A serious theme ran through the bright songs and spoken poetry Friday night, as women gathered for a multi-cultural celebration at Concordia University. The evening was the first part of a two-day forum entitled “Global Feminisms and Social Transformation.”
Held as a prelude to today’s International Women’s Day (IWD), the forum began with four women activists singing about the fight for justice. Patricia Lescano, a songwriter native to Chile, Sandra Moran, a Guatemalan activist and percussionist, Maude Maucaurelle, and Afro-Canadian Faith Nolan, a prisoners’ rights advocate, all sang in their own native languages with passion and tragedy.
After the evening, participants were invited to attend a panel of speakers Saturday morning, followed by workshops throughout the afternoon.
Lilian Robinson, Principle of the Simone de Beauvoir Institute, opened Saturday’s meeting by explaining IWD’s history. The institute, along with the Committee of Women of Diverse Origins, organized the forum.
After a fire killed 146 women in a sweatshop, a group of young immigrant workers protested working conditions in New York on March 8, 1857. In honour of the protest, Clara Zetkin called upon women everywhere to link their fight for equal rights with a fight to preserve international peace, and in 1911, the first IWD was held. The United Nations officially passed a resolution in 1977 for a day to be declared in every country for women’s rights and international peace.
On Saturday, Robinson described global exploitation as a “ring of fire.”
“The ring of fire has moved from America to the Third World countries.a doll factory in Bankok, the brothels, women workers in Bangledesh, equally afraid of a fire in the workshop and of rape. [We see] the emergency exits are closing. What we propose to counteract global capitalism is global feminism,” Robinson said.
IWD has traditionally been an opportunity to unite and mobilize for meaningful change. Saturday morning’s panel said that there is still much work to be done as the panelists have all led the fight for the liberation of women in their respective countries: Guatemala, Haiti, the West Bank in Israel, and with immigrants in British Columbia.
Sandra Moran of Guatemala spoke out against the domestic violence and assassinations that killed 695 of her countrywomen last year. Through a translator, Moran said that as a student activist, she had to go into exile in Canada until the end of Guatemala’s 36-year war. When she returned to her homeland, she spearheaded the fight to have women recognized as the seventh sector of the society, while including them in the peace-building process.
“[It’s] something that’s very difficult to attack because there are many facts that contribute,” Moran said regarding domestic violence. “There’s still a way of thinking that we as women belong to someone. Many think that to punish a man, you must kill his woman, his fianc