Autonomous movement
Independent or outside formal organisational control or direction.
A strong negative response at a popular level or among an influential group to changes in society. Typically used to describe organised responses that seek to maintain unjust power relations or reverse positive gains made towards justice or equality.
A movement-building strategy common in feminist movements. It involves creating group processes to explore personal experiences of violation and/or empowerment and develop a critical understanding of the root causes of oppression, deepen knowledge of history (including activist and alternative perspectives on mainstream history) and build solidarity and a shared political commitment to changing the status quo. Consciousness-raising is commonly facilitated in a non-hierarchical way, with all people’s experiences and knowledge considered valuable and relevant for learning and reflection.
Deep structure
A term used to describe the hidden layers within societies, organisations and movements where a number of unconscious or even conscious but hidden processes occur. Within the deep structure lie assumptions taken for granted about gender roles and the place of women. These assumptions are below awareness level, and are, therefore, not talked about or challenged, but they determine how people think and act. Deep structures are the sites where all sorts of informal, invisible norms and rules operate, and from where formal processes are subverted (Rao and Kelleher 2005; Srilatha Batliwala, BRIDGE e-discussion, March 2012).
An equal society is one in which everyone can flourish. The diverse needs, situations and goals of individuals are recognised, discrimination and prejudice are removed, and the economic, political, legal, social and physical barriers that limit what people can do and be are tackled (Burchardt and Vizard 2007).
Far right
A set of ideologies that espouse extreme social, political and economic conservatisms and rejection of social and cultural diversity; often linked to racist, sexist, xenophobic and homophobic views, including legitimising acts of violence against specific groups.
Political frameworks and social movements that identify patriarchal power as a fundamental source of injustice and inequality, and hence call to transform gender power relations in all domains. Feminisms are diverse in their origins and expressions, and include analyses and actions around how patriarchal power intersects with other systems of power such as race, class, heterosexuality and ability; and in a range of contexts such as language, the environment, technology, popular culture, and all areas of social, political and economic life.
Feminist movements
Movements that align themselves with feminism as a political ideology and seek to challenge inequalities and injustices between women and men, framing these as a challenge to patriarchy and patriarchal power relations. Feminist movements have historically been built and constituted by women, although men and trans individuals and movements also align themselves with the politics of feminism.
The socially constructed identities, behaviours and practices tied to being a girl/woman or boy/man. There is growing acknowledgment in theory, law and social practice that the binary definition of gender (i.e. only two genders) does not fully account for the diversity of gender identities that exist, including those of trans and intersex people.
Gender equality
Enshrined in law as a basic right, gender equality refers to measurable, equal representation and status between women and men. Gender equality does not imply that women and men are the same, but that they have equal value and should be afforded equal treatment (Just Associates 2012).
Gender justice
The ending of – and if necessary the provision of redress for –inequalities between women and men that result in women’s subordination to men. These inequalities may be in the distribution of resources and opportunities that enable individuals to build human social economic and political capital. Or they may be in the conceptions of human dignity, personal autonomy and rights that deny women physical integrity and the capacity to make choices about how to live their lives (Goetz 2007). Gender justice encompasses but extends beyond formal equality to include transforming systems of gendered power in all domains.
Gender justice movements
Movements that challenge gender inequalities and unjust gender power relations; often used in the context of mixed-gender or men’s movements and LGBTI movements that challenge gender binaries.
Gender power relations
Hierarchical relations of power between women and men that tend to disadvantage women. These gender hierarchies are often accepted as ‘natural’ but are socially determined, culturally based relations and are subject to change over time. They can be seen in a range of gendered practices, such as the division of labour and resources, and gendered ideologies, such as ideas of acceptable behaviour for women and men (Reeves and Baden 2000).
Gender mainstreaming
An organisational strategy to bring a gender perspective to all aspects of an institution’s policy and activities, by building gender capacity and accountability. With a mainstreaming strategy, gender concerns are seen as important to all aspects of development, for all sectors and areas of activity, and a fundamental part of the planning process. Responsibility for the implementation of gender policy is diffused across the organisational structure, rather than concentrated in a small central unit (Reeves and Baden 2000:12).
The process through which the world view of dominant groups comes to be accepted as ‘common sense’ or the ‘natural’ order of things. Hegemony can be expressed through language, culture, patriarchy, political and economic systems, and is designed to maintain the status quo in the interest of those in power (Just Associates 2012: 13).
The assumption of universal heterosexuality and resulting beliefs and practices that only value or acknowledge sexual and emotional relations between women and men.
A general term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that does not seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male (Intersex Society of North America).
The strategic use of a particular community, group or political standpoint to advance a goal in ways that do not directly benefit the people or ideas being drawn on or align with their own goals.
A conceptual framework that makes visible the multiple discriminations that people face, the ways in which systems of oppression (for example, those framing gender, race, class, sexuality, ability) interact with each other, and thus the activist imperative to name and challenge multiple inequalities as part of seeking justice for different constituencies of women.
Mainstream development
Frameworks and practices around development as defined and advanced by governmental agencies and large donor institutions. Commonly used in the context of critique and to describe frameworks derived from, or predominantly developed in, the global North and that support neo-liberal economic approaches and governance models in line with the current status quo.
The process of organising marginalised and/or discriminated constituencies to build their collective power towards a shared vision of transformation. This includes developing a political analysis and growing structures needed to initiate, sustain, strengthen and/or revive their movement. It also entails building and expanding political consciousness, outreach and developing popular support and membership, mobilising resources for movement activities, organisations and spaces, and forming alliances towards a movement’s goals.
Movement constituencies
Individuals and groups that make up the membership of a social movement.
A political movement that promotes economic liberalisation – for example, promoting the reduction of trade barriers, such as import tariffs, as a means to promote international trade and cooperation – as a means of promoting economic growth and securing political liberty (
The process by which social movements’ agendas and activities are taken up by formally constituted non-governmental organisations, which in turn become considered representatives or leaders in voicing these agendas or implementing activities. Often used as a term of critique, pointing to the ways in which mainstream NGO approaches become valorised, resourced and promoted above more radical organisational approaches and independent activism and movement mobilisation (see Alvarez 2009:176).
Systemic and institutionalised male domination and the cultural, political, economic and social structures and ideologies that perpetuate gender inequality and women’s subordination (Just Associates 2012).
Of the ‘people’, in the sense of the majority general population and/or or the economically, socially and politically marginalised.
Popular consciousness
Mass-based political awareness and critical understanding of the root causes of injustice, discrimination and oppression, and strategies to change this; typically used to imply popular consciousness for just, inclusive visions of society.
Popular conservativism
Mass-based support for social, political and economic ideas that support the preservation of, or a return to, the traditional status quo and power relations.
Popular education
A community-based practice of learning and consciousness-raising where people (typically adults) analyse oppression from their own life experience and use this reflection to develop conceptual and practical methods to challenge it; an approach developed in detail through the work and practice of Brazilian educator Paulo Friere (1921–1997).
Popular progressivism
Mass-based support for social, political and economic ideas that promote justice, redistribution and the transformation of societies towards inclusion, equality and democracy.
A theoretical framework and an identity that questions the norms of heterosexuality and the idea of binary gender (only two static forms of gender identity); increasingly used in addition to, or in the place of, the category ‘Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex’.
Religious fundamentalism
The strategic use of religious discourse and institutions to forward views and actions that are absolutist and intolerant, anti-human rights and women’s rights and at their root fundamentally patriarchal (Horn 2012: 8).
Includes those people who have a gender identity which is different from the gender assigned at birth and/or those people who feel they have to, prefer to or choose to – whether by clothing, accessories, cosmetics or body modification – present themselves differently from the expectations of the gender role assigned to them at birth. This includes, among many others, transsexual and transgender people, transvestites, travesti, cross dressers, no gender and genderqueer people (Global Alliance for Trans Equality).
Intolerance towards and discrimination against people who are trans.
A political strategy that places a select group of people or an organisation at the forefront of a movement or change process, with the idea that they will ensure that movement politics remains consistent and will also lead in building consciousness and membership and guide movement actions.
Women’s movements
Movements of women that are built and constituted by women and seek to challenge inequalities and injustice between women and men. Women’s movements may have varying approaches to transforming gender power relations, from more conservative to more radical. Individuals and groups within women’s movements may not always ally themselves with the political identity of ‘feminism’.