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.

Co-Creating Feminist Realities

While we dream of a feminist world, there are those who are already building and living it. These are our Feminist Realities!

What are Feminist Realities?

Feminist Realities are the living, breathing examples of the just world we are co-creating. They exist now, in the many ways we live, struggle and build our lives.

Feminist Realities go beyond resisting oppressive systems to show us what a world without domination, exploitation and supremacy look like.

These are the narratives we want to unearth, share and amplify throughout this Feminist Realities journey.

Transforming Visions into Lived Experiences

Through this initiative, we:

  • Create and amplify alternatives: We co-create art and creative expressions that center and celebrate the hope, optimism, healing and radical imagination that feminist realities inspire.

  • Build knowledge: We document, demonstrate & disseminate methodologies that will help identify the feminist realities in our diverse communities.

  • Advance feminist agendas: We expand and deepen our collective thinking and organizing to advance just solutions and systems that embody feminist values and visions.

  • Mobilize solidarity actions: We engage feminist, women’s rights and gender justice movements and allies in sharing, exchanging and jointly creating feminist realities, narratives and proposals at the 14th AWID International Forum.

The AWID International Forum

As much as we emphasize the process leading up to, and beyond, the four-day Forum, the event itself is an important part of where the magic happens, thanks to the unique energy and opportunity that comes with bringing people together.

We expect the next Forum to:

  • Build the power of Feminist Realities, by naming, celebrating, amplifying and contributing to build momentum around experiences and propositions that shine light on what is possible and feed our collective imaginations

  • Replenish wells of hope and energy as much needed fuel for rights and justice activism and resilience

  • Strengthen connectivity, reciprocity and solidarity across the diversity of feminist movements and with other rights and justice-oriented movements

Learn more about the Forum process

We are sorry to announce that the 14th AWID International Forum is cancelled

Given the current world situation, our Board of Directors has taken the difficult decision to cancel Forum scheduled in 2021 in Taipei. 

Read the full announcement

Find out more!

Related Content

‘Our desire is our revolution!’: The politics of love and queer sexualities

Gabby De Cicco

Mujeres Al Borde (MaB, ‘Women on the Edge’) is an explosive feminist cocktail of different identities and artistic disciplines created in 2001 in Colombia. A six-member team coordinates its programs Al Borde Productions, Al Borde Theatre, and Multitudes Al Borde. Over the course of 15 years of artivism more than 5,000 people have participated in their community programming in Colombia, Chile, and other countries in South and Central America. Pansexual artivist, transfeminist, and MaB co-founder Ana Lucia Ramirez shares her reflections on the group’s work.

A revolutionary desire

“Our desire is our revolution!” This has been our slogan since we created Mujeres al Borde. We are convinced that desire (exclusively in the sexual sense) is political.

When we embody a desire that is not heteronormative we begin to live differently in the world and can become more conscious of the oppressions we need to change and the injustices which have been normalized,” explains Ana.

“With this slogan we give a revolutionary and transformative place to our desire, our desire for other possible bodies, other ways to love, to experience pleasure, to have relationships with people, with other beings, with the earth. It is a desire that also goes beyond the sexual, that refers to the desire for another world and the commitment to making way for more just, free, and happy worlds,” she adds.

There are many ways to transform the world. One of Mujeres al borde’s ways has been to ensure that all voices are heard, especially the voices which have been marginalized or, out of concerns for their own personal security, have remained behind a wall of silence.

“The tagline of our community film project AL BORDE Productions is ‘We tell stories to change the world’. ” While we were making autobiographical documentaries with LGBT activists, we learned that one of the first fears that people who are sexual or gender dissidents need to confront is breaking the silence about who we are,” she says. For Ana and her fellow activists, for people to tell their stories in their own voice, and to recognize that their stories are worth telling and being heard “is a huge act of courage; it means confronting a society that threatens to symbolically and materially exclude us if we decide to be visible.”

Finding pleasure in the margins

Ana remembers that in their beginning the idea was to create a space to come together and “create other ways of being ‘the women’ who are living sexual and gender dissidences.” They identify as women who are ‘on the edge’ for not conforming to expectations about “gender, beauty, decency, or ‘political correctness,’ and who are not interested in giving up who we are to enter a place of privilege. On the edge, on the borders and margins, we find pleasure, fluidity, creativity, we find a place to create together with others who no longer fear being the weird ones, and on the contrary, enjoy it.”

The group has had bisexual women participants, 70-year-old lesbian women, trans women who find themselves and begin their transition in their 40s, 12-year-old trans children, women with intersex experiences, lesbian and bisexual women, pansexual women, girls with lesbian/bisexual moms, non-binary people, men who reject and question their gender identity and privilege, people with different abilities, transvestites of different ages, transformists, cross dressers, queer people, marimacha butch women, and heterosexual cisgender women who are critical of sexual norms and advocate for their rights.

“We have been a very happy group with so much beauty and difference that has come together around transfeminism, art, and activism.”

And if we are talking about artivism…

We understand art as an experience that changes us and through which we can also change the world. The activism that moves us recognizes that the power to create the world we dream of is in our own hands, in the strength of our own community doing activism through art.

In a film we are creating images
of what will be our collective memory.
In the creation of a character
people are valiantly discovering themselves.
When we create other narratives through storytelling,
documentaries, femzines or performances, we produce
references that will help others to know they are not alone,
they are not the only ones. Artivism gives our voice back,
heals us, emphasizes community and the collective,
brings us together to dream as a group
and to create new potential dreams.

Our artivism is contrasexual and transfeminist. It is that way because from here on the edge, we have understood that there are certain truths that need to be challenged so that our lives are possible, truths that sustain oppressions that are ending the lives of women, girls, children, gender and sexual dissident people all over the world. We challenge the patriarchy, cissexism, gender binaries, norms on corporality, desire, love, pleasure, the obligation to be heterosexual, to be mothers, to be women and to be men.

No more masks

The theatre troupe of Mujeres al Borde, “Las Aficionadas” (The Fans), debuted in June 2001 with its first play, “Olga sin pelos en la lengua” (Straight-talking Olga; or literally, “Olga with no hair on her tongue”). Ana recalls that it was harder to come out of the closet in Colombia in those years. More than half of the lesbian and bisexual women participating in the group hid their sexual orientation and would often march in the Pride parade wearing masks or eye masks.

Clau Corredor, a co founder of the group, imagined a scene in which several of them would take centre stage and say over and over, “I am bisexual. I am a lesbian.” They would say it for three months of rehearsals, “even though they hadn’t found the strength to say it in their own lives,” Ana explains. On opening night there was a full house, with more than 200 people in the audience and “our compañeras were really nervous. The play was a hit, and they said their lines with such strength and determination. ‘I am bisexual. I am a lesbian.’ The audience gave them a standing ovation.”

The “LGBT Pride” parade in Bogota was two days after the show opening, and the protagonist and other compañeras from the show went to the place where they were handing out masks to wear for the march. “We saw them just then and went up to say hello,” Ana recalls, “but before they could put them on, some people on the street started yelling, ‘Olga! Olga! Olga sin pelos en la lengua!’ They came up and excitedly asked whether we were the ones from the play. We were all surprised and happy about being recognized, especially the lead actress.

Just then the person handing out the masks asked them how many they would need. They looked at one another and said, ‘No, this time we are not going to wear a mask.’ That was one of the most meaningful moments for us when we were starting out—one we still remember today with tears and laughter.”

Latin America

The freedom to decide what to do with our lives

Gabby De Cicco

“My dream is for there to be no more violence against us, no more injustice, and for us to become visible and respected in society and to no longer be stigmatized,” says Rosa Alma Ramos, Salvadoran sex worker and coordinator of the Liquidambar Association of Women Sex Workers of El Salvador.

Rosa’s dream cannot be realized alone, and she has been working with other sex workers who want to see this change and believe there is strength in organizing. Together they are part of an association that has been working towards this dream for close to nine years, and have been an institutional member of AWID since January 2017.

The Beginnings

Angélica Quintanilla, Liquidambar founder

During the 2009 election campaign in El Salvador, the right-wing candidate, Norman Quijanos of the Alianza Republicana Nacionalista party, promised to remove sex workers from the streets of San Salvador. Angélica Quintanilla, a sex worker in that city who was alarmed by these threats, made her way to City Hall together with ten other as-yet-unorganized women, to speak with mayor Violeta Menjívar. That and other conversations led to the creation of the “Sex Worker Violence Prevention Committee,” which would facilitate coordination and dialogue between sex workers, local government, and the police force.

The logo for Liquidambar Women’s Association, which has a tagline that says, ‘For the respect and recognition of sex work’

A few months later, the women had organized, and named their new association Liquidambar [sweetgum tree]. “For us that name represents the freedom to decide what to do with our lives and how to achieve our dreams. In our logo you can see a bridge, which represents all the connections or steps we need to take to meet our needs,” explains Rosa with contagious energy. She explains that “the sweetgum tree grows in mountainous areas well above sea level. Those trees have a balsam [“liquid amber”] which runs through their veins down toward the sea, collecting sticks, leaves, and a variety of insects along the way. When it reaches the sea, it is transformed into the only gemstone that comes from a plant: amber. Just as those transformations are as deep and blue as the ocean, so is the strong and beautiful potential and spiritual energy of the woman sex worker.”

Sex Work is Work

Liquidambar began working “without resources or support,” recalls Rosa, until they started forging links with other local and international organizations. From their office in the capital, San Salvador, and with the support of the Foro de ONG en la lucha contra el VIH [NGO Forum Fighting HIV], they are training sex workers in sex education, HIV and STI prevention, and techniques for building self-esteem.

In the Sex Worker Violence Prevention Committee, they lobby different local and national governmental institutions for the implementation of public policies to improve the conditions in which they work.

“The Global Network of Sex Work Projects and the Latin American Platform of People who  Exercise Sex Work (PLAPERTS) give us technical support and help us to prepare for participation in international fora, where we advocate for the defense and promotion of sex workers’ human rights.”

As part of activities to mark International Women’s Day, the group issued a statement calling for Congress to debate a bill legalizing sex work, which was delivered to the legislative body by organized sex workers.

Demanding Answers within Feminist Networks

Liquidambar is part of the feminist network Concertación Feminista Prudencia Ayala, which coordinates over 20 feminist organizations in El Salvador, and is linked to Las Dignas and the Salvadoran Network of Women Human Rights Defenders.

“According to the National Constitution, all people are equal before the law, so why are women who are raped revictimized? Why do they keep killing us for being women? Why is there impunity for those femicides?” asks Rosa. “All of this means we need to participate in actions and to learn about and from feminism. That is why we belong to the Red de Defensoras [WHRD network]. As a network, we are demanding that the relevant authorities, such as the Public Prosecutor Office, investigate murder cases so there is no impunity and that these public authorities  protect defenders when we file complaints.”

According to a Liquidambar statement, only 10% of women sex workers denounce and follow through on complaints of institutional violence. Among the 90% who do not file complaints, the main reasons cited for doing so were fear of reprisal and lack of confidence in the judicial system.

Beyond Fear

(AWID honored Angelica in its 2016 Online Tribute to WHRDs no longer with us. The Tribute is launched annually on 29 November.)

On 6 May 2016 Angélica Quintanilla, the leader who brought together that group of sex workers for the first time in 2009, was murdered. Rosa remembers the founder of Liquidambar as a woman of strong personality who did whatever was necessary to advance her principles and ideas. Her murder is one of the crimes that languish in impunity. Following her death, some of the women left the group, but others remained, convinced of the need to continue resisting as an organized group. Yet the fear was both tangible and strong. Once again, as at the time the association was born, the women of Liquidambar are gathering strength, looking inside, figuring out how to heal and to overcome fear.

Following Angélica’s murder, they had to move their office for security reasons. “We are in a smaller, but cozier office. We have been working hard to overcome the fear that has overtaken us following her murder. The American Jewish World Service (AJWS) helped us through training with a systemic approach to go out with less fear and return to the streets empowered.”

Angélica’s murder is not an isolated case. Liquidambar denounces the 35 recent murders of sex workers in 2018 alone as femicides.

“The threat is so real, we feel it every day. It comes from the gangs, but also from the state and others who think they own the sex work districts.”

Overcoming challenges 

Rosa tells us that “the majority of our compañeras come from situations of extreme poverty. Those working in the street encounter threats and demands for ‘fees’ by the gangs just to have the right to work in certain areas, and sometimes the situation leads to a lack of clients.”

In addition, they face institutional violence, the abovementioned femicides, stigma and discrimination on the part of Salvadoran society. “We have been working to raise awareness among uniformed police personnel through trainings, and we use those opportunities to expose those in the force who are violent toward us.”

Training with uniformed police personnel

Liquidambar also carries out projects to fight the poverty facing sex workers, but implementation of some has been complicated by limited funding. The association demands that the local political authorities recognize sex workers and their need for stable employment. “We ask them to offer trainings in entrepreneurship, such as how to make sweets, or to help us set up a day care centre for sex workers’ children.”

Rosa says Liquidambar is raising money as a seed fund to start a cafeteria run by sex workers. “That is a project that has been pending since Angélica’s time.”

The women sex workers of El Salvador are organizing, going out into the streets, and entering decision-making spaces to demand their rights, in order to improve the quality of life of sex workers and their families and dependents. Sex work is work, and it is time for it to be included in state policy.

Latin America