International Preparatory Meeting for the World March of Women in the Year 2000

Text read at the end of the international preparatory meeting to the WMW that took place in Montreal in 1998.

We, women in attendance at the International Preparatory Meeting for the World March of Women in the Year 2000, proclaim our solidarity with those women who are ridiculed, marginalized, deprived of every human dignity, and who are forced to live in inhuman conditions.

On the eve of the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights we honour and affirm our solidarity with women, who in their respective countries, defend women’s rights as human rights; with peace and democracy activists, and with writers in their struggle against censorship and for freedom of expression.

Today we honour:

  • Aung San Suu Kyi, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, who was democratically elected to head a government that was then overthrown by a military coup d’état and continues to struggle for democracy in Burma — a symbol of hope and courage;
  • Leyla Zana, Kurdish member of parliament, who was sentenced to 15 years in prison for speaking a sentence in Kurdish before the Turkish National Assembly;
  • Souha Béchara, a forgotten prisoner and living symbol of the Israeli occupation of Southern Lebanon, who was released last September after 10 years’ confinement in prison;
  • Talisma Nasreen, still under threat of “fatwa,” deprived of the right of freedom of expression and the right to security.

Through them we pay tribute to millions of women who work anonymously to defend and promote women’s rights so that we can participate fully in improving our societies. We want to build societies based on equality with men, societies that take into account both what we have in common with men and our differences, that is, our specificity as women.

We salute the courage of aboriginal women the world over, who have experienced oppression for centuries as well as economic, political and social discrimination. We support our Indigenous sisters in Guatemala so that the government agrees to the founding of the Office in Defence of Indigenous Women, which is a commitment stemming from the Peace Accords. We also support our sisters from Mexico, particularly those from Chiapas who are facing the consequences of growing militarization.

We remember also the women victims of male violence. We stand together against:

  • the assassination in Belgium of Sémira Adamu, murdered for demanding the right to asylum and freedom of movement — a symbol of the struggle against expulsions;
  • the imminent execution in Trinidad and Tobago of Pamela Ramjattan, sentenced to death after murdering her batterer because of the refusal on the part of police investigators and the courts to take into account the extreme violence to which she had been subjected.
  • we affirm our solidarity with Tsitsi Tiripano, member of the Association of Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe and victim of discrimination as a result of her defence of the fundamental rights of homosexual people.

We stand in solidarity with the feminist activists who call for the recognition of the abuse of women that occurs in the context of armed conflicts and in occupied territories and who insist that sexual violence be legally condemned in all countries.

We express our solidarity with women living under occupation, in particular Palestinian, Lebanese, and Tibetan women.

We are outraged when we witness, yet again, the systematic rape of women being utilized as a war tactic, this time against women in Kosovo.

We are in solidarity with African women who demand the end of violence against women and children. They are the first victims of armed conflicts in Africa and are demanding to be included in the peace negotiations processes.

We stand with Black Mauritanian women, victims of the apartheid system instituted by the regime of Ahmed Ould Taya, president of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania.

We are in solidarity with Algerian women and celebrate their courage and determination in the struggle for peace and democracy.

We join in solidarity with the Rwandan activists who have struggled to have crimes against women recognized and defined as crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

We denounce the world community’s inertia in the face of the horrific situation of Afghan women — ultimate proof that the current human rights discourse has left us out.

We denounce the inclusion of the Shari’a Law in Pakistan’s 15th Constitutional Amendment of October 9, 1998, that threatens to eradicate the small gains in rights and freedoms made by the women of Pakistan up to now.

We call upon the international community to pressure the Indian armed forces to stop committing crimes against the women of Kashmir.

We want to convey our solidarity with the women of Timor, victims of massacres committed by Indonesian invading forces.

We denounce the economic embargoes in Iraq, Libya, Sudan and Cuba — embargoes that increase the feminization of poverty.

We support our Mexican sisters’ fight against the federal government’s corruption, which results in further impoverishment of the people and of Mexican women. We also support non-governmental organizations in the North struggling to destroy the impunity surrounding the murder of over 100 women in Ciudad Ju rez in the period of one year.

We back the initiative of Colombian women’s organizations that stage the Vigil for Life and Peace on the 18th day of each month, in the quest for a peaceful solution to the armed conflict.

We stand with the activists who are fighting so that in their last remaining years, the Filippina, Korean, Chinese, Indonesian, Malaysian, Taiwanese, and Dutch “comfort women” are recognized and compensated for the suffering they endured as sex slaves for the Japanese Imperial Army during the Second World War. We support them in their quest for justice.

We support the efforts of women in the Philippines, Japan, Okinawa, and Korea who are demanding changes on American military bases so that they cease being propitious environments for acts of violence against women.

With all the struggles we have before us, we want to mark some victories that give us the strength to continue:

  • In September 1998, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, established by the United Nations in Arusha, Tanzania, handed down an historic judgement: for the first time in the history of humanity, rape has been included in an indictment for genocide. After a campaign led by Rwandan women and supported by a women’s global campaign, rape is now held to be an act of genocide and torture, and a crime against humanity.
  • In 1985, after a struggle that lasted 25 years, Native women in Canada finally won the right to equality. They no longer lose official recognition of their nationality after marriage with a non-Native man.
  • Our Mexican sisters who work in the “maquiladoras” have made gains in their struggle to unionize and organize in the face of intolerable working conditions. Each victory is a testament to their courage and determination.

Today, we stand together and commit ourselves to continuing the struggle, each in her own country, to break the silence of all those women who have died in anonymity.

We cry out far and wide our determination to continue down the long road towards peace, justice and democracy.

Solidarity with Women All Over the World

Montreal, Quebec, Canada, October 18, 1998

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