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Lessons from Feminist Organizing School

June 2016

In May I participated in the first-ever World March of Women-US Chapter Feminist Organizing School. This training engaged World March of Women-US (WMW-US) member organizations – including Grassroots International — around issues of feminism and gender justice. For me, this was an exciting opportunity to meet in person many of the women I’d interacted with on conference calls over the past year.

The Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP), a member organization of the WMW-US, hosted the training in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

We did many activities and had many discussions. One activity was the Tree of Oppression, where we looked at the root causes of oppression (the roots of the tree – such as capitalism, patriarchy and white supremacy) and its effects on women’s lives (represented in the leaves, including violence, lower wages, media misrepresentations, etc.).

Related to the Tree of Oppression, we also looked at the “Sites of Struggle and Liberation Onion.” It depicts layers moving outward from the personal at the center to the structural at the outer skin, showing the areas of our lives that can be places of support and strength as well as struggle.

We also talked about the intersection of LGBT rights and feminism and worked on building an understanding around gender identities and LGBT issues. We did an activity called “Act Like a Lady/Take it Like a Man,” where we got to think about what those two phrases bring to mind. That was followed by a talk about different gender identity terms, such as “transgender,” “gender nonconforming” and “queer.” In breakout groups we also got to practice leading these activities and discussions.

What is the World March of Women?

The World March of Women is a global feminist movement with national coordinating bodies in 65 countries around the world.  On the days leading up to International Women’s Day on March 8th 2015, Grassroots Global Justice (GGJ) Alliance announced the formation of the US chapter of the World March of Women, making it the first (and still only) WMW chapter in the US. The WMW-US Chapter is still quite young. The Grassroots Global Justice membership assembly voted to start the chapter in 2014 and it officially launched in March 2015.

During this training we learned about the WMW-International and its four Fields of Action: Peace and Demilitarization, Women’s Economic Autonomy, Common Goods and Public Services, and Violence Against Women. On the second-to-last day of the training, Graça Samo, the International Coordinator of the WMW (based in Mozambique), and Emilia Castro, the Co-coordinator of the WMW-Americas region (based in Quebec, originally from Chile), joined us by Skype. Emilia spoke to us about how the WMW got started, coming out of a Women’s March Against Poverty that happened in Quebec in 1995. Graça talked about the right wing backlash currently happening in so many parts of the world (including in Brazil and the US) and about criminalization and violence against women.

Moving Forward with Feminist Internationalism in the US

The last day we met at the Albuquerque Center for Peace and Justice to discuss upcoming work that the WMW-US will be doing, including:

  • Justice for Berta Caceres campaign (with special actions happening on June 15th)
  • Participation on the World Social Forum in Quebec in August, 2016
  • Participation in the International World March of Women meeting this fall in Mozambique.

For our last activity together we got to dig our hands in some dirt – literally. Each participant had been asked to bring some dirt from their part of the country. We mixed the dirt with water and seeds – corn, beans, and other kinds of seeds – to make “seed bombs,” little balls that can be tossed out into areas where they can absorb rainfall and the seeds sprout.

The Feminist Organizing School was a wonderful opportunity for us to learn together, build relationships and strengthen the World March of Women-US Chapter. As the slogan of the WMW goes, “We will keep marching until we are all free!”

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