Events, Tents, and Assemblies: Promoting Gender Justice at the US Social Forum

Guest Post by Marina Karides, member of the Gender Justice Working Group. This is the second in a series of pieces on the US Social Forum and the activities of the Gender Justice Working Group at the forum.
For anyone remotely interested in grassroots activism and promoting social justice internationally, transnationally, nationally, and locally the US Social Forum is the event for you. To be held in Detroit, MI June 22-26th, the US Social Forum will highlight the economic troubles of Detroit following its long history of capitalist greed that used Detroit workers as cheaply as possible and then left them high and dry for even cheaper labor in the Global South.
And the Global South is where the social forum process originates. In 2001 in Porto Alegre, Brazil the first World Social Forum (WSF) was held and continued there for 2002 and 2003. In 2004 the forum went to Mumbai, India 2004 and then back to Porte Alegre in 2005, and a multi-sited forum was held in 2006 (Bamako, Mali, Caracas, Venezuela, and Karachi, Pakistan). The two most recent forums were in Nairobi, Kenya in 2007 and Belem, Brazil in 2009. The upcoming World Social Forum will be held in Dakar, Senegal at the end of January 2011. If you can make it, it is an event like none other and a great follow-up to the US Social Forum which, like other national and regional forums happening around the world, was spawned from the World Social Forum to further deepen the connections of oppressions among folks in the Global South and North.


Feminist Activism at the Forum
From the beginning of the forum process, feminist activists and organizations have played a large part in promoting gender justice at the forum. Latin American feminist organizations such as World March of Women, Articulacion de Mujeres Marcosur, Articulacion Feminista Marcosur, and transnational International Gender and Trade Network among many others noted early that gender issues, women’s rights, and women were being marginalized in the social forum process. The social forums are an open space, one with a commitment to addressing all inequalities and injustice evenly; it serves as a location not only for organizations, groups, and activists to collaborate, coordinate, and share information with each other but also a place to protest and bring to attending activists’ attention the inequality and injustice that are happening in our midst.
This is exactly what the Feminist Dialogues (FD)–formed under a tree in Porto Alegre, Brazil 2003–did when they had enough of women’s issues, gender justice, and feminist analysis being neglected in the programming of the WSF. They highlighted through marches, events, and assemblies that: women have been in short representation as panelists, they had been absent from important decision-making sites of the WSF, and there was limited recognition in most events on how neo-liberalism (the increased concentration of power and decision-making in the hands of the international financial/business elite, at the expense of ordinary people) relies on patriarchy.
Gender Justice at the USSF
The Gender Justice Working Group (GJWG) of the Second US Social Forum has picked up the baton from the Women’s Working Group of the First US Social Forum in pursuing and ensuring gender justice, women’s issues such as reproductive rights, and representation by a broad range of genders. You should join us!
First, the GJWG is sponsoring (with the support of the Sociologists for Women in Society) a Gender Justice tent that will be located among others in the USSF Village near COBO Hall in downtown Detroit. The tent is available for all gender, sexuality, feminist or women-centered organizations to display their materials. Please bring yourself and your stuff to the tent. We will also be hosting a gender justice happy hour during the lunch period on June 23, 24, 25 and are seeking cultural performances. Send artists and performers, national and international, to the tent. An important use of the tent is to provide space for impromptu or follow up meetings by activists and organizations that have found grounds for further collaboration. Please consider volunteering an hour of your time staffing the tent.
The GJWG is also creating a program of all gender, feminist, and women-centered events at the forum. Some of the events are workshops, others are testimonies and presentation, and some are strategy-making sessions. There are close to 1000 events being held at the Second USSF in Detroit along with a cultural program. Attend gender related events and also check out the multitude of issues that are being discussed throughout the forum. The GJWG program will be available as a booklet at the forum and online a few weeks prior.
Finally, and with more information in upcoming reports on the USSF for feministing.com, is the Gender Justice People’s Movement Assembly. The social forums are seeking to get their progressive politics into more direct actions through the People’s Movement Assemblies. There will be about 50 separate assemblies, Gender Justice being one of them, which will filter to a larger single People’s Movement Assembly that will coordinate actions nationally and internationally.
Come to the US Social Forum and join us in the promotion of gender justice. You will never regret making the effort to attend such an epic (really!) and life changing event. For more information on the tent or to volunteer contact: mkarides@fau.edu.

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