Day 3: Power

Written by Laura Carlsen

 

Today we talk about strategies. The day begins with JASS’s presentation on the power framework. What do we know about power? Lisa VeneKlasen, JASS Executive Director, explains that power is dynamic; that it’s an ever-changing relationship; that it’s not a closed system in which if someone wins, another person loses. She points out that it is important to distinguish between types of power: power over, power to, power within, and power with - this positive power that’s capable of transforming reality towards our vision of a better world.


We share several examples of the different forms of power and the need to do a power analysis alongside the analysis of context, in specific terms. The purpose of the power framework is to strengthen our organizations and our collective power, so it’s really important to expose and name the visible and invisible powers that operate in our communities.

We break  into groups by country to talk about the situations we face with one basic question: What would help us to move forward? The discussion helps us to better understand each person’s battles. The list turns out to be very long. The next question seeks to shorten it in practical terms: What are two things that JASS can provide?

Between these two questions, we highlight the following areas of joint work:

  • Building power to and new leaderships: The importance of continuing to work on "the construction of collective power and leadership - because we believe in it and for protection." In this, the Alquimia School has played a key role and the framework of power can be used to clarify both the capabilities we have and the powers we face.
  • Advocacy: We need to work for better laws, justice, forms of protection and precautionary measures when necessary, and further deepening of international advocacy work. Opportunities include CEDAW’s evaluation of Mexico in July and the possibility of including a paragraph on the impact of extractive industries, and the relevance of advocacy work in the United States and Canada where extractive companies have their headquarters.
  • Improve and broaden communications work: Narratives are fundamental to be able to communicate to others and to understand our own history as movements and organizations. We need to craft the stories that can not only reach the minds, but also the hearts of the people. We need to strengthen communication capacity in all our groups with more distribution and information to larger audiences. In many cases, we have to shift a false dominant narrative, taking into account that in a difficult world our message is more appealing when it’s positive. One of the participants proposed, "We invite people to be part of taking care of the world" to motivate the youth and the community in general to participate and expand the movements.
  • Research and information: We need help in collecting information about extractive companies operating in our regions. Patricia mentioned that JASS is working in alliance with CMI! to analyze the companies and their decision-making mechanisms. At certain moments, specific information can be key to advancing the movement.
  • Training and education: We need training in the legal framework in our countries-- what the laws say and how they are implemented, who is responsible for enforcement, which institutions and officials one should look to. We want to understand better how neoliberal capital operates and the processes of exploitation and extractivism.

We note that our organizations and communities have skills and knowledge that we can rescue and promote. "The grandmothers have a lot of wisdom, but they often depart with this knowledge," says Miriam. We talk about creating "living schools", participatory diagnostics, and teams of technicians to support knowledge-building. One priority is the task of drawing up "baselines" to register the current characteristics of the communities and measure future impacts of extractive industries.

  • Protection and care at a personal and collective level: This includes safety and protection measures and also self-care. We want to live life fully and freely in all areas and all moments, and this means finding tools to face challenges on all levels, the personal and organizational. We need to overcome the fear that can cripple us as individuals and movements—the fear in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec after the earthquake, the fear in Honduras caused by persecution and assassination, the fear of repression and criminalization. We can identify external and internal protection mechanisms that the community already has-- like recovering traditional medicine, ceremonies and spirituality--and develop a capacity for rapid response with selected allies.
  • Exchanges and alliances: We need a database of like-minded organizations, with contacts and references, to better know the strengths of each organization, to coordinate efforts and to map potential allies. We need to strengthen links at the national, regional and international levels with other women in other regions, such as learning more about the anti-extractivist movements in South Africa and developing more direct contact. We can also develop partnerships with specialists - in the international legal field, the UN, the IACHR, scientists and scientific organizations, technical support, etc. on local, national, regional and international levels.
  • Meetings of women: Gatherings of women give us strength and ideas, such as the Gathering of Women Who Struggle in Chiapas. The National Indigenous Congress in Mexico has been holding meetings of women who fight against extractivism in their lands and we have to continue to organize gatherings between women defenders of the land and territory. Having organizing spaces for women is fundamental to growing and strengthening our movements.
  • Technical support: Honduran women identify a great need for an interdisciplinary feminist team that would have ideally a communicator, lawyer, engineer, biologist, agronomist, doctor, psychologist and researcher. This team can help with documentation, research, legal care and defense, and also train other women to increase skills within the organization.

We come to the conclusion that there’s a firm base built between JASS as an international and regional organization and women's organizations that fight against extractivism in the region, a base of work and trust. Lilian says, "Some organizations divide us, they accuse us of being radical feminists ... I thank JASS because I have been able to get to know the experience of other compañeras, and that gives me strength."

Three days of learning, reflecting and dreaming together come to end. Felicita highlights the challenges, "We have a double fight - defending the rights of women and defending the territory is double work."

Patricia Ardón of JASS reminds us that "part of building a horizontal relationship is to be honest about what we can do and we cannot do ... What we have to do now is define what we can do." Lisa closes by pointing out that as JASS "we’ve had the privilege of continuing to build with you" and concludes, "We’re trying to articulate capacities locally and globally. Our struggles are incredibly difficult, but with the relationships of trust and the networks that we’re building we’ll be able to do a lot more."

 

*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of the individual.

 

Country: