Women students discuss feminism

August 1, 2001


SYDNEY — Organised around the theme, "Which way forward for women's liberation? Women of the world working together", the 2001 Network of Women Students Australia (NOWSA) conference held in Sydney on July 16-20 was attended by around 300 women.

The conference was marked by debate about how to best take the women's liberation movement forward. In particular, feminists debated the importance of participating in the global anti-corporate movement.

Conference participant, Adelaide Resistance organiser Lisa Lines, explained her view to Green Left Weekly, "We are living in an exciting time — hundreds of thousands of people are radicalising and mobilising on the streets to oppose corporate tyranny.

"World-wide women bear the greatest brunt of poverty exacerbated by corporate globalisation. In this context, fighting for women's rights directly links into the global anti-corporate movement, which must include feminist demands."

According to Lines, this will strengthen the feminist movement. "We should not side-line efforts to organise a women's liberation movement. Instead we should draw the strengths of the anti-corporate movement — internationalism and radicalism — into the feminist movement."

The conference supported a call to organise a non-sexist bloc for the October protests outside the Melbourne meeting of the Commonwealth Business Forum and the Brisbane Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting this year.

Other significant debates at the conference were around what alliances will strengthen the women's liberation movement, and how to combat racism.

Resistance activist Angela Luvera spoke on the topic, "What way forward for the feminist movement?"

"Both sexism and racism are more than simply how people relate to each other", she commented, "These ideas are encouraged in class society because they perpetuate inequalities, and justify systematic discrimination. The only way to defeat them is through struggle — political campaigns against racist and sexist oppression. Challenging left activists to support these campaigns will begin to break down racist, sexist and homophobic attitudes. But guilt politics will do nothing to push the movements forward."

The conference resolved to support a national day of action on August 8 on reproductive rights. It also condemned the racist policies of the Liberal government towards refugees and supported the call to form a sanctuary network to harbour escaped refugees. The 2002 NOWSA conference will be held at James Cook University in Townsville.

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