This encuentro says much about the evolution of women’s participation in the Zapatista movement. In its early years, the EZLN, like many other revolutionary movements, saw the importance of women’s participation, but for the sake of strengthening the movement, rather than to promote women’s liberation as a goal in itself: “Compañeras, the revolutionary struggle needs you..!” As time went on, the EZLN began to recognize the importance of women having their own spaces, their own voices, and real leadership within the movement.
This is not an uncommon process. During the encuentro, I was talking to a member of the Via Campesina delegation, a Brazilian woman representing the Landless People’s Movement (MST) and she nodded thoughtfully and said in Portuguese, “yes, it’s the same process that the MST went through.”
This women’s gathering represents how far the Zapatista movement has come in valuing women’s voices and participation. It is difficult to imagine an event like this taking place even a few years ago.
this echoes what an indigenous friend from chiapas said to me. that this was an amazing step for zap women and that what we are watching and participating in is a process in which zap women are able to organize themselves and decide for themselves what is their role in their communities. it is can be messy and beautiful. complicated and necessary.