Margaridas path

Inspired by the union leader Margarida Maria Alves, murdered in August

Published in 12/08/2015 - 10:43 By Luana Lourenço reports from Agência Brasil - Brasília

Mulheres camponesas viajam mais de 40 horas de ônibus para a Marcha das Margaridas, em Brasília. Elas buscam mais representatividade e melhores condições de trabalho e de vida no campo (Marcello Casal Jr/Agência Brasil)

Agência Brasil traveled more than 2,000 kilometers in a 44-hour journey to follow a group from the outskirts of Campina Grande, in Paraíba, and understand the reasons that motivate and encourage the march. Marcello Casal Jr/Agência Brasil

Why do thousands of female rural workers come to Brasília since 2000 for a march that bears the name of Margarida Maria Alves from the Northeast state of Paraíba? Why do they leave their houses, farms, husbands and children to travel for more than two days to the capital of Brazil?

Agência Brasil traveled more than 2,000 kilometers in a 44-hour journey to follow a group from the outskirts of Campina Grande, in Paraíba, and understand the reasons that motivate and encourage the march. In this year's edition, the fifth march since 2000, 70,000 margaridas (daisies in English) are expected to be brought together on the main route of Brasília, Eixo Monumental, which leads to the Três Poderes Square, where the three Brazilian governmental branches are present: the National Congress, the Supreme Court and the Presidential Office.

Mulheres camponesas viajam mais de 40 horas de ônibus para a Marcha das Margaridas, em Brasília. Elas buscam mais representatividade e melhores condições de trabalho e de vida no campo (Marcello Casal Jr/Agência Brasil)

Among the reasons for these women to hold the march are their eagerness to improve the quality of life in rural areasMarcello Casal Jr/Agência Brasil

Among the reasons for these women to hold the march are their eagerness to improve the quality of life in rural areas, with more education and healthcare facilities for them and their children; more inclusion of female peasants in the productive system; and the desire to help other women facing machismo and domestic violence.

"This year I'll march for women to become more free, more recognized, more valued and to have an even better country, which will quickly overcome this crisis. A country our people deserve," said Inque Schneider, peasant and union leader from Rio Grande do Sul, showing that after 15 years the group has established a new agenda, in addition to issues from rural areas.

In the last march, in 2011, a study of the Applied Economic Research Institute (Ipea in the Portuguese acronym) reported that the margaridas are on average 42 years old, and come mostly from the Northeast and North regions of the country (20% come only from the state of Pará). Over 68% of them live in rural areas and do not want to move to a city. According to the study, 67% earn their livelihood from family farming.

Thirty-two years after Margarida Maria Alves was assassinated, shot dead by an agent of landowners, the union leader's struggle continues inspiring female rural workers to fight for their rights. "It is better to die in battle than to die of hunger," said Margarida in her speech written in front of her old house. 

Mulheres camponesas viajam mais de 40 horas de ônibus para a Marcha das Margaridas, em Brasília. Elas buscam mais representatividade e melhores condições de trabalho e de vida no campo (Marcello Casal Jr/Agência Brasil)

Maria da Soledade Leite, a friend of Margarida Maria Alves, the woman who inspired the marchMarcello Casal Jr/Agência Brasil

If peasant women do not die currently from hunger anymore, violence – especially domestic – is one of the problems pointed out by female rural workers from North to South of Brazil.

In the same study, Ipea noted that 27% of women who marched had been victims of physical violence and 58% had suffered some kind of moral or psychological violence.

Worried about the issue and pursuing effective public policies, the margaridas established the fighting violence against women as their main agenda this year. The productive inclusion and the war against the pesticides are also on the list of demands 15 years after the march was first heldof the march.

"Yes, it is worth marching. It is a glory for rural women who have never met anything to have the opportunity to travel. Without fighting, we get nothing. If we fold our arms, it gets worse. We have to be strong, to trust in our fight. And if we cannot achieve all our goals, we want at least to disperse seeds. We cannot lower our heads, we must always be tough. Margarida's name was immortalized. If we sing, if we want to represent the women's strength, we say she is a margarida. Strong as Margarida,” mentioned Maria da Soledade Leite, who plays the country guitar and writes repente (poetic improvisation in verse, typical from the Northeast). She was a friend of Margarida Maria Alves, the woman who has inspired the march.

Mulheres camponesas viajam mais de 40 horas de ônibus para a Marcha das Margaridas, em Brasília. Elas buscam mais representatividade e melhores condições de trabalho e de vida no campo (Marcello Casal Jr/Agência Brasil)

Over 68% of the Margaridas live in rural areas and do not want to move to a cityMarcello Casal Jr/Agência Brasil


The first Margarida

Who was this Margarida who inspired so many women in rural areas for the past thirty years? Three months before being murdered in front of her house, in front of her husband and little son, the union leader Margarida Maria Alves from Paraíba said in a May 1st (Labour Day) celebration speech that it was better to die in battle than to die of hunger. Thirty-two years after her death, her words still echo among female peasants and give strength to the daily struggle for representation and better working and living conditions in rural areas.

In the same speech, she said another sentence, which is written on one of the walls of Margarida Alves' old house, which gave place to a museum in 2001, "from a fight I do not run away."

In the simple construction, a blue fridge that belonged to the worker is stored. In the four rooms of the yellow little house, there are also documents from the days when Margarida led the Rural Workers' Trade Union of Alagoa Grande, some meeting minutes, instruments used by workers for cutting sugarcane for the factory, and personal photos and objects, including a white shirt with embroidered flowers, her glasses, the hat she used when visiting the workers on the farm and a purse.

On the walls, newspaper clippings from around the country and some from abroad give an idea of the aftermath of the crime that happened on August, 12, 1983. The murder attracted Brazil's attention to the tension between trade unions and landowners in the region of Brejo Paraibano in the 1980s. As Margarida Alves, other labor leaders were also marked for death. Even though she was facing threats, the worker was not intimidated and only had the voice silent by the 12-gauge shotgun fired by a contract killer. Despite the huge international outrage sparked by the crime, which was reported to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, none of the crime contractors was convicted thirty years later.

 

Translated by Amarílis Anchieta


Fonte: Margaridas path

Edition: Lilian Beraldo / Olga Bardawil

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