For a feminism of sisters of the land

It is March again. After an almost non-existent winter with high temperatures caused by the climate emergency, it’s time again to raise our voices and share our stories.

This year we have to start by talking about Palestine, a land that has been sacked for decades, and where Israel is now carrying out genocide. Gaza’s civilian population is falling victim to bombings, famine and disease. This is how you destroy a people, denying land access and food sovereignty. What is happening to Palestine is heartbreaking. It is unbearable to see daily images of a genocide unfolding and to go on with our daily lives. From our towns and villages, we demand a ceasefire and freedom for Palestine.

This is for the Palestinian women who resist and fight the occupation, while doing their best to look after their families and their communities. They continue trying to get any food and water they can. They continue protecting, surviving and providing shelter in this war that’s been declared against land and life.

Sisters of the land,

These are turbulent times, with tractor protests on the roads. Sectors of the countryside have taken to the streets. These protests rebel against the urban, paternalistic, condescending perspective of the countryside. A perspective and way of talking about us that pigeon-holes us as one type of countryside and one story. Of course, we know the real interests behind this communication strategy and the confusion it generates is a real concern. What are they demanding? Who’s doing it? Who can do it? From what positions? In the French movement Les Soulèvements de la Terre’s manifesto in defence of the land, we read that ecology must be a peasant’s ecology for the people. We would add that our countryside, the one we’re building, must be an agroecological countryside for the people. One that’s made up of peasants, not agroindustry. It is time for a change of model, for one that prioritises life, land conservation and biodiversity. One that provides us with healthy food and doesn’t make us sick. One in which all workers can access decent living conditions. We truly believe that only agroecology has room for all of us. In this proposal the territory as a whole works in a synchronised way, respecting the limits of our natural resources. It builds an emotional, sociocultural and economic network through the food that we grow and consume; through the gratitude and mutual care shown by those who provide food and those who receive it. We’re done with the hate speeches that identify our equals as enemies, leaving us with no energy to fight the system that pits us against each other. We are all sisters. Through respect, honesty and mutual support we can build a living and diverse rural area for all of us. We should ask ourselves how we would like to be fed and remember the names, stories and lives behind a plate of food. Those whose work allows us to eat must be given back their dignity. We live in a system in which food is thrown away as if it’s rubbish, in which grocery shopping is done automatically, without any thought of what is behind each item we put in our baskets. Of course we don’t want to place blame. We know what kind of food reaches the supermarkets, about the time you have to invest to shop and cook in a conscious way. We know that the system we live in breeds precarity and exhaustion. We demand the right to imagination. We don’t want to stop imagining and desire better worlds. A type of desire that goes far beyond consuming (always more, always immediately). We want discourses that sow hope, that break the moral superiority associated with academia and centres.

Sisters of the land,

We’re still here, those of us who can’t take to the streets or protest. We’re still here, those of us who are bedbound or can’t leave the house. Those of us who are excluded and discriminated against for feeling, speaking or doing differently. We’re still here, those of us who are rejected for having a psychiatric diagnosis, those of us who earn less for doing the same job because of a disability. We’re still here those of us who are abused in cruel and perverse relationships. We’re still invisibilised despite our years of learning. ALL of us are still belittled for not conforming to the mandates of a machista, ableist, sanist, and ageist society.

And with this diversity, we’ll keep enriching territories with our strengths and vulnerabilities, building other ways of inhabiting, sharing and living.

Sisters of the land,

Let’s not forget all the migrant women who do seasonal work in the factories, fields and greenhouses. Those who get paid according to where they’re from, who aren’t allowed to talk while working, and who, if there’s no production, aren’t guaranteed their contracted hours or pay. On top of all of this, women who work sorting, discarding and storing fruit in summer have to work in refrigerated conditions to ensure the quality of the fruit. And the variable hours and night shifts, make it tricky to balance work and family life, especially as in summer the schools are closed.

Sisters of the land,

We want to add some joy to this manifesto. Let us mention with pride, the women in our towns who always stop in the street to chat and bring out chairs to enjoy the fresh evenings. They share their meals and firesides, and are always there building the community. We want a dignified life for all, to feel joyful and lucky to live where we live. This is for all the women who want to know who’s living in their village and who respect everyone for who they are. There’s no time for judgment, we need to be there for those in need. And we mustn’t forget that at times it’s us who need the support, because we embody both qualities: strength and vulnerability.

We want to look towards the future and see ourselves there, in this way. But for that, we need access to basic services and for cultural events not to be exclusive to the cities. Our villages are also culture. We’ll find the way.

We have to safeguard the spaces where we can come together. The libraries, play centres, theatres, film-screening rooms. These spaces transform and build community life and dialogue.

In this manifesto we feel more united than ever. We confront, share our fears and leave silence behind. There are many ways to inhabit the territory, many rural realities that dialogue, learn, build, care and welcome. We choose one of sisters of the land: full of feminisms and diversity, agroecology, solidarity with oppressed peoples, memory, interdependence, mutual support, hope and joyfulness.

For a feminism for all

For a feminism of sisters of the land.

The poster is by Iraia Okina. Download it here.

This manifesto was translated into English by Becky Stoakes.

***(This manifesto was created through the collective work of Leire Milikua, Blanca Casares, Patricia Dopazo, Lareira Social, María Sánchez, María Montesino, Jornaleras de Huelva en Lucha, Lucía López Marco and Colectivo Arterra. Sisters of the land is a manifesto for the 8th of March, which was launched in 2018 by María Sánchez and Lucía López Marco.)