Day 2: Women’s Government at Zapatista Freedom School


On the second day of sessions, our six Zapatista teachers from the autonomous communities talked about the Women’s Revolutionary Law which was created since the beginning of their fight (see below the 10 Principles of that Act which was made public since their uprising in 1994).

1. Women, regardless of their race, creed, color or political affiliation, have a right to participate in the revolutionary struggle in any way that their desire and capacity determine.

2. Women have the right to work and receive a just salary.

3. Women have the right to decide the number of children they have and care for.

4. Women have the right to participate in the matters of the community and to take charge if they are freely and democratically elected.

5. Women and their children have the right to primary attention in their health and nutrition.

6. Women have the right to education.

7. Women have the right to choose their partner and are not obliged to enter into marriage.

8. Women have the right to be free of violence from both relatives and strangers.

Rape and attempted rape will be severely punished.

9. Women will be able to occupy positions of leadership in the organization and hold military ranks in the revolutionary armed forces.

10. Women will have all the rights and obligations which the revolutionary laws and regulations give.

“We Zapatista women have conquered freedom through our effort ever since we started our organization” they said. “We conquered freedom to reach equality between male comrades and female comrades. Our organization taught us that we are worth it, that we can participate. We can fill positions in the governments at every level – Local, MAREZ (Autonomous Rebellious Zapatista Municipality), and Good Government Boards, we can be sheriffs, health promoters, health coordinators, education and agro-ecological coordinators and so on.

They stressed that it’s been an effort for 19 years against 520 years of bad habits, so it has been hard both for men and women, and they have now benefits that their mothers and grandmothers did not have. “Women in the capitalistic system are a commodity, just like animals, like a pig or a horse,” they said. “The female body is used to promote more commodities, but we think we did not come to this earth to be treated like commodities.”

They talked about the challenges both for men and women to accept that women have the same rights. When asked which ones where the main difficulties, they said that one of the hardest parts of the process was facing criticism – from other non-Zapatista women, from men. For men, the hardest part was to learn domestic tasks, to stay at home doing what women do, to overcome the destructive criticism coming from the sexist non-Zapatista society. “ If they see a man washing his laundry they criticize you,” they said. “It has been very difficult but we overcame it.”

In some areas, it was customary for women to work just like pack animals, they had to carry the firewoods all alone. So when men started carrying the firewoods other men made fun of them. Men felt ashamed when they carried it and another men saw them carrying their children or washing the laundry, but they got it over with.

When talking about the process for women to fill government positions, they said that in the beginning only a few women got those positions. Women had to work hard to encourage each other and trust themselves to do the job, but men had to work too to encourage women and persuade them they could do the job, because there were women who did not think they could do it. Now there are women who cannot read or who don’t speak Spanish and they are part of their government too (usually older women, because younger women get education in their autonomous schools). These women bring their daughters to take notes, write or read and translate, but they can fill government positions.

They stressed the fact that whenever a woman’s position needs to be replaced, it is always replaced by another woman, not by a man.

When asked how women avoid to work twice or triple workday, they explained that they don’t have to because now the domestic work is distributed equally.

“We as men we feel this is an achievement they have conquered,” men said. “To us it is encouraging to see that they are participating, now we are not just one team but two teams. Now we are not alone, Now women are also government and they share knowledge and experience with other women. What we still regret a little is that there are still men who don’t understand that women must get involved, because the fight is not completed if women don’t get involved”.

Women also highlighted that they feel sad for other women in the country because, even though they go to college, they are not free. Their bad government makes fool of them, they cannot participate in their government even though their bad government says they do, and these women are not free. “However, we are certain that if these women join together, organize and mobilize they will conquer their freedom,” Zapatistas said.

“Now, in our government, there are not just 10 women like when we started but many more. We are confident that those other women in Mexico will make it it they join together and fight. They probably did not have to face the same problems we did. They probably did not face opposition in their families or from their parents, but that if they organize themselves they will make it

“We are certain that if other women start organizing themselves they won’t face the same challenges we did because challenges change depending on where you are, your region and culture, but you can make it.

“Zapatista women are not abused anymore. If a woman is mistreated by her man, that is not accepted by our system, and the government board will act.

“We have faced challenges but we have made progress. There are still difficulties. Example, some of us must walk about one hour before taking our bus to go to work government representatives,even so we do it because we understand that our involvement is important.

“Conquering our freedom is not easy but we are certain that it is possible

“Talking about these achievements for an hour seems simple but it has taken 19 years, which is not too much in comparison to 520 years of abuse and exploitation . . . our female comrades have done two or three times the effort to be where they are now . . . they have also incorporated our heritage (in natural medicine, midwifes etc.) . . . and this is done so that they can leave a legacy to their daughters and granddaughters

This is not a recipe either, we learn by just doing it and advancing.”

The next class will be about resistance. Our session is at 10 pm in Spanish with limited English translation online.

For a world where many worlds fit



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