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In times of pandemic, when the order was to stay home, women from all around the world joined voices online through the WOW Global 24 Festival, which took place on 27-28 June. Activists, artists and academics gathered virtually to talk about social and gender inequality and the economic impacts of the pandemic on women. In this context, award-winning Brazilian journalist Eliane Brum gave a powerful account on the current situation in Brazil and what she describes as a "government-driven genocide of Brazil's indigenous people".
She began her presentation by declaring "Marielle presente", in reference to Marielle Franco, the Brazilian politician, feminist and human rights defender killed by gunshot in March 2018. "We must keep on saying and repeating: Who ordered Marielle's murder? And why? Marielle embodied all the power of the outskirts, which are a centre, and which claim their legitimate space as a centre. A black, bisexual woman raised in Maré," a sprawling area of Rio de Janeiro made up of 16 favelas, home to some 140,000 people.
Brum highlighted the tragedy that Brazil is experiencing – as the country surpassed 50,000 deaths from COVID-19, President Jair Bolsonaro continued to refer to it as a "little flu" – and the intimate connection between the pandemic and authoritarianism.
"The Bolsonaro administration is trying to finish the genocide started five centuries ago," Brum stressed. "There is the virus, that the government is doing nothing to stop, and in addition to the virus there's state torture," she added, connecting the human rights violations suffered by people who live in the forest with the implications for climate change.
"We all need to understand very clearly that we are reaching the point of no return, when the forest will become a savannah, and maybe a desert. And we need to understand very clearly that without the largest rainforest in the world there is no possibility to control global warming. And that is why Bolsonaro is not Brazil's problem, he's the world's problem," she stressed.
Brum appealed to international pressure to stop this destructive force and protect our common future, and encouraged learning the lesson this pandemic has taught us: "That it is possible to stop – and especially, to change." She framed the act of imagining the future we want as a form of resistance, and highlighted the need to shift what we see as the "periphery" to the centre: "The Amazon is not periphery, it's the centre." She also called for giving up "the Western privilege of speaking alone" to listen to the voices and perspectives of others – including indigenous communities, black communities, rural communities. Brum finished with a quote from Amazonian poet Élio Alves da Silva:
If I'm alone, I'm only as good as one
If I'm alone, I can't do anything
But me + one, already can do something
The equation of insurrection is me + one + one + one....
Listen to Eliane Brum's full speech:
Image: Aerial view of the Amazon Rainforest, by lubasi via Wikimedia Commons.