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Women From Every Corner Occupy Brasilia: the Marcha das Margaridas

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On August 13th and 14th, 2019 Margaridas from all over the country occupied the streets of Brasilia to carry out the 6th Marcha das Margaridas (from now on, Marcha). The Marcha das Margaridas has mobilized, in its different editions, between 20,000 and 100,000 women for Brasilia and, according to the organizing committee, is the largest action by rural area women in Latin America.

Who are the Margaridas? Margaridas in English translates to daisies (flowers). The name is a tribute to Margarida Maria Alves, a union leader murdered for her struggle for the rights of rural workers in Alagoa Grande, Paraíba, in the northeast of Brazil, in 1983. As the Marcha explains: they tried to silence Margarida, but she became a seed. In 2019, according to estimates of the organizers, 100,000 women travelled long distances to march together at the Brazilian capital to fight for their rights. It is common to hear from the organizers of the Marcha that Margaridas are, above all, women who fight for rights and citizenship.

The protagonists of the Marcha das Margaridas are the “women from the fields, the forest, the waters” a category used to include a diversity of social subjects: working class women, rural women, urban women, family farmers, peasants, indigenous women, quilombolas, “settled” women [inhabitants of land reform settlements]; landless women, rural wage earners, women gatherers of forest products, women coconut breakers, women gatherers of mangaba, river women [ribeirinhas], and fisherwomen. In the last edition of the Marcha, women from the cities were also included.

The Marcha began in the year 2000 and had its sixth edition in 2019. Since 2003, the March has been held periodically every four years. The Secretariat of Women of the National Confederation of the Rural Workers and Family Farmers (Contag), that is, the women’s organization within a federation of rural trade unions, leads and organizes the mobilizing process.

However, the Marcha is not a mass action of the union movement alone. It is a coalition of social movements, feminists, women's movements, trade unions, and international organizations. All the organizations together form the expanded coordination of the Marcha. The Movement of Rural Working Women of the Northeast (MMTR-NE), the Interstate Movement of Babasu Coconut Breakers (MICCB), the National Council of Rubber Tappers, the World March of Women and the United Workers’ Confederation (CUT) have been part of the Marcha coordination since its beginning. Most of these movements have already worked together, all of them with strong social ties and overlapping memberships with the rural workers' trade union movement. At the local level, it is common for activists to engage in multiple organizations. Over the six Marcha das Margaridas editions, social movements and organizations have joined, others have left, but many have been part of the coalition since its beginning. This means that the coalition is a dynamic alliance, which has changed over time.

The political debate of the Marcha das Margaridas talk about the rural contexts in which women suffer multiple forms of oppression.

The meeting in Brasilia to march is the culmination of a long organizational process. The Marcha is, therefore, more than a street protest. It is a permanent action with the following features: (i) mobilization, (ii) formation and (iii) claim-making.

(i) Mobilization: Unlike many more common street protests today, several of which are called for by social networks via internet, the Marcha das Margaridas is led by organized social movements and is the result of the dedicated work of the union and social leaders at the national, state and local levels. The march in Brasilia begins to be officially organized more than a year before the street action. The........

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