"Otro Mundo Es Posible": Women Power in the VI Caracas World Social Forum and the Bolivarian Revolution

Article excerpt

Abstract

This is an insider's account of the participation of a Boston delegate at the World Social Forum in Caracas, Venezuela in January 2006. She relates the stories of women who attended the WSF and those women who through their leadership in their communities create a new world order based on the major themes of the WSF. The health and welfare missions created by the Bolivarian revolution of Hugo Chavez are testimony to the theme of the forum that through the process of participatory democracy "Otro Mundo Es Posible".

Keywords: VI World Social Forum/Caracas, Feminism, participatory democracy

Acknowledgments

The author wishes to acknowledge the hundreds of Venezuelans who generously took the time to share their stories and fill me with inspiration and awe. I also wish to thank my partners with the Boston delegation to the World Social Forum in Caracas who shared information and were inspiring in their own right.

A major feminist contribution has been the practice of informing theory by one's own experiences. Analyzing others' experiences likewise has led to new theories and practices. Experiments in participatory democracy have been major contributions of the New Left and feminist movements. The emergence of the World Social Forum in 2001 and new mass social movements, especially in Latin America have served as inspiration for proponents of democracy around the world.

In the first part of this paper I offer an analysis of my experience as a participant in the Boston Social Forum (2004) and Caracas World Social Forum (2006). I argue that the choice of Caracas as a location for the VI WSF and the Venezuelan context gave a political and social shape to this WSF that was unique and cannot be ignored. For this reason, in the second part of this paper I highlight how some of the major feminist themes of the Caracas World Social Forum have been conceptually shaped as well as carried out in practice by women leaders throughout their communities in Venezuela. The Venezuelan women not only believe the overall theme of the World Social Forum that "another world is possible," they are bringing it to fruition.

From the Boston Social Forum to the VI World Social Forum in Caracas

I attended the Boston Social Forum in the summer of 2004, just before the Democratic Convention began. At that time I had little idea of its origins and its significance both to myself and to the world. I went as a curious observer and became a participant in the Women's Tribunal on Violence Against Violence sponsored by the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom and other women's groups. Four of us shared our stories about violence with a limited audience. Later that evening the "wise women" who listened issued their verdict: violence against women was a systemic occurrence which was largely unacknowledged and treated in our society as personal wrongs. As a faculty member at University of Massachusetts I had taught about gender violence. Now I was an insider telling my own story, integrating theory and praxis.

When I heard there would be a VI World Social Forum in Caracas, Venezuela two years later in January of 2006 I signed up to be part of a self-appointed Boston delegation. I have a particular interest in Latin cultures and have traveled and lived in this part of the world. In 1961 I spent three weeks with an Antioch student group observing the early stages of the Cuban revolution. Thirty-seven years later in 1998 I returned to Cuba with the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) as a delegate to the "Encuentro Internacional de Solidaridad Entre Mujeres." Through the 1970s and into the early 1990s I was part of the Guatemala committee in Boston working to support the Guatemalan refugees. In 1994 I became an acompanante accompanying Guatemalan refugees back to their homeland after 13 years in camps in Chiapis, Mexico. (2) Becoming a delegate to the WSF was a continuation of my life-long activism. …

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