On the occasion of International Women’s Day 8 March, we host this special 1,5-hour issue of our radio programme. As a collective advocating a rural grassroots feminism, on this day we adhere to the international campaign #8M2021 Against the Virus of Patriarchy, the Vaccine of Feminism and Solidarity! launched by La Via Campesina, the world’s largest peasant movement. We open our episode by reivindicating collective spaces like ours to not only denounce the ongoing gender inequalities, heteropatriarchy and multiple forms of violence against women and territories, but also as opportunities to make visible the many feminist counter-movements that are fighting towards careful ways of inhabiting spaces, places and ecologies.
We show a tv newsclip about a Nigerian woman, Omowunmi Bamidele Adenusi called Petty, who died in 2019 when a fire broke out in the informal and extremely precarious settlement she was living at while working on the agricultural fields in Southern Italy.
Our invitee Nadia Kibout – actress, director, artist and activist – recalls the spontaneous solidarity from neighbours of the close-by town of the agricultural township. But also how she was gravely insulted on social media when she spoke out about the fire and the terrible living and working conditions of the camp. Not letting herself be intimidated, she has taken 6 of her attackers to court and then made a documentary narrating Petty’s story to prevent her from being forgotten.
We then intersperse two more short videos: In the first one, a woman tells how the trade union she works for tackles rural women’s vulnerability by offering training courses to make them aware of their labour rights. Their working conditions often constitute a form of violence in itself as female agricultural workers tend to earn 20-30% less than men.
Our following video features Ilenia (WEGO-ITN PhD) and Andrea from the Napoli node of the Italy-wide feminist network Non una di meno speaking about the 8M global feminist and transfeminst strike. They claim that Covid-19 has only made the feminist fight more urgent, denouncing how the pandemic and its institutional handling has deeply affected women, LGBTQIA+ communities, migrants both rural and urban, and workers in all areas of life, so often already in precarious conditions only aggravated during the ongoing health and social crisis. Against this backdrop this year’s strike is also directed against the engrained patriarcal of the pandemic Recovery Plans. However they also point at solidarities that are sprouting despite the crisis, such as building networks of trust between producers and consumers as a way to root cities in the territories that surround and feed them.
We continue our journey through territories of resistance and alternatives-in-the-making with Gea Piccardi, a researcher at the University of Coimbra, and activist in the Jineolojî Europe movement. She takes us to Rojava in Syria’s North-East, where the Kurdish revolution is very much linked to the fight for reappropriating the means of production which are often of agricultural and pastoral nature. Women play a fundamental part in this revolution. The theory and practice of jineolojî – “women’s science” – aims at liberating women’s experiences, work and knowledge through collective and community projects. In its political conception, Rojava’s democratic confederalism consists in building an anticapitalist, antifascist, decolonial society where decision-making power stays with communities and territories. At its core, this implies women’s self-determination and the creation of spaces, structures, institutions and assemblies where women decide themselves upon their own lives, access to the means of subsistence, to the land; in short, to all life-affirming resources.
A practical application in line with the themes we address in our radio collective such as agroecology, ecofeminism and social ecology, that is, a society and economy not based on the production of goods and on profit-making but understood as a system that reproduces and maintains alive the human and more-than-human ecosystems. All this in a very difficult context of war and militarisation, oppression and marginalisation of the Kurdish communities, amongst many other dimensions, through the control of the access to water sources and the expropriation of land by the Turkish and Syrian States. Much of the agricultural land is being exploited as mainly grain-based monocultures, alongside processes of forced urbanisation and cultural assimilation. Even despite this highly complicated context, women in Rojava continue their collective learning and training through the creation of spaces of conviviality and self-governance so as to collectivise their fight against the additional gender-specific oppression they are facing.
One such example is the multicultural women’s village Jinwar, taking inspiration from a similar experience in Kenya. In Jinwar with its school and village bazaar, women are working towards their self-sufficiency in terms of agroecological and solar energy production, they offer courses in allopathic health and traditional healing through medicinal herbs. Gea invites us to reflect about how the experience of this village can serve as a transnational model for all of us to envision other, radically feminist grassroot ways of living. Creating solidarity beyond borders, the movement of Kurdish women in Europe is campaigning against the feminicides, sexist violence and political persecution of women activists as part of the ongoing genocide against the Kurdish people.
Travelling again to Italian territories, Maria Laura Amendola from the collective Io voglio restare in Irpinia (I want to stay in Irpinia) who already was our guest in a previous episode, takes us back to an area called Alta Irpinia in the South of Italy. She speaks about the particular injustices that have been affecting this territory such as the desertification in terms of services, work opportunities and culture as a consequence of processes of migration and depopulation of the area. She and many of her companions from the mainly women-led collective had also left, to study in bigger Italian cities where they came into contact with urban social movements, an experience they now feed back to their territory upon their return. Their association strives to unearth the inherent but often invisibilized abundance of cultural, social and economic heritage of this marginalised territory. Therefore they regularly involve women from the generation of their own grandmothers to share how they remember inhabiting these lands in the past, and to keep their knowledges from being lost. Sharing and caring were fundamental aspects of rural communities’ lives, and Maria Laura argues that beyond the tight definition of care work often limited to women’s labour in the domestic sphere, caring – the act of taking care of things, people and places – should be understood in a much broader sense as a mode of doing and being in the world. A position we from Tutte Giù Per Terra clearly identify with.
We continue these fascinating stories of land-based feminist praxis with two of our radio collective members’ contributions to our special episode.
Miriam Corongiu speaks about her experience as activist and female farmer in the so-called Land of Fires surrounding Naples. Throughout her career as a farmer, she has come to a situated understanding that there is no agriculture without women and there is no agroecology without feminism, slogans often upheld by peasant movements. She mentions the gender-specific conditions of women farmers in all the Souths of the world and the fight against a capitalist agriculture relying on large-scale retail trade. Miriam has made her dream come true running a vegetable garden as a small-scale business. She explains how evidently she needs to be profitable in order to make a living off the land, her objective however being the common good.
The name speaks for itself: L’Orto Conviviale – Miriam’s convivial garden is not only where she grows a large variety of vegetables and fruits, it is also a space for encounters. She depictures how through the sale of her vegetables she gets to meet other women as a chance to chat about their conditions and the routines in their everyday life. From these spontaneous encounters has emerged a feminist group that meets regularly to reflect how to liberate themselves from the patriarcal chains in the countryside. On occasion of the 8M feminist strike they are organising a get-together in her garden for which they prepared a leaflet explaining their ideas regarding the essential yet invisibile nature of care work. As one of the planned activities, they will furthermore collect little pieces of paper where women are invited to continue the phrase “I strike because…”. These anonymous writings will then be published online as a way to capture the many reasons, preoccupations but also hopes for the strike.
Miriam equally shares her ongoing engagement to bring ecological and feminist movements in the Land of Fires into dialogue, using food and agroecology as a starting point, such as through the Alleanza per la sovranità alimentare (Alliance for food sovereignty). As poetic as it might sound, the region got its denomination from the chronic pollution and toxic smouldering fires of illegal waste disposal sites, causing severe health issues particularly to women. Therefore, Miriam claims, it is women’s call to stand up and speak out against the environmental devastation.
This is precisely what Berta Cáceres did in Honduras, and she lost her life for it. WEGO mentor Stefania Barca commemorates how five years ago almost to the day, in March 2016, this environmental and human rights activist of the indigenous Lenca people was murdered as a result of her community’s resistance to the planned contruction of a hydro-electric dam that would have cut them off from their main water resource, the river Gualcarque.
Stefania remarks that Berta was a feminist leader, putting forth a rural feminism and women’s autonomy and capacity to work for the wellbeing of their communities. Their culture rooted in the territory lies in stark contrast with the capitalist-colonial culture based on disrupting precisely these relationships with the land and the communities. So Berta’s fight was also to reject the imposition of this model, and many indigenous rural communities oppose these so-called development projects, the appropriation of their territory and the dispossession of their communities. But as Stefania points out, their resistance is paired with a constructive search for alternative forms of energy production and distribution grounded in their community’s territorial sovereignty.
After years of persecution and death threats, Berta was killed showcasing the inherent violence of the patriarchal system towards the woman who rebelled against it. Her death received widespread attention as she was a renowned international figure who had received the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize for her activism. However there are many other less-known environmental defenders whose common ground is their fight for dignity and who suffer menaces and violences. With her feminist, indigenous, rural and environmental leadership Berta has become a symbol that keeps inspiring many others, expressed in her community’s and international solidarity movement’s clamor “¡Berta vive!” (”Berta lives!”). Like a seed that multiplies in the terrain, even after her death Berta keeps nurturing a multitude of networks of resistance.
We close our transmission with a Spanish women choir’s powerful song about the 8M feminist strike on the notes of Italian agricultural folk hymn La Lega, to cherish music and culture as a vehicle for sorority.
Watch – and listen to – the full episodes here:
Radio Iafue has granted permission to publish the videos on WEGO’s website.