Shouting a New World: Notes on the Second International Gathering of Women who Struggle

23 January 2020

Last December, Zapatista compañeras convened the “Second International Gathering of Women who Struggle” to deal extensively with the issue of violence against women that, in South America and the entire world, is a recurring, painful and urgent issue. Around 3,500 women from 49 countries answered this call, and I was fortunate enough to be among them.

We met from 26th to 29th December at the “Footsteps of Comandanta Ramona” seedbed of the “Whirlwind of Our Words” Caracol in southeastern Mexico. The meeting was setup in 2 main parts: one for denouncing violence against women and another for proposing actions and articulating strategies.

Denounce: Shout our pains and courage

Many times you have to look back to foresee a new direction. This is how this day felt: a constant looking back, placing oneself in each other’s shoes, feeling grief but then sharing the strength to look forward.

We had open microphones for a whole day to tell stories and denounce gender violence before thousands of women who were ready to listen. We laughed, we cried, we shouted and we kept silent, story after story. Much pain and anger came out of this process, but also a sense of hope in seeing us resilient, and courage to follow the processes of personal and collective healing.

And not only did we hear stories of violence against women, many compañeras also shared incredible stories of resistance led by women around the globe.

Propose: Share ideas and experiences

A second cornerstone of this meeting were the proposals built upon the complaints that had been formulated. The idea was to outline the scenario and then ask ourselves what can be done and how.

It’s a big challenge to articulate and build bridges and joint strategies despite our diverse backgrounds, contexts, spaces of action, communities and feelings. But as the Zapatista compañeras suggest, we need to act “together, although each one in her time, her place and her way.” Thus, various proposals were emerging, depending on the mode, time, and place of each working group that formed.

Many of the proposals aimed at strengthening actions between existing organizations and collectives. Affinity groups were also created to start operating in new spaces. Not all proposals prospered in the same way, there were also conversations that did not necessarily trigger specific actions, but rather revealed the diversity of positions on some issues. There were no solid agreements that reflect a joint work from the participants, but the Zapatista compañeras shared their proposals that translated into a set of 3 agreements: to formulate concrete proposals against violence, to help each other, and to keep organized and staying in contact.

Celebrate: Shout for joy and strength

The third and last day was dedicated to releasing energies through artistic expressions in a wide variety of genres. We let the joy of being together and in a safe space, protected by mountains and the EZLN* militias, flow, even for only 3 days.

Then we each returned home to continue working, organizing and fighting in our own contexts. Our minds remain full of questions about our articulation and joint action capabilities, but we now have renewed energy to continue.

The struggle for a life free of violence for women extends to all areas, including the virtual world. That is why, from this space, we wanted to highlight this call that came from the Zapatista compañeras, with the aim of making women’s actions and efforts to change the world more visible; and contribute to making the Internet a more diverse place. Or as the Zapatistas would say, to turn it into “a world where many worlds fit.”

* Spanish acronym for the Zapatista Army for National Liberation.

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