Who we are?
FEMPOWER! seeks to strengthen women’s movements in Asia, form resilient solidarity networks and insert feminist agenda into other social and political spaces. We see this as a journey towards building a more just and compassionate world where women are empowered and have equal rights.
Our initiative has two planks:
Country –specific grounded work being carried out by Shirkat Gah in Pakistan, Domestic Workers’ Union (DWU) in Sri Lanka and the Institute for Women’s Empowerment (IWE) in Indonesia. These organizations share common feminist values and principles and are committed to strengthen feminist movements in Asia.
Creating linkages, learning and synergies across countries in South Asia and South East Asia that will contribute to a women-led Charter of Demands for feminist change.
Why FEMPOWER! ?
In 2014, the three implementing partners of FEMPOWER! meeting with other feminist activists from around the world, expressed concern at the seemingly depleted energies and lower visibility of women’s movements and general activism for women’s rights and social justice. This needed to change, since women have succeeded in changing the world in so many amazing ways, yet gender inequality remains the most persistent and systemic form of discrimination in the world.
1975 and 1995 saw the vibrant growth and visibility of women’s movements worldwide, as activists met and acted transnationally to formulate an effective gender-equality change agenda and build international consensus for this. Today, initiatives for women’s rights, instead of being led by activists in the women’s movement, appear to be largely confined to a parceled approach steered by State and donor-led agendas, with movements for gender equality and social justice taking a back seat. There is a malaise about our movements leading some to comment that feminism is in decline.
FEMPOWER! wants to move the agenda forward. This demands stocktaking and re-energizing feminist movements by strengthening personal and collective resilience as well as feminist capabilities to advocate for gender-justice, socio-political and economic rights under a new activist-led change agenda. Pivotal to the earlier success were the processes that brought together diversely situated women in local, regional and international arenas who shared their distinct experiences and analyses of working in distinct contexts on diverse issues to extrapolate underlying convergences and build consensus as the basis for engaging with policy-makers and influencers.
FEMPOWER! hopes to help take stock and re-energize feminist movements by providing spaces to meet, share and discuss across increasingly fragmented and narrowly-focused activism; understanding the broader socio-political contexts; sharing and learning from strategies successfully deployed and shortcomings; and exploring new openings for activism.
We seek to identify convergences across countries, class and other factors so as to forge a revitalized women’s rights agenda that takes into consideration both obstacles and new openings for influencing the agenda of policy-makers, implementers and non-State decision-makers.
It is essential to expand the number of women from the grassroots to the international level with a common understanding of key issues, to act collectively and promote solidarity to effectuate change that is sustainable.
It is imperative to understand the political–economic system and the consequent precariousness of working women in the reinforced gendered hierarchies of the labour market and to recognize the impact of prolonged armed conflicts and violence that promote and accentuate the informal survival economy as a significant factor in the region’s national economies.
Feeling a part of a wider movement, most visible in the years leading up to and then for a decade following, the Beijing process seems to have dissipated, leaving a sense of isolation that can undermine activism. Given often overwhelming odds, women need to hear of and be inspired by each other’s stories of successful change; learn from each other’s strategies, support each other’s campaigns and influence the agenda of both allies and policy-makers.
FEMPOWER! contributes to this through face-to-face opportunities in the three base countries of grounded work, as well as web-based interactive spaces interspersed with the occasional sub-regional and regional meetings.