About the U.S. Courts

Introduction on the World Court of Women
from the People’s Movement Assembly Resolution of Action

The World Courts of Women exist to rewrite our histories, reclaim our memories, and find new visions for our times. The Courts of Women are public hearings that exist to share voices of survival and resistance from the margins. Those gathered at the World Court on Poverty in the US: Disappeared in America PMA, along with the host organizations, seek to break the silence on poverty as a violation of both women’s rights and human rights. We reject the myth that dire poverty only exists outside of the boundaries of the US and demand an end to the tremendous violence of poverty that impacts our children, our families, and our communities. The effects of globalization, the increase in wealth disparity, and dismantling of the social safety net have pushed our communities into destitution while corporate powers and banking institutions have profited tremendously at our expense.

We link our struggles here in the United States to the struggles of poor people throughout the World. We are committed to uniting the poor as the leadership base for a broad movement to abolish poverty everywhere and forever. This resolution of action is a reflection of decades of work and we are lifted up by the efforts of many organizations that have fought tirelessly to eliminate injustice.

The History and Present of the World Courts of Women (WCW)

“To tell our stories not only of pain, but also of courage and survival” — Corrine Kumar

The World Courts of Women (WCW) is a prominent series and serious approach that women and families have taken on, been involved in, lived and breathed to be able to make noticeable the everyday violences they live. Starting in 1992, there have been 37 Courts thus far. The first ones stemmed from collaborative work done by the Asian Women’s Human Right Council (AWHRC) and El Taller International that have since influenced and allowed for Courts to come out of not only Asia, but also Africa, the Middle East, South Eastern Europe and Latin America. These Court structures have been built on the Nuremberg trial and various U.N. held trials because they set a precedent for publicly held courts that put the people first, before the nation. The Courts of Women are designed to allow people to share their realities and to destabilize dominant narratives that have been produced and perpetuated by nations and corporations around the world.

El Taller describes its work and the Courts work as a quest on new terrain and a rooting of themselves/ourselves in different regions and “are discovering new ways to relate to civil society and communities on the periphery. This new rootedness is enabling us to challenge the dominant discourse of development, human rights, gender, environment from regional and local perspective.” (These words come from the work El Taller did with/on theIndian Court of Women). To find out more about the histories of the World Courts of Women, please check out Professor Marguerite Waller’s piece entitled “The Courts of Women.” It is an amazing piece that specifically details key leaders in the Court process such as Corinne Kumar and Neila Sanchez as well as the intense work done in many of the previously held Courts.

The Courts of Women are where people can come to share stories that will be heard and recorded, to be made visible in a world, in a nation that wishes to silence, hide and ignore them. These words of people’s lives, and even wisdoms, are to shape both a social and political movement for the recognition of the U.S. as a nation that creates poverty in the world, including in its own backyard. It ignores its history of producing poverty and everyday violences that people live in cities, in rural communities, in reservations, on borderlands. The WCW is to pull back the curtain on what the U.S. has been ignoring through fore-fronting those voices and presences that come from the margins. Work on piecing together what the Court would be in the U.S. started with a major event at the U.S. Social Forum, where the World Court of Women on Poverty in the United StatesDisappeared in Americawas introduced.

From presenting and sharing the concept and layout of the WCW at the U.S. Social Forum, the four anchor groups (with Women’s Economic Agenda Project ( WEAP) being the one for the Western region) convened together with peoples from the various communities, nationally and internationally, to record and discuss the different injustices that people have been experiencing because of poverty. Through this collaboration, a Resolution of Actionwas crafted, which is a commitment that the domestic Courts of Women will work to create a larger social movement with the elimination of poverty as its goal. While contemplating this work, let us take in words by Corrine Kumar: “memory is history”; and in this work we share people’s memories and experiences. The World Court has shaped its methodology around witnessing through “historicizing the voice of the poor.” The presentation and discussions at the U.S. Social Forum allowed for national and international attention to be brought on the human rights violations that the U.S. permits through allowing and producing poverty. This is about working people, some poor, some part-time workers, some looking for work but unemployed, many cycling in out of health coverage, and many desperately pursuing education as the ladder up. It is also about how the U.S., and corporations in the U.S,. create poverty by the disproportionately distributing wealth in the hands of a few.

The Courts of Women seek to weave together objective realities (through analyses of the issues) with subjective testimonies of the women; the personal with the political; the logical with the lyrical (through video testimonies, artistic images and poetry); the rational with the intuitive; urging us to discern fresh insights, offering us other ways to know, inviting us to seek deeper layers of knowledge; towards creating a new knowledge paradigm. In the Courts, the voices of the victims/ survivors are listened to deeply by those present. Women, men and youth from all areas and histories are will bring their personal testimonies of violence to the Court. These processes are about working towards justice; they are about returning ethics to the realm of the political.

Recently, a number of WEAP members attended the Poverty Symposium at UC Berkeley to talk with students and community members about issues of poverty in the U.S. and California, and how things are getting worse. The talk was also helped develop connections with fellow labor, health, and human rights advocates about the WCW, as well as initiate the Leadership & Speakers Bureau Training. The Bureau Training is part of the campaign to teach and organize community leaders about reaching-out to folks on issues that are intertwined with poverty, such as access to food, water, housing and healthcare, as well as advocacy and government/public policy work.

Another event in support of the campaign of the WCW is the Day of Prayer and Action lead byCHAM in Silicon Valley. Pastor Scott Wagers of CHAM declared: “We cannot continue to be a society where some people are climbing the ladder while others are going lower and falling through the cracks.” Many people throughout the day spoke about varying topics centered on the issues of poverty and homelessness in the bay area, California, as well as throughout the U.S. At the event, Cindy Chavez from the South Bay Central Labor Council declared that “economic security is for everyone, not just some.”  What the speakers and participants at this action showed was a response the U.S. government failing to take responsibility for its people, letting them down so many in need. Merely by looking at the recent proposed federal budget by House Budget Committee Chairman Ryan Paul, which by 2050 looks to be almost no public investment in any federally funded programs beyond defense, Social Security or health care, there is a complete visibility of a how people going through tough times will continue to remain down while those doing wonderfully in a capitalist system will continue to rise.

This is why we need leaders and allies to support this work, particularly in thinking about the current set-backs that are occurring across the nation. These events have sped up the need for people to fight for their lives and livelihoods as these changes are driving more and more people into poverty. There are many ways for folks to stay updated and be involved in a number of organizing process – here’s how you can provide leadership;

•   Monthly Teach-ins will be held n Oakland for face-to-face discussions and updates on the WCW;

•   Hour long sessions in the format of round-tables where detailed accounts of the current and past work will be shared.

•   Bi-monthly Skype and/or phone conference meetings with people around the nation who are involved in organizing and building on the WCW process.

•   WEAP website, Facebook, an other forms of social media, there will be updates and reach-out efforts to grow this Court process as part of working towards the elimination of poverty domestically and internationally.

•  E-newsletters with updates, sometimes special edition with events that have been attended, and are being offered for people to be in touch, support and build this movement.

As the Courts of Women and the movement to eliminate poverty is about students, women, workers, employed/unemployed/not-yet-employed and across class lines, it is imperative that a wide swath of people become involved in this movement, this changing of the U.S. as part of work to change the world, where it is not about an accumulation of wealth but a redistribution of it. We want and need people to come and join us in this organizing, in this fight, by becoming community leaders, by conducting research and out-reach (by securingendorsements), and by fundraising (and securing sponsorships). If you are excited about this work, about these changes, then please come to our Teach-In and/or check out our “How you Can Help section where you can contact us about how you want to be involved. And it would also be wonderful just to continue to pass these words on via Facebook, via email, and via word of mouth!

Submitted by World Courts of Women & WEAP assistant Beth Weiman.

Testifying and Witnessing Poverty as a Human Rights Violation:

World Court of Women on Poverty in the United States

 

Corinne, World Court of Women AssemblyAt the 2010 U.S. Social Forum, the World Court of Women on Poverty in the United States was introduced and widely discussed. As one of the anchor groups processing such a bold event, the Women’s Economic Agenda Project envisions a world in which poverty is abolished, ensuring that all women and their families can live healthy and happy lives. Over the next couple of years, work will continue to build and strengthen relationships with people and communities to grow a movement led by poor and working class women. Stories and testimonials, an integral element of the World Court of Women, will break the silence on poverty as an account and an acknowledgement of human rights violations and injustices that have affected women in the United States. To quote Corrine Kumar, “memory is history” and part of the World Court’s methodology is to witness and “historicize the voice of the poor.”

Poverty is not just found in urban centers; it is widespread across the United States. This is one of the world’s wealthiest nations; there is no reason people should go hungry or homeless.  In country full of abundance, everyone should live in a healthy environment with access to education and just health care. A “feminization of poverty” grows within this country, where women and their families have become one of the groups most affected by the economic crisis.


Panelists at the World Court of Women assembly at the 2010 US Social Forum in Detroit, MI.

A growing number of issues and concerns have arisen across the United States, particularly those that affect women: mothers and their children who go hungry, incarcerated fathers who have been ripped from their families, safety issues of women and their families, families who have lost their homes from foreclosure, homeless veterans who have been abandoned, millions of uninsured or underinsured, a lack of reproductive rights and the right to choose, domestic and sexual violence, youth that struggle to attain their right to education and a safe environment to gather, workers needing multiple jobs just to scrape by, immigrants who work even as their basic human rights are denied, and state mediated and condoned violence. Why does it seem that in the U.S. there is more of a focus on profit than people?

By acknowledging and acting upon the grievances of women and their families, The World Court of Women is one step towards a United States for the people. The World Court process will challenge the national consciousness and what is determined as traditional, typical, and natural roles for women. This process also highlights the interconnectivity of rights – women’s rights are inexorably tired to workers’ rights, economic rights, and the basic human rights of all. We seek to reframe our pursuit of justice and reimagine what constitutes an ethic of care. We refuse incrementalism – we want justice for all! This powerful vision for the rights of the most destitute is bolstered and strengthened by the World Court on Women and Poverty.


Attendees at the World Court of Women assembly at the 2010 US Social Forum in Destroit, MI.

At the U.S. Social Forum, a Resolution of Action was brought forth and affirmed by people, confirming its role in the World Social Forum process as well. The World Courts methodology is designed to expose poverty’s existence in the midst of plenty and advance the vision and principles of the right to economic justice as a means to end violence against women and the poor. Its focus is to build intersections by geographic region that will enable us to move forward together, position the movement to eliminate poverty as a both a women’s right and a human right issue, and engage and empower poor people to participate in the World Court process.

Rallying emerging and existing leaders in the movement to end poverty is essential as we demand the U.S. uphold the principles of economic justice as guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In that regard, all World Court findings will be presented to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland. In many ways, the World Court of Women will put the United States on trial for human rights violations. These actions will connect the affects of globalization and struggles in the U.S. to the struggles of poor people throughout the World.

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