By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – As many as 70,000 women, many wearing the symbol of the movement – a straw hat with flowers on it – descended on Brasília on Tuesday (August 11th) for the fifth March das Margaridas (March of the Daisies). During the event, marchers want to call attention to the plight of Brazilian rural women on issues such as domestic violence, gender discrimination, education, sustainable development and agrarian reform.
“We will continue to fight for women [rights],” said general coordinator of the March and secretary for Women’s Issues at Contag (National Confederation of Rural Workers) Alessandra Lunas during the opening rally on Tuesday night. “The March is a reference for a change in direction, [reference] of public policy victories for our country,” she added.
The movement is named after rural worker and union leader, Margarida Maria Alves, who was killed in 1983 due to her work in human rights in the state of Paraiba. Many of the women present in the rally on Tuesday traveled more than 45 hours by bus to arrive in Brasília.
“The March is composed of colleagues who have traveled across Brazil to make history,” said Carmem Foro, vice-president for CUT (National Workers Union). “Here is a crowd that has occupied the streets and has created propositions to transform reality, after years of being invisible.”
Also present at the opening rally was former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who said he was preparing to once again travel the country and speak to the population about their concerns and fears. “I want to see if our adversaries are willing to walk around this country and discuss this country as it needs to be discussed,” he said to a roaring crowd.
The Rousseff government was represented by Patrus Ananias, Minister of Agrarian Development and Eleonora Menicucci, who heads the secretary for Women’s Policies. Ananias told the crowd that the administration is continuously working on policies that will guarantee a dignified and decent life for rural women.
On Wednesday afternoon, August 12th, Brazil’s President, Dilma Rousseff is expected to speak to marchers at Brasilia’s soccer stadium, Mane Garrincha.
The Marcha das Margaridas, which started in 2000, is said to be the largest women’s march in Latin America and one of the largest in the world. A survey conducted by IPEA (Institute of Applied Economic Research) in 2011 showed that marchers are on average over forty years old and come from the Northern and Northeastern regions of Brazil.
Approximately 68 percent of them live in rural areas and rely on family farming for their survival. The survey also found that a great deal of the women on these marches have suffered some kind of domestic violence during their lifetime.