Crisis - Open Forum > Next Story

 Global Challenges for Women
 Yolanda Aguilar, Guatemala
 August 16, 2005

Good morning. I would like to begin by recognizing all of you who are members of Women in Black and other international organizations, many of whom have opened the way so that women in other parts of the world, in other latitudes and other geographical environments can follow in your steps, follow your wisdom and take on your experiences as part of our world concept.

Speaking of occupation, of occupations—we women have found through the centuries that our bodies have been occupied since the history of patriarchy began to be written. The indigenous women, blacks and mestizas (women of mixed race) knew about occupation as long as 500 years ago when colonization began.

Multiple wars and armed conflicts have taken charge of reminding us that our bodies have been occupied every time they sell us or exchange us in marriage, reconciliation, war or peace. In the last 100 years, the United States, the multinational powers and their allies have given us to know that we are still colonies and that the world system is essentially one of imperial occupation of minds, wills and countries.

Globalization, therefore, is the greatest challenge ever seen by any social movement. It is clear that the systems of oppression are now global and that they express themselves in different contexts and in different forms with the same meaning. The challenges implied are larger and more complex that ever before.

I would like to refer to some of them:

l. Ever since I can remember, women have dedicated ourselves to curing, to healing the wounds of the world inflicted on others, by others and on our own selves. One must remember—in this context of the Arab-Israeli conflict—that the struggles of the people for their liberation are just one necessary step, but a step that does not necessarily lead to the liberation of women. One must return to this thought because women’s citizenship begins when a women’s collective is built as an autonomous political entity, not when we are made invisible within political parties, religions or families that take it upon themselves to dilute us in a collective that becomes extinguished in the whole.

2. In order to understand their experience as Mayas and as women, the women’s group Mayas Kaqla (which means rainbow in the Maya language, Kiche) have given a name to what they call "internalization of the oppressor". It is not because we struggle for peace that we are good. We have an arduous struggle ahead to deconstruct our identities as the oppressed, to work assiduously on the structural character of violence against women and how this characteristic also creates structure, and to heal our own violence, both personally and collectively. [We must] work fervently from our respective global and everyday differences, not as if they caused chasms among us, rather as they enrich and empower us.

In this sense, I agree with what has been expressed at this Gathering, as we recognize that all of us have been victims at one time or another. Although having been victims of oppression gives unity to our struggles, the condition of being a victim is not permanent, rather it is a temporary state which permits us to envision the possibilities for success we have in working with others, whether we be from Latin America, Europe, Asia or Africa.

3. The third challenge is that, in relationships that contribute to resolving conflicts, we transform violent thoughts into thoughts of peace, the patriarchal into solidarity —in our period of history, from the standpoint of our respective contexts and geographical locations, but with experiences of our everyday lives as a starting point, from our inner being, from our respective surroundings. Let us not exhaust ourselves; let us continue the struggle and pause briefly only if it is necessary to revitalize our effort and rekindle our strength.

This will be the best way to ensure that future generations believe us and join our efforts for peace, struggling for human rights as feminists. I am convinced that the new millennium requires passing on the work to the next generation. Only in this way will the effort have been worthwhile and the dignity of women will derive not from heroic confrontation with adversity, rather in creatively designing alternatives for peace with social justice for all humanity. Let us build it, let us pass it on as our legacy; this is the greatest challenge.

Yolanda Aguilar is a member of Consorcio Actoras de Cambio and Project: De victimas de violencia sexual a Actoras de Cambio: la lucha de las Mujeres por la Justicia. These two organizations comprise the Consortium: Equipo de Estudios Comunitarios y Accion Psicosocial-ECAP-and the Union Nacional de Mujeres Guatemaltecas— UNAMG. (Organizations and projects devoted to women’s human rights.)

The above is a speech delivered in Jerusalem at the International Conference: Women Resist Occupation and War, August 12-16, 2005.

Translation from the Spanish by Trisha Novak.