In 2024, Journey of Landless Women highlights the struggle for land, body and territory

Check out an interview with Lucineia Freitas, from the National Directorate of the MST Gender Sector, about the challenges and flags of the National Day of Landless Women

By Fernanda Alcântara
From the MST Page

With the end of February and the beginning of the scents of March, the Sem Terra women are already beginning their journey in defense of rights. From the motto “We will fight! For our bodies and territories, none less!”, this year’s Journey highlights the daily and tireless struggle of these women for their bodies, territories and rights.

Check out the interview below with Lucineia Freitas, from the National Directorate of the MST Gender Sector, who shares the perspectives and main demands that will be taken forward in this journey of resistance and struggle.

With the motto “We will fight! For our bodies and territories, none less.”, the Journey of Landless Women brings several flags. I wanted you to describe a little about these flags.

If we consider the last period, starting with the struggle in the countryside, several processes have affected women’s lives with great intensity. Violence can be seen in evictions, changes in legislation such as pesticides, the time frame and in the violence committed by invasions of territories, expulsions and many other forms of violence that this capital has in this space. And this has an impact on violence against women’s bodies. Taking data systematized by the CPT, the violence suffered has increased, let’s say, from a social perspective, with the death of leaders and rape – as in the case of indigenous Yanomami girls – as well as domestic violence. In the last period we have had several reports of feminicides linked to rural areas, but also physical, psychological and political violence that takes place at home.

Thus, when we bring the journey of women’s struggle from the perspective of popular peasant feminism, these processes interact. It is not possible to talk about defending the right to land, to territory, without thinking that there are bodies that fight for land and territory and that these bodies are affected differently. With this motto cited in our bodies and territories, we are highlighting the importance of confronting and guaranteeing the right to territory. Thus, the demarcation of the territory of indigenous, quilombola and traditional peoples, from different biomes, guarantees the right to a public policy of permanence in this territory. We are talking about a policy of productive backyards, which have a credit policy, which has a health policy, education policy and several other elements that guarantee life with quality and dignity in this territory, but we are also focusing on women, as it is It is important to defend this body, because this body is also being raped and violated and that is why we demarcate “no less”, no less territory and no less woman in this fight against violence.

In this scenario of violence, facing hunger, the climate and environmental crisis and all of the violence you mentioned are central elements in this journey. How have landless women faced these daily challenges?

When we talk about these effects, when we talk about hunger data, both in the countryside and in the city, this is linked to the climate crisis, but also to conflicts. And when we talk about flooding, when we talk about landslides, we are talking about women. Those most impacted are women, because they are the majority of the population in these territories. And normally those who take the lead in the organization, in the reconstruction, are women.

For us, landless women, facing hunger and climate change necessarily involves agrarian reform. It necessarily involves guaranteeing the right to land and territory. The problem of hunger in Brazil is not production. The problem of hunger in Brazil is the dynamics of production, which is not of food, but of merchandise”

If family farming is encouraged and organized by public policies, we have the potential to guarantee production and food for the population, including an export process. But this necessarily involves implementing people’s agrarian reform and guaranteeing territories.

Another element we bring is that only agrarian reform can change the productive way in the countryside with agribusiness. The most it can implement are actions of green capitalism, which does not effectively face the climate crisis. Because the problem is not direct planting, but the entire nature destruction dynamic that this model implements. If you do direct planting and use pesticides, pollute the water, use fire to expand the planted territory, there is no point. We need to face these elements, and they are not possible to be faced within the framework of the agribusiness production model. And this confrontation necessarily involves guaranteeing territories and implementing People’s Agrarian Reform.

What actions will be brought with the aim of reinforcing women’s rights in the current scenario, also considering the celebrations of the 40th anniversary of the MST?

Our journey is scheduled to take place between March 6th and 8th and will feature various actions, with training camps, marches and negotiations at state levels, whether in federal or state agencies. The journey takes place in dialogue with society, dialogue with the government and solidarity actions, highlighting the importance of putting agrarian reform back on the Brazilian political agenda, because today there are questions about the importance of this policy.

We will carry out dialogue with urban working-class women in general, about confronting violence and the advancement of neo-fascism, because fascism is based on racism and patriarchy. Tackling violence committed against women, whether in the countryside or in the city, is central to this perspective and involves tackling hunger, increasing social support systems for women, ranging from women’s homes to specialized police stations, but also the organization of care, where there are no such spaces, the resumption of specialized care hospitals.

This journey brings a long agenda that dialogues with working class women as a whole, in addition to the food agenda, which is of general interest. And this permeates the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the MST, considering that the Movement was born in confronting this violence of expropriation. The MST’s affirmation comes from families expropriated for the expansion of farms into their territories, and demarcates the defense of territory as a permanent process of defending dignity, defending life. And the MST was also born proposing food production, highlighting the importance of thinking about food from a perspective of facing climate crises and facing social crises. All of this in dialogue with popular peasant feminism, which advances this perspective of confronting the expansion of the agricultural model and all forms of violence included in this racial and patriarchal model.

Finally, the paralysis of agrarian reform and agribusiness are also present in this year’s complaints, as in some other past Days. How is this political dimension, especially after a year of the Lula government, positioned?

In fact, agrarian reform was paralyzed and it did not only happen during the previous government. In the last ten years, we have experienced a considerable reduction in policies for implementing Agrarian Reform, from access to land policies to land tenure policies, because it is necessary to think about this in an integrated way. We are guiding agrarian reform based on the defense of the right to territory, mainly with walking and negotiation actions and understanding that when we talk about the right to territory, we are also talking about permanence in the territory for families who are already in that territory.

In the MST, we have camps that have become popular settlements but are not recognized by Incra [National Institute for Colonization and Agrarian Reform], and these have been in existence for over 20 years. We need to settle the more than 60 thousand families camped with the MST, but we also need to settle the more than 100 thousand families camped with the various organizations fighting for land. So, the Journey is a way of explaining violence in the countryside, the role of the State and how agribusiness perpetuates this violence. This dialogue is one of the ways to guide all of this, because it is popular pressure that will make the government develop effective policies for the construction and implementation of agrarian reform.

Another important point we bring up is the direct relationship between the implementation of agrarian reform and food production.

It was only possible for the MST to build solidarity days, which were from before the pandemic, but which took on a greater dimension during the isolation due to Covid-19, because there was occupation, there was settlement, there was resistance; it was the settlement of these families in these territories that guaranteed the production of food in these lands”

So, the Journey brings this element to the debate: it is only possible to face the hunger that still plagues our country, it is only possible to face food inflation, if we effectively have agrarian reform policies that guarantee both the permanence of those who are already in the territory as access for those who are still in the process of struggle.

*Edited by João Carlos – Translated by Friends of the MST (US)