There is tremendous diversity in social movement practice across contexts and regions. In this section you can find out more about activism on women's rights and gender justice in different global regions, and how gender is thought about within social mobilisation in different areas and contexts.

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  • WELDD Feminist leadership web portal

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    Shirkat Gah, 2014
    This web portal, developed by the Women’s Empowerment and Leadership Development for Democratisation (WELDD) programme, is intended to be a space to share useful resources, as well as a forum for sharing experiences and holding discussions about how to nurture feminist leadership that is transformative and sustainable. The resources area has a feminist library and a tool for activists section. The ‘public square’ section contains blogs written by portal users on a range of subjects and the ‘our voices’ section contains news and updates on women’s rights issues in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. There is a particular focus on public and political participation, peace and security, culturally justified violence against women and land and economic rights.



  • Breaking through the iron ceiling: Iran’s new government and the hopes of the Iranian women’s movements

    R Jones
    Association for Women's Rights in Development , 2013
    Iranian women's rights activist Sussan Tahmasebi has spoken to AWID as part of their Friday File series. Up for discussion is the topic of Iran's new president Hassan Rouhani, and what his election may mean for Iranian women. Compared to the tenure of previous president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose presidency was characterised by a disregard human rights and an assault on women's rights and freedoms, Rouhani is seen as a more moderate figure who has promised to improve international relations, work towards the elimination of discrimination, and advance women's rights.

    Tahmasebi explains that, since a conservative interpretation of Sharia law was adopted following the Iranian revolution more than thirty years ago, women have slowly regained much – even if it hasn't resulted in a change of many laws. Much of this social gain was undermined by Ahmadinejad, whose ideology espoused that women should be mothers and wives first and foremost. Quotas limiting women's presence in universities, programs targeting women's dress, and the ending of family planning services contributed to the erosion of women's rights.

    Rouhani has encouragingly made certain pledges with regard to reversing this trend, such as ending segregation at universities, increasing women's employment opportunities, and even discussions of easing women's dress codes (though Tahmasebi doubts this will mean doing away with the mandatory Hijab). According to Tahmasebi, women's movements in this new political context are meeting openly once more, and making their demands known. There are a number of independent Iranian women's groups meeting regularly since the elections, with a major component of these discussions focused on negotiating the difficult terrain of how to work together as a larger, consensus-based collective.

    One such effort is called the One Million Signatures Campaign which, though it failed to achieve its stated goal, had a direct impact on civil society in positive ways. The campaign introduced many new and young activists to the issue of women's rights, and has contributed to the creation of a public discourse on the issue. Asked about the confidence she has in Rouhani's promises of reform, Tahmasebi took the position of 'wait and see', noting that while the President may be sincere about seeking reforms, any decision will have to make it through parliament.

    One particularly encouraging sign is the appointment of a female Vice President, Elham Aminzadeh, as well as the first female Foreign Ministry Spokesperson, and Ambassador to the UN. That these appointees to the Foreign Ministry wear a full black veil has sparked debate, with heated views at either end of the spectrum. Rouhani has even suggested the establishment of a Ministry for Women, though some activists are reticent that such a move would merely segregate women's issues. Overall, Tahmasebi sees this present political context as a time of great opportunity that must be seized by women activists, an opportunity for dialogue and collaboration between government and civil society.


  • Women’s rights and transitions to democracy: an annotated bibliography

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    Association for Women's Rights in Development , 2013

    Women's Rights and Transitions to Democracy: An Annotated Bibliography is an AWID project that aims to contribute to the desire for learning and engagement identified by MENA activists reflecting on the aftermath of recent tumultuous events in the region. This mapping of key resources, publications and materials is intended to fill gaps realised through convenings and conversations, namely a lack of information sharing and knowledge bridging among feminists across regions that have suffered similar uprisings, particularly along south-south and east-south lines. Bibliographies and short summaries succinctly identify contextual changes and challenges faced by women, as well as lessons learned.

    The main themes covered in the annotated bibliography are:

    - Transitions to democracy - this section provides a more general historic and geo-political overview of specific countries or situations, such as Geogina Waylen's 'What can the South African transition tell us about gender and democratisation?' 
    -  Transitional justice - Numerous case studies are presented showing the impact that various democratisation processes have had on women's rights, particularly given the injustices that have occurred in pre-ceding times of conflict and war. 
    -  Responses to fundamentalism - in this category, the various ways in which religious fundamentalisms have been challenged by women's rights activists are highlighted. AWID's own program, 'Challenging Religious Fundamentalisms', is covered, which explores cross-religion and cross-region experiences as well as strategies for responding to fundamentalist rationalisations and actions against women's rights. 
    -  Political participation - resources here reflect a broad spectrum of views in current feminist literature on this topic, such as 'Democratising Democracy: Feminist Perspectives' by Andrea Cornwall and Anne Marie Goetz. 
    -  Movement building - this section emphasises the importance of collective action and movement based approaches to organising, with many resources exemplifying the successes in attempts to further women's rights. An example is Jane S. Jacquette's edited book Feminist Agendas and Democracy in Latin America, examining the responses by the Latin American women's movement to political and economic upheaval over the last two decades. 
    -  Constitutional and legal reform - of particular concern to activists in the MENA region due to various interpretations and connections with Islamic texts and law, this section looks at past experiences of constitutional reform in different regions.

    Accompanying the resources is background on the project, notes on how to navigate the website and a feedback function. It is hoped that through the collation of such a variety of resources, the website will contribute to furthering the democratisation of knowledge and support women's rights movements in the MENA to continue to build inclusive transitional processes that will aid social justice and gender equality.

  • Because our cause is just

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    Women's Learning Partnership for Rights, Development, and Peace , 2013
    This documentary film portrays the struggle of women in countries experiencing the ‘Arab Spring’. Begun as a civil movement of women and men seeking human rights and justice after decades of dictatorship, the makers of this film emphasise that revolutionary wave has not yielded justice for all. Instead, the political openings caused by these revolts have been exploited by Islamist groups who seek to not only exclude women from the political process but to remove them from public life through intimidation, oppressive legislation, and even physical violence.

    Produced by Women’s Learning Partnership, the film reveals how women in the Middle East-North Africa region are continuing to fight for the right to be part of their countries’ evolving political systems. Award-winning filmmakers Deb Bergeron and Kim Connell conducted powerful interviews with women who are defending human rights and seeking progress on the ground in Egypt, Morocco, Libya, Lebanon, Iran, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. By examining the consequences of inequality, the film underscores the connection between the fate of democracy and the future of global security in the post-9/11 era. The film ends with a way forward: the realisation of men and women in the region that democracy without rights for women and minorities is not real democracy, and that only real democracy will bring dignity and peace to their nations and to the world.

    In conjunction with the release of the Arabic edition of Because Our Cause is Just, WLP launched the campaign Stand with Women Who Stand for Democracy in summer 2013. The campaign, which includes online and offline activities, is meant to raise global awareness that democracy will not be achieved – in the MENA region nor elsewhere – without full participation women, who are half the population.

    For more information, visit: learningpartnership.org/ourcauseisjust/The Arabic version is available at: http://youtu.be/LJJvx5Tbi-0"
  • How do women’s movements make a difference: a framework for the comparative analysis of women’s movements policy agency in Central and Eastern Europe

    A Spehar
    Universitat Pompeu Fabra, 2013
    For decades, women’s movements have been the focus of an established and growing body of comparative political research in the context of Western postindustrial democracies. However, relatively little has been published so far about the agency of women's movements in the Central and Eastern European (CEE) region since the collapse of the communist systems.

    This paper was written to be presented at the the 3rd European Conference on Gender and Politics (ECPG). It is an extensive literature on women’s movements and the situation of women in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), which has emerged since the 1990s. The author claims that previous research on this topic has not been interested in the policy impact as a theoretical and analytical concept; and finds that this concept still needs to be defined in order to draw meaningful conclusions about how influential women’s movements have been in the transitioning CEE region. Synthesising the literature on the outcomes of social and women’s movements and the theories of public policy making, this paper develops an analytical framework which allows for examining the similarities and differences between women’s movements' agency and impact on gender policy development in different CEE countries. The framework consists of four major components:

    1. It offers an operational definition of women’s movements that can be used for comparative assessment of women´s movements policy impact in CEE countries.

    2. It argues that policy impact of women´s movements can concern some or all of the steps in the policy process, namely agenda setting, specification of alternatives, enactment of policies, and implementation of policies.

    3. It argues that future studies analysing women’s agency should broaden the scope of policies that are included in different studies.

    4. It offers a methodological design that addresses the problem of causality: how to establish a causal link between a women’s movements’ agency and an observed policy change?

    While this paper focuses on one important area of impact, namely public policy, the author recognises that women´s movements can have impact in other areas of social life as well, e.g. cultural and social relations. Gains in one arena may either help or hinder attempts to make gains in another. Success within the political arena can influence changes in both the cultural and social arenas. For example, when groups gain acceptance, or are seen as legitimate actors within the political arena, they increase their chances of creating a collective identity; which is recognised both by those within, as well as outside of, the movement. Future studies should develop analytical frameworks that view the women’s movement’s impact as three overlapping arenas: policy, culture and social relations.
  • Gender, activism and backlash: women and social mobilisation in Egypt

    H Sholkamy
    BRIDGE, 2013
    The revolutions of 2011 in Tunis, Egypt and Libya were brought about by an accumulation of unresolved tensions, unbridled autocracy and many injustices. In Egypt as elsewhere, the demonstrations that filled the squares and streets with millions of women and men were not organised by formal political parties or sustained by political structures. This case study, written especially for the BRIDGE Cutting Edge Programme on gender and social movements, documents the role of women activists in the revolution, and the backlash and gender discrimination that has occurred in the post revolutionary arena.
  • Gender equality and women’s rights in the CLOC-Via Campesina movement

    P Caro
    BRIDGE, 2013
    What strategies have women leaders in the CLOC-Via Campesina movement used to integrate gender equality into the movement’s external work and internal dynamics? This case study, written especially for the BRIDGE Cutting Edge programme on gender and social movement, and based on interviews with ten women leaders of national member organisations of the Latin American Coordination of Rural Organizations, consider the successes achieved within the movement, and some of the challenges and tasks ahead.
  • Women for Peace 2013

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    Women in Black, 2013

    ‘Women for Peace’ is a collection of women's testimonies on war and women's resistance to war primarily in former Yugoslavia, particularly through the Women in Black movement in Bosnia, a worldwide network of women committed to peace with justice and actively opposed to injustice, war, militarism and other forms of violence. The first chapter focuses on the struggles of Women in Black in Serbia before, during and after the war. In one of the articles an activist explains that it is not enough to pursue the war crimes institutionally, but it is likewise crucial to have alternative models of transitional justice, do permanent educational work, and remember and celebrate important dates of non-violent resistance in Serbia.

    The second chapter looks at feminist examples of anti-militarism in the Women in Black movement. It denounces violence against women during the conflict and describes how important women’s paid and unpaid work was. It deconstructs myths around the peace-loving nature of women and describes the different ways in which women have shown resistance to war, militarism and fascism, and how they built alliances with conscientious objectors and war deserters. Women in Black also came up with a different demilitarised concept of security that is valuable, human and gender sensitive and they suggest how to demilitarise resolution 1325. Different examples of feminist strategies are explained and a critical analysis of feminism in the region today is attempted, including its relation with political parties and the role of NGOs. Sexual violence and impunity are explored as well as alliances between movements. The last chapter collects articles from people who write about the Women in Black movement in Serbia as outsiders.

  • No revolutions without equality and justice: the struggle for women’s rights in rethinking development in the Arab region

    K Mohamadieh
    The World We Want, 2012
    This article considers policy practice in the Arab region, highlighting some key areas for consideration in future policy making in the region. The peoples’ revolutions and uprisings in countries such as Egypt, Tunisia and Libya have, the author argues, brought to the surface the need to better understand the relationships between people’s right to development and political governance, social and economic policies. In previous decades, national development was neglected as those in power sought to gain international support by adopting orthodox economic policies. This resulted, the article argues, in growth that did not promote people’s economic and social rights. Nor did it help to achieve women’s rights or to meet goals on equality. Now, the challenge in Arab countries is to rebuild a national development strategy. This must include a focus on women’s civic, political, economic, social and cultural rights, and this focus must be an integral part of the development of policies, not a separate or piecemeal project. The author argues that women’s rights groups in the region must work together with other civil society actors to ensure that the reforms being implemented by states fully include the principles of human rights, non discrimination, justice and equality. This is especially important in a region where “multiple forms of violence and discrimination against women intensify the challenges facing the debate around alternative development paradigms” and women’s rights struggles are already facing a strong backlash.

    The article goes on to call for a closer look at the growth policies that benefit women, and those that go further – actually helping to tackle gender inequality. The sub sections that follow consider policies on production, investment and trade, and financial institutions. The article concludes by observing that post-revolution, governments, policy makers and civil society organisations increasingly refer to citizens’ rights and use pro-poor rhetoric in their agendas. But it is essential for people to question whether this rhetoric is put into practice within economic and development strategies and policies, and whether women’s rights and social justice is prioritised.
  • Count me in! research report on violence against disabled, lesbian, and sex-working women in Bangladesh, India, and Nepal

    S. Faiz Rashid, T. Hasan, S. Camellia
    CREA, 2012
    Based on the first ever multi-country research study on violence against disabled, lesbian and sex-working women, this report from CREA, in partnership with University College London, collates the findings that have emerged and presents recommendations. Three countries were studied: Bangladesh, with contributions by BRAC University; India, with help from Society for Nutrition, Education and Health Action; and Nepal, via the Centre for Research on Environment Health and Population Activities. Of the three groups of women interviewed in this study, it is disabled women that are most likely to attract policy attention, with lesbians less likely if they were identified as such. Sex-workers face a particular struggle to gain political or civil legitimacy. Other findings are that the likelihood of interpersonal violence increases alongside social exclusion. Service providers are also interviewed as part of the study, with discussion on barriers to providing services, how to encourage more women to seek help, and their knowledge of and attitudes towards laws on violence against women. This report concludes that societies should view and address social exclusion, stigma, discrimination and violence through a more deeply rooted equality-based approach.

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