Women from every corner occupy Brasilia: the Marcha das Margaridas

This also reflects the political articulation of rural unionism led by Contag with its partners. The great novelty of this edition was the collaboration with the First March of Indigenous Women, which brought together 3,000 women, who started camping in Brasilia on August 9th, and who took to the streets on August 13th, in defense of their territories and their rights. On August 14th, they joined the Marcha das Margaridas. New partners also joined the struggle in 2019, such as the Peasant Women’s Movement (MMC) and the National Coordination for the Articulation of Rural Black Quilombola Communities (CONAQ), both of them part of La Via Campesina.

Much more than a women’s mass action, the Marcha das Margaridas is a space of feminist articulation, in which various currents of feminism are brought into dialogue, guided by a common commitment to an anti-patriarchal and anti-capitalist project that underlies popular feminist movements. Which brings us to the question: what are the demands of the Margaridas?

The political platform of the Marcha das Margaridas

The motto of the Marcha in the year 2000 was: “2000 reasons to march: against hunger, poverty and sexist violence”. The central themes remained the same in the following editions, in 2003 and 2007. In 2011, the motto emphasized the struggle for sustainable development, with a focus on justice, autonomy, equality, and freedom. In 2015, the theme of democracy was added, in a clear response to the threat of democratic setbacks that existed at that time and which were confirmed after the march with the coup of President Rousseff. Between 2000 and 2015, the Marcha elaborated two agendas: one directed at the State and the other directed at the trade union movement itself. The former includes demands for policies of access to land for women, credit policies, social policies for the rural areas, such as health, education and quality housing.

The transformation of social relations, above all, of the dominant gender order, which assigns women care and reproduction work, is another central axis of demands. The Margaridas fight for economic autonomy and income for women in the countryside, for the recognition of their work as rural producers and for access to income from their work. To transform society, they advocate for non-sexist education and the sexual and reproductive rights of women. The Marcha das Margaridas has incorporated themes such as access to water and common goods, the promotion of agroecology, food sovereignty, and energy sovereignty. It questions processes of nature commodification, the predominance of the logic of profit in agrifood systems, and the negative effects of the dominant model of capitalist agrarian development on health, the environment, the working class, and especially women. The Marcha defends an alternative model of rural development, based on social and environmental justice.

At the same time, the Margaridas prepared an internal agenda, aimed at democratizing the spaces of power within the trade union movement. The low inclusion of women in spaces of political participation within the union movement was one of the main motivations to organize the first edition of the Marcha in 2000. Women’s capacity for political work is constantly questioned in a space where men always have held positions of power.

In 2019, the organization of the Marcha chose not to draft and deliver a political agenda to the State, because they decided that the newly elected right-wing government that openly attacked social movements, agrarian movements and feminists, would not be open to negotiation. As an alternative, they launched a political platform with their political path for society. At the center of this platform is the struggle for popular sovereignty, democracy, justice, equality and freedom from violence.

In short, the Marcha das Margaridas is fighting for the rights of the working class in general and, in particular, for the rights of rural women workers, while welcoming demands from several other social movements. In their long process of mobilization, they have been weaving solidarity and expanding their demands, so that more and more women are represented.

A unique conjuncture: what is at stake?

In many regards, the 6th edition of the Marcha das Margaridas was unique. After the draconian reforms in labor and union rights that passed in the last two years in Brazil, union movements lost an important source of resources. Moreover, with the election of a government openly opposed to progressive social movements, they could not count on any kind of support from the government to carry out the Marcha das Margaridas as they did in some of the previous editions. More than that, they could not expect, as in previous editions, an official moment of interaction with the representatives of the federal government to receive and negotiate the agenda of demands. Due to the hate speech against the movements of the progressive camp, they feared being received with violence.

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