When you are faced with the task of moving an object but find it is too heavy to lift, what is your immediate and most natural response? You ask someone to help you lift it. And it makes all the difference.
And so in the face of unprecedented economic, ecological and human rights crises, we should not hunker down in our silos, but rather join together and use our collective power to overcome the challenges.
The recent World Social Forum (WSF) in Tunis, showed that ‘Another World Is Possible’ if we work collectively to address the structural causes of inequality. It is for this reason that the Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID) has pledged to work together with ActionAid, Civicus, Greenpeace and Oxfam.
The gathering of approximately 70,000 activists in Tunis, the various workshops held on alternate economic models – including an AWID-led session on ‘Feminist Imaginations for a Just Economy’ – the protests against shrinking spaces for dissent and the calls for social justice are critical in a world where the economic, ecological and human rights crises are interconnected and getting worse.
This is the power of the World Social Forum (WSF). This 13th edition, held for the second time in Tunisia’s capital, Tunis, is a reminder, and a call to action that it is people power that will change the world.
Changing the world, especially where women’s rights and gender justice is concerned, means recognising and bringing visibility to the interrelatedness of issues.
While in the past 20 years there have been notable achievements for women’s rights and gender justice, there is still so much more to be done.
At the centre of the current global crisis is massive economic inequality that has become the global status quo. Some 1.2 billion impoverished people account for only one percent of world consumption while the million richest consume 72 percent.
The levels of consumption in the global North cannot be sustained on this planet by its peoples or the Earth itself. They are disappearing whole ecosystems and displacing people and communities.
The challenges are not only increasing, but also deepening. Many women and girls, trans and intersex people continue to experience multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination and vulnerability throughout their lives.
These include the disproportionate impact of poverty, religious fundamentalisms and violence on women, growing criminal networks and the increasing power of transnational corporations over lands and territories, deepening conflicts and militarisation, widespread gender-based violence, and environmental destruction.
Women have been caretakers of the environment and food producers for centuries, and are now at the forefront of its defense against habitat destruction and resource extraction by corporations.
Violence against women who defend the earth occurs with impunity, at precisely the moment when ‘women and girls’ are also receiving the attention of various corporate philanthropic actors as drivers for development.
Government and institutional commitments to address inequalities for the most part have been weak. And while people’s mobilisation and active citizenship are crucial, in all regions of the world the more people mobilise to defend their rights, the more the civic and political space is being closed off by decision-making elites.
This year’s Political Declaration from the United Nations’ 59th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women(CSW59) is just the latest example.
Twenty years after the Beijing Declaration – the most progressive ‘blueprint’ for women’s rights of its time and the result of 30,000 activists from around the globe putting pressure on 189 participating government representatives – women’s rights and feminist groups were shut out of the CSW ‘negotiations’ with the result that the Declaration is weak and does not go far enough towards the kind of transformative change necessary to truly achieve the promises made in Beijing.
The forces of justice, freedom and equity are being relentlessly pushed back. There is an urgent need to strengthen our collective voices and power, to further expand our shared analyses and build interconnected agendas for action.
The WSF contributes to doing just that. At this year’s WSF, there was a diversity of feminist activists in attendance and the systemic causes of global inequalities were addressed in intersectional ways linking new relationships to land, and land use to patriarchy, food sovereignty, decolonisation and corporate power.
These connections make the struggle seem huge but also make possible solidarity between movements.
As a global network of feminist and women’s rights activists, organisations and movements, AWID has been working for over 30 years to transform dominant structures of power and decision-making and advance human rights, gender justice and environmental sustainability. In all that we do, collaboration is at the core.
I strongly believe that we cannot achieve meaningful transformation unless we join together in all of our diversity. So for AWID, joining with the struggles for environmental sustainability, just economies and human rights, is another step in a long trajectory of working with and for other movements.
Together we can take bolder steps, push each other further, and draw upon our combined knowledge and collective power to amplify our voices. Working together is the only way to reverse inequality, and to achieve a just and sustainable world.