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Daily Plenary Reports
The Forum is now over, but we encourage you to check the "Latest News" section of this site for selected session writeups, transcripts, and other post-forum information. Updates will be posted throughout December and January.
October 27, 2005 | October 28, 2005 | October 29, 2005 | October 30, 2005
October 30, 2005
Final Plenary: How does change happen? A Wrap-up
Kathambi Kinoti, AWID
October 30, 2005
'Eighteen hundred people, 120 plus countries, one question: How does change happen?' This statement came at the end of a short video presented at the beginning of the fourth and final plenary of the AWID Forum, where six panelists extracted the main ideas about change that they had gathered from the various discussions going on at the Forum.
Geetanjali Misra, the incoming President of the AWID Board, was the moderator of the panel of discussants who included Bishakha Datta, Maria Alejandra Scampini Franco, Bella Matambanadzo, Yvonne Underhill-Sem, and Lisa VeneKlasen.
Ms Franco, a teacher and feminist, stressed the importance of further analysis of the effect of economic policies on women, from a macroeconomic as well as a human rights perspective. She also said that there is a need for further analysis of the intersectionality of feminists' different identities in order to understand how to change. The interaction of the women's movement with other movements is another continuing and pertinent topic of discussion according to Ms Franco. She said that as women are strategizing on how to work with other movements, they have to be aware that alliances need hard work and can be time-consuming. She said that the Forum had successfully integrated young women and emphasized the need for the global movement to encourage their participation as important change agents.
Bella Matambanadzo, a Zimbabwean feminist working with the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa, remarked that she comes from a country where change has incredible political currency. She talked about the need to confront capitalism in order to make meaningful change in the lives of women. Ms Matambanadzo said that although the women's movement may be creating space for young women, there is still the need for generating and exchanging knowledge intergenerationally. Referring to discussions on bringing men on board the women's movement, she emphasized the importance of taking into account that this would be adding a layer of male privilege to men who regard themselves as progressive. She stressed that HIV/AIDS should be part of the global feminist agenda and not be regarded simply as an African problem.
Bishaka Datta, an Indian writer and documentary filmmaker, said although many people do not agree, it is crucial to give more visibility to issues of sex and sexuality. Referring to the power of images to change what we see, she showed some video clips about women around the world demonstrating about different sexuality issues. Issues that we should address include trafficking and migration, using a human rights framework to provide justice to people in prostitution, talking about pleasure, and protecting sexual integrity.
Yvonne Underhill-Sem a feminist geographer from New Zealand, called for comprehensive feminist analysis about new technologies and how they relate to women's bodies. She said that feminist discussions also need to include the materiality of the environment in terms of food security, the use of resources to nourish and replenish our bodies. Ms Underhill-Sem said that social contracts continue to be made on our behalf in places where feminists are not present based on non-feminist values and norms, and feminists therefore need to mobilize their collective power to make social contracts based on the right norms and values. She ended by saying that change happens by unleashing the possibility and power that we all have to create a collective and embodied justice.
Lisa VeneKlasen, an American feminist who has worked on several continents, talked about the 'how' of change. She pointed out that change is not linear but dynamic, chaotic, messy and negotiated. It is also impermanent. She said that processes of change need to involve shared analysis, cross-generational conversations, the need to create knowledge and the need to take into account regional and country realities. We also need to be looking into the future and reclaiming discussions on technologies, science and money, rather than merely reacting to changes as they happen. She said that we need to go back to conversations about individual and collective power.
Geetanjali Misra said that change is happening when we can see victims of political violence themselves attending the AWID Forum rather than have other people represent them, and when a group of transgender and transsexual entertainers can be given the opportunity perform at a Forum plenary. She said that change can happen when women are able to use the UN effectively, when they can demand fair trade practices and economic policies, and when they are able to use national and international laws to advance their rights. She ended by challenging the participants to regard the Forum as a moment of change.
October 29, 2005
Plenary Session: How should we change?
Kathambi Kinoti, AWID
October 29, 2005
Saturday's Plenary Session began with an excellent performance by PRIMADONNA, a troupe of Malaysian transsexual, transgender and ...MSM individuals. Through their music and dance presentation they expressed their conviction that everyone should be allowed to have a lifestyle of their choice. The performance drew huge applause from the audience.
The plenary was moderated by Lina Abou-Habib from Beirut. The various panelists presented diverse answers to the theme question "How should we change?"
Pramada Menon, from the India-based organization Creating Resources for Empowerment in Action (CREA) urged introspection from those within the women's movement, in order to effect change. Citing herself as an example of someone who received support when she began to work as a young woman in the movement, she said that we need to re-evaluate the trend of the movement's 'NGOization' which leads to demands for greater qualifications from young women wishing to work within the movement. Inclusiveness is another way of creating change. We need to examine our language and ensure that we do not exclude some people by our ways of talking, and we need to recognize diversity including disability. She said that the office of her own organization CREA is situated on the 1st floor and some people with disabilities may find it difficult to visit it. She challenged organizations working for women's rights to practise what they preach by, for instance, having and implementing sexual harassment policies in their own workplaces. People within the movement need to know when to move on and when to stay on. It is also important to address our own sustainability in terms of whether we are taking enough care of ourselves in our personal lives, and to have fun. She said that she believes that change is possible at any age.
Marcela Rios Tobar, a feminist academic and activist from Chile said that the women's movement has changed many things. However this is a time when we are facing challenging political contexts such as conservatism, fundamentalism and the weakening of the international governance structures such as the UN. She said that there have been many gains for women's rights at the international level, but few at the national level and she proposed three solutions to this disparity; Redefining the connection between local and global activism; reclaiming the political and ideological foundation of feminism; and redemocratizing political processes including leadership within the movement.
Enisa Eminova, a Roma feminist from Macedonia said that we need to overcome racism in the global women's movement. She caused laughter when she said that a Western feminist had recently introduced her to someone else as a 'quasifeminist,' a term she had never heard before. This illustrated to her the racism experienced by feminists who are not from dominant cultures. She said that we need to avoid labels and support each feminist's right to define herself. She pointed out that there are also class divisions within the movement that we should challenge. Cultural relativism is another barrier to change that needs to be dismantled. Often when we recognize the rights of marginalized communities to practise their culture, we then accept their reluctance to discuss issues such as domestic violence or virginity testing within those cultures and we therefore sacrifice women's rights.
Dr Sylvia Tamale from Uganda began by reciting a poem urging us to get drunk with the passion to change things. She said that the problem with most of those in the women's movement in Africa is that they are teetotallers, or at best, just slightly tipsy with feminist passion, and that will never cause change. Dr Tamale pointed to some challenges: the careerism that has depoliticized the women's movement, the gap between theory and practice, and extremism and fundamentalisms. She proposed effecting change by actively engaging with political structures and systems. She said that it is important to theorize our work. We also need to embrace radical strategies and not fear to tread controversial paths because that is how we bring about change.
Medea Benjamin of the US-based women's group Code Pink: Women for Peace said that whereas other speakers had expressed the sense that they were humbled to take to the podium, she found it embarrassing to address the plenary, coming as she was from a country that is waging an unjust war against Iraq. She presented a slide show about the work of Code Pink in trying to bring about peace within the US, Iraq, Israel and Palestine. The slide show highlighted the various advocacy efforts of the organization - vigils, demonstrations, creating links between bereaved Iraqis and bereaved Americans, as well as providing medical supplies to war victims in Faluja. Ms Benjamin said that Code Pink is trying to create a community of love and not war and asked for solidarity from the rest of the women's movement globally.
Lydia Alpizar of AWID was the final panelist to speak, and she did so in Spanish. She protested against the 'heteronormativity' of English, saying that non-English speakers are often excluded from dialoguing with the rest of the movement. Ms Alpizar stressed the need to mobilize more financial resources in order to bring about change. Women's organizations are often afraid to ask for money, but the women's movement is not sustainable without enough resources. She said that we need to politicize the issue of financing. We also need to explore the possibility of having collective rather than competitive processes to secure funding for organizations within the movement. She suggested for instance that larger organizations who receive good funding can assist smaller organizations to get donor funding. She said that it is important for women's organizations to evaluate themselves by installing mechanisms to measure their effectiveness. Ms Alpizar ended by saying that she has a dream that we will be brave enough to change.
October 28, 2005
Plenary Session: What is the change around us?
Kathambi Kinoti, AWID
October 28, 2005
The theme of Friday's Plenary Session was "What is the Change Around Us?" The session began with a video produced by AWID entitled 'Three Moves Deep: Planning for the Future of Women's Human Rights," which highlights several issues that will affect the future of the world and women's rights in particular; fundamentalisms, new technologies, global power, climate changes and economic inequalities. The video likened the future to a game of chess, where governments and multinational corporations are thinking several moves ahead, presenting a challenge to civil society to keep up with them.
The moderator of the session was Anita Nayar from India, and the six panelists were Dr Marsha Darling from the USA, Yassine Fall from Senegal, Nursyahbani Katjasungkana from Burma, Yanar Mohammed from Iraq, Ramesh Singh who is based in Thailand and Virginia Vargas from Peru.
Ms Nayar opened the discussion on the session's theme by posing the question "Are the changes inevitable, and is the future predetermined?"
The panelists discussed the three manifestations of global power: Geopolitical power, the international financial institutions, corporations, as well as the potential power of civil society. Although the emerging Southern centres of power - South Africa, Brazil, India and China hold the promise of challenging Northern hegemony and bringing millions of women out of poverty, there is a danger that they may become regional hegemonies in themselves. Women's civil society organizations have sometimes been passive participants in furthering economic inequalities, such as in the case of the Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers. It is therefore important for feminists to understand the power and economics dynamics of powerful states, international financial institutions and MNCs, and engage with them to protect women's rights. We must also be proactive in invading policy spaces and holding governments accountable for their actions.
Fundamentalisms threaten to erode women's rights among other areas, in marriage and divorce, their property rights and reproductive rights.. They emphasized the importance of feminist activism to ensure that there are secular and egalitarian constitutions and laws. Yanar Mohammed denounced both the United States' global hegemony and its illegal military occupation as well as the globally organized political Islamist groups who have devastated lives of women in Iraq. She also called for the rejection of the recently signed constitution which she said has been very negative for women's rights. She called for solidarity from the women's movement across the world to support a satellite television station to promote a free and alternative forum for women. Another panelist, Ms Katjasungkana, asked for support for Burmese human rights activist Aung San Suu Kyi who is currently under house arrest.
New technologies are a double-edged sword as far as women's interests are concerned. Whereas technological transformations such as the electronics and microchip revolutions were external to our bodies, the revolution in genetics is directly related to women's bodies. It raises the question: 'Who owns DNA?' and threatens to privatize all forms of life. The concern for feminists is how to ensure that human rights are respected, research subjects are protected and bodily integrity is secured. We need to be more vocal and present in the debates, and to get over being afraid of science.
The effects of climate change are being felt today more than ever before. We need to bring the discourse down to the level of the people, and not just confine it to scientific plenaries. It is no longer just a generational issue but an issue that affects people's day-to-day lives. There are lessons to be learnt from the tsunami, the recent hurricanes, the mudslides and earthquakes that have affected the world this year. There is the need for a global early warning system. There is also a need to examine why government response to disasters is not able to match that of their citizens.
The panel discussion ended on a positive note by emphasizing that change is possible. Ms Fall cited the successful mobilization of women in Kenya around the MDG process and said it was important to mobilize to resist the privatization of water provision services. Mr Manek pointed out the need to pay more attention to HIV/AIDS. He also proposed that each of us should look at our personal choices and our lifestyle and exercise our power as consumers. He emphasized the importance of crossing the boundaries between civil society movements and other groups such as politicians and the youth in order to effect change. Ms Mohammed called for international solidarity and satellite TV that will impact positively on the mentality of the people. Ms Vargas emphasized that feminism is about a new political culture, while Ms Katjasungkana reminded participants that when the secular state fails to deliver, people turn to fundamentalism. Dr Darling appealed to feminists to work more directly to strengthen civil society voices to ensure that technology does not do harm.
Plenary Session: Where is the Money for Women's Rights? AWID launches its groundbreaking report at the Funders' Forum
Rochelle Jones, AWID
October 28, 2005
On Friday October 28, 2005, in front of an international audience of women's rights' activists and key donors at the Funders' Forum, Lydia Alpizar Duran of AWID, in collaboration with Cindy Clark and Lisa VeneKlasen of Just Associates, launched the much-awaited results of AWID'S action-research project "Where is the Money for Women's Rights? Assessing Resources and the Role of Donors in the Promotion of Women's Rights and the Support of Women's Rights Organizations." One of the most alarming discovery from the research was that 51% of women's organizations are now receiving less funding compared to five years ago in 2000.
The Funders' Forum took place at the AWID International Forum in Bangkok, Thailand, and the unavoidable absence of AWID's Executive Director Joanna Kerr, as well as Just Associate's Ellen Sprenger, who played key roles in the research project, did not in any way hamper the huge success of the Funders' Forum, which marked the beginning of an initiative to increase the level of funding to women's organizations worldwide, improve access to funding globally, and affirm the legitimacy of women's rights organizations and movements worldwide.
Also present at the Funders' Forum were representatives from the women's rights funding community: Sylvia Borren, Director, Novib-Oxfam Netherlands; Maria Eitel, President, Nike Foundation; Patti O'Neill, Special Advisor, Network on Gender Equality, Development Assistance Committee, OECD; Kavita Ramdas, President and CEO, The Global Fund for Women; and Dr. Rosalia Sciortino, Director, Southeast Asia Regional Program, The Rockefeller Foundation.
The opening address was from the charismatic Bisi Adeleye Fayemi, President of AWID, who described the many anecdotes circulating throughout women's organizations that they simply don't have the same amount of funding that had access to previously. As a result of these increasing messages from international women's movements, AWID decided to explore them with solid research focusing on the key questions: Where is the money? How do we mobilize more resources?
Cindy Clark presented the main findings of the year-long action-research initiative, which was conducted via surveys, international meetings and interviews with diverse women's rights organizations and AWID's member base. According to the report, "women's organizations are in a position of survival and resistance". She exposed how there are striking commonalities across regions in that women's rights organizations are not receiving funding despite an increase in money going to some regions. A snapshot of Official Development Aid (ODA) in 2003, for example, revealed that out of USD 69 billion dollars in aid money, only 0.6 percent of ODA has gender equality as a principle objective and only 2.4 percent of this money supported the work of NGOs.
Five main funding sectors were covered by AWID's research: Bilateral and Multilateral Development Agencies; Large Independent Foundations; Public Foundations / International NGOs; Individual giving / Family Foundations; Corporate Philanthropy; and Women's Funds. Among these, common threads were found in poor tracking and accountability systems, and most importantly, that the promises of gender mainstreaming have not been realized.
There is a sense in the funding community that gender has been mainstreamed, and hence there is no need to support specific women's programs anymore. Unfortunately, this has resulted in women's organizations receiving less funding, despite the Millennium Development Goals identifying that women's equality is a prerequisite for development.
Other trends include a clear frustration from funders regarding the impacts and outcomes of funding, and that Women's Funds are growing in numbers and are the most frequently mentioned as flexible and steady sources of funding, giving USD 15 million in grants in 2004. Kavita Ramdas, President and CEO of the Global Fund for Women (GFW), explained this by remarking that Women's Funds have been forced into existence because money is going elsewhere.
Overall, the research discovered a downward drift in funding for women's rights organizations, and revealed a need for urgent strategies to reverse this trend. Women's rights organizations need to identify and work with their allies in the funding community, working together on new policies and accountability mechanisms. Importantly, there is a need for more evaluation efforts and for mobilizing broad, public support for women's rights. Recommendations from the funding representatives present on the panel were also invaluable, which was facilitated by Lisa VeneKlasen of Just Associates. For example, Sylvia Borren from Novib-Oxfam in the Netherlands, implored that gender equality is something for which we must keep working. Referring to the audience, she exclaimed: "We are the ones who are going to make this world democratic, or not". Women need to think big, demand more, and find allies.
Rosalia Sciortino, Director of the Southeast Asia Regional Program, The Rockefeller Foundation, recommended that in the face of recent negative political shifts and conservatism, women's organizations need to take a proactive stance rather than a defensive one. According to Rosalia, many Foundations have stepped back in defensive moves, and are now afraid to reclaim this lost space. Maria Eitel, President of the Nike Foundation, suggested that the power of corporations can and should be used, and that organizations can reap benefits through speaking the language of business and economics to corporate funders, and Sylvia Borren highlighted the importance of capacity building, and the need to start strategizing around the question: "If we had all the money - would we have the capacity to put it to effective use?"
It's not all bad news for women's organisations, however, with Patti O'Neill from the Network on Gender Equality, Development Assistance Committee, OECD, sharing her feeling of a real sense of change in the air on the tail-end of lost momentum with donors. Norway, Canada and Sweden, for example, are reexamining and reenergizing their approaches.
At the end of the Forum, Lydia Alpizar Duran of AWID launched the new AWID initiative "Fundher-Money Watch for Women's Rights", which aims to increase the amount of funding for women's organizations all over the world, to improve access to funding globally and to build legitimacy of women's rights organizations and movements. This will be achieved through dialogue and alliance building between and among donors and women's rights organizations and networks, and will include an annual report "Money Watch for Women's Rights", to report on these issues.
As Lydia took the floor, she told Forum participants that this initiative was for them, and that the dialogue between donors and women's rights organizations, reinvigorated by this research, was only just beginning.
For more information, or to obtain copies of AWID's Report, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
October 27, 2005
Opening Plenary: What have we changed and how?
Rochelle Jones, AWID
October 27, 2005
The first day of the Tenth AWID International Forum began with the welcome Plenary Session, focused around the theme of "What Have We Changed Now? (and why are we here?)." The President of AWID, Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi, welcomed 1600 men and women from all over the world, and it was clearly a moment where everyone seated in the Grand Ballroom of the Shangri-La Hotel in Bangkok, Thailand, was feeling the energy and anticipation of an incredible event. Sadly, AWID's Executive Director Joanna Kerr, was unexpectedly called home in the days prior to the commencement of the Forum due to the sudden death of her father. Bisi highlighted Joanna's difficult time, and her kind words were a testimony to Joanna's invaluable leadership and tireless efforts in organizing the Forum, and the room erupted into powerful applause to send energy to Joanna on the other side of the world.
"A humbling moment..." AWID's Shareen Gokal and Shamillah Wilson began the Plenary by discussing why so many people had gathered together to strategise on how to make positive changes for women's rights and gender equality. Six key reasons for the Forum were presented, which set the scene for the panel presenters - the first being to connect in a global way in the same space. Almost every region in the world was represented in the room, and the feeling of togetherness was captured beautifully by Sunila Abeysekera, a Sri Lankan feminist and human rights activist, who exclaimed at the beginning of her presentation: "This is a humble moment for me to meet everyone I've worked with, heard about and read about in the past thirty years".
The second reason for such a momentous gathering is to understand what changes we have already made, and how. Shamillah Wilson, AWID's Young Women and Leadership Theme Manager, described the women's movement as "the most successful revolution history has witnessed". Attitudes, concepts, institutions and most importantly, lives, have been changed by women's movements. Women have made the private sphere a part of public debate; we have created the structures for equality within the state; we have developed and implemented curriculums for gender and women's studies in universities; and many more milestones in history. An important undercurrent emerging from all of the Plenary speeches was that young feminists need to be acknowledged! Young women are redefining human development and injecting new hope into women's movements. The importance of knowing where we've come from in order to know where we are going, was a key message, reinforced by Sunila's presentation on how past achievements of the Women's Human Right's Movements have meant profound changes for women all around the world.
To understand how the world has changed is the third reason for the AWID Forum. Increasing militarization, corporate control, concentrations of wealth, lack of political will and persistent catastrophes such as natural disasters and HIV/AIDS form barriers to the achievement of gender equality and women's rights. Women's movements are losing ground, and we need to come together to strategize on how to prepare for these issues and develop new agendas. Junya Lek Yimprasert, founder of the Thai Labour Campaign, with her light-hearted yet grounding presentation on Thai worker's rights, put these issues in perspective and reminded us all that it is women who suffer the most in the context of these issues.
Reason number four is to look at ourselves and take responsibility for the demands we are making. How do we live it in our daily lives? Noelene Nabilivou, a speaker from Fiji, discussed the importance of identity and awareness of how society codifies and constructs the pathways that we are supposedly obligated to negotiate as women. Her energetic yet humble speech reinforced the need to deconstruct ourselves in addition to the structures that oppress.
The big question is: how does change happen? The fifth reason for coming together is to shift the focus from deconstruction to reconstruction. There was a call for for more analysis on how to solve problems and create change, adding to our strengths in identifying the need for change. We need to think about how change happens - whether it is via actions such as movement and alliance building, non-violent action or strategic spaces within institutions.
Finally, we need to refuel our hope! Follow dreams, chase new ideas, mobilize, create noise and crystallize action plans. Change happens when we say no, when we affirm each other's right to dignity, and when we create spaces such as this for transformation. The key message for the following days is that the Forum is not only a rare opportunity to create history together, but that it will be a different experience for everyone.