Srilatha Batliwala https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/2001/all cached version 08/02/2019 19:47:51 en Feminists and feminisms come in many forms: Suspend judgment! https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/srilatha-batliwala-geetanjali-misra-nafisa-ferdous/suspend-judgment-feminisms-and-feminists-com <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The responses of feminist activists to the Suspend Judgement! campaign reveal the hidden hierarchies of power and exclusion we must confront. Part 2. <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/srilatha-batliwala-geetanjali-misra-nafisa-ferdous/to-build-feminist-futures-suspend-judgment">Part 1</a>.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/SuspendJudgment2b.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/SuspendJudgment2b.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Suspend Judgment! leaflets on display at the AWID Forum. Designed by Sherna Dastur/ CREA.</span></span></span></p> <p>In the days before the internet, smartphones, texting, Facebook, twitter, Instagram, and what have you, the distribution of <em>parchas</em> (Hindi for political leaflets, pronounced <em>pur-chah</em>) was once a popular organizing tradition of street activists and protesters, especially in South Asian countries. Even today, you can see variations of <em>parchas</em> pasted across city walls, although they are more likely to be advertisements rather than political messages. </p> <p>Inspired by these movement traditions of the global south, CREA decided to use this medium as an integral part of the “<em>Suspend Judgment</em>” campaign launched in &nbsp;September at the AWID International Forum in Bahia, Brazil. <em>Suspend Judgment</em> features fourteen feminist <em>parchas </em>exploring difficult questions at the intersection of sexuality, gender and rights. As described in <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/srilatha-batliwala-geetanjali-misra-nafisa-ferdous/to-build-feminist-futures-suspend-judgment">part 1</a> of this two-part article, we see <em>Suspend Judgment</em> as a campaign that both challenges and goes to the heart of the future of feminist organizing and practice.&nbsp; It is an innovative movement-building effort focused on feminists themselves as much as other social actors, provoking all of us to think and act intersectionally, and reflect critically on deeply rooted assumptions about who is deserving of rights, what forms of difference construct stigma and marginalization, and what an inclusive agenda for social transformation might actually look like - <em>if</em> we suspend judgment! </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/SuspendJudgment2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/SuspendJudgment2.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="616" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Comments made by AWID participants in reaction to Suspend Judgment! leaflets posted at the AWID Forum. Designed by Sherna Dastur/ CREA.</span></span></span></p> <p>The decision to use <em>parchas</em> was strategic and built on what had once made them a popular option for social movements at mass gatherings like the AWID Forum: they were cheap, imperfectly printed, and easy to produce in massive quantities. This economical aspect made <em>parchas </em>easy to print, distribute, take home, or read and discard. Small collectives, opinionated individuals, well organized political parties - everyone could make <em>parchas. </em>Which is why they were ubiquitous in marches, rallies, campuses – sometimes so much so that people recall using <em>parchas</em> as tissues.</p><p>Our strategy was simple: Starting from the CREA booth where the <em>parchas</em> were available for taking and fanning out through the Forum grounds. CREA invited feminists to read, comment, and like street activists themselves, paste the <em>parchas </em>on walls and columns. The fourteen Suspend Judgment <em>parchas </em>addressed both dominant perceptions and alternative perspectives on a wide spectrum of issues, from sex workers rights, pleasure and consent, intersex rights, abortion stigma, SRHR, anti-trafficking, bodily integrity, disability and sexuality, and more. </p> <p>The responses to the parchas were equally diverse:&nbsp; the conversations and reactions from activists [see box] represented a wide spectrum of feminist positions from movements around the world, some energizing and some revealing. In one exceptional instance, a young intersex activist walked into the booth and expressed surprise and then thanks for our inclusion of intersex issues.&nbsp; For those of us in the booth, being thanked for this was a shocking confrontation with the architecture of power within our own movements. We realized not only that certain conversations and constituencies are minimized or invisible even under our feminist and LGBTQI umbrellas, but that we are facing an even more colossal task: how do we authentically address this kind of othering without flattening our agendas in order to build collective voice and power? It requires self-education, re-education, and <em>un-learning </em>past attitudes and ideas.&nbsp; Most of all, suspending judgment is the first step towards understanding and <em>valuing</em> struggles outside of our own. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/CreaSuspendJudgement08.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/CreaSuspendJudgement08.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="711" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Suspend Judgment! parcha (leaflet) on display at the AWID Forum.Designed by Sherna Dastur. CREA</span></span></span></p><p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>AWID Forum participants Comments posted on Suspend Judgment leaflets by participants at the AWID Forum:&nbsp; </strong></p><p class="blockquote-new"><em>“I’ve sold my mind (my ideas, my creativity) and my hands (my physical abilities) in order to survive. That’s called WORK. I don’t see what’s wrong about selling my body – it is my CHOICE. Do you?"</em></p><p class="blockquote-new"><em>“Can money buy consent?”</em></p><p class="blockquote-new"><em>“South-South Collaborations and collective organizing will realize equality &amp; justice for women all over the world. Amandla!!”</em></p><p class="blockquote-new"><em>“Regardless of sexual orientation/preferences, each human being has the right to be free, safe and love!”</em></p><p class="blockquote-new"><em>“My friend had an abortion &amp; was worried about – [what] her family thought – going to jail – her future hardships [were] more stressful than the abortion itself.”</em></p><p class="blockquote-new"><em>“Sin limites&lt;3” (“No limits” - on the Disability and sexuality parcha)</em></p><p class="blockquote-new"><em>“I JUST WANTED the right to choose my sexual life and life plans - always!!”</em></p><p class="blockquote-new"><em>“Derecho a decider ya!” (The right to choose now!)</em></p><p class="blockquote-new"><em>“I had two abortions when I was younger because: 1. I was careless; 2. My contraception failed and I thought I shouldn’t pay FOR LIFE for those small, stupid mistakes. A huge mistake (an unwanted child) is no way to solve a small one. Later on I had THREE wonderful children, because I wanted to.”</em></p><p class="blockquote-new"><em>“We need to be open to thinking outside of the box and allow ourselves time and space to think beyond [the] current to new realities.”</em></p> <p>Discomfort was a common reaction to several of our <em>parchas</em>, but we soon realized that discomfort is a powerful force for change.&nbsp; It can be generative, reveal gaps in our organizing, and push boundaries - it can make us better feminists. For example, barely anyone commented on our sadomasochism <em>parcha</em>, though it dealt with the fundamentals of consent, trust and diversity.&nbsp; There were also many NGO representatives who stopped by the booth, looked through the leaflets and congratulated us on a brilliant “marketing strategy” without once referring to the content or messaging.&nbsp; But this silence could equally signal disturbance, and therefore hopefully a deeper impact of the messages.&nbsp; Some of these specific reactions around aesthetics rendered the <em>parchas</em> back to their contemporary form on the streets of Delhi – as though they were an attempt at self-advertisement and branding. These encounters were also emblematic of the penetration of a highly corporatized development paradigm that feminist organizations are compelled to confront in both their donors and supposed allies. </p> <p>Language is obviously a key issue with the use of a printed medium like leaflets, and this was a major barrier in a space like the AWID Forum, with participants from every major and minor language group.&nbsp; CREA staff at the booth struggled to translate the <em>parchas</em> to polyphonic visitors, especially Lusophones.&nbsp; Our team did their best to communicate – in English and broken Spanish – what the <em>parchas</em> said, and what the Suspend Judgment campaign was about.&nbsp; But these instances of linguistic awkwardness also helped highlight another power structure when trying to connect across geographies – the hegemony of certain languages - which begets the larger question of creating more inclusive strategies of feminist knowledge production. </p> <p>Then there were phenomenal discussions around the idea of Suspend Judgment itself.&nbsp; One person posted the question, “Can money buy consent?” adjacent to another participant’s comment supportive of sex work as work.&nbsp; All this against the backdrop of the birthdays of <a href="http://youngfeministfund.org">FRIDA</a> (the Young Feminist Fund) and the <a href="http://www.redumbrellafund.org">Red Umbrella Fund</a> (a global fund by and of sex workers to advance sex workers’ rights) - celebrated jointly with a sex worker and ally-led fashion show that transgressed the norms of a generally polite Feminist Forum!</p><p>This, perhaps, is the crucial point: there are many feminisms and feminists come in many forms.&nbsp; The old binaries of power - North versus South, rich versus poor, indigenous knowledge versus academic epistemology– are still present, but many new axes have arisen over the past decade, creating new gatekeepers of who is or is not “truly” feminist, and what is and is not “real” feminism. The diverse commentary that <em>Suspend Judgment</em> generated highlights how inclusion is itself a moving goal post that needs to be constantly surfaced and relocated through discussion, debate, inquiry, and listening to unfamiliar voices – but also through discomfort, dancing, friendship, and grace. </p> <p>This is not a historic moment when we can politely agree to disagree. As activists from the Pacific regularly reminded us throughout the AWID Forum, we have far greater forces arraigned against us: the corporate monopolies that dictate climate change policy, the rising seas themselves; and the lack of recognition across the board of how intimately our feminist movements are actually connected to the struggles for economic justice, environmental justice, and social justice.&nbsp; The struggle to give new form to our many different ways of practicing solidarity and alliances, the struggle for more intersectional thought and action, all need to be a fundamental part of practicing a more powerful new feminism. This means having the courage to smash our comfortable silos and smash our judgments.</p> <p><em>The authors are indebted to CREA colleagues at the AWID Forum and participants for their contributions to this article. We would like to specially thank Rupsa Mallik, Sherna Dastur, Shuchi Tripati, Chaitali Bhatia, Sushma Luthra. <br /></em></p> <p>Read more articles from the AWID Forum written by speakers, participants and<strong> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050">openDemocracy 50.50</a> </strong>writers<strong> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/author/ch%C3%A9-ramsden">Ché Ramsden</a> </strong>and<strong> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/author/rahila-gupta">Rahila Gupta</a> - <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/awid-forum-2016">HERE</a></strong></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/rahila-gupta/imagine-feminist-village">Imagine a feminist village of the future</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/awono-okech/stay-woke-sustaining-feminist-organising-in-uncertain-world">Stay Woke: sustaining feminist organising in an uncertain world</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/chloe-safier/young-feminist-movements-power-of-technology">Young feminist movements: the power of technology</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/trans-women-and-feminism-struggle-is-real">Trans women and feminism: the struggle is real</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ch-ramsden/classifying-bodies-denying-freedoms">Classifying bodies, denying freedoms</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/srilatha-batliwala-geetanjali-misra-nafisa-ferdous/to-build-feminist-futures-suspend-judgment">To build feminist futures, suspend judgment! </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/rebecca-souza/women-of-rivers-and-forests-have-feminist-debate">The women of the rivers and forests have feminist debate? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ch-ramsden/self-care-in-digital-space">Self-care in a digital space</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/angelika-arutyunova-rochell-jones/feminist-futures-building-collective-power-for-rights-and-jus">Feminist Futures: building collective power for rights and justice</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/rahila-gupta/taxing-lives-trading-women">Taxing lives, trading women</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/rebecca-souza/between-tradition-and-feminism-modern-amazonas">Between tradition and feminism: modern Amazonas </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> India </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 India 50.50 Women's Movement Building AWID Forum 2016 50.50 Gender Politics Religion 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Editor's Pick women and power sexual identities gender justice feminism bodily autonomy young feminists Srilatha Batliwala Geetanjali Misra Nafisa Ferdous Mon, 10 Oct 2016 09:45:27 +0000 Nafisa Ferdous, Geetanjali Misra and Srilatha Batliwala 105845 at https://www.opendemocracy.net To build feminist futures, suspend judgment! https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/srilatha-batliwala-geetanjali-misra-nafisa-ferdous/to-build-feminist-futures-suspend-judgment <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>As feminist thinkers and activists, we must tackle not only the systemic discrimination embedded in the world outside, but the often unconscious or invisible biases that we ourselves have internalized. Part 1. <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/srilatha-batliwala-geetanjali-misra-nafisa-ferdous/suspend-judgment-feminisms-and-feminists-com">Part 2</a>.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><strong>&nbsp;<span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/IMG_7486.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/IMG_7486.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The booth from which CREA's Suspend Judgment was launched at the 13th Annual AWID Forum in Bahia, Brazil. September 8 - 11, 2016</span></span></span></strong></p><p>The recently concluded <a href="http://www.forum.awid.org/forum16/">13th AWID International Forum</a>, on the theme “Feminist Futures: Building Collective Power for Rights and Justice”, was framed around the sweeping idea that realizing “feminist futures” is only possible if we build our collective power to advance rights and justice.&nbsp; The great challenge for building such power, however, is that we ourselves, as feminist thinkers and activists, must tackle not only the systemic discrimination embedded in the world outside, but the often unconscious or invisible biases that we ourselves have internalized.</p><p>The twin concepts of rights and justice have embedded within them a rarely recognized and deeply normalized <em>practice</em> – viz., the practice of <em>judgment</em>.&nbsp; We are constantly <em>judging</em> each other as people, as social groups, as identities – whether on the basis of gender, race, class, caste, ethnicity, ability, sexual orientation, location, nationality, religion, the work we do (“unclean” and “immoral” occupations such as those that stigmatize Dalits or sex workers). We are taught from our earliest years, and usually with good intentions, to make judgments – about what is normal, abnormal, right, wrong, good, bad, clean and unclean.&nbsp; But these judgments are often reflections of social norms and values that feminists and social justice advocates have not only rejected, but transgressed in our own lives.</p><p>Why then do we not recognize the ways in which we still continue to judge others, and justify those judgments?&nbsp; How can we find common ground and build our collective power for rights and justice if we continue to be divided by our own internalized biases?&nbsp; As Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie said in a recent powerful <a href="http://qz.com/766267/nobody-is-ever-just-a-refugee-chimamanda-ngozi-adichies-powerful-speech-on-the-global-migrant-crisis/">speech</a>, “Nobody is ever just a single thing. And yet, in the public discourse today, we often speak of people as a single a thing.”&nbsp; She goes on to say, “So I would like to suggest … that this is a time for a new narrative, a narrative in which we truly see those about whom we speak.” Or whom we judge.</p><p>This is why CREA chose to launch our <a href="http://www.creaworld.org/events/suspend-judgment-creas-campaign-launch-awid-2016">SUSPEND JUDGMENT<strong> </strong>campaign</a> at the AWID Forum, where thousands of feminist social justice activists from every corner of the world were gathered.</p><p>The Idea for the campaign arose from a practice encouraged at CREA’s Sexuality, Gender and Rights Institutes (SGRIs), an internationally lauded programme whose participants are exposed to entirely new concepts, perspectives and discourses that radically shift their perceptions and practice, often in deeply disturbing ways.&nbsp; When participants arrive, CREA faculty ask them to be <em>in a heightened state of suspending judgment</em>, in order to gain the most out of the course.&nbsp; The more participants allow themselves to question their long-held ideas, beliefs and biases, the more they are able to learn.&nbsp; They are not only able to better understand the human rights of others, but can more effectively <em>influence</em> others - especially those in social movements that are often antithetical to these ideas (such as accepting the fluidity of gender identities and sexual behavior).&nbsp; By leaving their preconceived notions and assumptions at the door, participants are able to recognize that many of the biases and beliefs they have internalized – whether around gender identities, sex work, our bodies, or even pornography - arise from social norms and practices that are in turn embedded in patriarchal, racial, classist or hetero-normative ideologies that uphold deeply unjust power structures.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/CreaSuspendJudgement06.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/CreaSuspendJudgement06.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="711" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Suspend Judgment leaflets on display at the AWID Forum. Designed by Sherna Dastur. CREA. </span></span></span></p> <p>The most formal space where the practice of judgment is integral is of course the law – which tends to reflect dominant social norms and values, especially with regard to gender.&nbsp; But the legal domain is also where we have pushed boundaries, and gained rights for people who were not only marginalized and excluded in their societies, but considered unworthy of rights. The constitution of India, for example, gave equal rights to women and Dalits in 1950, a time when even Western countries like Switzerland denied women the vote, and untouchability continued to be practiced in countries like Japan (Burakumin) and Rwanda (Hutu, Twa).&nbsp; Nepal’s new constitution awarded equal rights to third gender peoples when countries like the United States continue to criminalize them in many states, and the Delhi High Court struck down the legality of British-made laws criminalizing homosexuality. </p><p>Women’s and LGBTQI movements around the world, but especially in the South, have been quite successful in using the law to gain rights and justice for women by challenging the biases or gaps within existing legal frameworks.&nbsp; But despite these advances, the judgments in cases involving sexuality and gender tend to flout these progressive changes due to the internalized biases of power holders in the judicial system.&nbsp; In judicial contexts of Iran, Brunei, Nigeria and other countries, homosexuality can legally be punishable by death (though follow-through of these judgments often vary).</p><p>CREA’s mission is to change the way people think so that we can change the way they act.&nbsp; This takes time - it is an iterative process.&nbsp; It is unfortunate that few NGOs, donors, or governments are investing in these kinds of processes – everyone seems to be focused on superficial change that leaves exclusionary constructs largely intact. We accept that judgment is sometimes necessary – those who violate the rights of others, who commit violence, who oppress others simply because of who they are, how they live, what they believe - must certainly be held to account.&nbsp; But we believe that these violations themselves could be more effectively contained by helping people move from judgment to understanding.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/grouppic.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/grouppic.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="612" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>CREA at the AWID Forum, Bahia, Brazil. September 2016</span></span></span></p><p>Our campaign - Suspend Judgment - is one step in this direction. &nbsp;We launched the campaign from our installation at the AWID Forum, where we exhibited posters and distributed leaflets that disturbed and interrogated people’s unquestioned beliefs and biases, and pushed them to understand the systems of meaning embedded in their attitudes.&nbsp; The leaflets were simple – some had mainly images and little text.&nbsp; They were designed to get people to rethink their positions on different issues and identities. For example, our leaflet on abortion had five images of women, each giving her reason for having an abortion, but the sixth and final woman simply asks “Why do I have to give a reason?”</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/CreaSuspendJudgement03.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/CreaSuspendJudgement03.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="711" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Suspend Judgment leaflets on display at the AWID Forum. Designed by Sherna Dastur. CREA. </span></span></span></p><p>Shifting discourse does not happen overnight, but it must begin with those who believe in feminist social transformation. As movement activists, we have to challenge ourselves to constantly suspend judgment and remain critical even within feminist organizing. How can we dismantle and decolonize our own beliefs and attitudes in order to stop perpetuating conflicts, assumptions and norms rooted in patriarchy, narrow nationalism or the essentialization of bodies? How can we deepen our solidarities and our collective work as feminists so that unexamined or yet-to-be-examined opportunities to work together can arise?</p><p>We believe that suspending judgment is feminist practice.&nbsp; We launched the “Suspend Judgment” campaign at the AWID Forum to challenge global feminists to think and act differently. &nbsp;In par two of this article, we will share the exciting and thought-provoking reactions, comments and insights that emerged at the Forum in response to the campaign’s messages.&nbsp; We hope that in the months to come, more women’s rights and social justice activists and advocates, and anyone committed to a more just world, will support CREA’s <a href="http://www.creaworld.org/events/suspend-judgment-creas-campaign-launch-awid-2016">Suspend Judgment campaign</a>. </p> <p><em>The authors would like to acknowledge the immense contribution of many members of the CREA team and our Institute participants to the conceptualization of the Suspend Judgment Campaign and to the ideas in this two-part article</em></p><p>Part two of this article will be published on openDemocracy the week of October 10th.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Read more articles from the AWID Forum written by speakers, participants and <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050">openDemocracy 50.50</a> writers <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/author/ch%C3%A9-ramsden">Ché Ramsden</a> and <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/author/rahila-gupta">Rahila Gupta</a> - <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/awid-forum-2016">HERE</a></strong><em><strong> </strong><br /></em></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ch-ramsden/classifying-bodies-denying-freedoms">Classifying bodies, denying freedoms</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/rahila-gupta/imagine-feminist-village">Imagine a feminist village of the future</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/rebecca-souza/women-of-rivers-and-forests-have-feminist-debate">The women of the rivers and forests have feminist debate? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/awono-okech/stay-woke-sustaining-feminist-organising-in-uncertain-world">Stay Woke: sustaining feminist organising in an uncertain world</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/angelika-arutyunova-rochell-jones/feminist-futures-building-collective-power-for-rights-and-jus">Feminist Futures: building collective power for rights and justice</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/chloe-safier/young-feminist-movements-power-of-technology">Young feminist movements: the power of technology</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/rebecca-souza/between-tradition-and-feminism-modern-amazonas">Between tradition and feminism: modern Amazonas </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/trans-women-and-feminism-struggle-is-real">Trans women and feminism: the struggle is real</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/semanur-karaman-ana-cernov/our-movements-and-collective-struggles-thrive-despite-backlash">Our movements and collective struggles thrive despite backlash</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ch-ramsden/self-care-in-digital-space">Self-care in a digital space</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/rahila-gupta/taxing-lives-trading-women">Taxing lives, trading women</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ch-ramsden/glass-ceilings-and-cinderella-slippers-why-centre-cannot-hold">Glass ceilings and Cinderella slippers: why the centre cannot hold</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ch-ramsden/artivism-art-as-activism-activism-as-art">Artivism: art as activism, activism as art</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/rahila-gupta/feminist-inclusivity-and-moving-onto-agenda">Feminist inclusivity and moving onto the agenda</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ch-ramsden/from-local-to-global-and-back-again">On freeing Kenya&#039;s pastoralist communities from discrimination</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/srilatha-batliwala/beyond-individual-stories-women-have-moved-mountains">Beyond individual stories: women have moved mountains </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> India </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 openIndia India Nobel Women's Initiative 2017 50.50 Women's Movement Building AWID Forum 2016 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Editor's Pick 50.50 newsletter feminism gender gender justice women and power women's movements women's work Nafisa Ferdous Geetanjali Misra Srilatha Batliwala Mon, 03 Oct 2016 08:27:43 +0000 Srilatha Batliwala, Geetanjali Misra and Nafisa Ferdous 105697 at https://www.opendemocracy.net A transformative strategy: the true value of investing in women’s rights https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/srilatha-batliwala/transformative-strategy-true-value-of-investing-in-women%E2%80%99s-rights <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>What happened to the largest pot of money ever made available for advancing gender equality and human rights? Srilatha Batliwala reports on the results of AWID's aggregate analysis of the impact of the MDG 3 Fund.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>This is the second part of the article by Srilatha Batliwala, <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/srilatha-batliwala/beyond-individual-stories-women-have-moved-mountains">Beyond individual stories: women have moved mountains</a>. </em></p> <p>The opportunity afforded by the <a href="http://www.wunrn.com/news/2010/12_10/12_27/122710_mdg.htm">MDG3 Fund</a> – the largest pool of money ever made available for advancing gender equality and women’s rights – was the catalyst for <a href="http://www.awid.org/">AWID</a>‘s development of a new methodology to analyse the impact and achievements of the organizations supported through the Fund not individually, but collectively, in a four year period.&nbsp; 33 out of the 45 organizations that received the Fund’s support participated in our aggregate analysis survey, including 24 organizations specifically committed to promoting women’s rights.&nbsp; Let us begin by looking at the big mountains that moved – the extraordinary reach and coverage achieved by the organizations surveyed. A number of these achievements were directly connected to reducing or eradicating violence against women in all forms, the key theme of <a href="http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/csw/57sess.htm">the&nbsp; 57th&nbsp;session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women</a> which meets next month in New York. </p> <p>Fund-supported interventions reached 164 countries in 15 regions of the world.&nbsp; In these diverse locations, nearly 225 million people were reached with a new awareness of women’s rights, including strong messages about the roots of gender-based violence, and that advancing gender equality and women’s right to safety and security is everyone’s responsibility.&nbsp; </p> <p>At the level of state institutions, local governments in 38 cities / towns / provinces in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the MENA region were influenced and newly capacitated to re-assess, strengthen, and improve their gender equality policies and programmes, including their response to violence against women. National governments in 46 countries were similarly influenced, including 36 countries that were persuaded to ratify and adopt the newly approved <a href="http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/---ed_protect/---protrav/---travail/documents/publication/wcms_161104.pdf">ILO Convention 189 on Domestic Work</a>, adopted in 2011 as a result of the "last mile" lobbying by grantees like <a href="http://wiego.org/">WIEGO a</a>nd <a href="http://www.fcmujeres.org/en.html">FCAM</a>.&nbsp; And the latter is only one of the thirteen different international norms,&nbsp; instruments and institutions that were influenced to better advance women’s rights.&nbsp; Just Associates’ engaged the <a href="http://www.cidh.oas.org/defaulte.htm">Inter-American Human Rights Commission</a>, the <a href="http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Women/SRWomen/Pages/SRWomenIndex.aspx">Special Rapporteur on VAW</a> and the <a href="http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/committee.htm">CEDAW Committee</a> to raise visibility of and push for more effective international action on the deteriorating situation of women human rights defenders.&nbsp; <a href="http://www.iccwomen.org/">Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice</a> influenced the International Court of Criminal Justice to bring gender-based charges in 11 out of the 15 cases it brought to trial.&nbsp; AWID helped influence the analysis and approach of key international processes like the <a href="http://www.oecd.org/dac/effectiveness/">OECD DAC aid effectiveness</a> dialogue, the <a href="http://siteresources.worldbank.org/ACCRAEXT/Resources/4700790-1217425866038/AAA-4-SEPTEMBER-FINAL-16h00.pdf">Accra Agenda for Action</a>, the <a href="http://www.oecd.org/dac/gender-development/49503142.pdf">Busan Joint Action Plan on Gender Equality and Development</a>, and creating gendered indicators for monitoring the Accra Action Agenda, by ensuring the presence of feminist economists and women’s rights organizations in the discussions.&nbsp; </p> <p>A key contributing factor to the extraordinary range of achievements of Fund recipients was that they were allowed to develop and apply a wide range of diverse strategies, rather than being straightjacketed into a set of rigid, donor-promoted approaches. The result was a rich mix of strategies, most often applied in various combinations.&nbsp; In the context of the work on violence against women, these ranged from the mass-media campaigns and community mobilisations catalysed by <a href="http://breakthrough.tv/">Breakthrough</a> in India and <a href="http://www.puntos.org.ni/">Puntos de Encuentro</a> in Central America to the psycho-social recovery and support for legal redress advanced by <a href="http://www.casadelamujer.org.bo/">Casa de la Mujer</a> in Bolivia, <a href="http://web.creaworld.org/">CREA</a>’s pathbreaking research on violence against lesbian, disabled and sex worker women in South Asia, <a href="http://www.mifumi.org/">MIFUMI</a>’s work with both survivors and duty bearers to improve just outcomes in Uganda, <a href="http://www.justassociates.org/">Just Associates’</a> alliance-building strategies to increase the safety of women human rights defenders in Central America, the <a href="http://www.wildaf.org/">WiLDAF</a> network’s training of paralegals and creation of community reconciliation committees to reduce domestic violence in Africa… the list is lengthy and inspiring.&nbsp; </p> <p>The result of the MDG3 Fund’s “let a hundred flowers bloom” approach was the emergence of a wide array of new tools, manuals, surveys, knowledge products and other innovations – 43 by our count - for empowering women, strengthening state programmes, generating new data and information, and exposing new forms of gender-based violence.&nbsp; To cite just one example: the <a href="http://www.iawj.org/">International Association of Women Judges</a> created a new concept called “<a href="http://www.iawj.org/IAWJ_Sextortion_brochure.pdf">sextortion</a>” to describe the use of sexual coercion especially by public officials, and developed a tool to help women’s groups to recognize and combat this practice and bring perpetrators to book. </p> <p>What is most revealing – and relevant to the upcoming session of the CSW - is the nuanced and multi-faceted strategies used to work on gender-based violence. 28 out of the 33 respondents worked on gender-based violence, and each linked awareness building, legal aid, healing support, protection of women activisits, international advocacy, access to livelihoods and productive resources, and research, in different combinations. Organisations reported a complex mix of strategies that demonstrated an understanding of how violence against women is linked not only to internalized beliefs and attitudes, but public policies and services, and not only to women’s disempowerment in the private domain but their economic marginalization and the importance of their presence, voice and participation in the public sphere.&nbsp; </p> <p>Our survey shows that when they are well resourced, women’s organizations and NGOs with a commitment to gender equality can go to scale, greatly increase their impact and expand their outreach, through more creative and path-breaking tools and strategies.&nbsp; 97% of our respondents were able to reach a larger number of women and women’s organizations than in their past work, 88% increased their geographic coverage, and 91% were able to launch a range of new programs and strategies. This testifies to how lack of adequate resources has been one of the key factors preventing women’s organisations from having a greater impact. The creation of strong, ground-level or constituency-based movements that expanded women’s collective power and leadership, and the building of strategic alliances with other pro-women forces, were vital <a href="http://www.awid.org/Library/Changing-their-World-Concepts-and-practices-of-women-s-movements-2nd-Edition">to sustaining transformations</a> in gender power over time..&nbsp; </p> <p>Successfully fighting discriminatory and regressive laws and policies, and backlash that would have rolled back past gains, was a key achievement reported by 64% of respondents. Examples include the attempt to introduce strict <a href="http://www.equalityiniraq.com/articles/72-islamic-sharia-law-a-constant-threat-against-the-rights-and-freedom-of-women-in-the-middle-east">Shari’a law in Iraq</a>, the attempt to <a href="http://www.iglhrc.org/cgi-bin/iowa/article/takeaction/resourcecenter/926.html">criminalize homosexuality in many African countries</a>, and policy shifts such as the attempt,<a href="http://www.acsur.org/Comunicado-ante-la-posible"> in Guatemala, to penalize emergency contraceptive pills</a>, that would have seriously jeapordized the gains of the past many decades. But perhaps the most significant – and poignant - achievement of all was the many organizations who reported that merely surviving and continuing their work under very difficult and challenging circumstances was a major achievement. </p> <p><strong>Why these achievements matter</strong> </p> <p>To assess the true value of these achievements requires an understanding of some of the key lessons learnt by women’s movements over the past several decades.&nbsp; On the question of scale and coverage, we have realized that small, localized and isolated efforts that cannot be scaled up to mobilize a larger number of women and their communities against gender discrimination, are not sustainable: we cannot rest content with small islands of change in a sea of oppressive patriarchal cultures.&nbsp; We also know that going to scale by merely converting millions of women into project “beneficiaries” rather than agents of change, is also not a transformative strategy – so conscious and systematic movement building, by empowering women to become conscious actors in a social change process, is vital.&nbsp; Even these efforts can be futile without corresponding enabling conditions on the part of the governance and justice systems, the state and its various institutions must do their part as duty bearers, so advocacy for legal and policy reform is critical.&nbsp; And in the face of the growing worldwide backlash against women, especially women fighting for their rights, holding on to past gains and pushing back regressive laws and policies is essential.&nbsp; </p> <p>Given all this, simply refusing to give up under increasingly tough conditions – continuing to work in the face of declining resources, increasing violence against women human rights defenders, and the multiple forces aligned against gender equality and women’s rights – is a huge victory in and of itself.&nbsp; So the achievements of the organizations that received the MDG3 Fund, and indeed, of the MDG3 Fund as a whole, must be placed against this backdrop, and celebrated accordingly.&nbsp; We salute the organizations, activists, advocates, and millions of women who were part of this great experiment.&nbsp; And we wonder: if 33 organizations with a mere 82 million euros could do so much in just four years, what would happen with a 100 million, 500 million, or a billion?&nbsp;&nbsp; Will the world’s governments and philanthropists have the courage and the vision to truly invest in women's rights? </p> <p><em>Read the full AWID report <a href="http://www.awid.org/Library/Women-Moving-Mountains">Women Moving Mountains</a></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ruth-rosen/gender-wars-women-redefining-customs-as-crimes">Gender wars: women redefining customs as crimes </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/maxine-molyneux/of-rights-and-risks-are-women%E2%80%99s-human-rights-in-jeopardy">Of rights and risks: are women’s human rights in jeopardy?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jessica-horn/our-africa-mapping-african-womens-critical-resistance">Our Africa: mapping African women&#039;s critical resistance </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ruth-rosen/who-said-%E2%80%9Cwe-could-have-it-all%E2%80%9D">Who said “We could have it all?”</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/women-defining-economic-citizenship">Women defining economic citizenship </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/deepa-shankaran/right-to-have-rights-resisting-fundamentalist-orders">The right to have rights: resisting fundamentalist orders</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/women-human-rights-defenders-activisms-front-line">Women human rights defenders: activism&#039;s front-line</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/yakin-erturk/culture-versus-rights-dualism-myth-or-reality">Culture versus rights dualism: a myth or a reality?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/content/politics-outside-politics-how-women-redefine-democracy">Politics outside politics: how women redefine democracy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/srilatha-batliwala/what-does-transforming-economic-power-mean">What does transforming economic power mean?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/fatou-gu%C3%A8ye/senegal-land-belongs-to-those-who-work-it">Senegal: the land belongs to those who work it </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/a%C3%AEssa-ngatansou-doumara/cameroon-subtle-violence-in-education">Cameroon: a subtle violence in education</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/naila-kabeer/grief-and-rage-in-india-making-violence-against-women-history">Grief and rage in India: making violence against women history? 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Photo: Marie Fe Alpizar</span></span></span></p><p>Women’s movements, and especially feminist women’s movements, through both their scholars and activists, have spearheaded some of the most <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/ruth-rosen/gender-wars-women-redefining-customs-as-crimes">fundamental shifts</a> in our way of understanding our societies and the nature of social injustice.&nbsp; They have excavated the breadth and depth of gender discrimination – till then either invisible or considered “normal” - in virtually every society in the world, especially gender-based violence in all its forms. Till late in the last century, for instance, violence against women in its multiple forms – whether wife-beating, rape, dowry-burning or female genital cutting – was calmly accepted, viewed either as private misfortunes, or as feudal cultural practices, rather than as evidence of the unacceptable oppression and denial of the human rights of one half of the human race.&nbsp; Today, every society is forced to address these, even if some misogynistic regimes choose to justify them through cultural relativist&nbsp; arguments. </p> <p>Feminists have raised the voice and visibility of women’s perspectives on issues as disparate as the environment, the economy, and peace.&nbsp; Until <a href="http://www.dawnphil.org/index.htm">DAWN’s</a> pathbreaking analysis in 1987, for instance, there was little awareness that economic policies impacted men and women differently, even among the poorest households, or that Third World feminists perspectives on economic equality were <a href="http://books.google.co.uk/books/about/Development_Crises_and_Alternative_Visio.html?id=7_5D9xt8lkgC">radically different</a> from that of feminists from the North.&nbsp; And there would be no <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_Development_Index">Human Development Index</a> – much less a <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gender-related_Development_Index">Gender-Related Development Index</a> – without the voice of women demanding visibility for the gender discrimination that prevails in virtually every state and society.&nbsp; Feminist activism pushed forward formal equality through relentless research and advocacy for constitutional, legal and policy reform – few of us realize that until the Eighties, gender-disaggregated data was not available in most national statistical systems.&nbsp; And they challenged and transformed international and national norm structures (like the Universal Declaration on Human Rights) that were hitherto androcentric – it was only in the Nineties, for example, that feminists worldwide mobilized to challenged the dominant framing of human rights, including the definition of rights violations like torture, and compelled the recognition of the unique range of atrocities faced by women, in both war and peace, with the rallying cry “<a href="4%20(1990%20Nov)%20p.486">women’s rights are human rights</a>”.&nbsp; And the notion of universal adult franchise would not exist but for feminist mobilizations that began very early in the last century… </p> <p>Women’s organizations have mobilized and empowered millions of women in their households and communities, and built strong movements – by the end of the last century, it was virtually impossible to find a corner of the world that did not have a women’s movement of some kind, and in most, strong grassroots women’s movements with an impressive “mass base”.&nbsp; Many of these movements moved across borders to become powerful transnational movements – of informal sector women workers, or poor grassroots women, or indigenous women, or women living in conflict areas and working for peace.&nbsp; </p> <p>Feminists created new concepts and discourse that transformed even the academic mainstream – today, we use the terms “gender” or “gender analysis” with little recognition of the fact that it was feminists who appropriated these terms from other disciplines, recast them, and provided us with new tools of social analysis that did not exist before. By doing so, they have permanently altered the prism through which we view social reality and our ideas of social justice.&nbsp; This is why there is <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/deniz-kandiyoti/fear-and-fury-women-and-post-revolutionary-violence">universal outrage</a> when a <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/afiya-shehrbano-zia/taliban-agent-or-victim">Malala Yousufzai</a> is shot for trying to go to school, or a young para-medical student is <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/naila-kabeer/grief-and-rage-in-india-making-violence-against-women-history">gang raped</a> on a Delhi bus.&nbsp; It is because our entire sense of justice and fairness has been raised up to a new standard.&nbsp; </p> <p>The collective impact of women’s movements and organizations has thus cut across theory and practice, public policy and programmes, and our social institutions and ways of thinking, from the local to the global level. No other movement has had such sweeping and deep impact on our lives, even if some of us were dragged, kicking and screaming, into its vortex.&nbsp; And if you still don’t believe it, just look at the intensifying and often <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/deniz-kandiyoti/fear-and-fury-women-and-post-revolutionary-violence">violent backlash</a> against women’s rights and gender equality, and the reversal of past gains, almost everywhere – from the assault on women’s reproductive rights in the United States, to the banning of girls schools by the Taliban.&nbsp; </p> <p>Is it not then astounding that despite this incredible impact, feminists are held in almost universal <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/heather-mcrobie/handmaids-tale-of-coalition-britain">contempt</a>, and women’s rights organizations and the movements they work with have had to contend with <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/barbara-gunnell/how-women-are-paying-for-recession-in-uk">declining financial support</a>, a lack of widespread public acknowledgement, and growing <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/jennifer-allsopp/women-human-rights-defenders-activisms-front-line">challenges to their credibility</a>?&nbsp; Worse, many components of the very strategies that enabled this impact have been dismantled, isolated, and implemented piecemeal, divested of their transformative politics - like micro-credit, quotas for women in politics, and <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/heather-mcrobie/austerity-and-domestic-violence-mapping-damage">legal aid</a> for women in distress – because these are considered to show faster, concrete results, though they do not necessarily address the deeper roots of gender discrimination and may even aggravate existing gender biases.&nbsp; How has this happened?&nbsp; Why are feminists in general, and women’s rights organizations in particular, on the back foot, struggling to prove that they still matter – that their work is far from done, and that while gender equality is everyone’s responsibility, it is they who must still lead the struggle? </p> <p>Part of the problem, perhaps, is that the achievements of women’s movements have never really been analyzed and projected in this way - at an aggregate level, and &nbsp;over the long-term.&nbsp; This is not for lack of concrete evidence.&nbsp; Donors, for one, have increasingly demanded the tracking of “concrete results”, but they have tended to ask for evidence of impact <em>at an individual organization or project level</em>.&nbsp; But despite having decades of impact data in their archives, few donors have seen the need to analyze this information to create a larger historic picture of what their grantees have achieved collectively, especially in terms of the specific manifestations of gender discrimination they have prioritized and funded over the years.&nbsp; Both private foundations and bilateral and multilateral donors, for instance, have funded work on women’s economic empowerment, health and reproductive health and rights, political participation, and violence against women, for close to half a century.&nbsp; But until recently, it was hard to find a comprehensive analysis of what kinds of transformations occurred as a result of these investments, or <a href="http://polisci.unm.edu/common/documents/htun_apsa-article.pdf">strong evidence-based analysis</a> that it is women’s rights organizations and movements that have made the difference.&nbsp; On the flip side, women’s organizations and movements themselves have not had the resources, capacity, space or mechanisms to analyze their&nbsp; achievements collectively – they have had far too many more pressing priorities competing for their attention and increasingly meager human and financial resources. The consequences of this data deficit are many. </p> <p>There is widespread, if somewhat unfounded, <a href="http://www.awid.org/Library/Changing-their-World-Concepts-and-practices-of-women-s-movements-2nd-Edition">skepticism</a> about the value of funding more transformative women’s rights work – such as the consciousness-raising, mobilizing, and movement-building approaches of an earlier time - because they are too “slow” and do not show quick evidence of <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/putting_power_back_into_empowerment_0">impact</a>.&nbsp; Indeed, there is little support today for such core strategies as funding cycles have shrunk to one- or at the most two-year cycles.&nbsp; There is a shift towards short-term or instrumental strategies – like micro-credit, and the “investing in women and girls” approach (such as Nike’s “Girl Effect” formula) - that are considered to show faster, easy-to-measure results, though these do not necessarily address the deeper roots of gender discrimination and may even aggravate existing gender biases.&nbsp; </p> <p>Critics and skeptics are quick to point to women’s organizations’ and movements’ inability to “make a convincing case” for the greater strategic impact of their longer-term and deeper approaches to transforming gender power structures.&nbsp; But interestingly, these actors are equally unable to make a case that these deeper strategies DON’T work better.&nbsp; They simply keep feeding us with the superficial data from their quick-fix solutions, which are usually about large numbers but tell us little about how gender relations within relationships, households, communities, or societies have changed, or for how long.&nbsp; And they tell us nothing at all about how power in the intimate realm of consciousness – factors like self-image, confidence,&nbsp; or the sense of being subjects of rights with the agency to claim and assert those rights – has changed because women now get loans, sit in the local council, or seek redress.&nbsp; Here, they become as anecdotal as the very organizations and movements whose evidence they dismiss as…&nbsp; “just individual women’s stories”.&nbsp; </p> <p>It is against this backdrop that AWID decided to undertake an experiment, catalyzed&nbsp; by a historic funding opportunity afforded to gender equality and women’s empowerment work worldwide: the launch, in 2007, of the path-breaking MDG3 Fund by the Government of the Netherlands.&nbsp; For the first time in history, a pot of 82 million Euros was made available to 45 organizations – the majority of whom were women’s rights organizations – to undertake a diverse range of programs addressing gender-based violence, women’s economic empowerment and property and inheritance rights, and political participation.&nbsp; The Fund did not dictate strategy or approach, but selected organizations with impressive track records, or the capacity to re-route money to large number of smaller, grassroots-based organizations working with the most marginalized women. </p> <p>AWID seized the chance to work with this network of organizations (which included itself) to conduct an aggregate analysis of the impact of their MDG3 Fund-supported work – to generate a “big picture” of the changes wrought that would be greater than the sum of its parts.&nbsp; In the second part of this article, to be published on February 25th, we shall see how this aggregate analysis lays to rest most of the questions about both the "measurability" as well as the value of funding women's rights work that is neither short term nor based on silver bullets....</p><p>Read part two of this article: <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/srilatha-batliwala/transformative-strategy-true-value-of-investing-in-women%E2%80%99s-rights">A transformative strategy:the true value of investing in women's rights</a></p> <p>Read the full report by AWID <a href="https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=AWID+Changing+their+world&amp;ie=utf-8&amp;oe=utf-8&amp;aq=t&amp;rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&amp;client=firefox-a"><em>Changing Their World</em></a></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ruth-rosen/gender-wars-women-redefining-customs-as-crimes">Gender wars: women redefining customs as crimes </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jessica-horn/our-africa-mapping-african-womens-critical-resistance">Our Africa: mapping African women&#039;s critical resistance </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/kavita-ramdas/holding-up-half-sky-not-for-ourselves-alone">Holding up half the sky: not for ourselves alone</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/women-human-rights-defenders-activisms-front-line">Women human rights defenders: activism&#039;s front-line</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/yakin-erturk/culture-versus-rights-dualism-myth-or-reality">Culture versus rights dualism: a myth or a reality?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/maxine-molyneux/of-rights-and-risks-are-women%E2%80%99s-human-rights-in-jeopardy">Of rights and risks: are women’s human rights in jeopardy?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/afiya-shehrbano-zia/taliban-agent-or-victim">Taliban: agent or victim? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/naila-kabeer/grief-and-rage-in-india-making-violence-against-women-history">Grief and rage in India: making violence against women history? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/csw-2009/womens-rights-in-economic-crisis">Women&#039;s rights in an economic crisis</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/cynthia-cockburn/what-kind-of-feminism-does-war-provoke">What kind of feminism does war provoke?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/heather-mcrobie/handmaids-tale-of-coalition-britain">The Handmaid&#039;s Tale of Coalition Britain</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/content/politics-outside-politics-how-women-redefine-democracy">Politics outside politics: how women redefine democracy</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/a%C3%AEssa-ngatansou-doumara/16-days-from-demystification-to-denunciation">16 Days: from demystification to denunciation</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/fatou-gu%C3%A8ye/senegal-land-belongs-to-those-who-work-it">Senegal: the land belongs to those who work it </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/a%C3%AEssa-ngatansou-doumara/cameroon-subtle-violence-in-education">Cameroon: a subtle violence in education</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/amina-mama/where-we-must-stand-african-women-in-age-of-war">Where we must stand: African women in an age of war</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/heather-mcrobie/austerity-and-domestic-violence-mapping-damage">Austerity and domestic violence: mapping the damage</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/barbara-gunnell/how-women-are-paying-for-recession-in-uk">How women are paying for the recession in the UK</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/deniz-kandiyoti/promise-and-peril-women-and-%E2%80%98arab-spring%E2%80%99">Promise and peril: women and the ‘Arab spring’</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/eba%E2%80%99-el-tamami/harassment-free-zone">Harassment free zone </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/zainab-magdy/egyptian-women-performing-in-margin-revolting-in-centre">Egyptian women: performing in the margin, revolting in the centre</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/anonymous/we-are-fed-up-power-of-new-generation-of-sudanese-youth-activists">We Are Fed Up! 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In order to unpack and understand economic power, we must revisit the different realms in which power operates, and the various forms that it takes - visible, hidden and invisible. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p>On the eve of the <a href="http://www.forum.awid.org/forum12/about/2012-forum-theme/">12th AWID Forum</a>, focusing on the theme of <em>Transforming Economic Power to Advance Women’s Rights and Justice</em>, we need to step back and ask ourselves what the concepts underlying this theme really mean.&nbsp; These are large, very abstract and sometimes intimidating ideas that fall into one of two traps – that of assuming that their meaning is obvious and universally understood, or that they are too complex and context-specific to be defined accessibly for everyone.&nbsp; I am trying to overcome this impasse with some trepidation, since I am neither an economist nor an expert on the intricacies of the world’s economic and financial systems and architecture, and the crises that have beset these in recent times. I am trying to unpack the theme of economic power, and what we mean by its transformation - women’s rights and justice have been well defined over the years by many others.&nbsp; </p> <p>It is useful to begin by making explicit what we mean by the term “economy”.&nbsp; It was surprisingly difficult to find clear definitions of this term, though there is a plethora of definitions of “economic”.&nbsp; The <a href="http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/economy?region=us">simplest dictionary definition</a> of economy is “The wealth and resources of a country or region, especially in terms of the production and consumption of goods and services.”&nbsp; Going deeper, <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economy">wikipedia says</a>: “An economy consists of the economic system of a country or other geo-political area, the land, labor, capital and other resources, and the economic agents that participate in the production, exchange, distribution and consumption of goods and services.&nbsp; A given economy is the end result of a process that involves its technological evolution, history and social organization, as well as its geography, natural resources endowment, and ecology as main factors. These factors give context, content, and set the conditions and parameters in which an economy functions.”&nbsp; </p> <p>What this definition does not say is that an economy is also the result of social power structures, including gender power structures, which determine, for instance,&nbsp; the division of labor and resources, as well as who can influence decision making on economic development pathways and choices.&nbsp; From a feminist perspective, it is ironic that the English word economy is derived from the Greek <em>οἰκονόμος</em>, which meant “to manage the household” – and yet the invisibility of the gendered division of labor, and the lack of value for women’s productive and reproductive work in households, is a persistent feature of economic measurement.&nbsp; </p> <p>In order to unpack and understand economic power, we must revisit the different realms in which power operates, and the various forms that it takes.&nbsp; For this, we can do no better than to turn to <a href="http://www.justassociates.org/ActionGuide.htm">Veneklasen and Miller’s compelling framework</a>. They tell us that there are three basic realms in which power operates<strong>: </strong>the public, where it is visible, such as the power of the government, military, police, judiciary, companies and corporations; the private, within institutions like the family /household, clan and ethnic group; and the intimate, such as the sense of power – or powerlessness – that we feel within ourselves, usually expressed in terms of self-confidence, self-esteem, control over our bodies. </p> <p>They also describe three key forms or “faces” of power that are critical to understand, since they are all present – often simultaneously – in the structure of economic power in a given household, nation, region, or globally.&nbsp; They are visible power, hidden power and invisible power. </p> <p><strong>Visible power</strong></p> <p>Visible power determines who has – and who is excluded from – the control over productive resources (land, labor, capital), and decision making over these in the private and public realm. Visible power is held, <em>in the public realm</em>, by political leaders (elected or not), the police, military, and the judiciary as well as by the leaders of multinational corporations and local or national businesses andcompanies.&nbsp; In the private realm, visible power is held and exercised by the heads of households, of clans and tribes, or by the leaders of mafias and criminal networks, all of whom are predominantly men.&nbsp; </p> <p>Visible economic power is evident in who publicly makes decisions about what a country’s development priorities should be, or how the village council’s budget will be spent, or what crops will be planted in the family’s lands.&nbsp; In the private realm, we see direct power in the division of household labor, in the ownership of household assets like land, house, and other privately-owned resources, in the way food, access to health care and education is distributed. </p> <p>It is visible power that dictates that women will perform certain household and production tasks that are critical for household survival, but they will not have the right to equal wages, control over their income, inheritance rights, or even control over their bodies in terms of their mobility, relationships, sexual expression, or reproduction.&nbsp; Visible or direct power also explains how the interests of powerful economic and social groups, by virtue of their assets, wealth, position, gender, race, class, ethnicity, or caste, for instance, are able to dominate national and local economic policies, at the cost of poorer people. </p> <p><strong>Hidden power <br /></strong></p> <p>Sometimes called agenda-setting power, hidden power is about who influences or sets the agenda behind the scenes, and the barriers and biases that determine what are important issues of public policy, whose voices are heard or who is consulted on a particular issue.&nbsp; Hidden or agenda-setting power operates in both the private and public realms, and is again largely exercised by male elites within socially and economically dominant groups and classes.&nbsp; It can, however, also be acquired and deployed by women who have gained indirect power in dominant systems. </p> <p>In the public realm, we see hidden power operate when private corporations lobby governments to support the patenting of certain drugs that makes them unaffordable for poor patients, or limits the access of developing countries to these drugs, in order to protect their profits. Hidden power is also evident in the nexus, even in democratic contexts, between political leaders and fundamentalist religious lobbies with whom they have covert links, so women’s right to contraceptives or abortion is restricted, even if the majority of women citizens have expressed a demand for these services. </p> <p>Think tanks and “policy” centers – usually funded and even set up by private interests also exercise hidden power by generating carefully-designed and biased data that support certain kinds of economic and social policies over others, in order to advance those private interests.&nbsp; These influences are hard for citizens to challenge since the links between these privately-funded studies and public policy making are hard to establish. </p> <p>Criminal networks are similarly exercising hidden power by influencing decisions and policies about, for instance, cultivation of narcotic plants by farmers, or giving safe passage and refuge to narco-traffickers, or failing to protect populations terrorized by such groups. </p> <p>And in the private realm, we see how within families, “good women” – those dutifully carrying out the patriarchal agenda and protecting male privilege – often enjoy behind-the-scenes power to influence male decision-makers, and access to family assets and resources. </p> <p><strong>Invisible power</strong> </p> <p>Invisible power, or indirect power, is in many ways the most insidious and problematic of all to challenge and confront.&nbsp; Invisible power is the capacity to shape social norms and beliefs, as well as people’s needs and desires, their self-image, self-esteem, social attitudes and biases, without any means of being held to account.&nbsp; Ideology - the complex web of theory, belief, and principles - is a huge source of invisible power in today’s world, particularly in the economic sphere.&nbsp; And there are several actors engaged in constructing the ideologies that form and mediate our norms and beliefs, as well as the justifications for those norms and beliefs.&nbsp; The media and marketing and advertising industries are classic purveyors of such invisible power.&nbsp; And in many parts of today’s world, fundamentalist formations of various kinds, religious organizations, and criminal networks are also exercising invisible power.&nbsp; Women, who have been co-opted into their own subjugation and in the policing and control of other women (and their male children or family members) through the assertion of dominant ideological norms, wield invisible power, especially in the enforcement of norms and beliefs that ultimately undermine their gender interests. </p> <p>The media exercises invisible power by constantly making choices about what issues to highlight and what to ignore, and by constructing images and shaping meaning in lasting ways.&nbsp; Every day’s television news is instilling in us a sense of what are the most important issues of the day – but what they ignore and don’t cover in the news is also important.&nbsp; By making some issues invisible, they are shaping our sense of social, economic and political priorities in profound ways that we are barely aware of.&nbsp; They convert, for instance, people fighting for their economic rights into “insurgents”, “separatists” and “extremists”; they decide that the kidnapping or rape of a women’s human rights defender is not news, but the wedding in a royal family in Europe is. </p> <p>Similarly, private corporations use advertising to exercise invisible power to create new social norms about what is good, desirable, positive, or bad, regressive, negative – the almost universal desire for fairer skin and thin bodies among Southern women, for instance, which in turn affects their sense of self-worth, is testimony to the invisible power of these forces. </p> <p>Fundamentalists of all types are also using mass media like television to finance soap operas and special channels that spread their messages about the role of women in society, leading to many women “voluntary” rejecting equal rights and reverting to traditional “feminine” roles and behavior in their families. </p> <p>Technology has also become a source of invisible power.&nbsp; Control and governance of the internet and its content, is a key means used by many repressive regimes to control their citizens.&nbsp; And people, in turn, use the internet to organize, resist, share information, and build their power – as we saw in the context of the 'Arab Spring' most recently - in ways that are often invisible until it finds expression. </p> <p>This examination of power readily exposes the gender inequalities inherent in visible, hidden and invisible power.&nbsp; In most societies, women, by virtue of their gender, and further based on their class, caste, race, ethnicity, location, ability, sexual orientation, religion, etc., have far less power than men.&nbsp; However, because of these historic disadvantages – particularly in access to direct power - women have often had to learn to use hidden and invisible power in order to resist or influence the decisions that affected them.&nbsp; A large number of women, however, have also gained influence and power by upholding the dominant power structure and such women are rewarded in explicit and implicit ways for playing this role.&nbsp; In some contexts, however, women have also risen up and challenged direct, hidden, and invisible power.&nbsp; The women’s movements of the past half a century, all over the world, can be said to have done just this. </p> <p>Whether visible, hidden or invisible, power is exercised and demonstrated largely through the control of resources, and that economic power in particular is manifested this way.&nbsp; In today’s context, the spectrum of economic resources are growing at an exponential rate, given the commodification of virtually everything from people’s bodies to indigenous herbs and medicines and genetic material.&nbsp; So while it is impossible to list all these, some key economic resources include natural resources that are essential for daily life, such as water, food crops, cooking fuel, heating, grazing and fodder for animals; productive resources for income and livelihood, including land, animals, raw materials, credit; finance and financial markets; employment opportunities; human labor and labour markets; technology; intangible resources like knowledge, information, contacts, influence; markets, access to markets, and the rules of markets; and the body – its deployment not just for labour but for pleasure, as seen with the growth of the pleasure industry. </p> <p>Women’s access to and control over these and other resources, including resources that they traditionally controlled or managed, is being constrained in new ways.&nbsp; A new range of powerful fundamentalist forces, criminal networks and mafias that have virtually replaced the state in many regions, and transnational corporations accountable to no one are co-opting state actors and machinery too.&nbsp; Violence is being used on an <a href="http://www.awid.org/content/download/138027/1535150/file/Abstract%20Global%20Report%20FINAL.pdf">unprecedented scale</a> to target women human rights defenders and violence against women deployed to control and discipline resistance.&nbsp; While none of this is necessarily new, the forms and scale on which it is occurring, and the targeting of women in processes of realigning economic controls is perhaps quite unique.&nbsp; What is also new is the way more and more state actors are abdicating their responsibility of protecting the rights of citizens whose economic rights are being threatened or infringed.&nbsp; </p> <p>Based on this understanding of power, we may define economic power as the visible, hidden and invisible power to access and control material, human, technological and intangible resources, and the production, distribution and exchange of goods and services, both directly and indirectly, that provide the basic conditions for social, physical and psychological wellbeing. </p> <p>Wealth, by this definition, is constituted not only by the accumulation of material resources, but by the power to control processes and decisions that determine their access and distribution across populations.&nbsp; Poverty, on the other hand, is the result of the exclusion from access to and control over the economic and social resources that determine physical, social, and psychological wellbeing. </p> <p>What, then, does the transformation of economic power entail?&nbsp; In the context of social justice, transformation<strong><em> </em></strong>can be defined as a profound and radical change in the relations of power that determine the status, privileges, opportunities, entitlements, and access to resources of an individual or group.&nbsp; Transformation of economic power for women’s rights and justice means that women who are currently marginalized in multiple ways, as a result of intersecting oppressions and exclusions, gain equal power to determine the distribution, access to and control of material, human and technological resources, and goods and services that are the basis for social, physical and psychological wellbeing. One of the key goals of such a transformation would be the eradication of gender biases in access and control over economic resources, and in the decision-making processes that shape economic policies.&nbsp; Marginalized women will move from being subjects and victims to leaders and active agents of such a transformation.&nbsp; Indeed, it means that marginalized&nbsp; women’s priorities and visions of a just, sustainable and peaceful world can truly shape and influence the choices we make about the pathways of development, about the relationship of human beings to the planet, and most of all, the structure of human relationships themselves. </p><p class="MsoNormal"><em>This article is one of a series of articles addressing themes for discussion at the 12th AWID International Forum <a href="http://www.forum.awid.org/forum12/about/2012-forum-theme/">Transforming Economic Power to advance women's rights and justice </a><a id="link35" title="archive de Transforming Economic Power to " rel="nofollow" href="http://archive.wikiwix.com/opendemocracy/?url=http://www.forum.awid.org/forum12/about/2012-forum-theme/&amp;title=Transforming%0AEconomic%20Power%20to%20advance%20women%27s%20rights%20and%20justice%20">↑</a>&nbsp;</em></p><div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Equality </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 openEconomy Democracy and government Economics Equality Women and the Economy AWID Forum 2012 50.50 Gender Politics Religion 50.50 Editor's Pick Pathways of Women's Empowerment women's movements women's human rights women and power patriarchy gendered poverty gender justice feminism 50.50 newsletter Srilatha Batliwala Wed, 18 Apr 2012 07:58:39 +0000 Srilatha Batliwala 65394 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Srilatha Batliwala https://www.opendemocracy.net/author-profile/srilatha-batliwala <div class="field field-au-term"> <div class="field-label">Author:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Srilatha Batliwala </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-au-firstname"> <div class="field-label">First name(s):&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Srilatha </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-au-surname"> <div class="field-label">Surname:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Batliwala </div> </div> </div> <p><span>Srilatha Batliwala </span>is Director Knowledge Building and Feminist Leadership at CREA (Creating Resources for Empowerment in Action).&nbsp; She is a feminist activist, scholar, and writer with four decades of experience that ranges from grassroots activism and movement building with some of the poorest women in India, to research and building theory from practice in premier international academic institutions and feminist organizations.</p><p><span><br /></span></p><div class="field field-au-shortbio"> <div class="field-label">One-Line Biography:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Srilatha Batliwala is the India-based Scholar Associate, &lt;a href=&quot;http://www.awid.org/&quot;&gt;AWID&lt;/a&gt; (Association for Women&#039;s Rights in Development) </div> </div> </div> Srilatha Batliwala Fri, 26 Mar 2010 13:12:57 +0000 Srilatha Batliwala 51302 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Politics outside politics: how women redefine democracy https://www.opendemocracy.net/content/politics-outside-politics-how-women-redefine-democracy <a href="/50-50-tags/nobel-womens-initiative"><img style="margin-right: 10px; margin-bottom: 5px" src="http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3365/3488603642_a13527cb82_o.jpg" border="0" alt="" width="116" height="36" align="left" /></a> <p> A conference on women redefining democracy can do no better than start with <a href="http://womenshistory.about.com/od/business/p/m_p_follett.htm">Mary Parker Follett</a>, the unsung, unacknowledged 'mother' of modern organizational theory and management studies, and feminist political philosopher. In her book, <em><a href="http://sunsite.utk.edu/FINS/Mary_Parker_Follett/Fins-MPF-01.html">The New State</a></em>, she defined democracy in a particularly feminist way - a definition unlike that of any male philosopher, from the Greeks, to Rousseauvians, to Marxists and neo-liberals<!--break-->: </p> <blockquote> <p> &ldquo;Democracy is an infinitely including spirit. We have an instinct for democracy because we have an instinct for wholeness; we get wholeness only through reciprocal relations, through infinitely expanding reciprocal relations. Democracy is really neither [merely] extending nor including&hellip; but creating wholes.&rdquo; </p> </blockquote> <p> In another section of the book, she says: </p> <blockquote> <p> &ldquo;The vote in itself does not give us democracy - we have yet to learn democracy's method. We still think too much of the solidarity of the vote; what we need is solidarity of purpose, solidarity of will. To make my vote a genuine part of the expression of the collective will is the first purpose of politics; it is only through group organization that the individual learns this lesson, that [s]he learns to be an effective political member.&rdquo; </p> </blockquote> <p> Women&rsquo;s experience with and in formal politics - meaning in political parties, elections, and legislatures and local councils - would seem to bear testimony to this prophetic woman&rsquo;s words. In more recent waves of feminist activism, we have focused on women&rsquo;s access to power and decision-making authority in formal political institutions as critical to achieving gender equality in the long term. Political empowerment of women became a clarion call by the mid-seventies, based on several assumptions about how this would change things for all women: that lasting gender equality could be achieved only through political change (enabling policies, legislation, enforcement and protection of rights); that women in politics would advance the cause of gender equality and women&rsquo;s rights; that unless women themselves were represented in local, national and global political bodies, the momentum for such change could not be sustained; that a critical mass of women in political institutions would also initiate broader social justice and peace - by fostering non-violent conflict resolution, sustainable and socially just development, access to and protection of the full body of human rights, and placing people above profits; and most of all, that this critical mass of women in political institutions would transform the very nature of power and the practice of politics through more transparent, accountable and consultative political behaviour - in other words, that women would play politics differently and practise power accountably. </p> <p> It&rsquo;s certainly true that thousands of courageous women who entered politics have attempted to do all this and more - undoubtedly, women have made a significant impact on politics and political institutions at multiple levels. But we must also confront the fact that increased representation of women in elected bodies has not transformed these institutions or engendered policies in the way we hoped - not even in those handful of countries where women elected representatives have reached more than a critical mass. Women have not been able to advance this notion of democracy as wholeness, as something that enables every voice, perspective, and priority, to become part of the 'collective will'. </p> <p> Indeed, AWID&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.awid.org/eng/Issues-and-Analysis/Library/Changing-Their-World">recent study</a> of women&rsquo;s movements worldwide indicates that the women who have been experimenting with and participating in this very essence of democracy, are women in social movements - their own and others. As Parker Follett foresaw, it is women in organized movements - or &ldquo;group organizations&rdquo; as she termed it - who advance democratic process in ways that women in formal political institutions are unable to do because of the very male, hierarchical, and centralized cultures of these institutions. They do so by confronting the structures and relations of power in private and public spheres, challenging the ideologies that justify or rationalize these relations, and by accessing and redistributing resources. They create struggles that redefine notions of development, sustainability, and peace. Most of all, they struggle with, and through, the complexity and heartache of constructing 'wholes' that hear and include the minorities within their own movements - this is much harder than the majoritarianism that marks most democratic political regimes. </p> <p> To illustrate these characteristics from the AWID case studies, the <a href="http://www.madre.org/index.php?s=2&amp;b=20&amp;p=29">Indigenous Women&rsquo;s movement of Mexico</a> has challenged the patriarchy within their own culture, while at the same time developing an intricate new construct of the relationship between themselves and the natural environment. The <a href="http://www.awid.org/Issues-and-Analysis/Library/Domestic-Workers-Movement-Building-in-the-United-States">Domestic Workers</a> movement of the United States, the <a href="http://www.unicef.org/sowc07/docs/sowc07_panel_2_3.pdf">Mothers movement of East Europe,</a> and the <a href="http://vakindia.org/pdf/report-dlp.pdf">Dalit Women&rsquo;s movement in Northern India</a> have all struggled to build the most democratic forms of internal governance even as they claim their rights from formal political structures around them. The <a href="http://www.comminit.com/en/node/285270/36">One in Nine Campaign</a> in South Africa and the <a href="http://www.groots.org/members/kenya.htm">GROOTS</a> Kenya network challenge both the patriarchal violence against women that deprives poor women of their physical integrity or their inheritance rights as AIDS widows, and challenge the failure of their so-called democratic states to address their needs. </p> <p> These are only a small handful of the women&rsquo;s movements around the world that demonstrate that given the consciousness and opportunity to organize and build collective power, women are in a constant process of claiming true citizenship. They are not just champions of democracy but its true architects. </p> 50.50 50.50 Nobel Women's Initiative 2009 50.50 Women, Peace & Security women's movements women's human rights women and power gender justice gender feminism Srilatha Batliwala Creative Commons normal Sun, 10 May 2009 09:50:12 +0000 Srilatha Batliwala 47917 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Putting power back into empowerment https://www.opendemocracy.net/article/putting_power_back_into_empowerment_0 <p>Of all the buzzwords that have entered the development lexicon in the past thirty years, &quot;empowerment&quot; is probably the most widely used and abused. Like many other important terms that were coined to represent a clearly political concept, it has been &quot;mainstreamed&quot; in a manner that has virtually robbed it of its original meaning and strategic value.</p> <p>The concept of women's empowerment emerged from critiques and debates generated by the women's movement during the 1980s, when feminists, particularly in what was then known more widely as the &quot;third world&quot; (Before the term &quot;global south&quot; gained currency), were growing discontent with the largely apolitical and economistic models in prevailing development interventions.</p> <p>There was at the time growing interaction between feminism and the &quot;conscientisation&quot; approach developed by <a title="http://www.infed.org/thinkers/et-freir.htm" target="_blank" href="http://www.infed.org/thinkers/et-freir.htm">Paulo Freire</a> in Latin America. But where Freire ignored gender and the subordination of women as a critical element of liberation, there were other important influences on activists and nascent social movements at this time: among them the rediscovery of Antonio Gramsci's &quot;<a title="http://www.ialhi.org/news/i0309_5.php" target="_blank" href="http://www.ialhi.org/news/i0309_5.php">subalterns</a>&quot; embodying and the hegemonic role of dominant ideologies, the emergence of social construction theory and post-colonial theory.</p> <p class="pullquote_new"><a title="http://www.ksg.harvard.edu/hauser/people/researchers_staff/sbatliwala.htm" target="_blank" href="http://www.ksg.harvard.edu/hauser/people/researchers_staff/sbatliwala.htm">Srilatha Batliwala</a> is an Indian feminist activist and researcher, and currently Civil Society Research Fellow at the Hauser Center for <a target="_blank" href="http://www.ksg.harvard.edu/hauser/">Nonprofit Organisations</a> at Harvard University. Her research reports and analyses include <a href="http://trophort.com/002/611/002611383.html">Women's Empowerment in South Asia - Concepts and Practices </a>(1993) Also by Srilatha Batliwala in openDemocracy: &quot;Women transforming power?&quot; (<a href="/democracy-resolution_1325/women_2900.jsp">6 October 2005</a>)</p> <p>The interplay of these powerful new discourses led, by the mid-1980s, to the spread of &quot;women's empowerment&quot; as a more political and transformatory idea for struggles that challenged not only patriarchy, but the mediating structures of class, race, ethnicity, - and, in India, caste and religion - which determined the nature of women's position and condition in developing societies. Feminist movements in the global south, but particularly in Latin America and south Asia, evolved their own distinct approach, pushing consciousness-raising into the realm of radical organising and movement-building for gender equality. All efforts to more clearly conceptualise the term stressed that empowerment was a socio-political process, and that the critical operating concept within empowerment was power, and that empowerment was about shifts in political, social, and economic power between and across both individuals and social groups.</p> <p>By the beginning of the 1990s, empowerment held pride of place in development jargon. And though it was applied in a broad range of social change processes, it was most widely used with reference to women and gender equality. Development assistance agencies (multilateral, bilateral and private), eternally in search of sexier catchphrases and magic bullets that could somehow fast-track the process of social transformation, took hold of the term and began to use it to replace their earlier terminology of &quot;people's participation&quot; and &quot;women's development&quot;. The <a title="http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/beijing/index.html" target="_blank" href="http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/beijing/index.html">Fourth World Conference on Women</a> in Beijing (1995) played a critical role in introducing the &quot;e&quot; word to state actors, and governments anxious to demonstrate a progressive approach to gender quickly adopted the catch phrase of women's empowerment.</p> <p><strong>An agenda won </strong></p> <p>Empowerment entered the gender equality arena in India through distinctly different political routes - that of feminists challenging patriarchal gender relations, of progressive government policy, and of aid agencies anxious to do something new. By the 1990s, everybody concerned with women's issues and gender equality - state actors, aid agencies, development professionals and feminist activists and advocates - were using the term empowerment. But like a latter-day development Babel, there was no clarity about what exactly this meant to its various proponents, since the meanings they attached to the term were seldom articulated in any clear or specific way.</p> <p>In an attempt to clear the conceptual and strategic cloud, I was invited, in 1992, to examine how empowerment was understood and operationalised across south Asia by grassroots women's and development organisations with a stated objective of women's empowerment. This gave rise to <a title="http://trophort.com/002/611/002611383.html" target="_blank" href="http://trophort.com/002/611/002611383.html">Women's Empowerment in South Asia: Concepts and Practices</a> (Batliwala 1993), which defined empowerment as a process of transforming the relations of power between individuals and social groups, shifting social power in three critical ways:</p> <p>* by challenging the ideologies that justify social inequality (such as gender or caste)</p> <p>* by changing prevailing patterns of access to and control over economic, natural and intellectual resources</p> <p>* by transforming the institutions and structures that reinforce and sustain existing power structures (such as the family, state, market, education, and media). The document argued that ideological and institutional change were critical to sustaining empowerment and real social transformation. And it emphasised that transformatory empowerment could not be achieved by tackling any one of these elements of social power - even at that early stage, its architects were clear that there was no &quot;one-shot&quot; magic bullet route to women's empowerment, such as providing women access to credit, enhanced incomes, or land-titles.</p> <p>This conceptualisation of empowerment drew on experiences in the subcontinent, and especially in India, of experiments that attempted to enact the process of empowerment on the ground with various marginalised communities, but most often focused on poor rural and urban women. These approaches tried to depart from past interventions that treated women as beneficiaries of services or producers or workers, and adopted feminist popular education strategies that created new spaces for women to collectivise around shared experiences of poverty, exclusion and discrimination, critically analyse the structures and ideologies that sustained and reinforced their oppression, and raise consciousness of their own sense of subordination. The main inputs in these processes were new ideas and information, not hand-outs or services; an opportunity for women to locate and articulate the changes they wanted to make, and evolve strategies to do so.</p> <p>In retrospect, it is the early successes of the empowerment approach - despite contemporary angst about how difficult it was to measure, or took too long to show impact, and other anxieties - that contributed inadvertently to its subsequent instrumentalisation, and its conversion into not only a buzz word but a magic bullet for poverty alleviation and rapid economic development, rather than a multifaceted process of social transformation, especially in the arena of gender equality.</p> <p><strong>A ground lost </strong></p> <p>By the mid-1990s, India had enthusiastically embraced neo-liberal economic policies, but it was also an electoral democracy where the poor - particularly the rural poor - were the largest <a title="http://www.opendemocracy.net/globalization-vision_reflections/indian_experience_3535.jsp," target="_blank" href="/globalization-vision_reflections/indian_experience_3535.jsp,">vote-banks</a> who routinely threw out regimes who failed their interests and needs. Opening up rural markets and raising incomes of the poor was thus critical to political survival. In India's populist politics, empowerment was a natural target for co-option by varying political agendas most of whom were anxious to limit its transformatory potential.</p> <p>Consequently, political parties of various hues and ruling regimes rapidly adopted and simultaneously constricted the concept and practice of women's empowerment into two relatively narrow and politically manageable arenas: the so-called &quot;self-help&quot; women's groups (SHGs) which were meant to simulate empowering grassroots women's groups, but in reality engage in little else but savings and lending, and reservations for women within local self-government bodies which is deemed to lead to political empowerment.</p> <p>Both of these are described as &quot;women's empowerment&quot; approaches, though there is little evidence that either result in sustained changes in women's position or condition within their families, communities, or society at large. Indeed, there is a growing body of analysis that the empowering effects of these <a title="http://www.csmonitor.com/2007/0510/p01s04-wosc.html" target="_blank" href="http://www.csmonitor.com/2007/0510/p01s04-wosc.html">interventions</a> are complex, and that they can consolidate existing power hierarchies as well as create new problems, including manipulation and co-option by dominant political interests, growing indebtedness, doubling and tripling of women's workloads, and new forms of gendered violence.</p> <p>Although virtually every government policy claims to support women's empowerment, a deeper scrutiny of both policy and implementation strategies reveals that the broad-based, multifaceted and radical consciousness-raising approaches fostered in programmes like <a title="http://www.india.gov.in/sectors/education/mahila_samakhya.php" target="_blank" href="http://www.india.gov.in/sectors/education/mahila_samakhya.php">Mahila Samakhya</a> in the 1980s and early 1990s have more or less disappeared. Every department's narrow-bandwidth intervention, in the era of increasing divestment and privatisation, is packaged in the language of empowerment. India's rural development policy describes its objectives as poverty alleviation and empowerment, and that these will be achieved through the strategies of self-help groups and strengthening local governments, the twin sites of &quot;women's empowerment&quot;.</p> <p>In the larger political arena, there has been an equally disturbing trend where the idea of women's empowerment has been distorted and co-opted into the ideological frameworks of the religious fundamentalism that has become deeply entrenched in Indian politics - the status of women in certain minority groups, and their need for &quot;empowerment&quot; (in its vernacular equivalents) has been a key component of the <a title="http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy/article_1566.jsp" target="_blank" href="/democracy/article_1566.jsp">Hindu nationalists'</a> ideological and political project, as has been the construction of the Hindu woman as the educated, equal, empowered opposite - even while they remain deeply hostile to the questioning of the disempowerment and subjugation of millions of women with the spread of particular regional and upper-caste Hindu practices such as dowry, female foeticide through sex-selective abortions.</p> <p>With donors increasingly abandoning the kind of empowerment processes that feminists developed in the 1980s as a no-longer fashionable (indeed practical) methodology, and enthusiastically championing large-scale micro-finance programmes as the quickest route to women's empowerment (and overall economic development!), the old feminist empowerment concept and practice has fast lost ground. Meanwhile, in keeping with the insidious dominance of the neo-liberal ideology and its consumerist core, we see the transition of empowerment out of the realm of societal and systemic change and into the individual - from a noun signifying shifts in social power to a verb signalling individual power, achievement, status.</p> <p><strong>An idea reclaimed </strong></p> <p>Today, I ask myself a simple question: if this word, and the idea it represented, has been seized and re-defined by populist politics, fundamentalist and neo-conservative ideologies, and corporate management, if it has been downsized by micro-finance and quota evangelists, and otherwise generally divested of all vestiges of power and politics, is it worth reclaiming?</p> <p>Indeed it is. And it must be reclaimed because our vision of social transformation remains uniquely important, in a world where magic bullets and mechanical solutions attempt to evade the more fundamental processes of social justice that were at the core of feminist thinking from its earliest days. But the task of reclaiming has three vital components. First, we need to need to actually reclaim the agendas - such as empowerment - and the spaces for engaging the mainstream discourse from which we have been marginalised: the spaces of other social movements such as economic justice, the environment, and human rights, where gender is barely present anymore.</p> <p>Second, we need to reframe some of our visions and strategies, in the context of contemporary challenges, such as globalisation and changing multilateral and bilateral economic and policy regimes, which demand new analysis, frameworks, and engagements.</p> <p>Third, we must actively resist certain processes - the politics and policies of fundamentalisms, militarisation, and neo-liberal formulas - that have further impoverished, violated, displaced, and re-subjugated women in multiple ways.</p> <p><span class="pullquote_new"> <p>Also in openDemocracy: Andrea Cornwall, <a title="http://opendemocracy.net/article/pathways_of_womens_empowerment" target="_blank" href="/article/pathways_of_womens_empowerment">&quot;Pathways to women's empowerment&quot;</a> (27 July 2007)</p> <p>Srilatha Batliwala and Andrea Cornwall's articles open a new collaboration between openDemocracy and the research consortium <a title="http://www.ids.ac.uk/ids/Part/proj/pathways.html" target="_blank" href="http://www.ids.ac.uk/ids/Part/proj/pathways.html">Pathways of Women's Empowerment</a> project at the Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex.</p> <p>Together we will explore ideas, projects and initiatives from around the world - Brazil to Egypt, Sierra Leone to Bangladesh - which aim to understand what enables women to empower themselves and sustain changes in gendered power relations</p> </span><strong>A vision shaped</strong></p> <p>These three tasks, of reclaiming, reframing, and resistance, require a new clarity of vision and invigorated strategies on the part of feminists and their movements. Rather than seeing ourselves in retreat or defeat, we must recognise that we are witnessing a historical and dialectic process, where our voices and claims, once in the ascendant, have been co-opted and ritualised as a means of neutralising or pushing back the deep changes in power that we sought along both gender and social hierarchies.</p> <p>It is time to regroup, rethink, and engage the dialectic or else our movements will wither away and die. We may appear weak and marginal at the moment, but we must realise it is only a moment - and an opportunity - that is challenging us to come back, with more powerful strategies and a sharper, more relevant discourse, building on the learning of the past decades, and willing to jettison ideas and approaches (such as the focus on mechanisms of formal equality) to which we were wed in the past.</p> <p>A critical piece of this is to reformulate our concept and practice of movement-building. We keep calling ourselves a movement, but where is the movement we are talking about? Aggregates of women's organisations highly dependent on funders and governments? We need to return our attention to building real movements, to rekindle the mobilisation and organisation of a large popular base of women, which was our great strength in the past. This is the space that many of us have vacated in the process of specialised advocacy and policy work - the space that reactionary forces so effectively seized over the past twenty years, mobilising thousands of people, including women - for their retrograde political agendas.</p> <p>We need to rearticulate a compelling, powerful vision with accessible messages to which poor women - and men - can connect at the local, national and global level. This is possible only if we go back to listening to poor women in their movements and struggles, to learn from them the values, principles, and actions that frame their search for justice. From such a process we can build not only a new depth and breadth of organising, a genuine global feminist movement, but solutions and alternatives for a sane, just, sustainable and peaceful world that have not yet entered our political or philosophical imagination.</p> 50.50 50.50 Pathways of Women's Empowerment, 2007 - 2010 Globalisation democracy & power Srilatha Batliwala Original Copyright Mon, 30 Jul 2007 10:34:33 +0000 Srilatha Batliwala 34195 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Women transforming power? https://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-resolution_1325/women_2900.jsp <p> History will undoubtedly reveal that the quest for gender equality and justice was one of the defining events of the twentieth century. Beginning with struggles for women’s suffrage in the early decades, the women’s movement for equality generated sufficient impact that by the end of the century, the majority of the world’s nations had pledged to eradicate gender discrimination through instruments such as the Convention on Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (<a href="http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/" target="_blank">CEDAW</a>), the <a href="http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/beijing/platform/plat1.htm" target="_blank">Beijing Platform for Action</a> and the UN’s Security Council Resolution <a href="http://www.peacewomen.org/un/sc/1325.html" target="_blank">1325</a>. </p> <p> As feminists expanded and deepened their understanding of the roots of gender discrimination, they realized that women’s access to power and decision-making authority in the public realm is as critical to achieving gender equality as changing power relations in the private sphere of households and relationships. </p> <p> This triggered mobilisation and advocacy for women’s representation in elected bodies, as well as a voice in public policy. Political empowerment of women became a clarion call by the mid-seventies. Many victories were won. The Scandinavian countries, the US, and developing countries such as Uganda, India, the Philippines, South Africa, Brazil and Mexico, have all made tremendous strides in enabling the entry of large numbers of women into the formal political system. </p> <p> But with these achievements, new and troubling questions have arisen, necessitating a re-examination of both implicit and explicit assumptions underlying the movement for women’s political participation: </p> <ul> <li>that the transformation of both the <em>position</em> and <em>condition</em> of women in society could be lastingly achieved only through political change (in the form of enabling policies, legislation, enforcement and protection of rights); </li> <li>that women in politics would advance the cause of gender equality and women’s rights; </li> <li>that unless women themselves were represented in local, national and global political bodies, the momentum for such change could not be sustained; </li> <li>that a critical mass of women in political institutions would also initiate change in broader policies of development and international relations – for example, by developing policies of peace and non-violent conflict resolution, access to and protection of the full body of human rights, sustainable and socially just development, and placing people above profits; and</li> <li>that a critical mass of women in political institutions would transform the very nature of power and the practice of politics through values of cooperation and collaboration, holding power in trusteeship (“power on behalf of, not over”), greater transparency and public accountability - in other words, that women would <em>play politics</em> differently and <em>practice power</em> accountably. </li> </ul> <p> It would be a grave disservice to thousands of courageous women to say that all these assumptions have been belied: women have had significant impact on politics and political institutions, on many levels. But few would claim that increased representation of women in elected bodies has transformed these institutions, engendered policies, or altered the nature of public power itself. </p> <p> There is widespread agreement among <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feminism" target="_blank">feminist</a> thinkers and activists that we seriously underestimated the power of existing modes of politics to corrupt, co-opt, or marginalise women. We did not fully understand how women would be compelled or manipulated to compromise their goals for narrow party interests. We failed to address the possibility that many of the women who gained entry into the formal political sphere would be advocates of patriarchal, mainstream, elitist or fundamentalist ideologies. </p> <p> The experience of the last twenty years teaches that we cannot conflate biological women with women committed to gender equality and social justice. Feminists interested in gender, power and political transformation the world over have realised the complexity, resilience and insidiousness of the patriarchal model of political power, and how cleverly it neutralises those challenging it. We have learnt that power more easily alters us than we can alter it. It appears that our early assumptions have been tested, and found only partly valid. </p> <p> This does not mean we abandon campaigns for greater representation of women in political bodies – or deny our own achievements. But we must recognize that this is a necessary but not sufficient condition for the kind of change in politics and power that we set out to achieve. </p> <p> We are at a historic moment, when we must learn from our own experiences, and re-cast our vision and strategies, based on the insight and wisdom gained over previous decades. After the events of 11 September 2001, it is even more urgent that women committed to agendas of peace, tolerance, equality, multilateralism and sustainable global development have greater voice and control over local, national and global politics. </p> <p> But this is a difficult task unless we are able to articulate more clearly <em>what engendered public power and policies look like</em>. Feminist women around the world know a good deal about this, but there has been no way of surfacing and systematising that knowledge, and converting it into concrete measures, models and strategies. </p> <p> The need of the hour is processes that will: </p> <ul> <li>help surface, collate and sharpen knowledge and strategic insights about gender and public power; </li> <li>generate a set of measures to help assess the impact of women in politics on public power, policy, and political culture; </li> <li>yield data and information to analyze that impact; and</li> <li>culminate in the development of sharper strategies for both women’s political empowerment and the engendering of public power and policy. </li> </ul> Only then can we hope to move from having more female bodies in politics to women actually transforming power. <p> &nbsp; </p> <br /> <hr /> <p> <strong>openDemocracy’s</strong> <em>new blog looks at how <a href="/openblogs/blog/1325women/">women make a difference</a>. Five years after the UN’s resolution to involve women in fighting conflict, find out what has changed, and discuss what needs to happen next. </em> </p> <hr /> 50.50 50.50 resolution 1325: does it make any difference? democracy & power Srilatha Batliwala Original Copyright Wed, 05 Oct 2005 23:00:00 +0000 Srilatha Batliwala 2900 at https://www.opendemocracy.net