Masthead graphic based on a painting by Gudrun Thriemer.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

11th AWID International Forum on Women's Rights and Development, Capetown, November 14-17, 2008.

Fundamentalist forces have gained ground around the world, exerting an increased control on women’s lives. The Millennium Development Goals alongside the new aid architecture have restructured development assistance with women’s rights taking a back seat. From November 14–17, 2008, up to 1,500 women’s rights activists from around the world will gather in Cape Town, South Africa to debate and strategize about how to build stronger movements to advance women’s rights and gender equality globally.

Register here=>

[Although the Call for Proposals is closed, the Introduction articulates the issues in a way that will be useful to people in a variety of different movements. -jlt]

When people struggle together, what was once unimaginable suddenly becomes possible.

Some of the most profound changes in our world have come about as a result of struggles in the form of social movements. Often, these movements germinated in a handful of people who rose up against an entrenched injustice, then blossomed into mass mobilizations that have ended up toppling governments, deposing powerful leaders, ending military occupations, and bringing rights and freedoms to millions of people.

This is the power of movements - what people without access to power cannot accomplish alone, they can accomplish together through collective action.

Among the most compelling examples of the power of movements is unquestionably the global women's movement-a fact recognized by civil society scholars worldwide. Over many hundreds of years, women in solidarity have forcefully challenged prevailing patriarchal ideologies, eradicated institutions and customs that supported discriminatory practices, compelled women's voice and representation in a multitude of institutions, created formal and informal structures to monitor the implementation of women's equality, and mobilized and empowered women in communities around the world. The effect of these combined efforts has been, over time, a gradual but significant improvement in the lives of women and girls around the world.

Despite these successes, the struggle for women's rights continues to face formidable obstacles. Recent years have witnessed a marked increase in the fragmentation of activists, as well as decreased investment by funding agencies in movement-oriented as opposed to project-oriented work. But there has been little space to discuss the implications of these trends, or to think about strategies to confront them. There has been even less space to reflect on the health of our movements, to critically examine our successes a well as our failures, to update and re-cast our understanding of movements in the current global context, and to find a better way forward, working in cooperation with other, like-minded social movements towards the common goals of peace, social justice, environmental sustainability and human rights for all.

The questions we need to answer are complex and multi-faceted: How do we build movements that allow us to be strong but flexible, diverse without being fragmented, adaptable without compromising our core values, strategic without being expedient? What kind of collective power is possible in the 21st century, what types of mobilizations work - and in what contexts? What are the contradictions we need to confront in our movements in order to move forward? How do we build solidarity across different movements? And what is the cost of simply letting things drift along the present path?

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