Latin American groups reveal that what we knew about feminism is just one side of the coin. It turns out that the world that gave us strong female idols like Eva Longoria, Jennifer Lopez, Salma Hayek, looks at it quite differently.

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Latin America is a multicultural mosaic where ethnicity and race have mixed up and live shoulder to shoulder. From time to time this neighborhood is experiencing difficult times, when a motley society receives blows from several sides at once. The issues became more complicated than they are prescribed within classical Western perceptions.

That is why like the founder of one of the feminist NGO’s in Latin America Jurema Werneck says,

The original feminism had no palpable differences, of social class and race. There was only the question of gender. They didn’t tackle these conflicts that existed because of these differences, so for the racial discourse, black feminism embodies the racial discourse. It is a feminism that speaks of this thing of being a black woman.

 

Blackened Feminism: Geledés

The name of this Brazilian NGO is associated with centuries-old traditions. The word ‘Geledé’ is a reference to a secret religious community in the African provinces, whose tradition came to Brazil during the slave trade. In fact, this is an annual ceremony, during which men dressed as women worship a female deity, beg her for blessing and protection.

In the international environment this group is better known as the Geledés Institute for Black Women. Next year it will celebrate its 30th anniversary. It is noteworthy that, as a political organization, they deal not only with the issues of black women empowerment, but also with the entire black community as a whole.

The founder of Geledés is Sueli CarneiroThis woman has devoted the last 30 years to a widescale struggle to improve the situation of the female population. Having started the fight at the state level in Sao Paolo, Sueli actively participated in the activities of the Brazilian National Council of Women’s rights. In the year of the founding of Geledés, she initiated the first ever National Meeting of Black Women.

We form part of a contingent of women that worked during centuries as slaves in the agricultural fields or in the streets as road vendors and prostitutes. Women who did not understand when the feminists said that women should take to the streets and work! We form part of a contingent of women who have an identity of object.

The Geledés board of directors is formed exclusively by black women. The main active fields are human rights, vocational training and health.

Throughout its existence, Geledés has succeeded in creating a dialogue with other social movements and directing effective work against racial discrimination. The organization managed to achieve an improvement of conditions for black population within the legislation. While they managed to create a legitimate representative on behalf of black women, the group has made progress in providing access to Brazilian education for black youth. Since the 1990s, Geledés has sought to unify the whole of South America in the name of its mission, which led to the realization of the Third World Conference Against Racism.

 

Femicide is politics: Casa del Encuentro

Most common name for the Argentinean Casa del Encuentro is Meeting House. It was founded by Ada Beatriz Rico, Fabiana Tuñez, and Marta Montesano. For the last 14 years the group draws attention to the spread of women’s murders- femicide.

The organization gives special importance to this crime. In the opinion of its members, a femicide is a “political act”, when the killer is a man who seemed the victim as his property. Casa del Encuentro has made great efforts to recognize this problem at the national level in 2012. Now guilty could be imprisoned for the whole life.

Nevertheless, representatives of Casa del Encuentro are convinced that the letter of the law has remained a useless dusty text (according to statistics).

The work of the organization led to a noticeable social kickback in Argentina. An example is the virus campaign #NiUnaMenos, which motivates women to fight against violence.

Despite this, the NGO tries to concentrate on the real actions that enable society truly protect victims: more profound sex education for youth, working with the representatives of  law, providing psychological assistance and shelter services to victims and their families, and so on.

 

Mexican Path: Casa de la Mujer

The full name of this Mexican feminist group is  “The Rosario Castellanos Woman’s House” (La Casa de La Mujer Rosario Castellanos). It was named after local poet that promoted feminism in her literary works. Rosario Castellanos was very concerned that women did not have a place for self-expression, so that her voice could be heard. Often her work was an illustration of a woman’s muteness, inability or unwillingness to complain.

In 1977 Professor Margarita Dalton Paloma was involved in a discussion with her sociologist students, which led to the founding of The Rosario Castellanos Women’s Studies Group.  Within this collective a small group of like-minded people gathered at home to read and critically discuss feminist texts and issues.

Over time, their activities reached a national level, when they received a grant and created Casa de la Mujer 26 years ago.

To date, it represents an organization fighting for gender equality and justic

e in Oaxaca. They work with low-income women who do not have the opportunity to satisfy even basic needs or get an education. Now among the members there are professionals who can provide psychological or legal assistance to those in need. In addition, weekly the group organizes informal public meetings.

 

”Speak, Black Woman”: Fala Preta

In 1997, Edna Roland, a former member of the Geledés, which was revealed above, created her own group. The title ‘Fala Preta’ is translated as ‘Speak, Black Woman’.

This organization was a pioneer in dealing with issues never discussed before by the feminine black movement. It paid special attention to health-related initiatives. In particular, Fala Preta has organized programs for girls and women from the low-income population of Sao Paulo and neighboring counties to raise awareness about AIDS/HIV infections and its prevention. Also, members carry out projects, within which trainings on reproductive health and rights are organized. In their view, such actions will contribute to reducing the rates of diseases, especially among the black community.

We (Fala Preta) were able to create relationships so we were able to get the social and political capital that was more difficult for the black men – Edna Roland, founder.

We are more than sex: Flor De Azaela

The Flor de Azalea has been protecting the rights of sexual workers in Ecuador for several decades.

Members of the organization negotiate with government officials to resist the criminalization of sex work services and workers’ discrimination based on their profession. It is obvious that women engaged in such work are vulnerable to attacks by law enforcement officials, as well as to ethical stigmatization within the society.

Our mission is to speak out about violence against sex workers, including violence from police, institutions, clients, and intimate partners, while challenging the myth that sex work is inherently gender-based violence.

In addition, the humiliating position of sexual workers deprives them of the right to access basic services, including primary health care, HIV and sexual and reproductive health services. However, they are often subject to coercive actions: forced programming, testing, rehabilitation.

Flor de Azalea struggles to remind that sexual workers are the same humans with guaranteed rights.

 

I Ain’t A Victim: Comando Colibri

Comando Colibri from Mexico are literally fighters. This group promotes self-defense opportunities for women. They say that woman should no longer regard herself as a victim and be afraid of being sexually abused or publicly harassed in any way.

Leader of the movement Maria Teresa Garzon Martinez admits that initiative came out of her personal experience when she and her friends felt the need to protect themselves. It started from amateur workshops in the park areas to professional training sponsored by the Bonebreakers Academy. “We started training our own female instructors and opening paid classes in order to cover our basic expenses.”

Why Colibri? It came from a folk story about a small hummingbird that can boldly stand alone against the whole element, without panicking and escaping.
Members of Colibri tend to challenge the stereotype that woman, slim, scared, and weak person, would never fight back. They believe that their work helps women to get to know and understand the possibilities of their body.

We do not want to survive, we want to live life itself, and therefore make life more bearable to live.

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