GADN at the AWID Forum: what have we learnt?
A number of GADN members attended the AWID Forum in Brazil. The Forum, titled ‘Building Collective Power for Rights and Justice’ brought together almost 2000 activists from 130 countries for four high energy, inspiring days in the beautiful setting of Costa de Sauipe, near Salvador da Bahia. There is an array of blogs and articles on the Forum, you can review the highlights on Twitter search for #FeministFutures and #AWIDForum.
GADN co-hosted a session called ‘Making the economy work for women, not vice-versa: learning lessons from challenging macroeconomics for gender justice’ which attracted a good crowd even though it was at the end of a very busy first day. The session presented the work we have carried out so far in the context of the GEM project and explore with an open discussion the challenges feminists faces when advocating to neoliberal institutions. The main takeaway from the meeting was the need for feminist to educate themselves on economic issues and to start proposing alternatives, rather than limiting ourselves to critiquing the current model. The issues of climate change and planetary boundaries was also part of the discussion as well as a major theme during the Forum, exposing the degree to which the current economic model is destroying lives and the planet.
We have asked GADN members who attended the Forum to share their highlights and what they will take back to their own organisations as well as to GADN.
A celebration of strong and diverse feminist movements: we are many!
For all of us, the main highlight was being able to witness the strenght and diversity of the global feminist movement. Diversity and solidarity were at the forefront with strong participation from women living with disability, LGBTI activists and sex workers. Another strong aspect was intergenerational dialogue: there was a strong cohort of young feminists, very much walking side by side with the older generation. We saw intersectionality in action: this does not mean erasing diversity in name of a common cause but drawing strengths from that diversity and building relationships that can show us a glimpse of that better world we are fighting for. It means looking for and building common ground and supporting each other. It was clear by being at the Forum than an intersectional space requires a lot of work to be built and the value of a space free of judgement where emotion, in addition to expertise and experience counted, was felt by all.
Another important theme of the Forum was the need to organise across movements, to bring a feminist perspective into broader social justice movements as well as learning from those challenging structural issues of economics, climate change, the shrinking space of civil society. In particular a strong case was made on climate change as an issue we can no longer ignore.
The context of Brazil’s parliamentary coup provided a powerful reminder of the current global backlash against human rights, which is a gendered process, partly as a result of how far we have come. The threats and violence faced by women human rights defenders were brought alive through powerful stories from indigenous women in Latin America standing up to mining companies to those in the Middle East who are criminalised because of their activism for civil and political rights.
One of the main challenges hovering over all, is the issue of funding for women’s rights organising. This was one of the main strands of the Forum with many donors present who heard directly from grassroots activists in a safe space. Hopefully the conversations will lead to different practices and more resources reaching those who are working at the coalface in very challenging contexts.
Building solidarity and creativity, valuing relationships and diversity
For many of us what we are looking forward to bring back into our own organisations is a more intersectional approach and an intention to nurture relationships with diverse constituents of women’s movements, in particular women living with disabilities. This resonated as well with the need to build solidarity especially at this time when so much is under threat we must work together and don’t lose sight of the bigger picture. This means learning from the struggles the past to inform our present strategies and tactics. Another important issue was the use of technology and art to advocate for women’s rights as well as to build solidarity and communicate across borders.
We all found the Forum was a challenging and important opportunity to critically reflect on our position as Northern feminists working in development institutions vis-a-vis the struggle of our sisters.
We are also keen to bring these same reflections back into our contribution to GADN. On the one hand, to strengthen our own capacity to be inclusive and intersectional and learn from Southern women’s rights organisations. On the other, to invest more in working across movements, especially with those who are working on alternative social and economic models for a fairer, feminist world.
If you want to read more from the perspective of those who were there the following are links to members' blogs: