Gender Equality Blog
Early this month, January 2019, thousands of employees from Bangladesh factories making clothing apparels for global retail giants such as H&M, Walmart and many others went on strikes over low wages. The protest was marred with violence and repression by the police leading to reports of loss of lives and several others injured. Bangladesh’s USD$30 billion clothing industry is the world’s second largest apparel manufacturer, just behind China. The sector employs approximately 3.5 million workers and of these, 85 percent are women.
This year we collected incredible testimonies from women who are fighting for their rights, their land and the future of their communities, while facing many obstacles. Here is a review of their calls and actions against oppression and injustice.
Colonialism with its hegemonic construct and the patriarchal and racist ideologies inherent to it did not accept alternative ways of living. Instead its faith in the superiority of Western ways of thinking justified the violent destruction of the original economic, social and ecological balance in all regions of the world it invaded. Colonialism propagated an alienation from nature and an ecocide which nowadays finds its continuation in extractivism.
It’s not easy to roll back cultural norms we grew up with and which appear acceptable to the majority. Three years ago, though I was already an activist for various social and environmental causes, I had no interest in feminism. At the time, I viewed feminism as running through practically all the causes for which I was an activist but I didn’t see it as a cause in itself. My attitude changed in 2016 when I spent a year in Canada. Over there, I realised that the share of gender roles, while not yet quite equal, was much less segmented than in Europe. As a result of studying my new environment and a colleague who was heavily involved in feminism in Montreal, I became convinced that the feminist struggle had its own identity without necessarily being involved in other struggles.
In every part of the world, women working on the land, in fisheries and picking crops have always been part of food production, rearing animals, processing crops in local markets and in protecting water sources and forests. In addition to those in front-line production, women in Non-Governmental Organizations, agricultural advisory services, teaching and public service are focusing on today’s problems and looking for alternatives to meet the challenges of making a decent living fairly and sustainably in rural areas and on our planet.