A year ago, just before the CSW, the corona pandemic changed everything. But now we have found new ways of movement building. So, we can connect virtually from all over the world to CSW65. In addition to the negotiations, in which government delegations have discussions on what it takes to improve gender equality, a lot more is happening! Through the virtual platform of NGO CSW, we let our feminist voices be heard. In addition to the negotiations, in which government delegations and women’s organisations tried to advance progress on women’s rights in the economy and in policy making (see our article on the negotiations) we let our feminist voices be heard through two events that we co-organised as the Women2030 and WECF partners.
Why we need a feminist vision
During the Parallel Event “Why we need a feminist vision for Agenda 2030, feminist voices at the policy table sharing lessons” on Monday 22 March, we heard inspiring stories from our Women2030 program partners from Asia and Africa . The event looked at women’s organisations working on the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and was moderated by the chairperson of the board of Women Environmental Program, Ms Winnie Lichuma from Kenya.
Our event was opened by the Federal Minister of State for Environment of Nigeria, Sharon Ikeazor. She recommended to create institutional cooperation with Women Civil Society organisations, to ensure that the work of the ministry truly integrates Gender Mainstreaming in all its policies. She expressed her appreciation for such continued cooperation with our Women2030 partner Women Environment Program (WEP). She is particularly glad with the cooperation and consultations carried out by WEP with her Ministry, in order to create a federal Gender Action Plan for the implementation of Nigeria’s climate policies.
Marlene Holzner director of the Civil Society division of the European Commission Directorate General International Partnerships, emphasized the importance of setting targets for gender quality funding. The Gender Action Plan of her Directorate General sets as target to ensure that 85% of projects funded have a gender-dimension according to the OECD’s gender marker 1. This target helps civil society organisations as well as European delegation in partner countries to take gender dimensions into consideration right from the start of planning their projects. Ms Holzner’s Directorate works through Framework Partnerships with networks of diverse civil society networks, including women and feminist networks. The Women2030 programme by partners from Asia, Africa, Latin America and Europe benefits from such a Framework Partnership agreement with the European Commission.
The successes can be found in the Global Women2030 Report. Through Women2030 we have worked during 5 years together with feminist partner organisations in 45 countries, to strengthen leadership of women in action for Sustainable Development, and specifically on Goal 5 on gender equality.
Wanun Permpibul, from ClimateWatch,Thailand talked about their work with local feminist activists, as part of their Women2030 project with Asia Pacific forum on Women Law and Development (APWLD). Local communities were trying to stop the destruction of local mangroves to make way for a coal-fired power plant. It was when the local women’s organisations joined the actions and demonstrations that jointly their demands were heard loudly by local policy makers and the press. And their efforts were a success. The plans for the coal fired power plant were abandoned. They are now in dialogue with policymakers to align energy policies with the Sustainable Development Goal 13 on Climate, to have policies that foresee an end to investments in coal.
In Kenya, Indigenous Information Network worked with women from the official population to strengthen knowledge about legislation and policy processes. This ensures that their local knowledge, context and their experiences in climate action can more successfully address decision-makers. Lucy Mulenkei is the leader of the Indigenous Information Network in Kenya. Her work has been focused on strengthening women leadership and indigenous communities to protect their forests. The network has organised participatory training programs for women farmers in partnership with GFC under the Women2030 program. Through these leadership trainings, they have built a movement and created the opportunity to have a voice and make their demands to government. The women groups have also built their knowledge about climate change and how their farming can become climate-resilient.
Rescue Women Liberia worked on a local level to strengthen female leadership. “In the first instance,” said Laretta George, “we focused mainly on countering stereotypical expectations of women, the idea in our country that women should keep a low profile and not ask for a place at the decision making table.” After several training series at the local level, one of the greatest successes of the program turned out to be a female candidate nominated for local elections. An important lesson, says Laretta: “Women must support other women to have the ambition for political power. Once they get the right support and information, they will overcome barriers”.
Examples from Georgia show that there is still a lot to be gained. At the moment 90% of the Georgian parliament is made up of men, but last year after years of political struggle a gender quota of 20% was adopted for women. This is a significant gain, said Ida Bakhturidze of WECF Georgia, but still far from enough to achieve equal participation of all men and women by 2030.
Priscilla Achakpa is the Founder and President of Women Environmental Program WEP Nigeria, and with her team has promoted gender-just agricultural and environmental policies in Nigeria. Spearheaded through the work of WEP, in collaboration with the Nigerian Ministry of Environment, Nigeria became the first country in Africa to develop a National Action Plan on Gender & Climate Change for Nigeria, based on the global Paris Agreement GAP. The action plan focuses on effective strategies for integrating gender into the National climate change initiatives and engaging women’s organisations in design and as a next step implementation of the plan.
Global Feminist Movement-Building for Generation Equality
On March 26, we held our second CSW65 event, in preparation of the Generation Equality Forum about to start in Mexico City. The pandemic has given feminists around the world an extra year to prepare and mobilize for the Generation Equality Forums. What are successful mobilization strategies and what is the impact of the corona crisis? Using the ‘Celebration, Rage, Hope & Action’ framework, we engaged with various Action Coalition Leaders and feminist activists from around the world.
Our event started with a performance by the Kyrzyg singer Zere Asylbek, she says that “knowing feminism has shifted her perspective from blaming herself, to acknowledging that the problem lies in the patriarchal world we live in”. This beautifully highlights the need for challenging the existing power structures.
Alia El-Yassir, Regional Director of UN Women Europe and Central Asia mentioned that “the future of feminist movements and Generation Equality depends on full and authentic integration of feminist leadership”. So, that is exactly what we were focused on during this event: how to strengthen feminist leadership.
Discussing the feminist movement also means that we have to pay attention to the challenges the movement is still facing. One of our speakers, Sivananthi Thanenthiran, of Asia Pacific Resource Centre for Women (ARROW) added that “we now have many types of feminisms. There is a feminism-light, that has a very limited scope and ignores the need for system change, we need to get governments to adopt intersectional feminism, that is transformative and takes away root causes of inequalities”. Therefore, Xenia Kellner of Young Feminists Europe “hopes to see a shift in the relationship between stakeholders that are necessary for systemic change; moving from ego to echo; to create spaces for co-creation”.
The pushback to the feminist movement is received with anger, but also with a lot of will to continue our struggle. Erin Williams of Global Fund for Women said during the event that the “rollbacks and co-optation of gender equality movements, digital rights violation and growing military-grade surveillance are the issues that enrage her”. Vicky Smallman of Canadian Trade Unions also spoke about the pushback saying that “it is enraging that we have to defend the gains that were made 25 years ago”. This message is echoed by Anna Hovhannisyan, “she hopes that the future feminists 25 years after this Generation Equality Forum are not fighting for the same issues we are pushing for today”.
Undeterred by the pushback, there is a lot of hope. Rachel Kagoiya of FEMNET Africa “hopes that Generation Equality Forum will not be siloed and that it will be an intergenerational space just as it has promised to be”. Just like Smallman who “hopes for us all to see a radical change in power-sharing in the near future”.
Therefore, we can hopefully all join in the excitement of Dr. Nadine Gasman, President of the Mexican Women’s Institute INMUJERES, concerning the Generation Equality Forums! The Forum in Mexico took place shortly after our event and now we are mobilizing for the next Forum in Paris, from June 30 until July 2.