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Carry On With The Struggle For Land, Women’s Rights, Food Sovereignty, Dignity And Justice!

On International Rural Women’s Day, the Asian Rural Women’s Coalition (ARWC) stands in solidarity with all rural women across the world in defense of land, rights, sovereignty, dignity and justice against worsening attacks of fascist, exploitative and patriarchal policies.

Today, rural women and advocates come together to resist all schemes to perpetuate corporate control over agriculture and assert the call for a global food system anchored on rights to land and resources, women and community-led agroecology and people’s food sovereignty.

Rural women are main food producers of societies. They toil and work to feed the peoples of the world, yet live in abject poverty and hunger. Neoliberal globalization has brought upon the rural sector an unprecedented multiple crises that aggravated the disempowerment and discrimination of rural women. Corporate greed and capitalist control of food and agriculture driven by the G8, WTO, IMF-World Bank and other bilateral and regional trade agreements have only served to benefit big despotic landlords, elites, oligarchs and TNCs. These have further perpetuated patriarchy and worsened rural women’s conditions of oppression, violence and exploitation.

Monopoly corporations control and exploit rural women’s local knowledge, endanger their lives and livelihoods, destroy their resources, poison their lands and waters, and wreak havoc to rural communities. Land grabbing and land inequality have resulted in increased hunger and malnutrition, poverty and landlessness, gender inequality, social injustice and strife.

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These conditions have further worsened the rural crisis and exacerbated the forced migration and trafficking of rural women. As migrants and workers, they are doubly subjected to increased gender violence, abuse, exploitation, discrimination and criminalization. Neoliberal exploitation continues to attack formal and regular work worldwide through wage slavery, labor flexibilization, union-busting and repression. More and more rural women are being pushed into informal work and unemployment.

Governments are complicit with land-grabbers and exploiters. State fascism is showcased in the intensified militarization of the countrysides, various forms of harassment against women peasants and advocates and the criminalization and suppression of peasant movements and struggles. Rural women are being targeted, resulting in unending cases of human rights violations, illegal arrests, political persecution and extrajudicial killings of rural women and advocates.

One hotspot is the Philippines, where human rights group Karapatan has documented at least ten victims of extrajudicial killings in rural communities, including nine-year-old Kyllene Casao, within the first 100 days of Marcos Jr. At least four victims of enforced disappearances were documented, among them women’s rights advocates Ma. Elena Pampoza and Elgene Mungcal who were abducted in Tarlac, and peasant couple Geral Ganti and Dalen Alip-on who were abducted from their home in Himamaylan City in Negros Occidental.

The Philippine military has been conducting intensive military operations, indiscriminate bombings and strafing with artillery and machine gunfire in the areas bordering the rural villages of Carabalan and Mahalang in Himamaylan since October 6. Starting October 9, the military declared a one-week lockdown in the area, with the Himamaylan City Social Welfare and Development Office declaring as many as 15,024 evacuees as of October 10, or almost 14% of the Himamaylan’s population. As a result, residents have gone hungry and children are in dire need of milk and diapers. Villagers who were allowed to return to their homes found their livestock slaughtered by the military. Houses and belongings of rural women leaders and advocates being red-tagged by the government were ransacked, according to Karapatan-Negros.

Meanwhile, Marcos Jr, son of the former dictator, had appointed himself Head of the Department of Agriculture, a government agency that holds power over billions of pesos’ worth of importation and smuggling of agricultural goods and is the central recipient of foreign loans and investments from the World Bank and other financial institutions.

Elsewhere in Asia, last October 8 in India, Dalit women agricultural laborers, including a pregnant Dalit woman, were assaulted and locked up in a workers’ colony at Husanehalli in Chikkamagalaru district of Karnataka after protesting the beating up of a woman rural worker over an alleged loan dispute.

In Indonesia, women agricultural workers in oil palm plantations owned by large landowners continue to experience various forms of physical violence, sexual violence and discrimination. Ancestral lands of women from the national minority Sakai in Riau Province of Sumatra Island were seized for the development of big palm oil plantations, big timber plantations and oil mining. As a form of resistance to landlords and as a means to survive in the midst of extreme poverty, they continue to assert and harvest Fresh Fruit Bunch of palm oil in the said lands, facing oppression and violence from the plantation security unit, the police unit (POLRI) and the Indonesian National Army (TNI). Similar conditions are faced by rural women who live near or work in big plantations of landlords throughout Indonesia. President Joko Widodo Administration’s Agrarian Reform and social assistance programs have weakened the power of the people to live and continue to cause disunity among rural women.

But fascism begets resistance. Rural women are organizing and asserting their rights in Asia and all over the world. They continue to defy patriarchal traditions and boldly resist caste and gender violence and brutal attacks. They fight for freedom from oppression and discrimination.

Together with other sectors of society, they uphold human rights, women’s rights and the rights of all marginalized groups. They have challenged governments, corporations and landlords. They have tirelessly campaigned against development aggression, corruption, violence on women, trafficking, and militarism. They have joined strikes and protest actions to fight for higher wages, food security, and basic services such as water, health and education.

Rural women’s movements are advancing and in various levels of mass movements to resist patriarchy, local feudal-capitalist forces and imperialism.

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