The World March of Women at the People’s Summit for Social and Environmental Justice: against the commodification of life, for the defense of common goods! We will keep fighting against green capitalism and strengthening women’s alternatives!
The People’s Summit will be held in parallel to the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) since it coincides with its 20th anniversary. What is at issue this time is finding an exit strategy from the environmental crisis, which is also a financial crisis. The official conference agenda is structured around the so-called green economy and the new institutional structure for organizing the UN’s environmental actions. There is a clear corporate appropriation of this process: transnational corporations and financial institutions are seeking to gain clout, as the private sector, in all green economy proposals. The People’s Summit denounces false solutions and the commodification of life, submits solutions and new paradigms built by the peoples, and at the same time prepares different agendas for anti-capitalist struggles that transcend the event.
Change the world and the life of women in a single movement!
Capitalist, patriarchal society is structured around the sexual division of labor, separating “men’s” and “women’s” work in order to establish that men’s work is worth more than women’s. Men’s work is related to production (what is sold on the market), while women’s work is a reproductive one (the production of human beings and relationships). Representations of the male and female identities are dual and hierarchical, as is the association of men with culture, and women with nature.
At the World March of Women, we are fighting to end the sexual division of labor and, at the same time, to acknowledge reproductive work as the basis for the sustainability of human life and relationships between people within families and societies.
To feminism, capitalism seems tongue-tied!
At the time of the Rio Summit in 1992, there was an increasing awareness all over the world of the importance of preserving and protecting nature. However, the governments of that period, dominated by neoliberal thinking, used sustainability as an argument to legitimize the perpetuation of an economy based on free trade and the power of large transnational corporations, which were able to further increase their power over nation-states.
Now, 20 years later, in the face of economic crisis – which has had the greatest impact on industrialized countries – we are witnessing a backlash of capital, extending its borders and deepening the capitalist market logic of profit and the concentration of wealth. The dimensions of food, energy and climate are an expression of the same systemic crisis that is now occurring in the economy.
But the current crisis is actually a crisis of care, which is an invisible aspect in public debates on the subject. In the countries targeted by structural adjustment policies and neoliberalism in the 1980s and 1990s, the overload of unpaid work performed by women ensured the sustainability of life, with no accountability from the State or from men, concerning social reproduction. The ageing population and the dismantling of the welfare state in industrialized countries are creating an increasing demand for care work, which is mainly provided by migrant women in precarious positions.
We, as women, are not going to pay for this crisis!
No to the commodification of life and nature!
In this process, historical inequalities between Northern and Southern countries come into play. The largest forests are located in the southern hemisphere, as well as other common goods and a large proportion of our planet’s biodiversity. National and transnational capital is attempting to take control of these goods by any means possible, including by expelling indigenous peoples.
Today, we are resisting the occupation of the land where we live and produce, which is a target of large mining, construction and agribusiness companies wishing to extend their soya, eucalyptus or sugar-cane monocultures. They expel us through the direct violence of gunmen and policemen, often through sexual violence or by forcing us to leave due to the contamination of our land and water or because they deny us access to healthcare or education. This land grab is occurring all over the world, while large corporations are simultaneously trying to take control of our lives, our genetic code, our cultures and our knowledge.
Biodiversity has become the property of large companies through biopiracy, intellectual property rights and patents. Water is commodified by bottling it for sale, by privatizing water supply and sanitation services and through its intensive use by certain industries and crops. The huge profits of real estate speculation have primacy over the right to housing, which is further aggravated during mega-events such as the Olympics and the Soccer World Cup. And women’s bodies are increasingly being treated as commodities of the entertainment and prostitution industries, which are expanding in proportion to this development model.
Green economy solutions are false solutions
Once again, Rio+20 will present the peoples with a debate on our relationship with nature, with proposals to seek out solutions to the climate crisis. And once again, they claim to have a magical solution to this problem, called the “green economy”. But what, exactly, does that mean?
The green economy follows a logic based on commodification, from the capitalist perspective which asserts that, for the economy, only those things that can be bought and sold on the market have value and, therefore, a price.
It is based on market mechanisms built on the idea that companies have an important role to play in managing environmental conservation.
Thus, putting a price on nature is a way of including nature in corporate channels, which, in the end, and under a misleading banner of social and environmental responsibility, grants more legitimacy to the ongoing destruction of the planet and of human relationships.
A proposal called TEEB (The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity) creates formulas for assigning prices to water, the landscape and biodiversity. Putting a price on nature means allowing its sale and privatization through a process that deprives people of the right to their lands.
These proposals allow those with a long history of contamination to maintain their harmful practices by paying for some type of conservation in some other part of the world. This is the logic of the carbon credit market and the financing of biodiversity, which is transformed into an environmental asset and traded on stock markets like the Green Stock Market in Rio.
2. The green economy sees the exploitation of women’s work as an infinite resource, since it does not perceive the activities carried out by women in taking care of people and nature as work. It assigns this care work to the role of mothers, as if motherhood were every woman’s destiny. The official UN document states that women play a key role in sustainable development. But the end result of this is the use of women’s work for the implementation of green economic policies. This is not progress, but rather the instrumentalization of the role of women as caregivers. These are false solutions for the planet and false sexist solutions, since they maintain women in a position of inequality, overburdening them with the task of sustaining life.
3. The green economy does not question the logic of limitless growth, which is the course taken by the current development model. It presents proposals for energy efficiency and new technologies that enable the perpetuation of the capitalist idea of limitless growth. Nuclear energy, GMOs, nanotechnology and geoengineering are presented as technological solutions to the so-called limits of nature. But these limits are defined by the capitalist model. In this way, the market once more presents false solutions, such as new technologies programmed and controlled by companies, increasing their control over knowledge and life.
This is also the case with agrofuels and fossil fuel alternatives, one of the main causes of global warming. They are presented as clean energies because they are produced through agriculture, but we need to challenge the production of agrofuels, which are in competition with food crops on small, rural farms. Besides, these alternatives are also based on an unsustainable model of consumption, so we question who controls this alternative energy and what toward model it is aimed.
Feminists against green capitalism!
Our vision of the ecological issue is based on the belief that the destruction of nature is part of the underlying structure of capitalism in its tireless search for profit. This is why we believe that the right solution is not just the proper management of resources, but the construction of a new model where the relationship between humankind and nature has a sense of unity and continuity. We are all part of a greater whole and so can only preserve the foundations for human life and nature through harmony.
The struggle to change the world and the lives of women is part of the same movement. It is not enough to observe that this system’s effects are worse on women. We need to start from the observation that capitalism uses patriarchal structures in its current process of accumulation. As a result, we do not believe in actions that seek to reduce negative impacts. Instead, we are developing our struggle in order to transform the structures that establish relationships of inequality and power, combining class, race and gender inequality.
Resist the commodification of nature and common goods: the green economy is useless
We resist the use of nature as a resource in the service of corporate profit, and its perception as infinite or as commodities that are becoming more and more expensive as they become scarcer due to misuse. Women’s experience of invisibility and devaluation in relation to their caregiving work is very similar to the invisibility and devaluation of nature. The time and energy women spend taking care of people, preparing food or simply listening to others are not visible and are supple. In most families, women are the first ones to wake up in the morning and the last to go to bed at night. The time and energy required for nature’s regenerative processes are hidden and treated as obstacles to be overcome in order for the machine of consumerism to be able to operate at full throttle. Women must continuously deal with pressure to adjust to conflicting attitudes and times – those of life and profit – taking the resulting tensions upon themselves. Their work is instrumentalized to dress up and hide the injustices promoted by multilateral institutions, governments and companies.
We say NO to the false solutions proposed by the market and its agents, such as carbon credits, agrofuels, REDD mechanisms and geoengineering. We do not accept “solutions” that only create business and do not change the model for production, consumption and social reproduction.
We are women, not commodities!
Violence in general, and violence against women in particular, is part of this model’s strategy. The more society is governed by the market’s interests, the more women are commodified.
One example is the situation in Costa Rica, which is often used as a role model for green businesses. In Costa Rica, a number of forests have been turned into conservation areas and the subsequent displacement of communities has led women into prostitution and sexual tourism, which is an added value for eco-tourism.
In the same way, we have noted that, in Brazil, prostitution has increased in mining territories and around construction sites for hydropower plants and the Soccer World Cup. From a development perspective that reduces development to limitless growth, women’s bodies serve to alleviate the impacts of the overexploitation of land and the destruction of territories.
For sovereignty over our bodies and our sexuality
We condemn outside control of women’s bodies and sexuality, which impedes our autonomy and self-determination. This control is part and parcel of the combination of capitalism, patriarchy and racism, which also extends to control over our territories. Prostitution is used to “compensate” for the disruption caused by the nomadic work required of thousands of men transferred to huge infrastructure and mega-event worksites. We stand in solidarity with the women who have been victims of this form of exploitation by patriarchal society, but we need to point out that prostitution only exists in a system based on the subordination of women. It does not produce anything related to freedom or autonomy. On the contrary, in the majority of cases, women are enslaved by a commercial exploitation network. It is based on a model of sexuality that is deeply rooted in male virility and female subordination accompanied by fragility and continuous availability. At the same time, it reinforces the sexual division of labor and obstacles to women’s economic autonomy.
We therefore firmly reassert the right to autonomy over our bodies and our sexuality, and the right to detach sexuality from motherhood. For this reason, we are also fighting for the decriminalization and legalization of abortion. We reaffirm our vision of sexuality as a social construct and that we are active subjects in the rejection of heteronormativity and in the defense of the right to free exercise of our sexuality, without coercion, stereotypes or power relations.
Fighting for another model of production, reproduction and consumption!
From feminist economics, we advocate for the need to establish a new paradigm for the sustainability of human life, understood as a dynamic and harmonious relationship between humanity and nature and between human beings, as well as the appreciation of the value of common goods. The current production model and capitalist consumption patterns require fundamental changes in order to redefine and broaden the concept of work, to acknowledge women’s work and the importance of a different balance between production and reproduction, in which the latter is not only the responsibility of women, but also of men and the State.
In their daily lives, women create concrete alternatives to the dominant economy, transforming the domains of production, reproduction and consumption. Women have conducted numerous experiments in agro-ecology and the solidarity-based economy. With our work and historic knowledge of the field, we affirm that food sovereignty is a strategic issue in achieving this transformation, since it promotes a new way of organizing food production, distribution and consumption, hand in hand with the struggle against the capitalist strategy of agribusiness.
The alternatives developed and put forward by the peoples must incorporate a dimension that generates equality and takes into account equality between men and women, women’s right to lives free of violence, and a division of domestic and care work between men and women.
Broadening and strengthening the public domain, beginning with the State and society
We are fighting for a profound democratization of States, to put an end to the privileges of the dominant white class in a process of depatriarchalization. Over and above the provision of social services and policies, it is necessary to ensure the State’s public sentiment, in the form of wealth redistribution actions, the socialization of domestic and care work, and emancipatory policies based on sovereignty and popular participation.
This also requires an active role for the international sphere in order to encourage the integration of peoples, as well as policies between countries based on principles of solidarity, reciprocity and redistribution.
Our fight for demilitarization brings these dimensions together and questions the role of economic power in States’ military interventions in the interest of control of resource-rich territories. We are also fighting the concentration of media ownership in the hands of a few economic groups and we reaffirm the urgent need for the widespread democratization of communication, guaranteeing the neutrality and freedom of information flows within the communications infrastructure and the Internet. We are therefore opposed to the capitalist emphasis on intellectual property.
As women, we demand to be acknowledged as protagonists in debates and decision-making on all of the policies and processes involved in the creation of a new model. Mining, major public works and forms of development on our continents cannot be a field of action limited to men in power, governments and companies. Our feminist struggle aims for a different model, one that is able to create equality and social justice and to foster solidarity between people, and one that is sustainable and not reliant on women’s unpaid work and the exclusion of women from decision-making processes.
For this reason, we understand that women’s alliances with other social movements are crucial for standing up against the commodification of territories and the financialization of nature, for popularizing alternative forms of resistance and for strengthening our defense of common goods.
We want no more commodification of our bodies or our lives! We want sustainable lives, we want the possibility for all people to live well to be perceived as of central importance, we want to put an end to the sexual division of labor, to eradicate inequality and to overturn capitalism!
We will be on the march until we are all free!