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Movement Sparks: State of Our Feminist Movements

The State of Our Feminist Movements animation is the first of “Movement Sparks”, a series of animations exploring key topics facing our movements for justice and liberation today; and the need for integrated and coherent approaches that cut across diverse locations, agendas, and strategies.

This animation series has been designed to spark continuing engagement and discussions on crucial issues highlighted at the 13th AWID international Forum and inspire engagement of AWID members and allies who we hope will take the dialogue further into their communities. Part 2 of the series will be released shortly and will focus on Climate & Environmental Justice.

"It is not only that time has changed us, but also that we have changed the times."

-Bella Abzug

In recent years, we have seen tremendous waves of feminist responses and actions around the world to increasing oppressions, which have sparked the imagination and fire of seasoned and newer activists. Feminists around the world are asking, "Where does this moment lead to? What is the feminist agenda that movements are pushing for?" Feminist movements have been organizing and building power for decades and this is the moment to build on that power, assess past strategies and tactics, and renew and reimagine our collective work forward.

Building on past efforts

The UN’s Fourth World Conference on Women (the Beijing Conference) in 1995 was a rallying point for women’s rights activists to reflect, envision and sharpen political agendas.  The powerful articulation of “women’s rights are human rights” helped the world to come alive to visions of a just society free from gender oppression and ways to realise this.

The feminist political subject that emerged through this process was not a victim of violence or subjugation alone, but a person with political, social and cultural agency and rights, capable of articulating their own visions of a just society, and joining with others to achieve this in reality. Through this process, also emerged a clear articulation and understanding of the structural causes of gender-based violence and discrimination. This became a premise for organizing within feminist movements locally and globally.

Since then, feminist movements have continued to address multiple dimensions of our experience:

  • from violence; access to education and health care; sexual and reproductive health and justice; ownership or control over productive resources and income;
  • to the depleting natural resource base and its impact on survival and livelihoods;
  • and oppression on the basis of race, ethnicity, caste, gender identity, class, religion, sexual orientation, and ability.
Feminist movements have not only offered resistance, critique and analysis, but have also proposed, created and built intentional feminist realities.
Illustration by SeeHearDraw at the 13th AWID international Forum "This is why we need movements"

These realities offer a much needed counterbalance to powerfully disrupt the oppressive structures, systems and ideologies that currently structure much of our world.

At the same time, past efforts of feminist movements merit a reflection on who has been driving the conversations,dominating the spaces and setting the agendas. The face and discourse of the feminist movements globally is shifting from northern dominated narratives and perspectives to more globally diverse, and nuanced in local contexts, agendas and processes.

Organizing is also becoming more and more interconnected across struggles and agendas.

Powerful feminist organizing today

Here are just a few examples of transformative work movements are doing in creating feminist realities:

  • Regional networks as well as many others have developed authentic and holistic protection mechanisms, deeply embedding sustainability, self and collective care within our ways of working, institutions and personal lives.

  • Movements across the world are working towards just transitions from capitalism and patriarchy as well as building towards fossil free futures. Indigenous feminists continue to play essential, unique roles in defending their land and natural resources. They put their traditional knowledge and experience to use in addressing climate change within their local communities.

  • Kurdish women have put into practice a philosophy of self defence and social revolution, establishing women’s guerilla groups, cooperatives, councils and other bodies across Kurdistan and further. They challenge the nation state and embrace direct action and autonomy, while rejecting patriarchy, capitalism, colonialism and racism.

  • Solidarity economies (including the cooperative economy and gift economy) provide a framework grounded in mutual aid, cooperation, sustainability, well-being and democracy and have been put into practice in various locations in the form of among others cooperatives or associations.

  • The principle and practice of food sovereignty, first introduced by La Via Campesina and advocated by food movements across the world, holds that all peoples have the right to healthy and culturally appropriate food which is produced in ecologically sustainable ways. Furthermore, all peoples have the right to choose their own food and agricultural systems.

  • Movements in the global digital communities working towards the realization of a feminist internet. Young feminist led organizations such as HOLA! Africa whose organizing affords women in all their diversity the virtual space to express their lived realities, build community, embrace new technologies and dismantle patriarchy by elevating alternative narratives.

  • Black feminist groups across Brazil, such as Geledés - Black Women’s Institute, are breaking with traditional forms of political participation and designing new strategies to guide Brazilian society away from patriarchal fundamentalism. Through their organisations, they are building a feminist future in line with concept of ‘Living Well’, reflecting the utopia of a full life, with dignity, justice and pleasure.

Despite these concrete and powerful achievements, a variety of factors have curtailed the collective power of our feminist movements in the last two decades.

Now, more than ever before, there is a need to engage in wide and deep reflection on the State of Our Feminist Movements, to refresh our assumptions and actions based on the political realities of today.

It is evident that our movements are mapping transformational paths, shifting power and creating new models of work.

Indeed, movements are already creating, practicing and living feminist realities, but it is crucial that we go deeper in unpacking, documenting and reflecting on these.

AWID has developed this animation with SeeHearDraw based on discussions sparked in the lead up to, and during the 2016 AWID Forum, on the State of Our Feminist Movements.

With this video, we hope to advance these conversations across movements and propel us all forward as we pave our paths towards a more just feminist future.

The conversations sparked by this animation are just a beginning! Collective strategizing on feminist realities is next! 

Watch the animation

AWID Forum