Drawing Women’s Agenda for BRICS

The BRICS Summit is scheduled to be held in Goa on October 15-16, 2016. The stated theme for the Summit is Building Responsive Inclusive and Collective Solutions. Civil society activists and women’s collectives such as the 30 year old Bailancho Saad in Goa1, realised that women and women’s issues are conspicuous by their absence in the BRICS Summit  agenda. So how is it Inclusive and Collective?  Bailancho Saad decided to lead the effort to draw up a women’s agenda for BRICS. To celebrate 30 years of its formation the Collective organised a vibrant celebration on October 12th in Goa. The celebrations included a sharing of experiences by women activists from various national and international civil society groups as part of “Drawing Women’s Agenda for BRICS”.

Food Sovereignty Alliance, India was invited to join in the celebrations and participate in drawing up this agenda. Others who shared their experiences included activists from the Transnational Institute (TNI) (Dorothy-Grace M. Guerrero and Brid Brennan), Stop Wall Outreach, Palestine (Maran S K), Goa Foundation (Norma Alvares), Domestic Workers Forum, Goa (Sister Escaline) and Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (Albertina Almeida) participated in the discussion.

The various speakers pointed out that the BRICS does not provide any alternative to the hegemony of the dominant countries of the global north and the corporations that are increasingly shaping international treaties and agreements to gain greater control of our lives, livelihoods and food systems.

Drawing from its struggles for seed and food sovereignty, FSA drew attention to the fact  that one of the most profound impacts of climate change is on our food and farming and seeds are central to our food systems.  It emphasized the centrality of women’s role in seed sovereignty and pointed out that while the industrial seed business is being built on women’s knowledge and their labour it is alienating this very same knowledge, exploiting their labour and reinforcing patriarchy. FSA also expressed that any alternative strategy to the dominant system must reject the increasing privatisation of knowledge, resources and life. Unless the strategy rejects the status quo of corporate hegemony and is aimed at being transformative through a collective, commons approach it is impossible to ensure a more equitable and just world.

While sharing their experiences the various speakers reiterated that the alternative must resist corporate hegemony and demand policies and legal mechanisms to protect the land, water and biodiversity which is the basis of the lives and livelihoods of communities. They urged that social movements in the BRICS countries must fight against corporate impunity in their own countries since it is corporations from the BRICS countries that are grabbing land, polluting water resources, destroying biodiversity and the livelihoods of communities who have no recourse to this domination. The need for a collective effort in solidarity with each other was expressed strongly whether it is women domestic workers, farmers, fishworkers and others whose resources and knowledge are under threat by corporatiions and private interests.

1Bailancho Saad, a non-funded women’s collective in Goa celebrated its 30th anniversary on October 12th, 2016. The collective was started in 1986 by a small group of women to resist all forms and symbols of patriarchy. Bailancho Saad is a non-registered body and has a non-hierarchical structure since its founding members viewed hierarchical processes as contradictory to the organisation’s values of working “towards equality through collective functioning”. (Fore more on Bailancho Saad see: http://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in/bitstream/10603/2722/15/15_chapter%206.pdf)

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