Feminist Spaces in Crisis: Italy

I’ve written a lot about the difficulties feminist spaces face locally (London), but the other day I have received a troubling email on the subject from an Italian friend highlighting the problem is far from limited to the UK. On some level, I knew that of course, having worked in this area for a few years now, but it is always difficult to write about what we personally don’t know and haven’t experienced. Yet, having received that message, I found it more difficult to do nothing. So this is my humble attempt to support the Italian sisters’ struggle by sharing their story from far away. I will let them judge how correct a reflection this is.

Lucha y Siesta is a women’s shelter – a safe space for women and children escaping violence who have nowhere else to go. It is a hybrid project between shelter house, semi-autonomous house and anti-violence centre. The problem with a general lack of spaces like these is dire in Rome, as, as the collective running the space told me – this is the only place of its kind in the whole city. Maria, from the Lucha collective says:

According to Istanbul Convention, a city as big as Rome should have about 300 places for women escaping gender violence while the actual situation is that Rome only has 22 places. Lucha y Siesta added 14 places over the last 12 years – and still does, because we cannot stop dealing with women in danger and in need just because someone told us so.”

Now even this one space is one too many according to the city authorities, it appears! Their building is due to go up for sale next month. On 7th April Lucha’s home will be auctioned off in a bankruptcy sale in order to save Atac spa..!

On Feb 25th they began a permanent picket, despite threats by the city authorities that they would leave Lucha without light and water – while 5 women and kids were still in the House. But for the third time since this war intensified (about 2 years ago now), solidarity and sorority won, and thanks to their community’s support they managed to change the authorities’ mind.

And so, for now at least, Lucha y Siesta is yet again full of people and activities. They have become a symbol of resistance in their struggle against gentrification, neoliberalism and capitalism. (It might also be worth adding that it comes at a time when – for the first time ever – the city is lead by a woman, Mayor Virginia Raggi.)

But Lucha is much more than just a shelter campaigning to stay open out of necessity. Although hospitality and anti-violence activities are their core, Lucha y Siesta’s mission goes far beyond. It is a community that works to spread the feminist message. Their work includes prevention, education and cooperation with other feminist groups.

“Feminism, autonomy and self-determination are the principles we build our method to deal with male violence on.” says Maria

And, last but not least, creativity is at their core – and this has been one of the foundations their campaign  to save the space has been built on. Just to give one (of many) examples: last year, with the help of Restiamo Cyborg Posse many statues in Rome were covered at night with light signs with the message: Lucha y Siesta cannot close / Let’s buy it together.

“Diamo Lucha alla città”Give Lucha to the city is the name of the campaign (and goal). The campaign has been quite successful already, but they still need raise about £200,000 more and save the building.

Please support their crowdfunder now and help spread the word here!