How is young feminist activism helping our movements grow?
| By Ghadeer Malek
Youth activism can tell us a lot about the state of movements.
Youth presence indicates how relevant and up-to-date a movement is. Their critical analysis hints at the strength of succeeding leadership. And their level of engagement and output is telling of a movement’s longevity and reach. The presence of strategic and solid youth activism is one indication of strong, healthy, sustainable movements. In many ways, women’s movements are becoming more and more conscious of the importance of mobilizing and engaging with young women. There are many more young women focused programs and increased funding directed at activities involving and led by young women in the recent years.
Organizers of various events, meetings and trainings make it a point to include young women. However, these efforts compete with other movements, such as religious fundamentalist groups, who are known for their youth mobilization strategies such as youth camps and propaganda targeted at young people.
Many young people have only been exposed to negative messages about feminism and women’s rights.
Despite this, young feminist activists are still a visible force and playing a key role in shaping and defining women’s rights struggles. Their perspectives and experiences bring an additional analysis to women’s rights issues. Younger generations of activists are contributing to an analysis of patriarchy stemming from the need to control women’s sexualities to maintain power over society. They have been part of the push to put sexuality front and center of women’s rights agendas and ensure its inclusion in contexts that are still resistant to the subject.
Young women have been active in the debate around real and meaningful representation and participation of diversities and minorities within women’s movements, especially around age. They have argued for multigenerational solidarity in women’s rights agendas and, with the support of other generations, helped to flesh out the nuances around this issue. They are also actively engaged in the discourse on intersectionalilty across multiple identities including age, gender, race, sexuality and class.
Young women are offering new ideas and alternatives to the structures and internal organizing of our organizations and movements.
They are experimenting with models such as collective organizing, activist community building, and networks as alternatives to NGOs. They are paying particular attention to current challenges facing women’s rights movements such as funding, sustainability, activist burn out, and inclusion, and are seeking strategies to address these. Young women are also reaching out to more young women. Their strategies of building communities and networks are reaching many of their peers. This assists in building a strong mass base for women’s movements. Young feminist activism is contributing greatly to the growth of our movements in numerous ways.
There is no question that movements loose momentum and relevancy if the young are not integrally involved. In the face of the many challenges that stand in our way now, it is more important than ever to channel as much support and investment to optimizing young women’s engagement and supporting their activism.