Coming Together to Generate Dialogue and Debate to Prepare for the XV EFLAC
By: Gabriela Paz, Program Officer El Salvador
In November 2020, El Salvador will again be the host of the Latin American and Caribbean Feminist Gathering (Encuentro Feminista Latinoamericano y del Caribe – EFLAC). After 25 years, the context has changed, the feminist organizations that were active before have grown and a strong national movement has formed, with a predominantly younger face and intersectional discourse. The challenge now is to build a space for the meeting that the feminist movement of the region holds every four years.
On June 15-16, 2019 the National Women’s Feminist Gathering of El Salvador (Encuentro Nacional Feminista de Mujeres de El Salvador) was held at the Centro Obrero in the Lago de Coatepeque, Santa Ana, to assess the space for EFLAC. We acknowledged one another from our diverse collectives and groups, with the objective of bringing together the feminist movement to participate in building the XV Gathering, elevating the recognition of the many voices of the movement and calling others to join.
One hundred and twenty women from throughout the country responded to the call. The majority were young women under the age of 35, from diverse groups and collectives, and also included founding members of the Salvadoran feminist movement. Recognition of the contribution of these women to the fight for human rights and for an agenda by and for women in El Salvador was incredibly important.
The first part of the gathering traced the path over the course of the past 25 years of struggle since the first EFLAC in El Salvador, more than 20 years ago. El Salvador had recently signed Peace Accords and the social movement on the left was found with the challenge of building a new society through democratization. Candelaria Navas, Gilda Parducci, Morena Herrera and Isabel Asencio shared their experiences of participating in those spaces, and later taking those discussions and debate to the national and regional political sphere in Central America. In the post-war context, it was a historic moment in which organized leftist women from the guerrilla front came into intense contradiction with their male counterparts in the struggle to recognize the need for a feminist agenda that acknowledged women’s specific interests.
They also recalled that they were strengthened through other Central American experiences through exile. They mentioned the discussion in that time about the dual militancy between feminism and the leftist movement. Andrea Burgos and Mariana Moisa brought a younger face and gave voice to the second and third generations of feminism in the country, and shared that EFLAC has been built as a space to recognize diverse voices in Latin American feminism, including at the beginning of the 21stcentury. This covers the difference between institutional feminism and autonomous feminism, and begins to recognize the dialogue with sexual dissidents and other expressions of the movement.
A space was created for each participant to recognize their path in the movement, and assume their identity as a feminist from a place of joy and struggle. Many recognized the role of the feminist that carried them on that path: their mother, aunt, teacher, crazy friend, or themselves.
From this space, we contributed to recognizing the increasingly adverse contexts we face. We recognize that the region is going through a convulsive period, with strengthened fundamentalist and authoritarian governments in place. We also noted that the feminist movement is getting younger and younger, and these new generations bring new ways to the struggle, they recognize the use of art and information technology as powerful activism strategies, and they rescue the agendas that have been with us for years. This includes the right to make decisions about and defend the territory of one’s body, the need to recognize ourselves as diverse and sexual dissidents, the daily struggle that requires fighting against mining throughout the region, the emotional and physical exhaustion of the struggle, questioning sacrifice as a value in the struggle, and the need to find joy as a form of resistance.
Finally, after two days of intense work, we named ourselves and recognized ourselves. It was a space to define work commissions, gather the multiple tasks that are required to prepare for the XV Gathering, and what it means to host more than 3,000 women that will participate from the region. We consider that this space is of vital importance to laugh, enjoy and dance together on the path of feminism.