Almost a thousand women in purple went out into the streets to celebrate the verdict. and say NO TO WTO!
by judy p.
In a “court” filled with purple-wearing women, the Women’s Tribunal presidium of judges announced that the WTO is found guilty for crimes committed against women’s livelihood and lives.
The Women’s Tribunal, which was organised by APWLD along with AMIHAN (National Peasant Women’s Organisation) and GABRIELA , found the WTO as guilty for causing the bankruptcy of millions of rural women, driving them out of the land and agricultural production, which is the main base of their skills and livelihood. “The greatest crime of the WTO to women and humanity is the fact that it exposed women to frightening levels of hunger and malnutrition,” according to the verdict.
Of the 1.3 billion people that get by on less than US$1 per day, seventy per cent are women. Nearly 800 million people are hungry, majority of these are women and girl-children.
Irene Fernandez, who has been recently awarded with the Alternative Nobel Prize 2005, read the verdict, as the head off the presidium of judges. “The WTO has pushed thousands of rural women and their daughters to the flesh trade as they are driven out of the land. Furthermore, the WTO exacerbated the existing discrimination suffered by women producers in the sphere of employment, wages and conditions of work; women have less rates of participation in the labor force, are unpaid, and if they enter paid employment, they receive wages lower than men. WTO has worsened this discrimination.”
Irene Fernandez is joined by 5 other anti-WTO women activists from the region: Titi Soentoro, regional coordinator of APWLD; Liza Maza, President of the GABRIELA Women’s Party; Gigi Francisco, Asian representative of International Gender and Trade Network; S.K. Priya, human rights lawyer and educator; and Connie Ledesma, from MAKIBAKA, a revolutionary women’s organisation.
The testimonies came from rural women in six countries, providing details of the extreme deterioration in their daily lives and of their families. “It is clear that the agent responsible for the destruction and desolation in women lives and their communities is the World Trade Organisation,” read Azra Sayeed in her summation of the testimonies. Azra is director of Roots for Equity, an anti-capitalist organisation in Pakistan. “The testimonies further verify the presence of other pillars of the profit mongering capitalist system such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the ruling elite in the third world countries.”
Thel life stories and cases of the different women from different sectors have shown in vivid terms the level of destruction the WTO in collusion with the governments has caused on their sources of livelihood and the environment. This is the sad and anger-provoking summary of the testimonies of Yawapa (peasant from Thailand), Wong Siu Fong (a contractual worker from Hong Kong), Purevdulam (herder from Mongolia), Marienna (fisherfolk from Indonesia), Carmen (peasant from the Philippines), and Shanti (Dalit peasant from India). (testimonies from the six countries are uploaded www.dontglobalisehunger.org )
Found guilty also are the co-accused – the national governments who are found guilty for “the neglect of the peasantry’s welfare by the adoption and implementation of the WTO policies clearly inimical to the interest of the peasantry.” It is further found guilty with the charge of “failure to recognize and break up patriarchal values entrenched in laws and policies that continue to oppress and discriminate against women, wand which make them the frontline casualties in the havoc wreaked by the WTO.”
For these crimes, the sentence handed down for the WTO was to “discontinue operating as a world trade body” and for the United States, European Union and other big economies to desist from “bullying” and “arm twisting” small economies into entering bilateral trade agreements with them.
The national governments were likewise handed down a sentence – “All governments that worked in collusion with the WTO, and wreaked havoc on the lives of the producers are judged guilty and should be removed from office, and perpetually banned from public office.” New governments shall be installed in these colluding countries and be ordered to, among others, disregard and renege all commitments with WTO and other multilateral and bilateral agreements entered into; and for them to undertake trade with other countries based on mutual benefit.
As the judgement was handed down, the women in purple stood up and chanted, what has been the slogan for the past days of women here in Hong Kong, “Women Resist WTO!”
This slogan was shouted and sang by a thousand women in purple into the streets leading to the Convention Center where the 6th Ministerial Meeting was being held. The Purple March, joined by women from several countries mostly from the Asia Pacific region, brought the message of women’s resistance against WTO to the Hong Kong public and the WTO ministerial conference.
And this slogan, and the struggle, will be brought back to the communities and our own countries, where we will continue to organise and mobilize among grassroots women. Then our voices will be louder, and our movements stronger in resisting WTO, and all other forces which hinder our struggle towards women’s liberation, and a just and better and world.
judy a. pasimio
Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD)