Across the world there is an active, mass-based demand for an end to gender injustice in all domains of our social, economic, political, and cultural lives. In order for any action or intervention around rights, democracy and equality to be successful, it must include and value gender equality as part of its analysis and methodology for change. But while women's rights and gender justice are 'on the agenda' in many arenas, activists still encounter strong resistance to changing gendered politics and practices within movements and allied organisations. When it comes to making an impact on transforming gender power relations, social movements matter.

Social movements are defined as “an organised set of constituents pursuing a common political agenda of change through collective action” (Batliwala 2012:3).

They are distinguished by six characteristics:

  • A constituency base or membership that is mobilised and collectivised
  • Collectivised members in either formal or informal organisations
  • A clear political agenda
  • Collective actions and activities in pursuit of the movement’s political goals
  • The use of a variety of actions and strategies 
  • Some continuity over time

    (Batliwala, 2012)

Integrating gender perspectives into social movements and activism is not just about 'including' women or 'thinking about' men and gender minorities but, rather, considering what a gendered politics provides in terms of alternative ways of being, seeing and doing that in themselves serve to transform patriarchal power relations. There is great diversity in the ways that women's rights and gender justice issues have been approached by different social movements, but some common enabling conditions can be identified which help to create a supportive environment for gender-just movement building.

A gender-just social movement:

  • Affirms the importance of tackling gender inequality and patriarchal power as an integral component of justice for amm and names this as an explicit priority.
  • Creates a positive environment for internal reflection and action on women's rights and gender justice.
  • Provides active and formalised support for women's participation and leadership in all areas of movement practice.
  • Consistently tackles gender-based violence and stablishes zero tolerance for sexual harassment in movement spaces.
  • Assesses gender bias in movement roles and redistributes labour along gender-just lines.
  • Enables full participation of both women and men, taking into account care work and reproductive roles.
  • Appreciates the gender dimesnsions of backlash and external opposition faced by activists.
  • Engages wth norms and notions around gender, taking into account context-specific gender identities, trans and intersex identities and shifting understandings of gender in social life and activism.

In the BRIDGE overview report and In Brief on gender and social movements, and in other materials on this website, you'll find recommendations on how gender-just movements can be built, experiences of the challenges faced by gender equality advocates in different movements when they try to promote women's rights and gender justice within their movements, and ideas for further work and activity on this topic. We look forward to hearing your feedback and learning from your experiences too.