World Social Forum, Mumbai: Day Two
By Nisrin Elamin
January 18th, 2004
Each day seems to get a little more overwhelming. So I will try to highlight just a few experiences and interactions here. Just a quick note on organization though... because people talked alot about how the organization and logistical coordination of the last WSF was somewhat of a challenge. Given how many people are attending (My estimate is 100,000+) I think they are doing an amazing job logistically. There are "assistance" centers, food counters and volunteers with badges everywhere that have made my life a whole lot easier. The biggest problems they are facing are around timing, space and translation. The fact that translation isn't working out is to me the biggest problem and it limits the amount of audience-panel dialogue and other interactions that can happen.
One of the best things about the forum for me so far has been just talking to random people during lunch, in the exhibition halls etc. I have probably enjoyed those interactions more than anything else, even when language has been an issue..Case in point, Anayanse Garza (La Mujer Obrera, El Paso Texas, New Voices Fellow) and I were looking at some craft stalls yesterday afternoon when I happened to run into Benedicto Martinez Orozco from the Authentic Labor Front (FAT) in Mexico (Also secretary General of several national unions) so we sat down for a 20 minute interview surrounded my people marching against water privatization:
"We are here to strengthen our relationships with workers and workers movements from all over the world, because we are convinced that that is all we have to fight against our governments and the greed of transnational corporations....For the past several months we have been mobilizing and fighting against government policies aimed at privatizing electricty, petroleum and social security and to push through labor reforms that will benefit the transnational corporations. In December, we launched a strong campaign, with coordinated actions and mobilizations; we organized sit-ins at local and national government offices/parliaments against fiscal reforms that would ultimately allow our government to impose taxes on food, books, medicine etc...that is hit the working class in particular. We intend to stop this and are trying to coordinate workers, farmers and the general population nationwide through our various popular movements"...So we are basically trying to link up with movements here and to share and learn from people fighting similar struggles in their own communities or countries.
Benedicto and I were so excited to have run into eachother that we promised to meet up again at one of the sessions and then each took off to continue our frenzied exhibition walking. A few minutes later I found myself listening to a panel of feminist speakers talking about the intersection of women's and worker's rights in India and was reminded by Jerome Scott's words (Project South, Atlanta that I had interviewed earlier that day) that neoliberalism applies itself in similar ways all over the world. The panelists talked about the fact that the U.S./World Bank is pressuring poorer governments for instance, to cut down its public sector, which creates employment crises in poor countries and means that many public services aren't being performed anymore. "Walk a few miles from these grounds into one of the side streets of Bombay and you will see that there is virtually no infrastructure available to the masses....and yet we are not the ones with larger public sectors. In the U.S., public employees make up 5% of the population, in Western Europe 6% in India 2% and in Sub-Saharan Africa 1% and THEY are telling us to privatise?!."
Beach at Midnight--After a long day and a Zmag dinner in one of the fanciest hotels I have been in, a group of us New Voices fellows and WSF delegates decided to take a walk on Juhuu beach and chill for a bit before heading home. We talked about the fact that we've had so little time to reflect on the WSF and being in Mumbai, walked in the ocean a bit and called it a night.