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Afro-Latin American Women Use Social Networks to Commemorate Over a Decade of Struggle

"Dignidad, reconocimiento, saberes, sabores". Afiche de la celebración del 25 de julio en Medellín, Colombia. Imagen tomada del blog planeta-afro.org.

“Dignity, recognition, knowledge, flavors.”  Poster for the July 25 celebration in Medellin, Colombia. Image take from the blog  planeta-afro.org.

June and July were important months in the fight for the rights of of Afro-Latin American and Afro-Caribbean women. July 25 was a particularly important date — the customary day of celebration for these women — highlighting the need to recognize the struggles they have faced throughout history.

It was also an opportunity to bring to light the injustices unique to women of African descent as opposed to those of men. The combination of gender, race and ethnicity, along with social class has only served to aggravate the oppression they have faced.

According to the blog Making:

Este día […] nos lleva a la reflexión sobre la necesidad de reconocer los aportes de las mujeres afrodescendientes en la construcción de nuestra nación en el ámbito social, cultural, económico y político; así como también en las luchas por la independencia de los países de América Latina.

De igual modo, es preciso entender la situación de las mujeres afrodescendientes como una situación particular, ya que en su contexto y vida diaria se intersecta el factor de género que puede ver agravada su situación de vulnerabilidad y exclusión. Eso, a su vez, ha impulsado a las mujeres afrodescendientes a visibilizar las particularidades de su situación y generar una agenda reivindicativa.

This day […] prompts us to reflect on the necessity to recognize the contributions made by women of African descent to the construction of our nation within social, cultural, economic and political spheres; as well as to the various struggles for the independence of Latin American countries.

Likewise, it is essential to understand that the situation of women of African descent as a unique one in that because of their gender they find themselves even more vulnerable and susceptible to exclusion. This, in turn, has motivated women of African descent to make known the particularities of their situation and create a more aggressive agenda.

Since then, the quest for better living conditions for women of African descent in the region has been addressed by other international forums, such as the American Regional Meeting, a precursor to the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, which took place in Santiago de Chile in 2000.

In this case the setting was historical and critical for the recognition of the structural racism that exists in the region.

The declaration issued by this forum demonstrated the ways in which racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia have deeper consequences for women, who face harsher social, economic and cultural inequalities. 

The blog Feminismo Afrodiaspórico (Afro-diasporic Feminism) highlights the importance of this time of reflection:

… julio es el mes aprovechado por las organizaciones de mujeres afrodescendientes para sensibilizar y difundir información acerca de las diversas formas de opresión de género y étnica que experimentan millones de mujeres en la región

…women of African descent use the month of July to bring awareness to the various forms of oppression millions of women in the region experience because of their gender and ethnicity

One critical focus is the struggle for dignity and rights for homemakers, who first used this day to make their message known in 2012:

Con énfasis especial para este año en la campaña mundial que adelanta la Confederación Sindical Internacional (CSI) ‘12 para 12’ que pretende lograr que 12 países hayan ratificado el Convenio 189 para finales de 2012, luego de la promulgación por parte de la Organización Internacional del Trabajo (OIT) [del convenio sobre] las trabajadoras y trabajadores domésticos. […] El trabajo doméstico es realizado por millones de personas en el mundo, especialmente mujeres. Estos trabajos son mal pagados y su reconocimiento como trabajo es casi inexistente. En muchas partes del mundo el trabajo doméstico no es valorado frente al aporte que hacen estas personas al desarrollo de familias y niños.

With special emphasis this year on the international 12 by 12 campaign put forth by the International Trade Union Confederation which seeks to have 12 countries ratify Convention 189 by the end of 2012, and later to have the International Labour Organization enact [the convention regarding] female workers and domestic workers. […] Domestic work is performed by millions of people in throughout the world, especially women. These people are poorly paid, and their work is almost never recognized as a job.  In many parts of the world domestic work is not valued in light of the impact these people have on the development of families and children.

For a Visible Political Prominence

Another important element that must be reinforced at the July 25 celebration is the recognition of women of African descent as actors and subjects of governmental policies and agreements.

Therefore, the international forum, created by the United Nations, recognizes people of African descent, and women in particular, as a key group in the fight against racism, xenophobia and and all forms of intolerance.

In Latin America the exclusion of women of African descent is evident and can be seen across daily life. These women lack political and economic representation and generally form the lowest levels of society. People of African descent typically live in poverty, and women carry the heaviest burden of all.

As such, the July 25 celebration is also an opportunity to bring the plight of black women to the international scene, globalizing the movement and creating collaborative efforts in order to create a common front in the fight against discrimination and exclusion.

For some, this day also internationalizes black feminism, revitalizing the struggle of the women of the diaspora, as Lucieane Reis suggests in Blogueiras Negras:

O 25 de Julho internacionaliza o feminismo negro via aglutinação da resistência das mulheres negras à cidadania nas regiões em que vivem, principalmente as  opressões de gênero e étnico-raciais. Desta forma, essa data amplia e fortalece as organizações e identidade das mulheres negras, que vem construindo estratégias para o enfrentamento do racismo e do sexismo. Essa não é uma data qualquer  para nós mulheres negras, ele significa o rompimento com um feminismo que nunca nos contemplou. Resgata a luta das mulheres negras da diáspora, iniciada ainda na década 70, através das feministas negras em pontos diferentes da diáspora. 

El 25 de julio internacionaliza el feminismo negro a través del refuerzo de la unión entre mujeres negras en las regiones en las que viven, sobre todo en cuanto a la opresión de género y de base étnica-racial. Por lo tanto, esta fecha se extiende y fortalece las organizaciones y la identidad de las mujeres negras, que se han dedicado a la construcción de estrategias para la lucha contra el racismo y el sexismo. Ésta no es una fecha cualquiera para nosotras las mujeres negras: significa el rompimiento con un feminismo que nunca nos tuvo en cuenta; y recuerda la lucha de las mujeres negras de la diáspora, que también comenzó a finales de los 70 con las feministas negras en diferentes partes de la diáspora.

July 25 internationalizes black feminism by reinforcing the union between black women in the regions in which they live, principally in regards to oppression on the basis of gender, race and ethnicity.  As such, this date lays out and strengthens the identity of black women and organizations which have dedicated themselves to the creation of strategies in the fight against racism and sexism.  This is not just another day for us black women: it marks the abandonment of a feminism that never took us into account; and remembers the struggle of the black women of the diaspora, which also began towards the end of the 70s with black feminists in different parts of the diaspora.

Similarly, organizations for women of African descent in the region have held events and stirred up the internet, especially during these dates, to prevent urgent issues from going unnoticed.

On July 25, 2014, for example, Desacato Feminista (Feminist Contempt) participated in a campaign that demanded justice for the women of African descent that were killed in Buenaventura, Colombia:

“Today we don't celebrate, we denounce!”  Image for the Desacato Feminista campaign in defense of the women who were victims of violence in Buenaventura, Colombia. This campaign was launched on the International Day of Afro-Descendant and Afro-Caribbean Women.

The commemoration coincided with the first Afro-descendant Women Leaders of the Americas Summit, held in the capital of Nicaragua. The event created a political platform in accordance with the International Decade for People of African Descent, creating a plan for the empowerment of women of African descent in order to overcome systematic discrimination and demand compliance with international treaties and international recognition.

In turn, the Red de Mujeres Afro-Latinoamericanas Afro-Caribeña y de la Diáspora (Network of Afro-Latin American and Afro-Caribbean Women of the Diaspora) which was born on July 25, 1992, continues fighting for better conditions for millions of black women in Latin America and the Caribbean.  

At the same time, in each country in the region, dozens of organizations work diligently for political influence and equal participation in the development of Latin American society.

Nevertheless, there has been no real decisive change regarding the plight of Afro-Latin American and Caribbean women.  The hope is that social organization and the internationalization of the black movement will bring about structural changes for this demographic.

Part of the debate and discussion from July 25 of this year can be seen on YouTube thanks to work of Teatro en Sepia (Theater in Sepia), an association of women of African descent in Argentina, which presented its work “Afrolatinoamericanas…” after a debate which can be seen here:

The online discussion of Afro-Latin American rights (which goes far beyond the July celebrations) can be followed on Twitter: #Afrocaribeñas and #Afrolatinas. 

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