Takeaways from the AWID Forum

[Brussels, 11 October 2016] It’s been exactly a month since AWID’s 13th International Feminist Forum, which took place in Brazil. The European Women’s Lobby’s (EWL) Programme Director, Serap Altinisik, reflects on the conference and shares with us what lessons and memories she brought back with her to Brussels.

Takeaways from the AWID Forum

I had the privilege of participating on behalf of EWL at the AWID’s (an international, feminist, membership organisation) 13th International Feminist Forum. This was exciting for me since it was my first time, and the conference exceeded my expectations!

Feel the Solidarity of the Global Feminist Movement

Even though it’s already been a month, I am still overwhelmed and amazed by the fact that I was surrounded by 2000 feminists and women activists from over 130 countries. In fact, activist Joe Wang, from the Asia Pacific Transgender Network, described the feeling perfectly when she said in a plenary session, ‘feminist movements let me feel safe’. Indeed, this was the perfect opportunity to meet, share and listen within a safe space. And to top it all off, we were in the beautiful Costa del Sauipe.

AWID FORUM room full of people

For me, the forum reminded of the importance of solidarity, but not only amongst feminists but also within the feminist movement. Since September, I have tried to implement this notion in my day to day work. This experience has been truly inspiring, and as a result, I feel the support of a whole movement behind me. And having witnessed the thousands of feminists fighting this mission, I am more than confident that we will achieve social justice.

Enjoying and Celebrating the Diversity of the Women’s Movement

A core element of the forum was celebrating the diversity of the global feminist movement. I could see, feel and live the intersectionality just by seeing the diverse spaces and sessions which were run by a pool of participants.

For example, in the run up of the AWID Forum, the Black Feminists Forum took place. And the power of these incredible individuals, who spoke out on racism and oppression, gave great momentum for what was to come at the forum.

It was Alicia Garza, co-founder of the #blacklivesmatter movement and member of the National Domestic Workers Alliance in the US, who struck a chord with me when she said in the plenary, ‘the core element of the feminist movement is that feminists and women’s rights activists are nimble and flexible, always a step ahead of the other movements and sectors’. Indeed, she reminded all of us that black women activists drove #blacklivesmatter forward.

Alicia Garza speaking at the AWIDforum

Across the diverse spaces and sessions, I also had the chance to meet with so many vibrant young feminists. Their enthusiasm and outlook on life not only encouraged and challenged me, but also made me reflect on feminist leadership and young feminist leadership within the EWL. And this is extremely important as this is something that we are committed, as shown with the EWL AGORA summer school.

The voices of women with disabilities were also a fundamental component at the forum. For example, they challenged the concept of what it means to be ‘able’. And this was particularly prevalent in our EWL session regarding funding women’s rights organisations.

We had the opportunity to learn from an activists on disabilities on how we can be more successful when we are mainstreaming diversity in our strategies within the funding landscape of women’s rights organisations. We also got to hear from LGBQI and Trans activists who shared their stories and the importance of unity, as a way of becoming stronger.

Serap Altinisik quote

Collaboration beats Competition

With the collaboration of Womankind Worldwide, African Women’s Development Fund, Global Fund for Women and Saathi Nepal, I also got the amazing opportunity to organise a session on funding of women’s rights and women’s rights organisations.

The main point we were reflecting on was ‘when it comes to
financing women’s rights organisations, is there competition or cooperation amongst women’s organisations?’

As I was speaking to the room full of participants, I quickly realised that the issue of funding was a global concern. Activists highlighted the need to collaborate, build alliances when seeking funding.

The AWID Forum was all about cross-movement building. And this was present everywhere I went. For example, in our session which explored where women activists see an opportunity for women’s rights and funding by working across movements and intersections, it was great to hear from the audience that collaboration is a true driving motive amongst feminist.

Therefore, a key lesson, which I cherish the most, is that collaboration beats competition! And this is not only inspirational and reassuring for my work within the EWL secretariat and our members, but also with other women’s rights activists and allies. This is what I call co-creating feminist futures.

Overall, the AWID Forum gave me the safe space that I needed to learn from, listen to and share experiences with so many courageous feminists. And one month later, I still deeply feel connected to our fight for women’s rights and social justice.

Written by Serap Altinisik, Programme Director EWL, @SeeRap

All pictures by Serap Altinisik, article banner with Bandana Rana, Saathi Nepal Musimbi Kanyora, Global Fund for Women, Chiara Capraro, Womankind Worldwide Anne Quesney, Action Aid UK and Serap Altinisik, EWL


Funded by Commission communautaire française (COCOF)

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