To prepare this text, I have been reading the messages I have written to celebrate every 8th of March since the Women for Africa Foundation was born eleven years ago.
And once again I have been amazed at how much things have changed for women since then. Or rather, feminism; since it is certainly not the same as it once was.
Women face the same challenges as in past lustrums, even if there has been some progress in important areas such as political representation. And yet, as all studies on the gender gap point out, the steps we take forward are so small and the steps we take backwards are so great that, according to the latest UN figures, it will take 286 years to achieve true equality.
In contrast, feminism, as a philosophy and as a social and political movement, has moved from the realms of demonisation or, what is almost worse, ridicule, to a major acceptance: not only by women, but also by many men. Today, being a feminist is a global trend.
In other words, we have won the ideological battle, but this triumph has brought with it the fierce counterattack of the most backward patriarchy. The patriarchy that is so fond of totalitarianisms and dictatorships; systems in which it can govern women’s bodies and lives unobstructed, without any tendencies or laws to hinder it.
And we are seeing all over the world how they are trying to achieve it. Some are striving to ban abortion; others are abandoning the Istanbul Convention, which protects women from violence. The most barbaric of them strip women of their most elementary human and citizenship rights in the face of the global community’s passivity or complicity, depending on the economic power in question.
Friends, today, defending women, defending women’s freedom, autonomy and power means defending democracy, human rights and universal values. And all of this is at risk if we fail.
Today, in feminism, in feminisms, there is no one left over. Not even disagreement. But we must be aware of what is at stake and always remember who is, who are, our detractors.
On this 8th of March, once again, we are going to make it very clear to them.
María Teresa Fernández de la Vega
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