18 AUGUST 2017
STATEMENT BY THE RURAL WOMEN’S ASSEMBLY (RWA) ON MAKING VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN EVERYONE’S ISSUE
Violence No More!
Hloniphani Imizimba Yethu!
Respect our bodies!
We, women from across Southern Africa – rural and urban, young and old, farmers and the unemployed – participating in the 2017 People’s Summit have converged to share and reflect on our stories of violence perpetrated by patriarchal capitalist and colonialist states, corporations and social institutions of religion, education and family.
We acknowledge that despite our many differences in geography, language, religion, and sexual identity, we have in common the experience of living in societies that see our bodies as objects, and nature as a commodity to be exploited and destroyed.
Women farmers and indigenous peoples live with nature, taking care of the land, water resources, ocean, and forests. It is women who hold the seeds, the knowledge of farming, and the heritage of communities. And it is women who take care of their families and communities, ensuring that there is food, safe water, and energy. It is women who nurse the young and sick. Women farmers and indigenous peoples live close to nature. When transnational corporations and states grab lands, steal water and destroy forests this is violence against nature and violence against women because of this important role they play in their families and communities.
Women are seen as inferior, as the helpers of men, as sources of cheap and unpaid labour, and as objects for sexual exploitation. This is the source of women’s oppression in a system of power that benefits men (patriarchy) and an economic system oriented to profit (capitalism). Nature is reduced to a commodity to be bought, sold and exploited for the benefit of the few. We say that this system is violent against nature and violent to women, workers, indigenous people and working-class men. Violence against nature is violence against us as women!
Our governments stand with the companies and the rich. And with this bias, they do not act in the interests of the majority of people. Our governments cut deals with big mining and agriculture companies, they do not regulate the polluting activities of corporates, and they often times use the police and military against us, to keep us quiet and in our place. This is violence!
We, women of Southern Africa, gathered here claim:
- Our right to land, clean drinking water, and energy which is safe for us and also for our environment.
- Our right to grow and eat food grown by small-scale farmers, free of pesticides and chemicals which harm our health and nature.
- Our right to livelihoods and safe, decent work which puts people and not profits at the centre.
- Our right to live free of violence, perpetrated by governments, by corporations and by men in our homes, on our streets, in our villages, in our schools, in our churches and mosques, and in the places we work.
- Our right to control our bodies, choosing when or if we want to have sex, and who we have sex with; we commit to loving our bodies, respecting ourselves, and enjoying ourselves as sexual beings.
- Our right to lead organisations, movements, and unions and organize freely without being undermined, threatened and harassed by our male comrades.
Of our governments, gathered at the SADC Heads of State meeting, all men, we demand:
- That the safety of citizens, and women, in particular, is prioritized above what they call national security: the protection of the borders of the country
- That our governments stand with the majority of the people and their development needs, opposing corporate interests and corporate profit
- That our governments invest military and policing budgets in education, health care, farmer support, public works and safety and security of women and other citizens
- That our governments respect the land, water, forest, ocean and seed rights of women and their communities
- That our governments recognize and respect that people cannot be reduced to male or female, but that we have diverse identities and sexual choices.
We will be on the march until all women are free!
FOR MORE INFORMATION AND COMMENT PLEASE CONTACT:
NIKKI LE ROUX ON 082 851 9649
SAMANTHA HARGREAVES ON 083 384 0088
MERCIA ANDREWS ON 082 368 3429