Moreta Alegre. Kendra James. Yazidi women. Bai Bibyaon. The young girls of Iraq and Syria. Our Palestinian sisters.
When I think of solidarity, I think of these women, and thousands more suffering under particular circumstances.
There is no part of the world today where there is no woman crying for justice, for food, for peace, for liberation.
Whether it be in the hands of fundamentalist groups fomenting chaos and plundering villages, or in the hands of abusive police forces and militaries and para-military groups, or in the hands of a male authority abusing his power, or in nations gripped by the adverse consequences of global and national policies shaped by powerful elite-controlled institutions, there is a woman crying out for solidarity.
Sometimes, it is just a young girl or a mature woman sitting next to you, repressing her gender preference for fear of ridicule or punishment : she, too cries out for solidarity.
I would like to think of solidarity, not in an abstract sense, for that, too, would be a grave injustice. I would like to think of solidarity as a plight of stairs : the higher we go, the more difficult the climb. Many will be unable to climb higher, many will be willing to go only so far.
But reaching the top opens up new worlds, new vistas not only for women, but for our children, too. Women’s liberation, in its true sense, will also mean the liberation of men.
I grew up in a country which was under a military dictatorship for more than twenty years. Thousands of women became victims of human rights abuses. I knew some of them before they became victims, or were martyred, in many cases. I met many of them later, after the downfall of the dictator. But more than three decades later, I am still in the midst of a struggle. My country remains yet to be freed of the vestiges of martial rule. My country remains under US imperialist rule. These days, women younger than me are crying out for solidarity – women political prisoners, Muslim women, women from indigenous and peasant communities being killed or driven away from their lands, women crying out against discrimination and sexual violence. I myself was imprisoned for my beliefs, my political and human rights violated. I, too, and our sisters who remain in prison, need your solidarity.
More than twenty years ago, women all over the world rejoiced with the newfound vigor of the international women’s movement, aided in part by huge funding from international institutions, but largely brought on by the struggles of liberation in various countries that saw the massive and courageous participation of women. Women’s agenda came to the fore, and enabled the awakening of many young women to the possibilities of a new world, different from what we, and the mothers of my generation, grew up in.
But alas, real and lasting changes weren’t forthcoming. Neoliberalism came in, bringing global impoverishment on a platter. The new “US war on terror” unleashed a backlash so powerful we were seemingly rendered helpless to fight its consequences. Life became more difficult for millions of women, even, and especially in former socialist countries that hitherto served as the proverbial beacons of light for many oppressed women in underdeveloped nations. Even women in industrial countries suddenly found themselves asking the question: What have we achieved?
Fortunately for us, the world is constantly changing. Old generations fade away, new generations come into being. The same things that brought us suffering – neoliberalism, patriarchy, militarism and all their allied evils – are the same things that propel us to further struggle, to strengthen bonds of solidarity. To rise as one and fight for our liberation, and the liberation of all oppressed peoples.
Let this be our clarion call, our political statement: No to women’s oppression! No to women’s exploitation! Today, it is one billion rising. Tomorrow, several millions more shall dance and sing our song of liberation!
1 in 3 women across the planet will be beaten or raped during her lifetime. That’s ONE BILLION WOMEN AND GIRLS. Every February, we rise – in hundreds of countries across the world – to show our local communities and the world what one billion looks like and shine a light on the rampant impunity and injustice that survivors most often face. We rise through dance to express joy and community and celebrate the fact that we have not been defeated by this violence. We rise to show we are determined to create a new kind of consciousness – one where violence will be resisted until it is unthinkable.
This year we are Rising In Solidarity Against the Exploitation of Women. We are initiating a new series, “RISING SOLIDARITY” where we will be sharing stories of extraordinary activists from around the world about their experiences with true solidarity, harnessing a deeper understanding of why it is critical in the fight against systems of oppression and exploitation. Providing both regional and global context for what it means to stand in solidarity with each other.