African and colonized working class women building international alliance targeting imperialism, colonialism

WASHINGTON, D.C.—From March 4 – 5, 2023 representatives from the African National Women’s Organization (ANWO) attended the International Women’s Alliance (IWA) U.S. Political Conference in Washington, DC. The theme of their conference was, “Rouse the Militant Women’s Movement to Action! Unite Working Women to Confront the Crisis and Fight U.S. Imperialism.”

The International Women’s Alliance is described as an anti-imperialist global alliance of militant grassroots-based women’s organizations, institutions, alliances, networks and individuals committed to advancing national and social liberation and gender equality.
IWA was started by the Philippine-based International League of People’s Struggle (ILPS) in 2010, with the purpose of forming a global anti-imperialist women’s alliance.

ANWO was introduced to IWA at the 2022 Black is Back Coalition mobilization in Washington, D.C. after two member organization representatives, from Katarungan DC and Anakbayan DC, joined other speakers in condemning the July 29 FBI attacks on the Uhuru Movement.

Non-feminist anti-imperialist women organizing

We were later invited to attend this conference and accepted for the following reasons: 1) IWA centers imperialism, not patriarchy as the root cause of the special oppression of women. 2) IWA was created by working class Filipino people who are fighting against U.S. and European imperialism. 3) IWA does not subscribe to gender politics.

Having navigated women’s organizing for eight years, confronting gender and identity politics, we were hesitant to engage. Our interest was piqued, however, after attending a meeting with local organizers who explained their objective was to pull together a network of women organizations opposed to imperialism.

If it was something tangible, ANWO needed to be in the room. African Internationalism needed to be in that room.

Although day one’s plenary program was short, it seemed robust. There were several speakers and a panel before the conference broke to prepare for their rally and march which targeted the Philippine Embassy, the World Bank and the White House.

The plenary speakers included local DC activists and keynotes from IWA Chairperson, Azra Sayeed and Monisha Rios, a Puerto Rican disabled vet and clinical psychologist that presented on imperialist economic exploitation. The worker’s panel included Edith Saldano from Starbucks Workers United and Tina Brown, a former Amazon employee who is advocating for her sister Poushawn Brown, who died as a result of Amazon’s negligence.

The conference was well attended and included the branches from Filipina anti-imperialist organizations GABRIELA, Bayan, ILPS and Anakbayan as well as representatives from Black Alliance for Peace (BAP), Pan-African Community Alliance (PACA), Palestinian Youth Movement (PYM), Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES), and Resist.

Program needed African Internationalism

The program was generally good. Their analysis was focused and concise. Even though the conference had participation and input from a couple of African women, no one was there representing Africa, except us. The program lacked the anti-colonial perspective that can only come from African Internationalism.

The conference centered on anti-imperialism but often used terms the Uhuru Movement has debunked like neoliberalism, racism and fascism, to describe conditions caused by imperialism.

Racism and fascism centers white people. Colonized people aren’t trying to end racism or trying to get white people to like us. We are fighting to end colonialism–a system founded on exploitation, violence and oppression that installed and maintains power over the colonized. To the extent that colonized people take power, it won’t matter what white people think.

ANWO engagement in the program

President Yejide Orunmila was invited to speak at the White House portion of the march. She brought the analysis that was missing at the conference, by defining settler and domestic colonialism and raising up the Hands off Uhuru Campaign. The video can be found on ANWO’s Facebook and Instagram pages.

Day two of the conference consisted of a presentation of IWA’s U.S. plan for the next year and breakout sessions focused on workers, militarism, national liberation, migration, violence against women and youth organizing.

ANWO participated in the national liberation breakout group. It was opened up by women who were either supporting or involved in armed struggles happening in the Philippines and El Salvador. Here, ANWO had an opportunity to make suggestions to include anti-colonial analysis in IWA’s strategy such as our perspective on AFRICOM as a military operation that is impacting Africa, and the struggle against Child Protective Services (CPS) as it relates to the colonial state destabilizing women’s resistance and we invited them to the Black Women’s Convention.

While the majority of the attendees were Filipina organizers, we were able to link with incredible women and gain support for the analysis and work of the Uhuru Movement from the body of the plenary and the leadership of IWA.

ANWO will be following up with IWA leadership to be counted as one of the organizations engaged in the struggle against imperialism. We look forward to continued solidarity with these and other colonized women workers.

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