by Damaris Muth
Early in the morning we, meaning a team of four from “Fondo de Mujeres del Sur”, leave the city in order to visit one of our new grantees in the North of Córdoba. I have been working as an intern in the foundation for the past four months and I have read a lot about the conditions the grantees of our new Project “Strengthening Women’s Defenders of Environmental Rights in Chaco Americano” have to face.
I read the stories about displaced indigenous communities which suffer the loss of their lands and are forced to live in poor outskirts of cities and about isolated peasant communities which lack access to water and electricity. However this is the first time I actually get to visit one of these groups.In “San Jose de la Dormida” we meet up with our project partners form “Plurales”, who have known the women we will be visiting for a long time.
Together we continue our journey on dirt roads until we reach our destination in the middle of nowhere. We are welcomed warmly by the “MUJERES LIBRES DEL NORTE CORDOBÉS”, the “free women of the north of Córdoba”. Later they will explain that just while applying to our project they started identifying themselves as an actual group and gave themselves this name. It was a key moment in their development as a group.We sit down with “mate” and cookies and all my attention is drawn to the stories the women have to tell.
The house we are gathering in is the house of a mother of 5 children which manages the household, animal care and parenting for the most part all by herself since her husband is working in another town. If there is no sun, there is no electricity and if there is no rain, they have to start their journey to pick up water from far away. The past seven years were dry years. Life in the romantic landscape doesn´t seem to be that romantic.
They tell us that they took some of the money they received through the project to participate in the demonstration “Ni una menos” against gender violence, which took place on a national level. While participating in the demonstration they started to realize that they are not alone in this, that they are connected to a big network of women speaking out for their rights from all over Argentina. “We talk about violence towards women in our meetings a lot. We hear about it all the time but the fear women feel in their situations keeps them quiet. And if a woman reports it, the police don’t take her seriously or they blame her for not acting right”, one of the women explains.“That’s why we have to stand together.
The reason we started this group was to fight for our rights, our rights as women and as “campesinas”. The women are economically dependent on their husbands. This makes it almost impossible for them to leave the situation. But we believe that we can change something”, the conductor of the group says.Out in the country their homes are situated far from each other. With the money they received they already were able to buy cell phones to communicate in an easier way.
They want to use the money to encourage more women to join the group. They want to offer workshops on gender and environmental issues to raise awareness among women and empower them. Through the program they will have the chance to participate in conferences where they meet groups which face similar problems. They will be able to learn about ways to impact politics in a sustainable way.After a day full of new impressions I return to the city and to my life which is so different than theirs. Thinking about the meeting I wonder when society and the government forgot about these women who are lacking basic needs like clean water, electricity and security. I sure won´t forget them. We won´t forget them. We stand with them in their fight as women and as “campesinas” in Chaco Americano.