“ Algeria is a laboratory: everything here is re-invented, even language, which, joyfully, we twist, we stretch, in order that it speaks the epoch” — Rosa Moussaoui, 4 April, for l’Humanité.
The following declaration is the first from the Algerian Women for Change towards Equality (نساء جزائريات من أجل التغيير نحو المساواة; AWCE).
16 March Declaration
We are currently living through a magnificent, popular, peaceful uprising against the current political system. The huge presence of women at rallies is testimony to a profound transformation of our society, and demands the recognition of women’s rights, in an equal Algeria.
This system has ruled absolutely since independence, and used all coercive and autocratic means to defeat every impulse for change and democratisation of the country. Besides the destruction of the Republic’s institutions (health, education, justice, culture, etc.), and the beggaring of political life (the corruption, the authoritarianism, and social injustices), this system has practiced a Machiavellian strategy of maintaining and reinforcing in-egalitarian thought and practice throughout society — for which Algerian women have paid a high price, at the symbolic, formal and concrete levels.
Indeed, the history of the Algerian struggles testifies to the huge engagement of women in all the just, decisive struggles the country has fought: the War of National Liberation; the construction of the independent Algerian state; the October 1988 revolt; the trade union, student and democratic struggles before and after October 1988; and the struggle against the armed intégriste [‘Islamist’] groups through the 1990s, et cetera.
Side-by-side with men, women have conceived of, developed, and lead these fights, in the hope of building an egalitarian society, and of seeing the concrete equality realised during those difficult moments becoming an indisputable gain.
Unfortunately, this promised equality has not yet arrived. The mass education of girls and procession of qualified graduates; our still more significant presence in the world of work; and even legislative changes and rulings – reached after decades of struggle – have still not allowed women to escape their minorisation [i.e., women’s minor status, as codified in the 1984 Family Code] and second-class status across the institutions, in a society that remains patriarchal.
The active, unconditional participation of Algerian women in the 22 February Movement compels us to reaffirm our determination to change the current system, in its entirety, including its sexist, its patriarchal, and misogynist elements.
On the 16 March, Algiers women met. From this debate and wider consultation came the following:
- We, the women signatories of this declaration, are convinced that the building of our collective future will not happen without full and complete equality between men and women, without gender, class, regional or religious distinctions.
- We must continue to always be present with our colleagues and neighbors, in order to continue this beautiful mixité [‘mixedness’; an obsessive concern of the Front islamique du Salut] in all the marches, but also to render our demand for equality more visible.
- We have decided to form a feminist bloc, which will be in place every Friday from 1pm, outside the main entrance of Algiers I university.
- We encourage and support similar initiatives across all of Algeria, and we subscribe entirely to all declarations which believe that equality between men and women is one of the priorities for changing the current system.
- We call on all women who recognise themselves in this appeal to add their signatures to ours, to join the feminist bloc here or elsewhere, to initiate them (as conditions permit), and to participate in our meetings, the date and place of which will be publicly communicated
- We call for a joint representation of women to be taken into account for every citizens’ initiative towards the ending of this crisis.
- We condemn all harassment during demonstrations.