Closure of Women’s Summit

The women’s forum closed Thursday afternoon with a marathon 4-hr long plenary session. The session began with reports from the six sessions that met in the morning. The program lists 4: Women’s rights in light of collective rights, Women and the construction of power and democracy, Models of development and the impact of globalization from the point of view of women, and Violence and discrimination against Indigenous women. Apparently 2 more on communication and cosmology/identity were added.

After the presentations from the morning sessions, one person from each organization from each country was given a couple minutes to give corrections or additions. This quickly turned into shouting matches about who had the right to represent which organizations, and which organizations had the right to speak, with small Amazonian groups complaining about being marginalized in the process. Blanca Chancoso, the moderator, kept trying to get people to be brief and give concrete proposals, but mostly people just wanted to talk even if they had little to add.

The event was entirely in Spanish, with only one representative from Brazil and none from the US or Canada present. There were also no representatives from Costa Rica, Nicaragua, or Paraguay. Only 2 women came from Venezuela.

Blanca said at the beginning that men were free to participate, but that women should be allowed to speak first. In fact, this was an entirely women-run event. It was not until the very end when Bolivian women kept insisting that a defense of coca needed to be included in the final statement (and Blanca kept insisting that it was already there) when a man stood up to defend the ancient value of the sacred leaf that the “Padres Inkas” gave to us, etc.

The final topic of discussion was where to hold the next women’s summit, and the decision was to hold it in Bolivia in 2011. This will probably also influence the decision to hold the fifth Indigenous summit in Bolivia. This was part of a broader discussion about how to carry their participation forward into the Indigenous summit that starts tomorrow.

The women’s summit was supposed to close on the Uros islands tomorrow, but because of logistical problems (and who knows what else) that plan was canceled. So, the women’s summit ended with this plenary session, and the general summit will begin in the morning with a religious ceremony in the Plaza de Armas.