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Postcard from the World Social Forum in Tunis

April 30, 2013

Few days ago, we received from WILPFer Heidi Meinzolt from the German Section an interesting “postcard from the World Social Forum”, which took place in Tunis between 26th and 30th March 2013.

Five WILPFers meet there by chance and… Read her letter to WILPF to learn more.

Women's Assembly at the 2013 World Social Forum

Women’s Assembly at the 2013 World Social Forum

Dear WILPFers,

The World Social Forum (WSF), under the motto of ‘dignity’, is a great kitchen for a world in transition. In a mostly peaceful, friendly and open atmosphere, cooks from all over the world presented their receipts, the variety of their ingredients, and opened space for common ‘cooking’ sessions.

The first WSF in an Arabic country was a meeting point for creative ideas and revolutionary traditions. It was also an opportunity to network between existing global and regional networks and groups looking for new partners to exchange, campaign, inform and show solidarity with the most vulnerable, excluded and oppressed.

Old globetrotters, political tourists and open-minded youngsters shared their enthusiasm with ‘experts’ and overcame so easily all organisational problems.

Big auditoriums for a few plenary sessions, self-organised debates in small classrooms, open discussion rounds in tents and in the gardens of the university campus: that was the WSF in Tunis.

We also saw a lot of (spontaneous) manifestations against injustice, oppression, occupation, war and imprisoned individuals and peoples, such as the Palestinians and the Sahrawis. We also witnessed protests against the murder of the Tunisian opposition leader, against refugee camps in the Sahara and against the death of thousands of refugees in the Mediterranean see.

An incredible number of volunteers helped in each situation. Music, dance, exhibitions, food supply: the WSF was really an event to get inspired and to re-think the world.

Another world is possible!

The presence and visibility of Tunisians, the whole Middle East and the Arab World was impressing: probably more than 1/3 of the 30,000 – 50,000 people attending the Forum.

The focus on the Arab Spring brought in a spirit of new beginnings, hope in a new opening through international contacts and exchanges. At the same time, it expressed frustration and impatience due to the stagnation of the revolutionary dynamic into a democratic future.

The great and justified fear, especially of the many women who were active through the revolution, is to get marginalised and deprived again of their fundamental rights and freedoms. They are also afraid of losing equality and autonomy.

This is why the women attending the WSF used the great media attention to tell the world what they need and to remind everybody that they are willing to resist.

The programme of the WSF presented hundreds of workshops, forums and sessions – all relevant for WILPF:

  • Rethinking the economy: the economic crisis, sustainable development, anti-austerity movements, mobilisation against multinationals, post 2015 agenda, de-growth and anti-capitalism.
  • Building democracy: the constitutional processes in the MENA region, citizenship and social justice.
  • Women and capitalism: women’s resistance to debt, women in the Arab world and women’s rights.
  • Right to food, landgrabbing, trade agreements, rural development and buen vivir.
  • Disarmament: anti-war, drones, NATO, peaceful solution of conflicts.
  • Migration and refugees, political prisoners and Frontex
  • Climat Space
  • Laicism
Seminar at the 2013 World Social Forum

Seminar at the 2013 World Social Forum

However, I noticed some drawbacks: there was no mentioning of UNSCR 1325 and no reference to the UN, human security, human rights, conflict prevention and transitional justice.

The link between economic/social justice and war (you get what you pay for) was absent and there was no mentioning of WILPF and the MENA 1325 Agenda (we could not identify any participant of our project).

5 WILPFers met there by chance. We all arrived on our own not knowing that other members of WILPF were attending the event. That was a pity: I believe that a stronger and explicit WILPF voice strategically involved in debates on women could have made a difference and would have attracted both young and older (women) activists.

I met there Annalisa Milani (WILPF Italy), Ingela Martensson (WILPF Sweden), Robin Lloydt (WILPF US), Marlène Tuininga (WILPF France), Marta Benavides (ex-WILPF El Salvador). We decided that we want to convince all WILPFers individually, section wide, in the world regions, from the ExCom and the International Secretariat, not to abstain anymore in the future from such great manifestations.

We want to get involved in the WSF both strategically and personally, on the basis of our ‘Power To Stop War’.”

Interested in learning more about the WSF and other interesting events?

Good dates to check out:

Read also: Committee for the Abolition of the Third World Debt and 3rd Conference on Degrowth, Ecological Sustainability and Social Equity

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