Women’s movements are rising, and we’re rising with them

Caroline Haworth | Jul 31, 2017
Dalit Women’s Group in Nepal stand together and united
Womankind’s Chief Executive, Caroline Haworth, gives an update on our work supporting women’s movements to create lasting change.

We are at a global turning point for women worldwide. Women’s movements have pushed long and hard for women’s rights to be enshrined in international policies and frameworks. And to a large extent those rights now exist, at least on paper. From the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (1979) to the Gender Equality Goal and the mainstreaming of gender through the Sustainable Development Goals (2015), there are internationally recognised frameworks to protect and promote women’s rights. Yet the power dynamics that drive inequality between women and men remain in force at all levels, and the realisation of rights for all women remains elusive.

What happens at international level doesn’t always translate into national action. Still only 52 countries have laws to make rape in marriage illegal. Women still carry out two and a half times the unpaid care work that men do. And globally women still constitute less than one quarter of parliamentarians.

Right now, the shifting global landscape is putting women’s rights even further at risk. Rising fundamentalisms, financial crisis, political turmoil and backlash against feminism conspire to claw back the gains made by women’s movements.

Yet, against this backdrop, incredible and inspiring women’s rights activists are coming together across countries, regions and the globe – uniting in times of crisis, to rebuild lives, to demand their rights are upheld and to pave the way for change. These women’s movements are changing the world, and at Womankind we’re dedicated to supporting them to do that.

Supporting women’s movements – from local to global

When I arrived as Chief Executive at Womankind in 2015, we relooked at our strategy in the context of the global shifts affecting women and the global evidence about what works. Over the past year, we have been refining our approach to ensure we have the biggest impact we can on sustainable change. For us this means working in greater depth to support collective action by women’s movements in our focus countries, and at regional and global levels, to ensure women’s voices are heard, their rights are realised, and their lives are free from violence.

For instance in Zimbabwe, the women’s movement has come together ahead of the country’s elections next year to prevent political violence and provide safe zones for women. With the election fast approaching, there is widespread fear of a repeat of violence seen in previous elections when women were beaten, tortured and raped; their homes ransacked and their bodies violated. In preparation, we have been working with local women’s rights organisations to create local support groups. Led by women, these groups are creating safe zones in their communities where women fleeing violence and those at risk can go for support. They are also working with people in positions of influence, such as traditional leaders, medical staff and the police, to help them better recognise and respond to violence within their communities.

On the global stage we’ve supported women’s rights activists to be at the table and listened to important international processes. Earlier this month we were at the High Level Political Forum on the Sustainable Development Goals at the United Nations, along with our partners the Feminist Dalit Organisation from Nepal. Durga Sob and Renu Sijapati, along with others from the Pan-Asian Dalit rights movement, were determined and relentless in their activism at the UN – to bring attention to issues facing Dalit women in Nepal and across Asia. Their position paper, based on extensive consultation with Dalit women’s groups across Nepal, provides an insightful and concise list of demands to the Nepali government and international community. We are proud to support their work and ensure their voices are heard at the highest levels of international decision-making.

A global voice for a feminist future

Womankind action supports women’s movements to strengthen through solidarity, practical assistance and partnership projects. We work to end violence against women and girls, to secure women’s economic rights and to ensure that women enjoy equal influence in decisions and ability to exercise political power. This commitment drives us every day at Womankind, in all that we do. We are passionate – all of us – about creating a just world, where women’s rights are respected, valued and realised.

Our feminist activism starts from within. Transparency, solidarity, diversity and inclusion drive our approach and we support our partners to practise self-care, and to promote and protect the well-being and safety of all those they work with.

How change will happen

At Womankind we are committed to learning as much as we can about how change happens. Our own experience of working with women’s rights organisations for almost three decades, along with independent research and evidence, shows us that women’s movements are key catalysts in bringing about real and lasting change in the lives of women and girls. So we support them with practical tools, with creating spaces to meet, strategise and promote greater inclusion, with navigating the fast-moving world of ICT and communications, with connecting to wider platforms for change, with designing and implementing innovative projects and programmes, and with measuring and monitoring their successes, and sharing them with the world!

Our amazing Womankind staff team has spent the past year refining this approach. We have also had honest, full and often challenging conversations with over 100 women’s rights organisations and activists from around the world, shaping and informing everything we do. We are very proud to stand with women’s movements and our partner women’s rights organisations as they change the world for women. And I thank each and every one of you, as you stand with us to do that.

For more information, please read Womankind’s Strategy 2016-2021.

Leave a comment

Go back