To Organise Is to Start to Prevail
Second Syndicalist Feminism Workshops
At the end of 2020, La Laboratoria. Espacios de Investigación Feminista and Museo en Red organised the encounter The Syndicalist Feminism to Come. We Are All Workers in the Museo Reina Sofía. Its aim was to reflect on the notion of syndicalist feminism and thus vindicate the dynamism of new emerging struggles that pick up tools from the labour movement (strikes and strike funds), moving out in at least two directions. On one side, these new forms of syndicalism formulate and combat the way in which axes from a system of domination — patriarchy, capitalism and colonialism — are interwoven; and, on the other, they hold protests that transcend a strictly labour-based field, highlighting even more oppressive ways of extracting value and extending beyond the exploitation of work as debt, sexual violence, immigration laws or the dismantling of public services. These new struggles, with the prominence of women and gender-dissident people, place the defence of life and joy at the centre amidst an advancing context of the devastation of bodies and territories.
The first encounter saw a wide array of Spanish and Moroccan collectives participate and share their experiences of collective organisation in highly precarious living conditions. This second set of workshops seeks to weave alliances between these and other lived experiences, not only casting light on the difficulties faced and calling for change from institutions, but also backing rebellion and thinking jointly about strategies and forms of action which are up to the task of current challenges in a present laced with uncertainty but also full of hope.
These sessions set out from the idea that a feminism with the will for transformation must prioritise the most oppressed and violated needs, giving precedence to those who sustain the reproduction of life with their work. A feminism that is truly transformative must place the material conditions of existence at the centre and be able to build syndicalism based on stable networks of mutual support, politicising individual problems and allowing struggles to connect, and at the same time intersecting racial, gender and class oppression. Consequently, this encounter recovers the slogan of Constanza Cisneros, a participant in the first sessions: “To organise is to start to prevail”.
Houda Akrikrez is a member of the cultural association Tabadol de la Cañada Real (Madrid), which has seen women spearhead a major mobilisation as a result of the electricity supply being cut off since 2020 and which has also led to stereotypes and stigma on the city’s most impoverished area being tackled and broken down.
Antonia Ávalos is a member of the Mujeres Supervivientes de Violencias de Género (Survivors of Gender Violence) project developed in Seville, which welcomes and supports women who have experienced this form of violence but from a devictimising perspective and with integral support and in accordance with their needs.
Olaia Bilbao González is a trade union representative for the Struggles of Female Cleaning Workers from the Lab trade union in Bilbao.
Cristina Burneo Salazar belongs to the women’s movement of Ecuador and the collective Corredores migratorios. She is a writer, translator, teacher and advocate at the Popular School for human mobility rights in Ecuador.
Yelena Cvejic and Marcela Puig are part of the Nodo de producción de Carabanchel (Production Hub of Carabanchel, Madrid), a project which assembles different production lines and means of collective production (carpentry, cooking, beer, dressmaking, graphic art, audiovisuals…) open to the Carabanchel neighbourhood.
Juana Cuenca and Heidy Mieles are part of Mujeres de Frente (Women Head-on), a community of cooperation against punishment and for care in Quito, Ecuador, and made up of female prisoners, former prisoners, prisoners’ families, independent street traders, urban waste recyclers, salaried female workers paid by the job, students, teachers, children and teenagers.
Mar Coloma is a nurse at Hospital Ramón y Cajal.
Pastora Filigrana works in Abogadas Sociedad Cooperativa Andaluza (The Andalusian Cooperative of Women Lawyers) and is a human rights activist. She is the author of El pueblo gitano contra el sistema-mundo (Akal, 2021).
Beatriz García Dorado and Julia Tabernero are part of La Laboratoria. Espacios de Investigación Feminista (La Laboratoria. Spaces of Feminist Research).
Alba Gràcia participates in the Assemblea d'Afectades pel Masclisme i el Patriarcat (AAMAS) and the Red de estructuras comunitarias y colectivas de Manresa (the Manresa Network of Community and Collective Structures, Catalonia), a community framework based on mutual support and mass empowerment.
Emmanuelle Hellio is a researcher at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique and a member of the Collective in Defence of Farm Workers (CODETRAS) from Marseille.
Mónica Lencina is a streetwalker, feminist and activist for sex workers’ rights from Argentina. She is also general secretary of the Association of Female Prostitutes from Argentina (AMMAR), from the San Juan province.
Eugenia Monroy is a secondary school teacher in a state school and a feminist activist specialised in affective-sexual diversity and gender.
Ninfa is a streetwalker in the Villaverde industrial estate in Madrid. She is part of the Feminist Association of Sex Workers (AFEMTRAS) and secretary of Identities for the Sex Workers Organisation labour union (OTRAS).
Rafaela Pimentel is an activist in the sphere of feminism and domestic work who received the Avanzadoras Award in 2018. Her work with feminist movements and women’s movements began in her country of origin, the Dominican Republic, and she has continued to be involved in activism since arriving in Spain in 1992. Today, she is part of Territorio Doméstico, a collective in which domestic workers organise and assemble to assert their rights. She is also an activist in the 8M Feminist Coordinator and promotes the creation of the Labour Union of Female Domestic and Care Workers (SINTRAHOCU), the first union of its kind on a state level and registered in October 2020.
Ana Pinto is a day labourer and co-founder of Jornaleras de Huelva en Lucha (an Association for the Struggles of Female Day Labourers in Huelva), where she articulates anti-racist, feminist and ecological syndicalism.
Ana Requena Aguilar is a journalist, head editor of Gender in elDiario.es and creator of the blog Micromachismos, for which she has received a number of awards.
Ana Ruiz Tejada is a food handler in Almería, where she heads a process of syndicalist organisation in a feminised and invisible sector.
Elena Vidal Martín has been a home help worker since 2004. She is the co-founder and general vice-secretary of the Syndicalist Organisation of Direct Action (OSAD) labour union.
7pm The Syndicalist Feminism to Come. Experiences of Struggle and Community Self-protection in the Capital-Life Conflict
This opening session seeks to present different experiences of struggle, popular education and community self-protection that occur in territories where the State’s safeguards of rights are not guaranteed and where the extractive dynamics of capital intensify through plundering, exploiting resources, criminalisation and indebtedness.
Coordination: Pastora Filigrana (Abogadas Sociedad Cooperativa Andaluza)
Participants: Cristina Burneo (Corredores migratorios, Quito, Ecuador), Juana Cuenca and Heidy Mieles (Mujeres de Frente, Quito, Ecuador), Emmanuelle Hellio (Colectivo de Defensa de lxs Trabajadorxs Agrícolas - CODETRAS, Marseilles, France) and Mónica Lencina (Asociación de Mujeres Meretrices de Argentina, AMMAR).
7pm If Women Stop, the World Stops. A Debate on Experiences of the Feminist Strike
Women’s strikes in 2017, 2018 and 2019 resulted in the greatest feminist revolt in recent history, putting forward how conversations around work mean referencing both paid employment and care work, thereby broadening the concept of striking. The processes generated in organising these protests serve to highlight the situation for many women who, due to their material and precarious labour conditions, could not support them, creating highly diverse ways of participating and becoming part of the so-called “global scream”.
Here, these experiences open pathways to reflect on forms of participation and opposition from the situation of women workers, paid or unpaid. The session seeks to create a space to share and think about what feminist strikes meant and how they can keep on being a key tool to build a syndicalist feminism.
Coordination: Rafaela Pimentel (Territorio Doméstico) and Julia Tabernero (La Laboratoria. Espacios de Investigación Feminista)
Participants: Mar Coloma, Eugenia Monroy, Ana Requena Aguilar and Territorio Doméstico
Nouvel Building, Protocol Room and online platform
5pm The Fight for a Decent Life Is Everywhere. Community Organisation and Feminist Syndicalism
We come across direct action and mutual support networks — the touchstones of syndicalism — in many community struggles that build collective structures to organise support of life in other forms, be it through building affective and material networks — the fight for access to basic resources such as electricity and housing — or productive projects that make us live with lower salary dependence. Because, opposite the precariousness and isolation that capitalism propels us towards, blueprints of collective organisation are all around. “To organise is to start to prevail” and to start to live differently.
Coordination: Beatriz García Dorado (La Laboratoria. Espacios de Investigación Feminista)
Participants: Antonia Ávalos (Mujeres Supervivientes de Violencias de Género, Seville), Houda Akrikrez (Tabadol de la Cañada Real cultural association, Madrid), Yelena Cvejic and Marcela Puig (Nodo de producción de Carabanchel, Madrid), and Alba Gràcia (Assemblea d'Afectades pel Masclisme i el Patriarcat – AAMAS and Red de estructuras comunitarias y colectivas, Manresa).
7pm Precarious Lives. The Revolving Doors of Impoverished Workers
The most feminised jobs are often the most precarious. Jobs that fail to provide financial stability and subject women’s lives to temporariness imposed by business logic. Therefore, women must frequently rotate between one area of activity and another: seasonal farm workers, sex workers, and domestic and care workers face similar precarious conditions which often overlap with their status as migrant women. Yet from these experiences valuable strategies of resistance also emerge.
Coordination: Nazaret Castro (La Laboratoria. Espacio de Investigación Feminista)
Participants: Najat Bassit (Jornaleras de Huelva en Lucha), Olaia Bilbao González (Trabajadoras de limpieza en lucha, sindicato Lab, Bilbao), Ninfa (Asociación Feminista de Trabajadoras del Sexo - AFEMTRAS, Barcelona, and Organización de Trabajadoras Sexuales - OTRAS), Ana Ruiz Tejada (food sector worker, Almería) and Elena Vidal Martín (Organización Sindical de Acción Directa - OSAD).
Nouvel Building, Auditorium 200 and online platform