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Women* in the Peasant Movement

25 November 2016

During the 2nd Nyéléni Europe Forum, carried out in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, around 70 women* of different constituencies met to have a space within the struggle for food sovereignty.

During the 2nd Nyéléni Europe Forum, carried out in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, around 70 women*(1) of different constituencies - producers, agricultural workers, activists etc. - met to have a space within the struggle for food sovereignty.   In the beginning, several voices were heard through a participatory body map that expressed their perspectives on the current state of women* in general and in the peasant movement. Each perception was different but at the same time many came down to similar challenges:   The lack of visibility regarding women* and their struggles in rural areas was a problem often mentioned. Although the contribution of each participant was based on a particular experience, the dichotomy of, on the one hand, being active, working and struggling and, on the other, trying to take care of others, the environment, the fields, was another main challenge in the struggle for many. In the context of the violation of human rights, especially in rural areas, violence against and abuse of women* in everyday life and increasing violence in regions of war, it is, still and again, important to talk about women's rights.   In the second part of the gathering, the debate centred on the most pressing issues from a gender perspective when we talk about food sovereignty. After splitting up in small groups, some of the findings were shared in plenary. Mentioned were again the little visibility and recognition that women* and their struggles get. For example, the fact that women working in agriculture are at the same time also generally responsible for care and reproduction tasks, which shows the need to discuss relations of production and how to share those tasks. A critical statement was also put forth noting a step back towards stereotypical gender roles. Taking into account these regressive developments, some participants called for more spaces to turn to and to reflect on what we want for the future.   Another group highlighted that on top of the lack of visibility of women* in general, gender violence is hardly recognized in European countries.   Besides prioritizing political rights and the visibility of women*, a strong call was also made that a change in society’s dominant mentality is necessary to end violence against women*. Even where acts of violence against women* are prohibited by law, this does not necessarily lead to a decrease in their number.   A point of criticism targeted the Forum itself due to the fact that women* or gender perspectives were hardly included in most talks, presentations or workshops that took place. This motivated some of us to prepare a mística on the second to last day. A smaller group of women* got together to prepare a mística that embodied the claims carried by feminist movements to stop violence against women* (see pictures below).   Even though women*'s struggles within the food sovereignty movement differ regionally, the gathering showed that there is a strong need to exchange views on local, regional and international struggles; to unite; to find allies and communicate the needs to change the marginalized situation of women* in the peasant movement and in general. We want to create this space for women* and a more respectful movement - women* cannot be left behind. We want to make women*'s issues more visible, also in the food sovereignty movement. This also means that we have to include women* and gender perspectives in our analyses.   (1) We use the terminology women* and men* to say that hereby we mean persons that we read as what we understand as woman or man due to our socialisation and to include those persons who identify as women or men