Noisy and joyous celebrations of feminist solidarity: AWID Forum

Caroline Haworth | Sep 10, 2016
AWID forum Brazilian drummers
Womankind's CEO, Caroline Haworth, blogs after day 2 of the AWID (Association for Women's Rights in Development) Forum in Brazil. The forum brings together the global, feminist movement to build collective power for rights and justice. 

The second day of AWID Forum started early and ended late with noisy and joyous celebrations of feminist solidarity and success. Over 1000 activists marched and danced together in all their diversity across the beautiful Costa del Sauipe to the resonant beat of Brazilian drummers.

The march ended at the arena where we heard powerful accounts of solidarity and resistance in Plenary 2. From the phenomenal force that is Alicia Garza of Black Lives Matter and National Domestic Workers Alliance to the creative and thoughtful visual activist Khouloud Mahadhaoui of feminist LBT organisation, Chouf in Tunisia.

Dalit women activists

A key highlight for me today was a session by two extraordinary Dalit women activists: Durga Sob of the Feminist Dalit Organization (FEDO), our partner in Nepal and Manjula Pradeep of Navsarjan in India, expertly facilitated by Bandana Rana of our partner Saathi in Nepal.

Durga and Manjula called for global recognition of the violent oppression of the 260 million Dalit population across South Asia under the caste system - by the international feminist community at AWID Forum and by the UN. Having lived and worked in India for 3 years before joining Womankind, it was wonderful to hear how these Dalit women activists had drawn solidarity and inspiration from the power and presence of the Black Feminist Forum at AWID in their fight for rights and recognition.

Holding governments to account 

As the day progressed I participated in a session by the Women’s Major Group: 'How to hold your government’s feet to the fire' where we discussed joint strategies for holding our governments to account on the post 2015 development agenda. Our respective work on treaty bodies, shadow reports, the SDG indicators and the High Level Political Forum threw up similar challenges at multiple levels: government reluctance to involve civil society in a meaningful way, access to data and other information - and resources to undertake this important work, nationally and internationally. 

Solidarity not charity

I engaged with several sessions on funding for women’s rights work throughout the day. Key themes to emerge were: the need to fundraise in new and creative ways, the rejection of donor agenda setting and requirement, the importance of alignment: ‘solidarity not charity’, funding across movements and intersections: ‘there can be no climate justice without gender justice’ and the need for feminist approaches to evidence and evaluation to build on the case support for our work and for replenishment of funds such as the UN Women Fund for Gender Equality.

Diverse constituencies rub shoulders

Plenary 2 had drawn attention to challenges faced within, as well as without, the women’s movement as the needs and priorities of our diverse constituencies rub shoulders; not always without friction. As the evening drew on this was brought in to relief again as the Red Umbrella Fund run by and for sex workers opened its celebration of four years of participatory funding by pointing out that they are not applauded or included by all feminist forums.

This was a great reminder amidst the warm, inclusive glow of the conference that not all feminists have always felt welcome at the party. The contest for visibility and recognition among and between movements goes on, from Dalit feminists to Disabled feminists and Eco-feminists to Trans feminists. All part of the creative energy of the movement, and of AWID Forum.

The day ended as it began. A party!  In the arena the forum celebrated five years of funding FRIDA, the fund run by and for young feminists, and four years of the Red Umbrella Fund. An explosive fashion show by sex worker activists was followed by music and dancing throughout the arena; a party which I am sure will have gone on well in to the night… 

Stay tuned for more updates from #AWIDForum and follow it live on Twitter. 

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