The Rebel Girl: Celebrate Women and Global Justice!

Against the Current, No. 97, March/April 2002

Catherine Sameh

INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY, a holiday born from working-class women’s struggles around the world for dignified working and living conditions, comes and goes each year with day-long celebrations in cities across the country.

While these events are wonderful testaments to the richness of feminist culture, perhaps this year we might go further and engage in the broader movement for global justice.

From the proliferation of nineteenth century-style sweatshops to the Enron scandal, the vast exploitation of ordinary women and men across the globe by a wealthy elite has ignited a global justice movement that brings activists from many different movements together to imagine and struggle for a new world order.

If ever there was a feminist issue, globalization, or global exploitation, certainly is one. Women are often the primary victims — and resisters — when their communities are under fire.

As Vandana Shiva, a physicist and activist from India, points out, globalization is destroying the biodiversity of small-scale agriculture and food production. Many of the small farmers, vendors and producers of food in the world are women, whose livelihoods and those of their families are under attack by mega-corporations and institutions like the WTO and the IMF.

As their livelihoods are destroyed, many women are forced into prostitution or urban factory work to survive. As the anti-sweatshop movement has taught us, most of the factories in developing countries, producing mainly goods for consumers in the rich ones, resemble those of the late nineteenth century: brutal work hours, unsafe, even hazardous work sites, primarily children and female workers, etc.

Their World Order and Ours

That brings us to the “war on terrorism.” The events of September 11 were, in part a right-wing response to U.S.-led global injustice. But like right-wing fundamentalists in this country, the Islamic fundamentalists want to create security for their communities by harking back to a mythical past in the name of tradition, then exacting massive repression on their citizens and reversing the gains of women through extreme oppression.

While Bush’s war has rested on the rhetoric of liberating women in Afghanistan, in fact, it has worsened conditions for many Afghan women by creating more war widows and refuges, and weakening an already unstable infrastructure, making it more difficult for women to find jobs, food and health care.

The movement for global justice challenges a world order that rationalizes war and corporate greed through the rhetoric of “growth,” “freedom” and “democracy.”

Our global justice movement seeks a new world order that guarantees long-term security and freedom, neither through neoliberal corporate takeover of the planet and wars to protect superpower interests nor fundamentalist patriarchal regimes, but through a new global order that builds sustainable and environmentally sound economies, and creates communities, institutions, cities and societies that will be truly democratic.

As the majority of the world’s population, women are and will remain central to this movement.

from ATC 97 (March/April 2002)