The main national-level women’s organization in Mauritius, the Muvman Liberasyon Fam, held an open gathering on 12 February at the LPT Hall in Grand River North West, so as to propose a revival of the spirit of International Women’s Day. “We are in a position to do this,” said Rajni Lallah, “because it is us that in 1977 launched the first-ever popular celebration of International Women’s Day in the country.” LALIT has pleasure in reporting on the event, and publishing the Draft Charter (separate article on this site) as well.
After a half-day meeting and discussion based on eight 5-minute focus-speeches made by eight different members, all the women present voted the Charter below (in its original Kreol version). The important thing that was discussed was the fact that there are two “currents” or “political viewpoints” in the women’s movement over time; the first, for emancipation and liberation, has maintained the original life-spirit of women’s struggles, while the second has been “rekipere” by patriarchy.
Rajni Lallah, presiding, began with the way the celebration of International Women’s Day has gradually lost its dynamism for emancipation and liberation, and given in to the current that tends to re-inforce patriarchy whether that is its aim or not.
Anne-Marie Joly gave a key speech on how part of the women’s movement has changed from opposing patriarchy towards aiming at so-called “gender-equity”, and how this was, and still is, a total capitulation to existing patriarchal hierarchies, and she and Rajni both said it was important to concentrate once again on the big issues that underpin emancipation and liberation of women: work, housing, control of the land and the sea.
Sadna Jumnoodoo spoke on the collapse of women’s employment in both cane and textiles, and how the State has meanwhile tried to wash its hands of unemployment by using misleading definitions of “in work”, by giving all sorts of training with the main aim being not so much education as keeping the unemployed out of the statistics, and by getting banks to lend women money to set up small enterprises, 80% of which go bust within four years, leaving women in debt.
Marlene Joseph spoke of the difficulty women have in getting a house they can afford, and how housing problems then exacerbate other problems like domestic violence, while everyone wrings their hands. She said shelters are important, but they do not address the main issues that change the balance of forces in favour of women.
Dalida Topize spoke of how land is being sold off to millionaires from abroad through IRS projects and so-called Smart Cities, and that the Government must force the sugar estates to use its land, to diversify its agriculture, and to create a whole string of kinds of jobs. Instead, the Government is encouraging them to get rid of the land, while in fact setting up a new form of colonization, she said.
Begum Bedullah addressed the issue of the vast marine resources in the Mauritian state, and this includes not just their non-development, but the fact that the old colonization is still in place on the Chagos and Diego Garcia, which is under military occupation, as well as Tromelin.
Rajni Lallah then spoke on the “unintended consequences” of poorly thought-out demands e.g. when women call for more repression in cases of rape, and the Government slaps on 45 year prison-sentences, this increases women’s real risk of being murdered after a rape.
Lindsey Collen spoke about the tendency for a more direct rule by capitalists to be encroaching, side-stepping the political establishment deemed too close to the capitalists, and this curious phenomenon is world-wide e.g. the election of billionaire bosses like Trump and Berlusconi, and how they are die-hard misogynists, somehow high-lighting the link between capitalism and patriarchy.
Ragini Kistnasamy explained how the State seeks a monopoly over all forms of human organization, and how many women’s associations collude in this abdication to the State; she gave examples from the State’s control over local associations in Mauritius, and also the National Organization of Women in the USA not having criticized Bill Clinton enough when he was guilty of abuse of a young stagiare at the White House because, the NOW said, he is nominating women to positions of power and he is supporting contraception and abortion health care – as if the women’s movement intended to abdicate the struggle for emancipation to the President – and then the women’s movement in the USA finding itself in the unenviable position of not being able to expose and halt the coming to power of a Donald Trump today because of having lost its credibility.
The assembly voted a “DRAFT CHARTER” on that day.
It is being circulated amongst women’s associations, and is also being sent to the Press. There is an excellent article on Thursday 16 February Le Mauricien. (see adjacent article in the NEWS SECTION.)