As Josephine posted earlier today, we are both at the Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID)’s forum.
The forum happens every 2-3 years and this year has about 2300 participants – the youngest is about 8 and the oldest over 80. The theme for the forum this year is Transforming Economic Power to Advance Women’s Rights and Justice. Participants include some of the most inspiring activists and feminists you might ever want to meet, including many from the Arab revolutions and lots of younger feminists too.
The sessions I’ve attended so far have been pretty wide-ranging, from how to measure impact in women’s rights advocacy work to thinking through who the major macro-economic players are to understanding what women need in post-conflict contexts. Some of the speakers have been outstanding – Marilyn Waring’s speech during yesterday’s plenary and Gita Sen of DAWN’s speech in the first day’s plenary stand out in particular for me (in addition to Manal Hassan’s on the Egyptian revolution which Josephine mentioned). All these speeches should eventually be available online via AWID, in addition to being broadcast on internet radio.
Despite the wealth of content – and there really is tons and tons – I must admit that my appetite is not satisfied. It is evident that the knowledge and experience at the forum are extensive. However, most of our time seems to be absorbed in pointing out the many problems that exist, the challenges that we are facing, the importance of asking particular analytical questions about the nature of the various patriarchal obstacles to advancing women’s economic rights. What I haven’t heard a whole lot about is what prospects there are for making change. What ideas do people have about *how* to transform things?
One person I spoke to about this suggested that there are no easy solutions and that is perhaps why speakers are not tabling answers. Certainly it’s true that social change is complex. But does that have to mean we can’t propose strategies to effect it?
The conversations happening around me are rich in vision – what alternatives we would want to see as part of the brave new world we are trying to get to. There are no shortage of suggestions on how the pervailing economic paradigm needs to be reformed or overturned, why unregulated corporate power is dangerous, and what the dire consequences for women’s rights of maintaining the status quo are. Why then are we not speaking about how to travel there and what concrete steps we need to take to shift power? We know for example that governments are failing to deliver on their climate change promises and Kyoto is unravelling. How do/should we stop this?
Josephine and I hope to continue blogging our thoughts and reflections on the forum, so stay tuned for more!
Photo of the AWID forum logo as displayed on the projector screen during the first plenary by me, shared under a Creative Commons license