By Noel Schroeder —

We had a wonderful first #FeministFridays discussion of 2017! We were joined by international development organizations and Alliance members from India, Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, Pakistan, Syria, and DRC.

We discussed what the feminist movement means in different national contexts, and how labelling a movement ‘feminist’ can have value but can also pose challenges. Discussion leads Sybil from Generation Initiative for Women and Youth Network (GIWYN) in Nigeria and Shruti from Sayfty in India shared their perspectives on leading feminist advocacy in their countries and combatting systemic barriers and negative stereotypes of feminism.

Here are some highlights from our discussion:

  • There is a value to calling a movement ‘feminist’. Sybil from Nigeria said that feminism for GIWYN is all-inclusive and works for any human whose right is deprived. She emphasized the need to celebrate women and uphold their dignity. For Shruti from Sayfty in India, a feminist is anyone who believes in equal rights and they advocate for the rights of women and girls whose rights are deprived by patriarchy. For them, feminism can bring communities together for a common cause, but negative stereotypes of feminism can prevent others from feeling included in the movement.
  • Feminist advocacy is not always easy. In some countries, feminism can be seen as a foreign ideology. Contextualizing and embracing feminist values can help to challenge this view. Charles from Kenya Christian School for the Deaf spoke about the government backlash against feminist principles. Sybil shared that in Nigeria it is difficult for some women’s rights advocates to accept inclusivity (a basic tenant of feminism) in their work. Even in the United States, feminist development practices are not fully integrated into development approaches.
  • Education about feminism is important to combat negative stereotypes and misunderstanding – this means education of youth and also decision-makers and leaders. More widespread use of the word ‘feminism’ will help lead to its acceptance, as will a less academic, more accessible language and body of knowledge about feminism.
  • Feminist development seeks to transform oppressive systems, whereas mainstream development may address ‘gender’ as an issue but not address these entrenched aspects of patriarchal society. Sustainable Development Goal 5 will only be fully achieved if feminist transformative change occurs to address these systemic challenges.

We discussed the next steps for the global feminist movement – what needs to be done to create more understanding, acceptance, and application of feminist principles and values? Share your thoughts with us on social media.  Share your #FeministFridays message over on Twitter and Facebook!