This past week AF3IRM celebrated the passage of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA). We salute all those who fought to keep the protective rights of all women – especially those of immigrants, Native women, and the LGBT community - in tact and we join them in our collective victory.
But we also remember that this was not an easy battle – that Congress allowed VAWA and TVPA to lapse before voting them back in; that the GOP openly tried to exclude those who needed the most protection; and that in 2005, there were only 4 “nay” votes, total, against VAWA, compared to 138 this time in the House and 22 in the Senate. These attempts to strike down VAWA and TVPA - to literally erase years of progress and to erase the protections of women against intimidation and violence – did not go unnoticed.
To those who continue to wage this war against women, we are here to remind you thatwe do not forget.
We do not forget that on March 8th, women and allies around the world gather and celebrate International Working Women’s Day. For more than one hundred years, March 8th is a day to remember, to acknowledge, and to forward the struggles of women. This year AF3IRM renews its commitment to the liberation of women, not only here in the United States, but worldwide. We reassert our demand to the end of violence against women in all its forms – whether physical, sexual, psychological, economic, or political.
We do not forget that acts of physical and sexual violence have been inflicted upon women and continue to this day and that 75% of the world’s women will experience physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime. We do not forget that rape is still used as a weapon in war, in conflict, and even in homes. We do not forget that women and children continue to be trafficked for labor and for prostitution.
We do not forget that women, especially women of color, are still paid less than men for the same work. We do not forget that transnational women are treated as disposable workers and that these women, who disproportionally hold the majority of the unregulated and underpaid domestic worker positions, lack protection. We do not forget that third-party corporate “outsourcing” de-unionizes jobs and threatens the job security of women workers who comprise 45% of union membership in this country.
We do not forget the state violence against women, as seen through the assault on VAWA, TVPA, and women’s reproductive rights and the intimidation exercised by government agencies such as ICE against immigrant families, tries to be waged by the very people who are supposed to protect us. On this International Women’s Day, AF3IRM asserts that the use of power to oppress and demean will not go unchecked or unchallenged.
This is not a time to be complacent – for each step we move forward, they have tried to push us back. Progress is not measured by freedom for one person – it is measured by freedom for us all.
We do not forget the long history of violence, of abuse, of persecution, of intimidation, of discrimination that women have and still face here and abroad. So every time they work to deny us our rights and undermine our progress, we speak out and we push back.
Every time they use violence and intimidation as a means to silence us, we cry out and we fight back.
Each time they try to force us back, we revolt and we move forward.
We move forward because we are informed, we are aware, and we are not alone. These acts of violence and erasure mean nothing in the end, because we will not be erased – because we choose to remember and we choose not to forget.
We renew our efforts not only to demand the end to these efforts to erase our progress and our collective histories – but commit ourselves to the political and personal acts of writing and speaking on our own histories and ensuring that our voices, our issues, our struggles will live on.
We commit ourselves to the very act of being – we are freedom-loving, justice-seeking human beings consciously and actively fighting for change.
We challenge women to ask yourselves– what will you do with your histories, with your lives, with your bodies? We asked ourselves and we knew the answer was not to forget the struggles, as well as the victories, that brought us to this point in history. We knew the answer was not to forget the women in other countries working towards their independence. We knew we could not leave behind the women warriors, fighters, spiritual guides, and creators who have lived and died before us, just like we could not forget the women in our own families and in our own lives.
As Edwidge Danticat said, “What goddesses have joined, let no one cast asunder. With every step you take, there is an army of women watching over you.”
As we move forward in our fight, we carry this army of women with us and we join with other women who inspire and lead change. We bring together our legions of warriors, and in the face of all the attacks against us, we find strength in each other and in the actions of movements worldwide. We stand in solidarity with the women-founded Idle No More movement for indigenous sovereignty, with the recent protests of women in India against rape culture, with workers fighting for their rights in transnational corporations sweatshops and factories.
Just as the opposition bands together to wage its war against us, we stand in solidarity with you – because we too choose to remember, we too choose not to forget, we too choose action over silence.
We call on all women to join the struggle for liberation. Every heart is a revolutionary cell – within each of us lies the power to lead change. Together, we rise; together, we will prevail.
In the face of these pervasive and systemic acts of violence and oppression, our very existence is a political and revolutionary act – and we will not be erased.