Reportage. Hundreds of women came from all over the world, especially from Spain and South America, to attend a conference on the eve of what is expected to be the last March 8 under Spain's progressive coalition government.

Peace, inclusion and rights: Feminist voices in Madrid

Peace, intersectionality, expanding rights are the key notions of an international feminist agenda, discussed in depth at the “We Call It Feminism” conference in Madrid, sponsored by the Spanish government’s Ministry of Equal Opportunity. The conference, with the participation of more than 100 speakers, including the writer Dacia Maraini among the Italians, concluded on Monday with the presence of Unidas Podemos Minister of Equal Opportunity Irene Montero, Argentine writer and activist Rita Laura Segato and Chilean anthropologist Irina Karamanos, in a discussion on feminism and women in the power struggle.

Hundreds of women came from all over the world, especially from Spain and South America, to attend the conference hosted at the beautiful Faculty of Medicine building of the Complutense University, on the eve of what is expected to be the last March 8 under Spain’s progressive coalition government. On Friday, the proceedings were opened by the vice-prime minister and Unidas Podemos member Yolanda Díaz, together with the minister of Equal Opportunity.

“Feminism is the main democratizing force in the world,” Montero said, “a popular feminism that comes from below, from bodies that have different statuses. A trans-inclusive, anti-racist, intersectional and anti-neoliberal feminism.” Neoliberalism cannot solve the crises it produces, and “we want to build a different society, one that knows that peace is achieved through diplomacy, and that rights are not simply given once and for all.”

A year after the start of the war in Ukraine, calls for peace came loud and clear from many: Finland’s Social Policy Minister Hanna Sarkkinen, who is also very close to the site of the conflict; UN Mujeres regional director for the Americas and the Caribbean, María-Noel Vaeza, who said: “Women must be at the center of democratic life and peace, of the search for solutions”; and Argentine government spokeswoman Gabriela Cerruti: “Coming from Antarctica, from the South of the South, I got to Europe, which is at war because of Putin’s invasion. But someone has to call for peace.”

Cerruti explained the advances made in Argentina by the Green Tide movement for the decriminalization of abortion, achieved in 2020: “In South America we have tides building upon tides, not only for abortion, but so that women can have choice regarding their own lives. Because it’s not the same to be a rich woman or a poor one, white or indigenous.”

In a speech through video link, European Commissioner for Equal Opportunities Helena Dalli spoke about the issues of the gender wage gap and gender representation. US philosopher Judith Butler, also via videoconference, defended the need for feminism to fight to expand rights and work together with the LGBTQI movement. All celebrated the Spanish government’s legislative achievements on women’s rights and the LGBTQI community.

The theme of peace returned the following day in a dedicated session. Spanish Minister of Social Rights and Podemos leader Ione Belarra said poignantly that in the Ukraine war, “a ceasefire is more difficult today, and yet more urgent.” “Historically, wars have been started and ended by men, because the logic of war is the highest expression of domination,” she explained, putting feminism back at the core of the solution, because “feminism is democratizing, so it helps us fight this logic that clashes with the logic of life.”

Other speakers included Sudanese student Alaa Salaha, who has become a symbol of protests against Omar al Bashir’s regime, and Melike Yasar, representative of Kurdistan women in South America. María José Pizarro, senator of the Pacto Histórico that brought Gustavo Petro to the presidency of Colombia, who is working on the peace dialogue with the National Liberation Army, made a particularly strong impression on the audience. She spoke about the eight million people forced to migrate, nine million victims, most of them women, and 100,000 desaparecidos: this is the toll of the conflicts that have bloodied Colombia for decades. This violence has been systematically unleashed on women, because “to control women’s bodies is to control territory.” While the world talks about war, she concludes, “we propose full peace and dialogue with everyone. Feminizing dialogue to unlearn war.”

Subscribe to our newsletter

Your weekly briefing of progressive news.

You have Successfully Subscribed!