Priority Areas

Supporting feminist, women’s rights and gender justice movements to thrive, to be a driving force in challenging systems of oppression, and to co-create feminist realities.

Building Feminist Economies

Building Feminist Economies is about creating a world with clean air to breath and water to drink, with meaningful labour and care for ourselves and our communities, where we can all enjoy our economic, sexual and political autonomy.

In the world we live in today, the economy continues to rely on women’s unpaid and undervalued care work for the profit of others. The pursuit of “growth” only expands extractivism - a model of development based on massive extraction and exploitation of natural resources that keeps destroying people and planet while concentrating wealth in the hands of global elites. Meanwhile, access to healthcare, education, a decent wage and social security is becoming a privilege to few. This economic model sits upon white supremacy, colonialism and patriarchy.

Adopting solely a “women’s economic empowerment approach” is merely to integrate women deeper into this system. It may be a temporary means of survival. We need to plant the seeds to make another world possible while we tear down the walls of the existing one.

We believe in the ability of feminist movements to work for change with broad alliances across social movements. By amplifying feminist proposals and visions, we aim to build new paradigms of just economies.

Our approach must be interconnected and intersectional, because sexual and bodily autonomy will not be possible until each and every one of us enjoys economic rights and independence. We aim to work with those who resist and counter the global rise of the conservative right and religious fundamentalisms as no just economy is possible until we shake the foundations of the current system.

Our Actions

Our work challenges the system from within and exposes its fundamental injustices:

  • Advance feminist agendas: We counter corporate power and impunity for human rights abuses by working with allies to ensure that we put forward feminist, women’s rights and gender justice perspectives in policy spaces. For example, learn more about our work on the future international legally binding instrument on “transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights” at the United Nations Human Rights Council.

  • Mobilize solidarity actions: We work to strengthen the links between feminist and tax justice movements, including reclaiming the public resources lost through illicit financial flows (IFFs) to ensure social and gender justice.

  • Build knowledge: We provide women human rights defenders (WHRDs) with strategic information vital to challenge corporate power and extractivism. We will contribute to build the knowledge about local and global financing and investment mechanisms fuelling extractivism.

  • Create and amplify alternatives: We engage and mobilize our members and movements in visioning feminist economies and sharing feminist knowledges, practices and agendas for economic justice.

“The corporate revolution will collapse if we refuse to buy what they are selling – their ideas, their version of history, their wars, their weapons, their notion of inevitability. Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing”.

Arundhati Roy, War Talk

Related Content

CFA 2023 - Online and Hybrid - EN


Online & Hybrid

As an online participant, you can facilitate activities, connect and converse with others, and experience first-hand the creativity, art and celebration of the AWID Forum. Participants connecting online will enjoy a rich and diverse program, from workshops and discussions to healing activities and musical performances. Some activities will focus on connection among online participants, and others will be truly hybrid, focusing on connection and interaction among online participants and those in Bangkok.

WHRDs from the Pacific Region

The 3 Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRDs) from the Pacific we are featuring in this year's Online Tribute have worked in the media, campaigned for disability rights and advocated for women’s rights. Their contributions are missed and we honor them in this Tribute. Please join AWID in commemorating these WHRDs, their work and legacy by sharing the memes below with your colleagues, networks and friends and by using the hashtags #WHRDTribute.

Please click on each image below to see a larger version and download as a file 



Ayanda Denge

“I am a wonder… Therefore I have been born by a mother! As I begin to stutter, my life has been like no other…” - Ayanda Denge  (read the whole poem below)

Ayanda Denge was a transwomxn, sex worker, activist, poet. She was Xhosa, from Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. After travelling through different cities of the country, she moved to Cape Town. 

As a committed and fervent social justice activist, she fought for the rights of sex workers, trans persons, and for those of people living with HIV and AIDS. She was also a motivational speaker on cancer awareness, and campaigned for affordable and social housing, especially for poor and working-class people. Ayanda stood tall as a mountain against different and often abusive faces of discrimination. 

“Being transgender is not a double dose, but it’s a triple dose of stigmatisation and discrimination. You are discriminated against for your sexual identity, you are discriminated against for your work, and you are discriminated against for your HIV status.” - Ayanda Denge, 2016

She was acting chairperson at the Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT) and also worked as an Outreach Coordinator at Sisonke, a national sex workers’ movement in South Africa. 

“From us, from our regional head office, to SWEAT where I sit on the board, to Sisonke, a movement of sex workers in Cape Town. We all amalgamate, we have one cry and it’s a cry that is recognised internationally by international sex workers. We want decriminalisation of sex work.” - Ayanda Denge, 2016

She lived in the Ahmed Kathrada House, which was being occupied by the Reclaim the City campaign for social housing. In 2018, Ayanda was elected house leader. On 24 March 2019, she was stabbed to death in her room. The year prior, another resident was killed.

Reclaim the City draws a connection between the safety of the house residents and the Provincial Government withholding electricity and the human right to water: 

“We cannot separate the safety of women and LGBTQI people living in the occupation from the refusal by the Western Cape Provincial Government to turn the electricity and water back on at Ahmed Kathrada House.

The house is pitch black at night. We need lights to keep each other safe. It is as if the Province wishes to punish poor and working class people, whose only crime is that we needed a home. While they may disagree with our reasons for occupying, they should be ashamed of themselves for putting politics before the safety and dignity of residents of this city.

Rest in Peace comrade Ayanda Denge, we shall remember you as we carry the torch forward in the struggle for decent well-located housing.”

Poem by Ayanda: 

I am a wonder…
Therefore I have been born by a mother!
As I begin to stutter,
My life has been like no other.
Born in pain
Nourished by rain
For me to gain
Was living in a drain.
As I shed a tear
I stand up and hold my spear.
Voices echo, do not fear
Challenges within a year,
Challenges of hurt are on my case;
Community applauds as they assume I have won my race;
But in reality my work strides at a tortoise pace;
On bended knee I bow and ask for grace.
For the Lord
Is my Sword;
To remind humanity
That he provides sanity.
Why Lord am I this wonder?
The Lord answers me with the rain and thunder,
For questioning my father
Who has in the book of lambs
A name called Ayanda.
From the streets my life was never sweet
The people I had to meet;
At times I would never greet;
Even though I had to eat;
I’d opt to take a bow
Rather than a seat

Listen to the poem in Ayanda’s voice

“For my life represents that of a lotus flower, that out of murky and troubled waters I bloomed to be beautiful and strong...” - Ayanda Denge, watch and listen 


“Ayanda, I want to say to you that you are still a survivor, in our hearts and minds. You are gone but you are everywhere, because you are love. How beautiful it is to be loved, and to give love. And Ayanda, that is the gift that you have given us. Thank you for all of the love, we truly did need you. Going forward, I promise to you that we will all commit to continue with the struggle that you have dedicated so much energy and your time to. And we will commit ourselves to pursuing justice in this awful ending to your life.” - Transcript of a message, in a farewell Tribute to Ayanda

“Ayanda was an activist by nature. She knew her rights and would not mind fighting for the rights of others. For me, it was no shock that she was involved with many organizations and it was known that she was a people’s person. It did not need to be the rights of LGBTI but just the rights of everyone that she stood for.” - Ayanda’s sister

CFA 2023 - Intro - thai

“ภารกิจในชีวิตของฉันไม่ใช่แค่การอยู่รอดเท่านั้น แต่ยังต้องเจริญเติบโตอีกด้วย และทำให้เต็มที่ด้วยแรงปรารถนา  ด้วยความเห็นอกเห็นใจ  ด้วยอารมณ์ขัน และมีสไตล์” - มายา แองเจลู (Maya Angelou)


ยินดีต้อนรับสู่เวทีการประชุมนานาชาติ AWID ครั้งที่ 15!

เวทีการประชุมนานาชาติ AWID เป็นทั้งกิจกรรมชุมชนระดับโลกและพื้นที่ของการเปลี่ยนแปลงของปัจเจก บุคคลอย่างสิ้นเชิง เป็นการประชุมที่ไม่เหมือนใคร คือเป็นที่รวบรวมนักสตรีนิยม นักปกป้องสิทธิสตรี ความยุติธรรมทางเพศ LBTQI+ และพันธมิตรในขบวนการเคลื่อนไหวเพื่อมนุษยชาติอันหลากหลาย เพื่อเชื่อมต่อ เยียวยาและเติบโต     เวทีนานาชาตินี้เป็นพื้นที่ที่นักสตรีนิยมจากทั่วทุกมุมโลก รวมถึงจากประเทศในกลุ่มโลกใต้ และชุมชนชายขอบที่ไม่ได้รับการเหลียวแลมาอย่างยาวนาน เป็นศูนย์กลางในการวาง ยุทธศาสตร์ร่วมกัน และเคลื่อนไหวเพื่อความยุติธรรมทางสังคม เพื่อเปลี่ยนอำนาจ สร้างพันธมิตร และ สร้างโลกที่แตกต่างและดีขึ้น

เมื่อผู้คนทั่วโลกมารวมตัวกันทั้งในฐานะปัจเจกบุคคลและองค์กรเคลื่อนไหว เราสามารถสร้างพลังอันยิ่งใหญ่ จึงขอเชิญท่านร่วมกิจกรรมกับเราที่กรุงเทพฯ ประเทศไทยในปี 2567  มาร้องเพลง เต้นรำ วาดฝัน และลุกขึ้นพร้อมกัน

วันที่:        2–5 ธันวาคม 2567
สถานที่:     กรุงเทพฯ ประเทศไทย; และทางออนไลน์
ผู้เข้าร่วม: นักสตรีนิยมจากทั่วโลกเข้าร่วมด้วยตนเอง ณ สถานที่จัดงานประมาณ  2,500 คน และเข้าร่วม
ทางออนไลน์ 3,000 คน


8. Finalize and format

Your comprehensive research product is now all organized and edited. You now want to ensure your findings are visually accessible and appealing to facilitate the dissemination.

In this section

Package your long report for public dissemination

Consider developing smaller products along with your long report.

As mentioned in the “Synthesize your research findings,” AWID often pulls smaller products from the lengthy research report. This allows for wider and easier distribution specialized for key audiences.

Always keep your targeted population in mind: who will read your report?

Examples of smaller products distilled from a larger report:

  • Infographics
  • Online gallery
  • An animation presenting your arguments

1. Think as your audience thinks

People are bombarded with information constantly. Your product will have to be visually compelling to maintain the interest of your audience. Again, having an idea of what you hope to accomplish and who you hope to reach, will allow the designer to create targeted products.

A lengthy written PDF report may seem the only way to present your research, but it could appear overwhelming to most people – especially online.

If you want to share your product with an online community, think about creating memes and infographics to use on social media, blogs and web platforms.

When deciding whether to create smaller products, consider dividing your results into several smaller products that you could share with targeted populations or at different times of the year to reactivate the interest on your product.

2. Work with a professional designer

If you have limited time and a little bit of budget, we recommend hiring a design firm.

It can be tempting for economic reasons to use in-house staff to package your report. However, a professional graphic designer can make a huge difference on how your final product looks and thus on how much impact it will have!

The designer (in-house or hired) must be able to:

  • Show you samples of their previous work that is similar to what you seek.

  • Provide you clear advice on how to present your research based on the content you provide and the audience you are targeting.

  • Suggest additional or different pieces to package your product.

What the designer will need from you:

  • A general idea on what you would like the lengthy report to highlight through visuals and graphics (what are the most important pieces of information, the key findings, for example) and some ideas on the types of smaller products you want to create (brochure, an infographic, a series of viral memes, for example). If possible, show the designer examples of similar documents developed by other organizations.
  • Your budget and time frame.
  • Your organization’s visual guidelines if you have any (logo, official colours, fonts, etc...).
  • A few photos copyright free or access to your photo bank if you have one.
  • Key visuals that need to be included – graphs, tables and other visual graphics drawn from your research.

The designer is a graphic expert. S/he is not necessarily familiar with women’s issues and does not know the results of your research, especially if you hire an external firm.

Communicate what elements of this report is important to you and who is your target. The designer will propose a way to highlight these elements and make the whole piece appealing to your users.

3. Make sure it's consistent

While creating a set of smaller information products, do not forget to link them all together:

  • A shorter version of the report that focuses only on your final results and recommendations should present a link to the final, full report
  • A visually compelling infographic that sends a message on the state of funding for your particular research can link to your website and the related section of the full report. It should be associated with a call to share on social media.
  • A short animation video that uses the data, findings and recommendations from your report should link back to your organization website and social media
  • A series of viral memes that can be distributed online should link back to your report, infographic, shorter report, etc.

It is also important to keep the research staff involved, so they can ensure any offshoot products stay true to the actual findings of the research.

Back to top

Control the quality of the translations

After the design and packaging of the final research report is complete, if any of the wording of content was changed, be sure to re-send to translators.

If you create smaller products, once designed and packaged, you will also need to get the copy translated for those pieces. The translations should be clear enough so the designer can apply to the design, even if she/he does not speak the language.

Once translated, make sure to have your design proofread by a native speaker before sharing it!

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Previous step

7. Synthesize your research findings

Next step

9. Advocate and tell the world

Estimated time:

• 2-3 months

People needed:

• 1 or more research person(s)
• 1 or more editor
• Design staff or hiring design firm
• Translator(s), if necessary

Resources needed:

• List of online spaces for dissemination

Previous step

7. Synthesize your research findings

Next step

9. Advocate and tell the world

Ready to Go? Worksheet

Download the toolkit in PDF

CFA 2023 - Suggested Activities Format - thai



การเสวนา: ในการเสวนาให้สำรวจปัญหาหรือความท้าทายจากมุมมองที่แตกต่างกัน หรือแบ่งปัน การเรียนรู้หรือประสบการณ์ ตามด้วยคำถามของผู้ฟังหากมีเวลา

รายการทอล์คโชว์: สนทนาแบบเป็นไปเองในรูปแบบรายการทอล์คโชว์ โดยอาจเป็นการสนทนา ร่วมกันหลายคน มีพิธีกรเป็นผู้ดำเนินรายการ คำถามของผู้ฟังสามารถกำหนดทิศทางของการสนทนาได้

การอภิปราย: วงสนทนาอภิปรายอาจอยู่ในรูปแบบเวิร์ลคาเฟ่ วงอ่างปลา (fishbowls)  และรูปแบบอื่นๆ  ที่เอื้อให้ผู้เข้าร่วมมีส่วนร่วมในการสนทนามากขึ้น

การประชุมเชิงปฏิบัติการ (workshop):    เป็นกิจกรรมเชิงโต้ตอบที่เชิญชวนผู้เข้าร่วมสร้างทักษะใหม่ๆในทุกด้านของชีวิตและการเคลื่อนไหวผ่านกิจกรรมและการปฏิบัติ 

หัวข้อยุทธศาสตร์:  เป็นการเชิญชวนให้คิดผ่านประเด็นหรือยุทธศาสตร์ในเชิงลึกร่วมกับคนอื่น เปิดพื้นที่ สำหรับเรียนรู้กันและกัน สิ่งใดได้ผล ไม่ได้ผล และเราจะพัฒนายุทธศาสตร์ใหม่ๆร่วมกันเพื่อสร้างโลกที่ เราใฝ่ฝันได้อย่างไร

วงแลกเปลี่ยนของคนแนวเดียวกัน: (หรือที่เรียกว่า "Birds of a Feather") เหมาะสำหรับกลุ่มเล็กๆ ในบรรยากาศที่ใกล้ชิดยิ่งขึ้น เพื่อรับฟังความคิดเห็นของกันและกัน จุดประกาย การอภิปราย และ หยิบยกประเด็นหัวข้อที่เฉพาะเจาะจง ละเอียดอ่อน และซับซ้อนอย่างระมัดระวัง

ศิลปะ - การประชุมเชิงปฏิบัติการแบบมีส่วนร่วม: กิจกรรมศิลปะอย่างมีส่วนร่วม และการแสดงออก อย่างสร้างสรรค์ ไม่ว่าจะเป็นทัศนศิลป์ การละคร ภาพยนตร์ จิตรกรรมฝาผนัง การเต้นรำ ดนตรี งานฝีมือ หรือการสร้างงานศิลปะ ฯลฯ   เรายินดีรับทุกแนวคิดที่เชิดชูศิลปะ และความคิดสร้างสรรค์แนวสตรีนิยมใน รูปแบบของการเปลี่ยนแปลงทางสังคม การเยียวยา การแสดงออก และการเปลี่ยนแปลง

ศิลปะ - การแสดง ศิลปะจัดวาง และนิทรรศการ: เรายินดีรับผลงานที่นำเสนอประสบการณ์ และมุมมองใหม่ๆแก่ผู้เข้าร่วมประชุมในเวทีนี้เพื่อขยายขอบเขตของเรา สร้างความท้าทายและสร้าง แรงบันดาลใจ ให้เราคิด รู้สึก และจัดการด้วยวิธีใหม่ๆ

การเยียวยาและบำบัด: กิจกรรมหลากหลายที่เหมาะกับกลุ่มและปัจเจกบุคคล ตั้งแต่การเรียนรู้เทคนิค การผ่อนคลาย ไปจนถึงการพูดคุยถึงการป้องกันภาวะหมดไฟ และตั้งแต่การดูแลร่างกาย จิตใจและ จิตวิญญาณ โดยคำนึงถึงบาดแผลทางจิตใจ ไปจนถึงการเยียวยารอยร้าวในขบวนการเคลื่อนไหวของเรา

AWID Members Engaging at CSW61

Member states and women's rights advocates and organisations are gathering at the United Nations Headquarters in New York from 13 - 24 March for the 61st Commission on the Status of Women to address ‘women’s economic empowerment’ in the context of Sustainable Development Goal 5.

Whilst AWID is looking forward to physically meeting those of you who will be in New York, we want to engage with all those who cannot attend CSW, and as much as possible, amplify your voices in relevant spaces.

Continue reading to find out how to engage with AWID around CSW, whether you are attending physically or not.

Participate in an artistic takeover!

We are thrilled that AWID member Nayani Thiyagarajah is attending CSW this year and will take over the AWID Instagram. She will be available onsite to connect with other members for a possible feature on our Instagram. She will also explore possibilities of including some AWID members in a short film on the theme, ‘The personal is political’, a story of Nayani’s participation in this year’s CSW.

Nayani Thiyagarajah

Who is Nayani?

Nayani Thiyagarajah is a director, producer, and writer, dedicated to stories for the screen. A daughter of the Tamil diaspora, she calls Toronto home. For over 10 years, Nayani has worked in the arts and cultural industries. Her first independent feature documentary Shadeism: Digging Deeper (2015) had its World Premiere at the 2015 Zanzibar International Film Festival, where it won a Special Jury Prize. Nayani recently launched [RE]FRAME, with her producing partner Camaro West, a production company based out of Atlanta and Toronto, focused on re-framing the narratives around Black, Indigenous, and other people of colour through storytelling on screen.

On a more serious note, it should be noted that Nayani has a strange laugh, she's quite awkward, and her head is always in the clouds. She feels blessed beyond belief to create stories for the screen and play make believe for a living. Above all else, she believes in love.

(Biography submitted by Nayani)

Interested in meeting Nayani and being considered for inclusion in the film?

  • Send an email to with the subject line “CSW Artistic Takeover”

  • By 13 March 2017

  • Please include your full name and country information.

Can't attend? Voice it!

If you are not able to attend CSW61 because of a travel ban, either due to the one imposed by the Trump administration or one you are facing from your own government, please share your story with us.

Send us messages you want heard in the United Nations spaces concerning funding, the impact of the reinstatement of the Global Gag Rule, and the need to push back against all types of religious fundamentalisms. You can send these in the following formats:

  • Video: no longer than two minutes and sent through a file sharing folder (for example dropbox, google drive) 

  • Audio: no longer than two minutes and sent through a file sharing folder (for example dropbox, google drive)

  • Image: you can share a photo or a poster of your message 

  • Text: no longer than 200 words and sent in the body of an email or in a word document

Share your message with us

Meet other members @CSW61

AWID members tell us that connecting with other members at CSW is valuable. In such a huge advocacy space, it is useful to connect with others including activists working on similar issues, or originating from the same country or region. Recognising the importance of connecting for movement building, we invite you to:

Interested in connecting with other members @CSW61?

  • Email with the subject line “CSW AWID Members

  • NOTE: Please let us know your full name and country, and if we can share your email address with other members interested in meeting at CSW. 

Meet current AWID members

Take a picture!

If you are attending the CSW, we’d love to see what’s going on through your eyes!

Show us by capturing a moment you find speaks to the energy in the CSW space, be it on or off site. We hope to publish some of your ‘images’ on our social media channels and share on

You can send us: 

  • colour and/ or black and white photographs with a title (if you wish) and 

  • a caption (no longer than 100 words) about the story your image tells.

​Please also include:

  • your full name and country of origin and

  • let us know if we can publish the information you shared (in part or in full).

Send your images:

  • Email with the subject line “CSW: Take a Picture!

  • During the whole CSW or shortly after until Tuesday 28 March 2017. 

Can an individual or organization send multiple applications?

You are welcome to submit up to 2 activities as the organizer. You can still be a partner on other applications.

Defending human rights at the UN

Keeping an eye on anti-rights actor at the Human Rights Council

Anti-rights mobilization at the United Nations constitutes a response to the significant feminist and progressive organizing. It involves a constant threat for women's rights, especially when it comes to sexual and reproductive rights and an open door to racism, xenophobia and all kinds of discrimination.

Get to know all their tactics and discourses worldwide.

Read our full report


Main resolutions and organizations to follow on the 38th session

We’re looking at an attack on the human rights system, and all of these fundamentalisms are coming together to try to weaken the fabric of multilateralism, and that’s happening in large part at the expense of marginalized groups of people. It’s happening at the expense of women, and it’s happening through tactics that are often about gender and sexuality.

Cynthia Rothschild

Independent human rights expert, OURs member

We’ve experienced a lot of pushback from different states, from different civil society actors, from private corporations and large donors who are funding the activities of these anti-rights actors.

Meghan Doherty

Director of Global Policy and Advocacy with Action Canada

Read more on what we do at the Human Rights Council

More interviews at HRC38

Zhan Chiam

ILGA's Gender Identity and Gender Expression Senior Programme Officer

Paola Salwan Daher

Global Advocacy Adviser at the Center for Reproductive Rights

ما هو منتدى جمعية حقوق المرأة في التنمية الدولي؟

كل ثلاث إلى أربع سنوات، تستضيف جمعية حقوق المرأة في التنمية حدثها الدولي الرئيسي. إنه أكبر حدث في العالم يركز بكل طاقته على الحركات النسوية والعدالة الجندرية بكل تنوعها. إنه تجمع عالمي للناشطين/ات النسويين/ات والحركات المتحالفة والباحثين/ات والممولين/ات وصانعي/ات السياسات. ويتنقل المنتدى بين مناطق وبلدان مختلفة في الجنوب العالمي.

Anatomy of a Survivor's Story

Maryum Saifee (@msaifee), New York, USA    

When you do a search for “Female Genital Mutilation” or “FGM” online, an image of four line-drawings of the female anatomy pop up next to its Wikipedia entry. It illustrates four types of violence. The first being a partial cut to the clitoris. The second, a more invasive cut with the entire clitoris removed. The third is progressively worse with the removal of the clitoris, labia majora and minora. And the fourth box illustrates a series of hash marks to symbolize stitches over the vaginal opening to allow only for urination and menstruation.

As a survivor of FGM, most questions about my story fixate on the physical. The first question I usually get asked is what type of FGM I underwent. When I told a journalist once that I went through Type 1, she said “oh, that’s not so bad. It’s not like type three which is far worse.” She was technically right. I had the least invasive form. And for many years, I gaslighted myself into feeling a sense of relief that I was one of the lucky ones. I comforted myself noting that I could have been less fortunate with all of my genitalia gouged out, not just the clitoral tip. Or worse I could have been one of the ones who didn’t survive at all. Like Nada Hassan Abdel-Maqsoud, a twelve year old, who bled to death on a doctor’s operating table earlier this year in Upper Egypt. Nada is a  reminder to me that for every data point -- 200 million women and girls who live with the consequences of FGM globally -- there is a story. Nada will never be able to tell hers.

As much as I find the label “survivor” suffocating at times -- I also realize there is privilege embedded in the word. By surviving, you are alive. You have the ability to tell your story, process the trauma, activate others in your community and gain insights and a new language and lens to see yourself through.

The act of storytelling can be cathartic and liberating, but it can also shatter the storyteller in the process.

Without integrating the psychosocial support of trained clinicians into storytelling and healing retreats, well-intentioned interventions can result in more trauma. This is all the more important as FGM survivors navigate the double pandemic of their own PTSD from childhood trauma, and the indefinite COVID-19 global shutdown.

In many anti-FGM advocacy spaces, I have seen this insatiable hunger to unearth stories -- whatever the cost to the storyteller. The stories help activate funding and serve as a data point
for measuring impact. 

Survivor stories then become commodities fueling a storytelling industrial complex. Storytellers, if not provided proper mental health support in the process, can become collateral damage.

My motivation in writing this piece is to flip the script on how we view FGM survivors, prioritizing the storyteller over the story itself.

FGM survivors are more than the four boxes describing how the pieces of our anatomy were cut, pricked, carved, or gouged out. In this essay, I’ll break down the anatomy of an FGM survivor’s story into four parts: stories that break, stories that remake, stories that heal, and stories that reveal.

Type 1: Stories that break

I was sitting in the heart of Appalachia with a group of FGM survivors, meeting many for the first time. As they shared their traumas, I realized we all belonged in some way or another to the same unenviable club. A white Christian survivor from Kentucky - who I don’t think I would have ever met if we didn’t have FGM survivorship connecting us - told the contours of her story. 

There were so many parallels. We were both cut at seven. She was bribed with cake after her cut. I was bribed with a jumbo-sized Toblerone chocolate bar when mine was over. Absorbing her trauma overwhelmed me. And I imagine when I shared my story, others in the circle may also have been silently unraveling. We didn’t have a clinician or mental health professional in a facilitation role and that absence was felt. The first night, I was sharing a room with six other survivors and tried hard to keep the sounds of my own tears muffled. By the last day, I reached breaking point. Before leaving for the airport, my stomach contracted and I convulsively vomited. I felt like I was purging not only my pain, but the pain of the others I’d absorbed that week. We all dutifully produced our stories into 90 second social media friendly soundbites with narration and photos. But at what cost?

Type 2: Stories that remake

On February 6, 2016, the Guardian published my story as a survivor. The second it was released, I was remade. My identity transformed from nondescript, relatively invisible mid-level Foreign Service Officer to FGM survivor under a public microscope. That same day, then-U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power tweeted my story with the introduction: “I was seven years old” before linking to the article. The tweet symbolized a moment for me where my personal and professional worlds collided. Since then, they have been forever intertwined. 

Even though I spent ten years of my career as a diplomat focused on other issues -- I lived in Cairo during the early days of the Arab Spring in 2011 and served in Baghdad and Erbil when the Syrian revolution turned from an uprising to civil war -- all of those past experiences that began to make mefeel erased. When I spoke on panels, my identity would be reduced to “survivor.” Like other survivors, I have worked hard to rewrite the script on how others see me.

I reinsert pieces of my other identities when speaking to underscore to the broader public that while yes, I am a survivor of childhood trauma and while my FGM story may have remade a part of my identity, it doesn’t define me.

Type 3: Stories that heal

With the guidance of a mental health expert, I have spent the last few months doing a deep dive into my FGM survivor story. I have told and retold my story over dozens of times in public venues. My goal is to break the culture of silence and inspire action. At this point, the telling of my story has almost become mechanized, as though I am reciting a verse from the Quran I memorized as a kid. I would always start with: “I was sitting an anthropology class when a fellow student described her research project on Female Genital Mutilation. And that’s when I had the memory jolt. A memory I had suppressed since childhood came flooding to the foreground.” I go into the details of what happened in granular detail -- the color of the floor, the feelings of confusion and betrayal in the hazy aftermath. And then I go on to talk about the afternoon I confronted my mother about the summer she and my father shipped my brother and off to India to stay with my aunt. The summer it happened. I later found out my aunt cut me without my parents’ consent. In my years of telling and retelling this story, I would have moments I felt nothing, moments I would break down, and moments of relief. It was a mixed bag, often contradictory emotions happening all at once. 

When I began to take apart the story, I discovered the core moment where I felt most gutted. It wasn’t the cut itself. It was the aftermath. I remember sitting in a corner alone, feeling confused and ashamed. When I looked at my aunt on the other side of the room, she was whispering to my cousin and they both pointed and laughed at me. Unearthing the moment of shame - the laughter - has haunted me since childhood. The piece that was carved out of me is called “haram ki boti” which translates into sinful flesh. Over time, the physical scar healed. But for many FGM survivors, the psychological wounds remain 

Type 4: Stories that reveal

Last year, I decided to take a sabbatical from the Foreign Service. I was burning out on both ends -- I had just completed a really tough assignment in Pakistan and was also doing anti-FGM
advocacy in my personal capacity. When I came home, an acquaintance from graduate school approached me to capture my story on film. As part of the process, she would send a camera
crew to shadow me. Sometimes while giving speeches, other times filming mundane interactions with friends and family. On a visit to my home in Texas, I’ll never forget the moment where my mom told me her story of survival. As part of the film, we went on a roadtrip to Austin to visit the university where I first had the memory jolt. My mom is patiently waiting for the cameraman to set up his tripod.  My father is standing next to her. 

In the end, we eventually had the conversation I never had the courage to have with either of my parents face to face. Looking them both in the eye, retelling my story with a camera as witness, we discussed how FGM ripped our family apart (specifically my dad’s relationship with his sister). For the first time, I heard my mom talking about her own experience and the feeling of betrayal when she discovered my aunt cut me without her consent. When I later told her that FGM was actually indigenous to the U.S. and Europe and that it was a cure for hysteria (prescribed by doctors) up until the 19th century, my mother exclaimed “that’s crazy to me, this was a cure for hysteria. I’m going to educate other doctors to speak out.” And in that moment, my mother, a survivor who had never shared her story before, became an activist. 

My story, intertwined with her story, revealed a tightly woven fabric of resistance. With our voices, we were able to break the cycle of intergenerational structural violence. We were able to rewrite the stories of future generations of girls in our own family and hopefully one day, the world.



by Neesa Sunar (@neesasunar), Queens, USA

This is a woman breaking free from her mundane reality, devoid of color. She dreams in a colorful, "nonsensical" way that people in her life would not understand. She could be considered insane, yet her dreams are more vivid and imaginative than actual life. This is frequently how schizophrenia occurs to me, more engaging and exciting than real life.

Neesa Sunar (@neesasunar)

< United against the violence, by Karina Ocampo 

Freeing the Church, Decolonizing the Bible for West Papuan Women, by Rode Wanimbo >

هل يجب أن أكون عضواً في جمعية حقوق المرأة في التنمية حتى أتمكن من المشاركة في المنتدى؟

لا، ليس من الضروري أن تكون عضوًا/ة في جمعية حقوق المرأة في التنمية للمشاركة ولكن أعضاء/ عضوات جمعية حقوق المرأة في التنمية يحصلون على رسوم تسجيل مخفضة بالإضافة إلى عدد من المزايا الأخرى. تعرف/ي على المزيد حول كيفية أن تصبح عضوًا/ة في جمعية حقوق المرأة في التنمية.

Upasana Agarwal

Forgotten Song
Forgotten Song
Ode to the Moon
Ode to the Moon
Vapour and Fire
Vapour and Fire

About Upasana Agarwal

Upasana Agarwal

Upasana is a non binary illustrator and artist based out of Kolkata, India. Their work explores identity and personal narratives by using a visual remnant or evidence of the contexts they work with. They are especially drawn to patterns which to them communicate complex truths about the past, present and future.  When Upasana is not illustrating they organise and run a queer and trans community art centre in the city. 

هل يمكن للفرد أو المؤسسة إرسال مقترحات متعددة؟

أنتم/ن مدعوون/ات لتقديم ما يصل إلى نشاطين كمنظم/ة. لا يزال بإمكانك أن تكون شريكًا/ة في المقترحات الأخرى.

Illumination by the Light of the Full Moon: An African BDSM experience

Akosua Hanson portrait

Akosua Hanson is an artistic activist, based in Accra, Ghana. Her work spans radio, television, print media, theatre, film, comic art exhibitions, art installations, and graphic novels. Akosua’s activism has been centred around pan-Africanism and feminism, with an interest in the intersection of art, pop culture, and activism. She has a Masters in Philosophy in African Studies with a focus on Gender and African Philosophical Thought. Akosua Hanson is the creator of Moongirls, a graphic novel series that follows the adventures of four superheroes fighting for an Africa free from corruption, neocolonialism, religious fundamentalism, rape culture, homophobia and more. She works as a radio host at Y 107.9 FM, Ghana.

Ever experienced moments of deep clarity during or after sex?


In these panels, the Moongirl Wadjet is engaged in BDSM lovemaking with a two-gender daemon. Of the four Moongirls, Wadjet is the healer and philosopher, the conduit of the Oracle. She does this to launch a scientific and spiritual process – an experiment she calls “Illumination by the Light of the Full Moon” – through which she traces a vibrational time arc between her memories, sensations, emotions, visions, and imagination. It is a form of vibrational time travel in order to discover what she terms as “truth-revelations.” 

During the experience, some of Wadjet’s hazy visions include: an approaching apocalypse brought about by humans’ environmental destruction in service to a voracious capitalism; a childhood memory of being hospitalized after a mental health diagnosis; and a vision of a Moongirls’ origin story of the Biblical figure of Noah as an ancient black Moongirl warning of the dangers of environmental pollution.

More than a fun kink to explore for the sensations, BDSM can be a way of addressing emotional pain and trauma. It has been a medium of sexual healing for me, providing a radical form of liberation. There is a purge that happens when physical pain is inflicted on the body. Inflicted with consent, it draws out emotional pain – almost like a “calling forth.” The whip on my body allows me to release suppressed emotions: anxiety, depression, my sense of defenselessness to the stresses that overwhelm me sometimes.

When engaging in BDSM as an avenue for healing, lovers must learn to be very aware of and responsible for each other. Because even though consent may have been initially given, we must be attentive to any changes that might occur in the process, especially as feelings intensify. I approach BDSM with the understanding that in order to surrender pain, love and empathy have to be the basis of the process and by that, I create space or open up for love. 

Cover Illumination by the Light of the Full Moon

The engagement with aftercare after the infliction of pain is a completion of the process. This can be done in very simple ways such as cuddling, checking if they need water, watching a movie together, sharing a hug or just sharing a joint. It can be whatever your chosen love language is. This holding space, with the understanding that wounds have been opened, is necessary to complete the process of healing. It is the biggest lesson in practising empathy and learning to really hold your partner, due to the delicacy in blurring the lines between pain and pleasure. In this way, BDSM is a form of care work for me.

After BDSM sex, I feel a clarity and calm that puts me in a great creative space and spiritually empowers me. It is an almost magical experience watching the pain transform into something else in real time. Similarly, this personally liberating experience of BDSM allows Wadjet to access the foreknowledge, wisdom, and clarity to aid in her moongirl duties in fighting African patriarchy.

Moongirls was birthed during my tenure as the director for Drama Queens, a young artistic activist organization based in Ghana. Since our inception in 2016, we’ve employed different artistic media as part of their feminist, pan-Africanist, and environmentalist activism. We used poetry, short stories, theatre, film, and music to address issues such as corruption, patriarchy, environmental degradation, and homophobia.

Our inaugural theatre production, “The Seamstress of St. Francis Street” and “Until Someone Wakes Up” addressed the problem of rape culture in our communities. Another one, “Just Like Us,” was arguably one of the first Ghanaian theatre productions to directly address the country’s deep-seated issue of homophobia. Queer Universities Ghana, our queer film workshop for African filmmakers, has trained filmmakers from Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, and Uganda. Films birthed during the workshop, like “Baby Girl: An Intersex Story” by Selassie Djamey, have gone on to be screened at film festivals. Therefore, moving to the medium of graphic novels was a natural progression.

About seven years ago, I’d started a novel that I never completed about the lives of four women. In 2018, the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) opened up a grant opportunity that launched the production of the project and my uncompleted novel was turned into Moongirls

There have been two seasons of Moongirls made up of six chapters each. Contributing writers and editors for the first season were Suhaida Dramani, Tsiddi Can-Tamakloe, George Hanson, and Wanlov the Kubolor. Writers for the second season were Yaba Armah, Nadia Ahidjo, and myself. Character illustrations and conceptualizations were by Ghanaian artist Kissiwa. And AnimaxFYB Studio, a premium animation, design, and visual effects studio, does the illustrations.

During the experience, some of Wadjet’s hazy visions include: an approaching apocalypse brought about by humans’ environmental destruction in service to a voracious capitalism; a childhood memory of being hospitalized after a mental health diagnosis; and a vision of a Moongirls’ origin story of the Biblical figure of Noah as an ancient black Moongirl warning of the dangers of environmental pollution.

Writing Moongirls between 2018 and 2022 has been a labour of love for me, even, a labour for liberation. I aim to be very explorative in form and style: I’ve dabbled in converting other forms of writing, such as short stories and poetry, to graphic novel format. By merging illustration and text, as graphic novels do, Moongirls aims to tackle the big issues and to honor real life activists. My decision to centre queer women superheroes – which is rare to see in this canon – came to mean so much more when a dangerous backdrop started developing in Ghana in 2021. 

Last year saw a marked hike in violence for the Ghanaian LGBT+ community that was sparked by the shutdown of an LGBT+ community centre. This was followed by arbitrary arrests and imprisonment of people suspected to be on the queer spectrum, as well as of those accused of pushing an “LGBT agenda.” Crowning this was the introduction in Ghanaian Parliament of an anti-LGBT bill named “Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values.” This bill is arguably the most draconian anti-LGBT bill ever drafted in the region, following previous attempts in countries like Nigeria, Uganda and Kenya. 

I remember quite vividly the first time I read the draft of this bill. 

It was a Friday night, typically a night I take off to rest or party after a long work week. By sheer luck, the draft was leaked and shared with me on a WhatsApp group. As I read it, a deep sense of fear and alarm made burnt toast of my Friday night chill. This bill proposed to slap any LGBT+ advocacy with five to ten years of imprisonment, and to fine and imprison people who identify as LGBT+ unless they “recanted” and accepted conversion therapy. In the draft bill, even asexual people were criminalized. The bill went for all fundamental freedoms: freedoms of thought, of being, and the freedom to hold one’s personal truth and choose to live your life by that truth. The bill even went for social media and art. If it passed, Moongirls would be banned literature. What the bill proposed to do was so evil and far-reaching, I was stunned into a depression at the depth of hate from which it had been crafted. 

Scrolling through my Twitter timeline that night, the terror I felt inside me was mirrored. The timeline was a livestream of emotions as people reacted in real time to what they were reading: disbelief to terror to a deep disappointment and sorrow when we realized how far the bill wanted to go. Some tweeted their readiness to fold up and leave the country. Then, in the way Ghanaians do, sorrow and fear is alchemized to humour. From humour came the zest to upscale the fight.

So, the work still continues. I created Moongirls to provide an alternative form of education, to provide knowledge where it has been suppressed by violent patriarchy, and to create visibility where the LGBT+ community has been erased. It is also important that African BDSM is given this platform of representation when so much of BDSM representation is white. Sexual pleasure, through BDSM or otherwise, as well as non-heterosexual love, transcend race and continent because sexual pleasure and its diversity of experience are as old as time.

هل يمكن تغيير المتحدثين/ات أو تفاصيل النشاط الأخرى خلال عام 2024؟

(نظرًا لأننا نقدم الطلب قبل عام تقريبًا من الحدث الفعلي.)
نعم! يطلب النموذج حاليًا إدراج مقدمي/ات المقترح حتى لو لم يتم تأكيدهم/ن بعد. نحن ندرك أنه من المحتمل أن تحدث التغييرات في غضون عام.

Dear Feminist Movements: A Letter from the Board

Dear feminist movements, 

Speaking on behalf of the Board, I  write to express our deepest gratitude, appreciation, and respect for Hakima Abbas and Cindy Clark, our extraordinary Co-Executive Directors during the past five years who will be stepping aside to refresh the AWID leadership as we move into a new strategic plan and phase of our organizational life. They have consistently practiced the best principles of feminist organizational leadership and ethics of care as they navigated us through one of the most unpredictable, turbulent times in recent history of the world, the COVID-19 syndemic, and the subsequent downward global political spiral. They held AWID, our Staff, and Board firmly, gently, and lovingly as all of us experienced various impacts. They also held steadfastly to AWID vision and mission as they responded respectfully and strategically to various changes, not least the cancellation of the AWID Forum.

Going forward… we expect to continue with the co-directorship model given the nature, scope, and weight of the responsibilities of the executive role at AWID. Our first experience with co-leadership was a success in a multitude of ways, as you all have seen. 

The Board decided to prioritize an internal recruitment process first, fully recognizing the great potential that exists within the current team. We expect to complete the transition by the end of 2022. Hakima and Cindy will stagger their departure, and will facilitate a smooth transition to the new leadership.  

Seeing Cindy and Hakima leave AWID is difficult for the Board as well as others who have worked closely with them and love them.  Nonetheless, rest assured the AWID Board is leading the transition process in a way that fully recognizes the beautiful and inspiring indelible marks Hakima and Cindy will be leaving as part of our 40-year history, that embraces the next step of on-boarding and supporting new leadership, and that inspires us to do better at this moment in AWID's life. 

Major organizational transitions are neither simple nor easy. Sometimes they are forced, beyond anyone’s control, fraught, or even destructive. I, and many of you, have seen examples of those kinds of transitions. At other times, the staff’s needs and aspirations are aligned with those of the organization. Although we did not choose or wish Cindy and Hakima to leave AWID, their decision and AWID moving into the next strategic plan and new decade of existence are aligned. Best of all, we are in the wonderful, super competent, creative, and feminist hands of the Staff and Board.

We thank you, dear Feminist Movements, for your confidence in AWID. We also ask you to support our leadership transition in the coming months. Let’s continue to build, deepen, and strengthen our connections, as we have done for the past 40 years. 

Please stay tuned for more concrete developments and updates. You will be hearing from us in the coming weeks.

In feminist solidarity and love,
Margo Okazawa-Rey
President, AWID Board

แล้วความยุติธรรมด้านสภาพอากาศละ นี่เป็นเวลาที่เหมาะสำหรับเที่ยวบินระหว่างประเทศจำนวนมากจริงหรือ?

เมื่อ AWID ถามตัวเองด้วยคำถามเดียวกัน เราเชื่อว่าไม่มีคำตอบง่ายๆสำหรับเรื่องนี้ สำหรับผู้เข้าร่วมจำนวนมาก AWID ฟอรัม อาจเป็นหนึ่งในการเดินทางระหว่างประเทศไม่กี่ทริปที่พวกเขาเคยทำในชีวิต การระบาของโรคโควิด19ได้ให้บทเรียนเราถึงความเป็นไปได้ต่างๆในการพบเจอกันรูปแบบอื่นๆที่ไม่ใช่ทางกายภาพ แต่ก็ให้บทเรียนเราถึงข้อจำกัดของพื้นที่เสมือนจริงสำหรับการสร้างการขบวนการด้วย ไม่มีรูปแบบใดที่เหมือนกับการเชื่อมต่อแบบตัวต่อตัว ขบวนการจำเป็นต้องมีการเชื่อมโยงข้ามพรมแดนเพื่อสร้างพลังร่วมในการเผชิญกับภัยคุกคามที่เรากำลังเผชิญหน้าอยู่ โดยเฉพาะอย่างยิ่งวิกฤตสภาพภูมิอากาศ เราเชื่อว่า AWID ฟอรัม ที่กำลังจะมาถึงสามารถเป็นพื้นที่เชิงกลยุทธ์ในการก่อให้เกิดพื้นที่สำหรับการสนทนาเหล่านี้ และทำให้เราได้สำรวจทางเลือกอื่นนอกเหนือจากการเดินทางระหว่างประเทศ การประชุมแบบผสม(ออนไลน์และกายภาพ)ของฟอรัมเป็นส่วนสำคัญของการสำรวจนี้