There is a growing body of work on the nature of women's and feminist movements and their characteristics and concerns. In this section you'll find examples of this work, focusing on the growth and achievements of these movements in different global regions.

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  • Changing their world: case studies

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    Association for Women's Rights in Development , 2011


    This webpage contains links to the following case studies from AWID’s 2008 and 2011 editions of the Changing their World series:

    - ‘Women within the indigenous peoples’ movement of Mexico: new routes for transforming power’ by Marusia López Cruz
    This case study presents the history and context of the National Coordinating Committee of Indigenous Women (Coordinadora Nacional de Mujeres Indígenas, CNMI) as a way of understanding and describing the construction, agenda, and strategies of the women within the indigenous movement in Mexico.

    - ‘Against all odds: the building of a women’s movement in the Islamic Republic of Iran’ by Homa Hoodfar
    Two decades of decentralized, informal, and semi-formal activities aimed at mobilising women and building a robust women’s movement in Iran are presented in this case study. It also provides an analysis of the efforts of women’s advocates in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

    - ‘The dalit women’s movement in India: Dalit Mahila Samiti’ by Jahnvi Andharia with the ANANDI Collective
    The Dalit Mahila Samiti (DMS) organisation, located in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, aims to challenge the oppressive caste system specifically those considered 'untouchable'. This case study provides an analysis of the goals, strategies, and achievements of DMS

    - ‘Domestic workers organizing in the United States’ by Andrea Cristina Mercado and Ai-jen Poo
    Mujeres Unidas y Activas, Domestic Workers United, and the National Alliance of Domestic Workers are three organizations fighting for domestic worker rights in the United States. This case study highlights the impact these organizations have on improving the rights of immigrants and women of colour in the United States.

    - ‘Challenges were many: the One in Nine Campaign, South Africa’ by Jane Bennett
    The South African One in Nine Campaign organization's mission is to ensure that the issue of the sexual rights of all women is addressed. This case study analyses the activities of this organization in the historical and current social and political context of South Africa.

    - ‘Mothers as movers and shakers: the network of mother centres in the Czech Republic’ by Suranjana Gupta
    The Czech Mothers Network based in the Czech Republic has created a strong political voice used to influence public policy and give priority to women as both mothers and workers. This case study provides an analysis of this organisation's process and experiences.

    -‘The demobilization of women’s movements: the case of Palestine’ by Islah Jad
    The Palestinian Federation of Women’s Action Committees (PFWAC) and The Women’s Centre for Legal Aid and Counseling (WCLAC) are presented to illustrate how the early mass-based women’s movement has changed into the phenomenon known as the NGO-ization in Palestine.

    -‘The Piquetera/o movement of Argentina’ by Andrea D’Atri and Celeste Escati
    The Argentinan-based Piquetera/o Movement and its pioneering methods are provided in this case study to highlight the tradition of the working class stuggle, the student and other social movements in Argentina.

    -‘GROOTS Kenya’ by Awino Okech
    GROOTS in Kenya is described and defined as a women's movement rather than a network or NGO. Along with the history and the national political dynamics of Kenya, the objectives, structures, activities, successes and voice of GROOTS that have shaped and contributed to women’s rights work in Kenya are described in this case study.

    -‘The European Romani women’s movement – International Roma Women’s Network’ by Rita Izsak 
    This case study presents their efforts of The International Romani Women’s Network (IRWN) to promote women’s rights, and examines the connection between mainstream feminist movements and the Romani movement.

    -‘The seeds of a movement—disabled women and their struggle to organize’ by Janet Price
    This case study maps out the challenges that disabled women have confronted in their struggle to fight discrimination and build their own movements. It presents examples from small local groups facing specific challenges, national bodies addressing policy and law-making, and international groups like the UN to establish global rights.

    -‘GALANG: A Movement in the Making for the Rights of Poor LBTs in the Philippines’ by Anne Lim
    Galang is the Filipino word for respect and lies at the core of GALANG’s struggle for equality and justice. This case study contributes to global learning about feminist movements and organizing, and to the growing body of work that investigates the intersections between sexuality and poverty.

    -‘The VAMP/SANGRAM sex worker’s movement in India’s southwest’ by the SANGRAM/VAMP team
    This case study presents the history, formation, leadership, and function of the VAMP Collective.

    -‘Women building peace: the Sudanese Women Empowerment for Peace (SuWEP) in Sudan’ by Zaynab ElSaw
    During the 1990s Sudanese women from both north and south formed an umbrella body bringing together women from the two regions, and from different ethnic, socio-economic, and political backgrounds. This case study tells the story of Sudanese women’s involvement in the peace processes and explores the roles SuWEP played as a feminist movement.

  • Feminism, women’s movements and women in movement

    S Motta (ed)
    National University of Ireland Maynooth, 2011
    The editors of this issue of Interface, a journal for and about social movements, describe it as engaging with the increasingly important, separate yet interrelated themes of feminism, women’s movements and women in movement in the context of global neoliberalism. They see feminism in a state of crisis, with prominent sectors of the feminist movement having become institutionalised and professionalised, including within academia. In this context, serious questions have been raised regarding how well they can defend women from neoliberalism and about their role in the struggle for a post-neoliberal, post-patriarchal world. The result is a paradoxical situation of defeats and de-politicisation, on the one hand, combined with new forms of re-politicisation, on the other. Women continue to resist, in both familiar and new ways, attempting to redefine the nature of both feminism and politics; and challenge patriarchal and neoliberal orthodoxies.

    The editorial includes a series of opening reflections on a few of the questions addressed in the issue that are of particular interest to us. The authors begin with strategic considerations in order to foreground the dynamics and demands of current movement activism. They then move to more abstract questions of the relationship between theory and practice – specifically the insights of feminist theory and the continuing dilemmas it poses with regard to collective, transformative social movement politics. They then discuss what and how feminist activists can learn from feminist histories before examining the issue of with whom they should build alliances. The final set of reflections considers the contexts of, and trends in, contemporary women’s organising; as well as its impact on gendered relations and implications for feminist theory.

    A special section on strategy offers diverse answers to the question regarding what a feminist strategy could and should look like in the 21st Century. Taken together, these voices, reflections and theorisations demand the reinvention of feminist praxis in order to move it from the margins of scholarly and political activity to the centre of revolutionary thinking and practice.

    The following are examples of the many contributions included in this issue.

    ‘Activist knowledges on the anti-globalization terrain: transnational feminisms at the World Social Forum,’ J. Conway

    ‘Framing across differences, building solidarities: lessons from women’s rights activism in transnational spaces,’ by L. Hewitt

    ‘“We are flames not flowers”: a gendered reading of the social movement for justice in Bhopal (P),’ by E. Scandrett, S. Mukherjee and the Bhopal Research Team

    ‘Why we need a feminist movement now,’ by Sisters of Resistance

    ‘Some things we need for a feminist revolution, by N. Nijsten

    ‘Viejas tensiones, nuevos desafíos y futuros territorios feministas,’ by R. González Arias

    ‘Feminist activist research and strategies from within the battered immigrants’ movement,’ by R. Villalón

    ‘Wise women in community: building on everyday radical feminism for social change,’ by Jean Bridgeman

    ‘Performing unseen identities: a feminist strategy for radical communication,’ by J. Verson
  • Body, Economy, Movement: The global women's movement at the Beijing +15 review

    Nathalie Margi (ed), Mary Real (ed)
    Centre for Women's Global Leadership , 2010
    This paper presents the highlights of a symposium organised by the Centre for Women’s Global Leadership in March 2010 to mark its 20th anniversary and the 15th anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action. It considers the achievements of women’s movements during this period, and sets out the challenges that remain. The paper documents contributions from experts on women’s human rights from around the world, including Mary Robinson, Charlotte Bunch, Pinar Ilkkaran, Diane Elson, Gita Sen and Peggy Antrobus. It is divided into three main sections:

    • Body – defending sexual and reproductive rights and ending gender based violence. This section includes gender based violence in Africa, sexual rights in Muslim countries, language and frameworks around women’s human rights, the benefits of working in coalitions, and how to tackle the challenges and resistance created by conservative backlash.

    • Economy – strengthening women’s human rights to economic justice. Covering the fracturing effect of war and natural disasters, intersectionality, transforming economic structures to make them more equitable, lessons from Indian rights-based movements and the involvement of women’s movements in economic justice struggles.

    • Movement – sustaining global feminist organising and building leadership. This section considers how to build a more powerful, inclusive, diverse and sustainable global women’s movement. It covers issues around funding, leadership, collaboration and support between women’s and other social movements, opportunities created by ICT, the importance of young activists and of recognising intersectionality.
  • The European Feminist Forum: A Herstory, 2004-2008

    Aletta - Institute for Women's History, 2009
    Is there a European feminist identity? If so, what does it look like? Lin McDevitt-Pugh introduces this body of literature as a multi-faceted, multicultural and multi-political dialogue covering regional economic and social transformation. The following chapter, entitled ‘Personal Feminist Journeys’ presents how the authors see European feminism today by describing their journeys as feminists. The rest of the articles are divided into five themes: 

    1.  ‘From Solidarity to Affinity and Feminist Communal Identities’
    Saskia Wieringa introduces theoretically the different European feminist histories; focusing on solidarity and affinity, and communal identities. 

    2.  ‘Feminist Resource Mobilisation and Building Political Power’
    Kinga Lohmann illustrates and analyses movement building, funding, accountability, NGO-isation and organising. 

    3.  ‘Economic Change and Migration’
    Gisela Dütting covers economic issues, migration, precarity and entrepreneurship as they emerged in the European Feminist Forum. 

    4.  ‘Sexual and Bodily Integrity’
    Wendy Harcourt examines European debates about body politics and sexuality issues, including heteronormativity, transgender and intersexuality.

    5. ‘Intersectionality and Intergenerational Dialogues’
    Joanna Semeniuk looks at new ways of feminist organising, intersectionality and intergenerational movement building in the European Feminist Forum.
  • Power, Movements, Change. Special issue for the 11th AWID International Forum on Women's Rights and Development

    W Harcourt (ed)
    Palgrave Macmillan, 2009

    This special edition of Development contains a range of articles and reports back from the 11th AWID international forum, held in South Africa and in November 2008, when more than 2000 women’s rights activists congregated to talk about ‘the power of movements’. Articles include:

    • An editorial by Wendy Harcourt with her personal reflections on the forum and thoughts on global considerations for movements going forward.

    • Geetanjali Misra’s thoughts on what makes movements strong, what internal challenges they face, and how the power of movements can be harnessed to best effect.

    • Srilatha Batliwala’s thoughts on diversity within the forum and wider women’s movements, and areas ‘missing’ from the debates, such as economic rights.

    • An account of the creative strategies used within a panel event on collaboration run by feminists from the south.
    • An analysis by Jessica Horn of a plenary discussion on the internal dynamics of women’s movements, and the importance of the focusing on processes of activism, not just the outcomes.

    • An article on multigenerational movement building, and next steps for action.

    • Ayesha Imam’s overview of the development of the African Feminist Forum and its charter of feminist principles, as well as the challenges it has faced around diversity and inclusion.

    • Case studies on women’s organising in Ghana, Bangladesh, Iran, Kenya, Papua New Guinea, Lebanon, Malaysia, Indonesia, Central and Eastern Europe, and among European Romani women, Dalit women in India, disabled women, and the women’s trade union in Korea.

    • Case studies on ‘NGO-isation’ and its impact on women’s movements in different regions.

  • Changing their world: concepts and practices of women's movements

    S. Batliwala
    Association for Women's Rights in Development , 2008

    What do we mean by women’s movements and what makes a movement feminist? Why are movements important and what are the differences between movements and organisations? What are the issues facing women’s and feminist movements today?

    This document begins with a section by Srilatha Batliwala who considers these questions and interrogates some of the key concepts around feminist movements and movement building. It then presents 10 case studies from different regions of the world where women have mobilised to make a difference. Examples come from countries including India, Iran, Czech Republic, Kenya, Mexico and South Africa. Brief outlines of the case studies are provided highlighting their origins, political goals, key strategies, organisational structures, and achievements. The complete case studies are available on the forum CD, and may also be downloaded from www.awid.org.

    Some of the case study examples affirm what was already known about the character of women’s movements, and especially of feminist movements. Other points give evidence of aspects that were believed to be true but for which little evidence existed, such as the very democratic and accountable decision-making structures that movements attempt to create. But the case studies also challenge some widely held beliefs about movement building, and give glimpses of new information such as the varied contexts in which women’s movements are born, and the enormous diversity of strategies they have used to build their collective power and impact. A preliminary set of insights emerging from the information in the case studies is presented and organised in eight broad areas including:

    • Overarching insights
    • Factors inhibiting or constraining movements
    • Different ways that movements originate and the evolutionary paths they follow
    • Some relationship patterns between organisations and movements
    • The array strategies used by movements
    • Their structures and governance
    • Their influence and achievements
    • New learning on women’s movements and questions for the future

    In 2011 AWID published four further case studies. They focus on the women’s peace movement in Sudan, the sex workers’ movement in southwest India, LBT rights in the Philippines and disabled women’s organising.

  • Collective Activism: The Domestic Violence Bill becoming law in Ghana

    A Ampofo
    BRILL, 2008
    This article charts the influences of collective activism and in particular the National Coalition on Domestic Violence Legislation, on the progress of the Domestic Violence Bill in Ghana. The coalition is made up of “scholars, activists, policy makers [and] has been a really grassroots effort to foster social justice and human rights” (2008:417). Using this specific example but also referring to wider processes of mobilisation, the author argues that “the coalition’s efforts reveal the power of collective action for equal rights” (2008:417).

    The Ghanaian journey towards the enactment of domestic violence legislation was, Ampofo states, “significantly influenced by social movements, specifically women’s collective action” (2008:396). Discussions on the possibility of specific domestic violence legislation began in 1998, and the National Domestic Violence Coalition was set up in 2003 with this aim in mind. The coalition was active in an array of influencing activities until the bill was eventually passed in 2007. These included:

    • A nationwide consultation programme on the domestic violence bill with the aim of mobilising public support
    • A series of consultations with influential government officials
    • A pictorial campaign ‘Faces of Violence’
    • Radio, TV and printed media coverage
    • Sensitisation programmes in markets and lorry stations, and among trade unions, professional bodies, students and religious and traditional leaders
    • A walkathon and men’s march on father’s day

    These activities meant that support for the bill grew, and that other activities could follow to support its passage through parliament, such as training for female police officers on dealing with domestic violence and a documentary made by the Foundation of Female Photojournalists. International women’s movements offered their support, reposting the coalition’s news on their websites and blogging about it.
  • Feminists on the Frontline: Case Studies of Resisting and Challenging Fundamentalisms

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    Association for Women's Rights in Development , 2008
    This is a collection of case studies about women and men around the world who have stood up to reject religious fundamentalism. In 2008 AWID launched a call for proposals to document the strategies of women's rights activists in this area. The case studies presented here are drawn from a wide range of religious and geographical contexts. There are case studies from Canada, Lebanon, Indonesia, Lithuania, Italy, Serbia, and several African and Latin American countries, covering diverse fields of activism. They are posted on a rolling basis.
  • Financing for gender equality and the empowerment of women: the critical role of autonomous women's funds in strengthening women's movements

    B. Adeleye-Fayemi
    United Nations [UN] Division for the Advancement of Women , 2007

    This 2007 report to the Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW) Expert Group Meeting on Financing for gender equality and the empowerment of women (Oslo, Norway) explores financing for gender equality and the empowerment of women. It discusses the critical role of autonomous women’s funds in strengthening women’s movements; and efforts to promote gender equality, equity and women’s empowerment in Africa. Among other topics, it addresses the challenges facing African women’s organisations and the women’s movement (lack of institutional capacity, unstable financial resource base, etc.) and includes commentary on the African women’s movement.

    A number of women’s funds have recently been established in the Global South due to the need to provide ongoing support to women’s movements in their respective communities. Women’s funds are local philanthropic institutions with a core mission to provide funding for women’s rights work. They are usually autonomous and established by passionately committed women. Women’s funds typically bring networks, experience, clarity, credibility and sustainability to the grant-making experience; can play a key role in promoting links and good will between governments, the private sector, NGOs and community-based initiatives; and offer external funders valuable insights into complex contexts. The author highlights how these connections can add value to grant-making - maximising returns on investments by providing opportunities to address structural and systemic inequality, poor governance, uneven distribution of resources, and abuses of fundamental human rights.

    The following key challenges facing women’s funds are identified:

    1. Women’s funds cannot afford to fund all of the worthy proposals they receive.

    2. They have difficulty competing with comparatively large and well-known international NGOs/donors.

    3. The grants that local women’s funds are able to give are quite small, compared with what larger international funders can give, which inhibits growth of both the women’s funds and their grantees.

    4. In order to be sustainable, women’s funds require unrestricted income to cover programmatic and administrative costs of running a grantmaking organisation; however, this is not usually the kind of funding traditional donors provide. Additionally, few donors are willing to commit resources to the building of endowments, which can make grantmaking institutions truly sustainable.

    5. Women’s funds have to work hard to gain and keep the trust of local people. It is often difficult to mobilise resources locally due to deep cynicism and ambivalence towards the role of non-profits.

    The recommendations for future action are too many to list here in their entirety. The following are a few, which are more elaborated in the original:

    - Donors supporting women’s rights work and gender equality need to do more to support the architecture and infrastructure of the women’s movement at all levels.

    - There should be a mapping of women’s funds located in the Global South and Central and Eastern Europe.

    - It is strongly recommended that donors not begin creating women’s funds themselves, and advised that they take their lead from the women’s movements concerned.

  • What's the Point of Revolution if We Can't Dance?

    J. Barry, J. Dordevic
    Urgent Action Fund for Women's Human Rights, 2007
    This book is a compilation of many different activist voices and provides a powerful and personal account of the women's movement. Women activists' lives show common patterns. They work very long hours, never take breaks, travel a lot, and feel guilty for not spending enough time with their families. Their wages are usually so low that they constantly worry about feeding their families and retiring without a pension. They are exposed to trauma day in day out. This working culture is rarely questioned because commitment to the cause of social change and gender equality is more important. Yet activists often burn out, become depressed, and get ill because of the enormous stress they are under. It is important that women activists make their working culture more sustainable by starting to explore, develop and support a range of initiatives to support their well-being.

    Some of these could include: taking regular breaks when working, sharing their experiences of stress and trauma with their colleagues and allowing time for recovery from illness or accidents. Adequate wages, vacation time, health care, pensions, security, training and education should also be included in the budgets of development programmes

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