The Bay Area Coalition Against the FTAA, in solidarity with the Zapatistas March on Mexico City, sent a delegation to meet with Senator Feinstein and Boxer’s office to demand they oppose the FTAA and Fast Track Legislation. Hundreds demonstrating in the streets with signs and puppets proceeded to the Mexican Consulate, accompanied by police and critical mass.
Friday, February 23, 2001 we launched our campaign to stop the FTAA in the Bay Area. We met with staff from our Senator’s Office, and then proceeded with hundreds of people, puppets, signs and torches in a procession to the Mexican Consulate, in support of the Zapatistas, who are leaving their mountain to march to Mexico City. The president of Mexico will not allow the International Red Cross to join them and their lives have been threatened. Our procession stopped at corporate criminal offices, Citibank, and the Gap, we joined others demonstrating against U.S. military intervention and imperialism. Many movements converge to fight the FTAA and Globalization- peace, justice, environment, youth, seniors, people of color, women. I was asked to represent women in the delegation to our elected representatives, this is what I said:
Women have suffered the most under “globalisation.” The Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the U.S., the North American Free Trade Agreement, and the General Agreement on Trades and Tariffs, are misleading terms, a more accurate title for the treaty would be “Deadly Devouring Extraction Orders.” All these rules allow transnational corporations to force deadly policies that rapaciously exploit the environment, labor, and in particular, women. The wealthiest in all countries, and the affluent within industrialized countries, get to consume 80% of the world’s resources, while the vast majority of humanity struggle to survive, and die of hunger, disease, lack of the vital necessities of life- nourishing food, clean water, health care, education.
The Rules of the corporations, by the corporations and for the corporations are antithetical to life. By putting profit over people, they have destroyed millions of lives, driven farmers from their land, obliterated 90% of the edible food species in the last hundred years. The dumping of cheap foodstuffs makes it harder and harder for the small or subsistent farmers to keep their land, and feed their families. If the man goes off to find a job; it is the woman who does the farming, as well as child-rearing.
Over 90 million Latin and Caribbean farmers live below the poverty line, over half in “extreme poverty.” Women are the sole heads of households in 8 to 10,000,000 households in that region. Two to three million also work as seasonal wage-laborers, while 30 to 40 million farm, as well as work in small rural industries. This situation drives down wages even more. Forcing peasants off their land into cities where people, especially women, have been super-exploited in foreign owned factories. The conditions are so harsh that people’s health is often ruined after less then ten years, but the continual migration from rural areas to the cities allow corporations to treat them worse than disposable objects, although physical and sexual abuse occurs far too frequently.
With horrendously low wages, mothers must sometimes face terrible choices between food, water or medicine for their children. Water privatization quadrupled the price of water in Bolivia and led to great social protests. Already women spend an estimated 40,000,000 hours every year hauling water from distant and polluted sources. As water prices rise, women are forced to ration water, or substitute unsanitary water for clean water. Unclean water is a leading cause of child mortality and illness in developing countries. Women are the major primary healthcare providers for their families.
The International Finance Center of the World Bank makes no pretenses about its purpose. They are not interested in alleviating poverty; their sole purpose is to make money. They show corporations how to privatize water, electricity, land profitably. The Cree said once- “Only after the last tree has been cut down. Only after the last river has been poisoned. Only after the last fish has been caught…Only then you will find that money cannot be eaten.”
Women want to feed their children. If they cannot grow their own healthy food and must buy it, they do not want pesticide laden, genetically modified, radiated, industrial food- food safety is a major concern to women. The FTAA would further drive the small farmers off their land, along with their knowledge of local plants and seeds. Access to clean water is essential for health, it is sacred, a human right- not something corporations can pollute freely, so that they can commodify the scarce, uncontaminated sources that remain.
Social services such as education, health, even the postal system are threatened by the FTAA, making it more likely to permit only the affluent access and to restrict or terminate services to those who might need, but cannot afford them. As government’s are forced to lay off workers in the Health Care and Educational professions, women are the first to be shed, and their earnings drop considerably as they scramble to find other work.
While corporations can sue for lost profit opportunities caused by restrictive environmental, health or labor standards, women cannot sue for the loss of life, health, the ecosystems upon which their lives depend. They cannot sue when their original handicraft designs are patented by a big coporation and mass produced and sold elsewhere.
Africa is suffering death rates from AIDS of up to 25-30% of its people, a catastrophe not totally unlike the Bubonic Plague which wiped out a substantial part of Europe’s population. This is criminal; this is preventable; this is genocidal; this is corporate greed over human need.
Brazil has challenged the rules of International Trade under the national emergency/reality of AIDS. It has begun to produce generic drugs and treat all people with AIDS for free. It has continually been pressured by the pharmaceutical companies to stop its program. Other countries could follow Brazil’s example and the pharmaceutical companies are being forced to reduce prices. They continue to resist in every way the global generic production of drugs which could prevent or alleviate greatly the expanding holocaust of AIDs.
The danger of Brazil being pressured to stop treating freely its 90,000 AIDs victims under, a more corporate-friendly intellectual property right treaty is real and another reason to oppose the FTAA. The secrecy, deception, myths surrounding “free trade” and a heartless regime bent on making money, regardless of the life threatening, catastrophic disasters strewn in its wake are thoroughly condemned by women and all who cherish life, liberty and justice.
As a woman, as a delegate of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, I am firmly opposed to the FTAA and will do all in my power to stop it. I was also a delegate to the recent World Social Forum, where thousands of people from all over the world, part of the growing global movement, visible by their protests against the WTO and the IMF, in Seattle, Washington D.C., Prague, Melbourne, Seoul, Dakarâ€¦ We reject the logic wherein the free-market and money are considered the only measure of worth. From one hundred and seventeen countries, but primarily Brazil, we gathered to continue building a great alliance of a wide diversity of groups dedicated to social change, to chart a path for “another World where human beings and nature are the center of our concern.”
Globalisation reinforces a sexist and patriarchal system. It increases the feminisation of poverty and exacerbates all forms of violence against women.
In the Call for Mobilisation from Porto Alegre, it specifically says,
“We call on people everywhere to support the mobilizations against the creation of the Free Trade Area in the Americas, an initiative which means the recolonization of Latin America and the destruction of fundamental social, economic, cultural and environmental human rights.”
Become involved! There will be major actions in Quebec, the border of Canada, the US/Mexico border, Buenos Aires- and other cities.
– A Brief Bio –
Carol Brouillet is a Co-Founder of the International Media Project, which produces Making Contact, a half-hour radio program now heard on over 165 stations, primarily in the U.S. and Canada. (Making Contact will also pilot a new daily show beginning in February 2001.) Carol also helped found the Who’s Counting Project, which promotes the film Who’s Counting? Marilyn Waring on Sex, Lies & Global Economics. Both non-profits seek to connect people, vital ideas and important information to nurture healthy social change, economic justice and ecological sustainability. A passionate advocate of local currencies to raise consciousness, nurture community, and increase local self-reliance, her paper Reinventing Money, Restoring the Earth, Reweaving the Web of Life has won an honourable mention from the Millenium Institute as one of the best ideas for the 21st Century.
Author: Carol Brouillet
News Service: Independent Media Center