International Women’s Day in the Brazilian Countryside: New Forms of Political Protest and Resistance

Sônia Fátima Schwendler


Abstract


This paper examines new forms of political protest and resistance carried out by Brazilian peasant women during the celebration of International Women’s Day. Since 2006, the Brazilian women of La Via Campesina (International Peasant Movement) have taken radical action in order to reclaim 8 March as an international day of struggle by women workers and to question the political, cultural and economic model of development. Their efforts to break the silence about the social and environmental impact of the expanding ‘green desert’ created by the eucalyptus monoculture of the big paper companies in Brazil provides a remarkable case of women’s subversive agency. Based on the documentary Rompendo o Silêncio (Breaking the Silence), produced by La Via Campesina to record the action taken by 2,000 women on International Women’s Day in 2006, as well as interviews with women from the organisation who took part in that event, this study argues that peasant women’s radical action provides new insights for the analysis of feminism in Latin America and worldwide. It also demonstrates that through their radical and collective actions, which challenge traditional forms of participation and gender roles, peasant women have become one of the major forces within the current movement campaigning for the development of an agro-ecological and sustainable agriculture in Brazil.

Keywords: women, feminism, La Via Campesina, social movements, green desert, Brazil.


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