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To our friends in feminist movements, trade unions and European social movements

We are writing to keep you up to date on the preparation of the Women's Day of the fourth ESF which will be held in Athens in April 2006 and to share with you some reflections and ideas.

First of all, the preparation process of the fourth ESF is far from satisfactory. No decision has as yet been taken on the site of the ESF. This failure is blocking the whole organization process (we can't print posters, etc) and does not allow us to work in any practical sense on the setup of the Women's Day. Moreover, it would be better to postpone the date may for a few weeks to avoid coincidence with the Italian elections (9 April).

In spite of these shortcomings, a broad Greek working group has been set up to prepare for the Women's Day. It appeals to associations, trade unionist and individuals who fight for women's rights and agree with the organization of a Women's Day. Groups that are not in agreement with this initiative are free to develop other schemes. In short, this is a broad and inclusive process.

The Greek working group for the preparation of the "Women's Assembly" will submit its reflections at the women's workshop which will be held during the Preparatory Meeting of the ESF in Vienna, on 7 and 8 January 2006. There we will take our final decisions together with our European friends.

At which moment of the Forum will the Women's Day be held?

The Greek working group for the preparation of the "Women's Day" suggests not to start the ESF on Thursday with the Women's Day, but prefers Friday 7 April. The arguments in favour of this proposal are a) that it would be difficult for the women coming from other countries or cities to travel alone in advance, leaving their delegations (national or other) behind and b) that many working women would not be able to attend during working hours.

Therefore we are thinking to hold the Women's Day on the Friday. Of course, this is not an ideal solution. We will ask the programming committee of the ESF to take account of the fact that during the "Women's Assembly" women delegates will not be able to attend other Forum activities and not to organize parallel activities that might interest us.

Which structure?

The Women's Day could be organized in two sessions. A first part with workshops and a second one with a Women's Assembly and a public rally on the site of the Forum. The workshops would be held between 1 and 5 p.m. and the Women's Assembly between 5 and 8 p.m. (schedule to be decided).

In addition, we would like to organize different cultural events in a special women's space during the whole Forum. But much will depend on the actual site where the Forum will be held.

What is the aim of the Women's Day?

To synthesize our feminist work and through the preparatory work to learn to work in common at a European level, so that we can put into practice our proposals for European mobilizations.

How to organize our work?

As we all know, the Women’s meeting at the Preparatory Meeting of the ESF in Istanbul has decided on the following topics and general orientations:

Work, Precariousness and Poverty, Women and Wars, Women as Victims of Violence, Right to Abortion, Sexual and Reproductive Rights, Women - Democracy and Power, Resistance of Migrant Women, Young and Lesbian Women.

We have taken up these same topics to assess the work done by women during the last four years (either in autonomous groups or within mixed Forums). We also aim at setting up European working groups on each topic so that we can organize mobilizations on each of them. Obviously, we want the broadest possible participation from associations and networks
fighting for women's rights.

Please sign up and let us know if you want to take part by sending an email to the discussion list: Assemb.women@athens.fse-esf.org

How are we going to define the spirit of the workshops?

The "philosophy" of the workshops would be to start from european demands and proposals for european mobilizations.

An example: the workshop on violence could be organized around

    * A) the concrete demand for a european frame-work law against violence (ask the participation of specialists), as well as the elaboration of practical details of a european campaign against violence. And
    * B) a campaign against sexual exploitation and trafficking of women. I would like to bring to your attention that workshops on prostitution and trafficking have been organized during the ESF's of Florence, Paris and London. They described the phenomenon, but they were not action-directed and had no follow-up.

One objective could be to set up an European campaign according to the model of our Spanish friends: among others their anti-trafficking campaign included posters addressed to a male audience, potential clients and reminding them that : "by paying you contribute to this form of slavery". Of course, such initiatives don't exclude witnesses on concrete struggles and more thorough analyses.

We should also try to set up interactive workshops. For example on how unemployment and social exclusion contribute to the exercise of violence against women and the other way around. We could ask the participation of friends who are active in the networks "No Vox" and the European Marches against Unemployment and Precariousness.

Which "Women's Assembly"?

It could have two functions:

A. To present the results of the workshops

B. To discuss and possibly adopt a "European Manifesto". This text should be launched from now on, in order to be able to start a very broad discussion in our groups at a european level. Thereafter it could be used to motivate different networks of women's movements and mixed social movements to join our mobilizations.

Sonia Mitralias
Member of the Greek working group for the Preparation of the "Women's Assembly at the ESF Athens 2006