Why we’re ‘stepping up’ for feminist movements at the Generation Equality Forum this week

June 30, 2021

The Generation Equality Forum in Paris is underway. It’s a process that IWDA has been part of over the last year and half as a co-leader of the Action Coalition on Feminist Movements and Leadership.

IWDA believes that resilient and vibrant feminist movements, including those led by trans, intersex and non-binary people, racialised people, indigenous women, women and people with disability, young feminists, and other historically excluded and marginalised people, are critical to defending and advancing gender equality.

We believe resourcing and contributing to resilient and vibrant feminist movements will move us all dramatically closer to our vision of gender equality for all.

Blue sqaure with text that says Feminist Movements and Leadership

IWDA applies a decolonising solidarity approach to our feminist movement strengthening work, in acknowledgement that the inequalities we seek to address through our movement strengthening work are both a result of, and perpetuated by, historical and contemporary forms of colonialism.

This approach helps us analyse when to ‘step up’ to use our power to leverage resources and access for women’s rights organisations and make our own contributions to feminist movements; when to ‘stand with’ feminist movements in solidarity and amplify the work of Global South actors; and when to ‘step back’ and acknowledge that others are better placed to take the lead.

In Generation Equality, IWDA saw an opportunity to ‘step up’ on the international stage to represent movement interests and leverage our locational power to advocate for increased resourcing, space and power for feminist movements globally.

IWDA’s commitment to feminist movements

IWDA’s new Feminist Movement Strengthening Framework outlines IWDA’s commitment to ‘step up’, ‘stand with’ and ‘step back’ to strengthen what we see as the five key elements of resilient, vibrant feminist movements:

1. Connection to Constituency

The individuals most impacted by structural inequalities must drive any movement to change them. As such, feminist movement actors and women’s rights organisations must foster connections to diverse constituencies and mechanisms to ensure their priorities drive movement objectives and action.

To strengthen this element, IWDA commits to ‘step up’ to ensure we strengthen and expand connections to our constituency; we will ‘stand with’ Global South women’s rights organisations to prioritise support for regular and meaningful engagement with diverse constituencies. We will also support feminist consciousness-raising and power analysis with diverse constituencies.

We will develop internal systems and processes that ensure constituency-led analysis drives movement activities and programs, while ‘stepping back’ from imposing program priorities that are not driven by Global South movements and their constituencies.

2. Relationships of Trust

We know that movements move at the speed of trust and therefore we must intentionally nurture personal and institutional relationships in order to foster resilient, vibrant movements.

IWDA commits to ‘step up’ to ensure relationship and trust building is prioritised as part of our staff workplanning, our connecting and convening work and our contributions to coalitions and partnerships

In our ‘standing with’ role, IWDA commits to prioritising support for activities that build relationships and trust between movements and movement actors. This may be through convening collaborative spaces, supporting peer support networks or using our locational power to introduce and connect movement actors with each other.

We recognise that investing in relationships with Global North organisations is not always the most effective use of Global South women’s rights organisations’ time. IWDA commits to respecting this and ‘stepping back’ from time-intensive relationship building processes where it is not appropriate.

3. Leveraging Diversity

Feminist movements need to be diverse to be strong. But, we know that navigating diversity is often difficult and requires skills and support. Resilient, feminist movements also need to connect with other social movements to ensure the feminist movement isn’t siloed and overly inward looking.

IWDA commits to ‘step up’ to prioritise rigorous, power-aware relationship design processes that acknowledge and help to navigate difference, whenever we engage in partnerships, collaborations or consortiums. We will ‘step up’ to foster connections with other social movements and weave these connections into our partnerships and collaborations.

We will ‘stand with’ women’s rights organisations in the Global South by engaging in mutual consciousness raising on the power of diversity to fuel movements, particularly the need to ensure movements are intergenerational. In many circumstances, it will not be appropriate for IWDA to mediate the internal power dynamics and diversities of Global South movements. We commit to ensure we build systems into our work that enable us to understand when this is the case, and ‘step back’ from this work.

4. Intersectional, Feminist Analysis

Feminist movements, in contrast to other social movements, aim to transform gendered power structures as their primary goal.  As such, resilient, vibrant feminist movements must create space for movement actors to co-develop an intersectional, feminist analysis of issues.

In our ‘standing up’ role, IWDA commits to undertake consistent critical self-reflection, knowledge creation and learning processes, to deepen our own intersectional, feminist analysis. Where possible, we will undertake this knowledge creation work in partnership with others.

IWDA commits to ‘stand with’ our partners by facilitating processes and enabling space for movement actors, to co-create their own feminist analyses. We will build accountability mechanisms into our processes to ensure we ‘step back’ from work that risks imposing colonial knowledge systems or undermining the political perspectives and agendas of Global South women and movement actors.

5. Collaboratively Realise a Common Vision for Change

Collective action is a powerful mechanism for transformative change and joint action can be strengthened by intentional planning and strategy with a feminist lens.

IWDA commits to ‘step up’ to use our locational power to advocate for more and better funding for feminist movements. We commit to ensuring that our global advocacy efforts are informed by the needs of Global South feminist movements. We will use our ‘standing with’ role to undertake joint advocacy, facilitate access to decision making spaces for Global South women and to support the intentional design of strategic joint advocacy initiatives.

IWDA commits to ‘stand with’ movement actors to ensure flexible program management and funding that allows movement actors to respond quickly, creatively and collectively to emerging threats, opportunities and analysis.

We commit to embedding accountability mechanisms into our advocacy work to ensure that it does not encroach on the advocacy territory of Global South women’s rights organisations and movement actors, and ‘step back’ if, and when it does.

To read more about IWDA’s commitment to strengthening feminist movements we encourage you to download and read our new Feminist Movement Strengthening Framework!

For all of us working in the Generation Equality Action Coalition leadership we are motivated by the common sentiment that equality cannot be the promise of another lifetime! There’s still time to become a commitment maker and act for equal.

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