of moving our international secretariat to Mozambique, Africa. Even though we are organized at national levels, the international secretariat is important for providing leadership for WMW actions, debates, and campaigns in different parts of the world.
Thank you for sharing your experiences with us!
For more information on the World March of Women, please visit www.marchemondiale.org/en/