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WSF 2007 Nairobi Press Briefing January 24

Today’s conference featured 3 African women:

Wahu Kaara (Social Mobilization WSF 2007, Kenya, Debt relief network) Fatma Aloo (Women at WSF 2007, Tanzania Zanzabar, African social council) Sara Longwe (African Social Forum Council, Zambia)

Wahu: criticizes war making, we need to say stop warmaking. That is all about this mobilization. This voice is being heard from Nairobi. The WSF here in Nairobi has mobilized because it has connected with fundamental issues. Debt is used as an instrument of domination and control. World is designed to continue domination and control of other people, from slavery until today. Another world is not only possible, but here with us. We see this with messages here. Inspired. Memory. For example, Mau Mau here in Kenya. We are relying on you people to give the right information. Don’t disinform, but inform. Media tends to disinform, but instead world is staying engaged. We are bonded and that bond will continue.

Sara: Tries to get women’s voice in organizing. We are included, but after and then try to catch up. We want to be included from the beginning. Have we got the women here? I think it is a success, because there are more women then we have ever seen at an African social forum. Working in many different ways. Also in youth camp, which for first time by forum. Allows young women to make their issues visible. Saves resources with moving in taxis from one venue to another. Facilitates African women’s visibility. Everybody must have participation. AIDS–we can lesson scourge, but need resources. Remain very poor. They keep stealing from us. Extractive wars. Smuggle diamonds, etc. and bring back to us. Debt forgiveness–who should forgive whom, because it was stolen from us. Much support from men. Also environment. Many people live in bad circumstances. Not able to come in, and I’m glad that we were able to sort this out. Mostly women came in (for free).

Fatma: What is happening today. What do we do to enhance? Today is a day of movement. People will meet in the morning and decide on the subjects that they are working on. Come together as networks. In afternoon from 2-4:30 there is an overall session in which they go into 21 panels. People will come with what they decide is the plan of action. From Nairobi, we must go with a plan of action. It is now time. We can continue to talk, but we need to act now. 4:30 panels march to outside Gate 4 and plant trees. Symbol that from Nairobi these trees grow into specific actions that take those engaging in neoliberal activities that people will not take it anymore. This whole process of the WSF we have begun to move from donor-dependent NGOivication to activism.

Q: lack of popular base support here in Nairobi as cf. to Bamako, where many more poor people participated. Wahu: as far as I know, they are participating. Where I work with debt I see it. Very keen on topics of debt, food sovereignty, housing. Many Kenyans have gone into organizing in other seminars rather than on their own. How do translate process from NGOs to civil society? Find ways to connect. Question of agency of transformation.

Q: has women’s movement here moved forward? What has it gained? What is the way forward for the African Social Forum? What are the plans? Sara: 2 global women orgs have brought colleagues from all over the world, esp. in Feminist Dialogue–how to advance feminism, esp. since there is a lot of blockage. How to move out and deal with other social movements. How to org nat’lly, regionally, and globally. How to protect message and to get it across. We held more activities. We’ve seen a lot of solidarity. To make sure that these movement come along, and maintain networks with other social movements. Engage on different topics. It’s a growing network–both inside and reach out. We are happy to continue to reach out. Fatma: Way forward depends on what is happening today. Way to Nairobi succeeded by working on national and regional levels. We need to link more, and moving ahead.

Q: what is concern with women in Darfur and Sudan. Wahu: My comment is that the plight of women in Darfur is just a manifestation of the issues we are talking about here. It is so clear that no one can stop this process. We walk w/ the pain of what is happening in Darfur. It is clear if we do not do anything it will continue. We need to expose the issues that put the world in check. What do we do with this new neoliberal paradigm.

Q: having world women leaders like Bachalet in Chile address these women issues. Fatma: Issue of resources. It’s women and children who suffer, not men. You see that there are a lot of issues that are going around on Darfur. It is your responsibility as journalists to get that message out. Wahu: Not just men vs. women, but a societal problem that effected everyone. We are dealing with a system that effects everyone, and we are saying that we want new world that is better for everyone.

Q: personally, I have not seen much of Darfur. I know it is difficult to come here, but I thought forum would help bring people from Darfur here. All I see Sudanese trade unionists denouncing presence of UN and EU, anything that is not African. Sara: we may not have used placards, but in workshops we have talked about this. Struggle for control of resources. Smoke screen while we are busy. We have talked about oil issues in relation to Darfar, it is presence in many different panels.

Q: rumors around corruption issues, mostly that restaurant is run by defense minister in exchange for security. A: don’t know, we work on women’s issues.

Q: Zambia has made itself more debt free than many other African and Latin American countries, and gotten out from under IMF and WB control. Sara: from my perspective we have not come out form under debt, but it is used as a smoke screen. Increase tax base by taxing everything. Some don’t pay taxes, and there is capital flight. IMF is behind this. We are not finished with this issue. They are still in ministry of finances.

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