Informational Bulletin 3: Women’s Struggles and The Encounter Between the Zapatistas and the Peoples of the World
“We Need to Organize an Encounter for Women to Exchange Ideas and Join Struggles”
By Intergalactic Commission of the EZLN
January 6, 2007
During this second day of the Encounter Between the Zapatistas and the Peoples of the World, which counted with the participation of almost 2,000 compañeros and compañeras from 44 countries of the world, work was developed on the Other Education, the Other Health, and Women’s Struggles.
In the session on the Other Education participated, as in all other sessions, autonomous authorities from the five Good Government Councils and the Zapatista Autonomous Municipalities in Rebellion (MAREZ), who explained how the people organize education autonomously and in resistance.
The autonomous representatives specified the number of schools built in their territory, some of them with resources from national and international solidarity, and many more with funds from the communities themselves. They also spoke of the importance of training education promoters, who are elected by community assemblies to be trained to teach in their communities.
They explained that Zapatista education relates the 13 demands of their struggle with four knowledge areas: life and environment, math, history, and languages. True education, they said, originates from the people and is not imposed by bad governments.
The speeches by the Zapatista authorities were followed by those of compañeros and compañeras from many countries around the world. Among them was Mixper, a Chicana of Huichol origin, from the APC Collective and the educational project Semillas del Pueblo, who explained that in the US people of color, the children of migrants and indigenous peoples, are marginalized, ridiculed, treated as inferiors, and their dreams are stolen in public schools.
The school Academia Semillas del Pueblo was built on the dreams of the people from the community in order to rescue indigenous identity and traditions and to develop students with a strong indigenous identity.
Juan Chávez, from a group of students in resistance from the Technological University of Oaxaca, outlined an alternative educational project called “Community Brigade,” which offers free support on math, physics, and history that the government doesn’t provide.
From Argentina, a compañera from Red Trashumante said that this project was born in 1998 within a difficult context of despair and fatalism. A group had the idea to travel around the country asking how people were feeling. Traveling on board a yellow bus called “Quirquincho,” they offered mobile workshops to reflect on the Argentinean reality through the word and through art. It is called Trashumante because they search for the best lands.
From the University of California Berkeley and Radio Zapatista, a compañero stated that in that university a collective of Zapatista students and professors are promoting change through, for example, Spanish classes for Latino students, which use community service and Zapatista concepts as a way to stimulate reflection on their own reality.
Brothers and sisters from Mexicans Without Borders also participated, in addition to compas, from Ya Basta (Italy), Schools for Chiapas (US), and a people’s adult prosperity school in Madrid.
Simultaneous to the workgroup on the Other Education there was a session on the Other Health, in which autonomous representatives of the five Good Government Councils highlighted the importance of rescuing traditional medicine in indigenous communities. They spoke of how they organize health in resistance by training health promoters and building small health clinics, micro clinics, and Zapatista hospitals.
The representatives from communities in resistance expressed their position regarding abortion. They pointed out that abortion often happens unintentionally because of the harsh conditions of the communities. “Many women suffer this problem; they don’t practice it or want it, it happens because of the conditions of indigenous life,” they said.
During the question and answer session, the representatives highlighted the importance of strengthening sexual education and reproductive health. They also talked about mental health problems, the importance of vaccination campaigns without government participation, the use of ecological stoves that avoid the harm caused on women by firewood smoke inhalation, and the importance of education on family planning.
The speakers explained that their precarious health system provides free care to everyone in the Zapatista communities, including people who are not Zapatistas, because “healthcare is a right for which we can’t discriminate, like the bad government does.”
After the Zapatistas spoke, twenty compañeros and compañeras from many parts of the world shared their experiences with alternative healthcare. The Colectivo Brigada Callejera, from Mexico City, spoke of their work with sex workers in that city, while another collective from Michoacán talked about the importance of physical therapy in healthcare. “Capitalism causes illness and provides only partial cures,” stated the collective.
From Chile, Ximena Castillo spoke of mental health and of her work in a community rehabilitation center for schizophrenia. Gisela Morales, from Monterrey, explained that she works in a marginalized area where communities hunt reptiles as food. “We should avoid reproducing the system within us and create a different paradigm. We need to remember that Earth and nature are the oldest doctors and hospitals,” said Gisela.
Edgar Ibarra, from South Central Farm in Los Angeles, California, explained that their self-managed community project was born in 1992 and had 14 acres of land where people could grow their own food, in addition to having workshops on traditional medicine and agriculture. The community was evicted from the land, although they still have a location where they continue offering basic health services based on medicinal plants.
Among the participants was also an independent missionary; a doctor from Mexico City that works with the Chinese barefoot doctors; a compa from the Totonaca Sierra that promotes a community health project; a collective from Yucatan; an experience with musical therapy in Buenos Aires; and a moving story of an indigenous woman in Canada. Brothers and sisters also participated from Guatemala, Amatlán (Morelos), Costa Rica, and Mexico City.
A symphony of 20 Zapatista women presented today, with clarity and force, the difficulties faced by indigenous women, the challenges faced by women in struggle, the participation of Zapatista women in autonomy, their small achievements, their immense problems, their perspectives, and the long path of their struggle for equality in communities.
One by one, the Tzotzil, Tzeltal, Tojolabal, Chol, Zoque, and Mame Zapatistas spoke of their life in their communities where male chauvinism is still common, communities in which their own partners deny them political participation or mock them, and where men sneer at other men who perform duties that are traditionally considered the work of women.
They repeatedly spoke of the importance of organizing as women, of participating in acts of resistance, of what they consider to be their own limitations such as not speaking Spanish and sometimes not knowing how to read or write. “But we are learning little by little and we are becoming aware,” they said.
The Zapatista women were straightforward and fearless in answering all questions asked by an avid audience, regarding their forms of organization and the difficulties they face. They said that they now have the right to decide, together with their partners, how many children they want, though they recognized that oftentimes “there are husbands that don’t obey.”
All of the participants agreed that “we need to organize an Encounter for women to exchange ideas and join struggles.”
While recounting their big and small achievements, the women of the EZLN said that there are men that already do housework (like taking care of the children, cooking, taking care of the animals, etc); that women participate more and more in the work on autonomy (health, commerce, education, municipal authorities, as members of the Good Government Councils, etc); they highlighted that there are insurgent women at various military levels, in addition to militiawomen and members of the Clandestine Indigenous Revolutionary Committee.
During the presentations from the peoples of Mexico and the world, a message was transmitted from the women of Kurdistan, who are creating a brigade named after Comandanta Ramona. Other participants were Regeneración Cuidado Infantil, a childcare collective from New York; compañeras from La Otra en el Otro Lado; from the Red de Apoyo Zapatista of Madrid; from the Independent Women’s Movement in Chiapas; from the Workers Front of the IMSS (Mexican Social Security Institute); from the Women’s Rights Center; from Colectivo Rompiendo la Noche from Nuevo Leon; and from the collective Lucio Blanco, of Tamaulipas.
At the end of the work session, Zapatista women asked a question to the participants: “What do you plan to do about mistreatment, rape, and violence toward women in the world?” The response from the audience was: “To raise our voice, to educate, to denounce…”
This workgroup was coordinated by Comandanta Sandra and Comandante Moisés, from the Morelia region, who agreed that this December 31 “we celebrate the thirteenth anniversary of our struggle, when we said enough to discrimination and contempt for indigenous women.”
A cultural program with dance and music followed to greet the Fourteenth year of Zapatista struggle.
Comision Intergalactica del EZLN
Click here for more Narco News coverage of Mexico
Lea Ud. el Artículo en Español
Lesen Sie diesen Artikel auf Deutsch
Lisez cet article en français
Legga questo articolo in italiano
Narco News is funded by your contributions to The Fund for Authentic Journalism.
Please make journalism like this possible by going to The Fund's web site
and making a contribution today.
- The Fund for Authentic Journalism
For more Narco News, click here.