I joined 2500 women’s rights activists from 140 countries in Istanbul this past weekend for the 12th
AWID International Forum entitled Transforming Economic Power to Advance Women’s Rights and Justice, www.awid.org
. The energy and enthusiasm at the conference was palpable. With so many interesting and relevant sessions to choose from, narrowing my options was a challenge, but, with the convergence of the world’s leading advocates for women’s rights and justice, each session led to fascinating discussions and ideas for collaboration.
Our partner, Potohar Organization for Development Advocacy, from Pakistan
During the panel on “Reclaiming Women’s Economic Power in the Context of Militarism and Post-conflict Situations,” I met women from Chechnya on the frontlines of political organizing and legal rights work under the repression of Sharia Law; a woman from Iraq, who spoke about gender-based violence and her group’s effort to educate women about their rights; and a woman from Afghanistan who explained that all the military money coming into her country is changing the social fabric of her community—with increased economic power, men are taking on multiple wives and poor families are selling their daughters.
At a session on women’s economic empowerment, a Mayan activist from Guatemala spoke about her work to push back against land takeovers of multinational companies. She said, “Indigenous people were pushed to the mountains because the mining companies wanted to exploit the low-lands and then when they discovered minerals in the mountains, they pushed us back down. They see us as a commodity.”
I presented the work of GGP at the session on “How Fair is Fair Trade for Women?” The following discussion included questions around labor conditions, carbon footprint and sustainability. Everyone agreed that there needs to be a sharing of best practices in both fair trade and non-fair trade entities. At the end of the session, I met up with Margaret and Shelley, representing our partner in Swaziland, Gone Rural, and their development organization Bomake. Other GGP partners at the forum included PODA from Pakistan, Kandahar Treasure and the Afghan Institute of Learning from Afghanistan, and Manuela Ramos from Peru.
I came away from the AWID forum encouraged by the solidarity I experienced and hopeful that our work together will bring about a future with a new economic model based on human rights, dignity and equality.