Priority Areas

Supporting feminist, women’s rights and gender justice movements to thrive, to be a driving force in challenging systems of oppression, and to co-create feminist realities.

Resourcing Feminist Movements

Around the world, feminist, women’s rights, and allied movements are confronting power and reimagining a politics of liberation. The contributions that fuel this work come in many forms, from financial and political resources to daily acts of resistance and survival.


AWID’s Resourcing Feminist Movements (RFM) Initiative shines a light on the current funding ecosystem, which range from self-generated models of resourcing to more formal funding streams.

Through our research and analysis, we examine how funding practices can better serve our movements. We critically explore the contradictions in “funding” social transformation, especially in the face of increasing political repression, anti-rights agendas, and rising corporate power. Above all, we build collective strategies that support thriving, robust, and resilient movements.


Our Actions

Recognizing the richness of our movements and responding to the current moment, we:

  • Create and amplify alternatives: We amplify funding practices that center activists’ own priorities and engage a diverse range of funders and activists in crafting new, dynamic models  for resourcing feminist movements, particularly in the context of closing civil society space.

  • Build knowledge: We explore, exchange, and strengthen knowledge about how movements are attracting, organizing, and using the resources they need to accomplish meaningful change.

  • Advocate: We work in partnerships, such as the Count Me In! Consortium, to influence funding agendas and open space for feminist movements to be in direct dialogue to shift power and money.

Related Content

‘Our desire is our revolution!’: The politics of love and queer sexualities

Gabby De Cicco

Mujeres Al Borde (MaB, ‘Women on the Edge’) is an explosive feminist cocktail of different identities and artistic disciplines created in 2001 in Colombia. A six-member team coordinates its programs Al Borde Productions, Al Borde Theatre, and Multitudes Al Borde. Over the course of 15 years of artivism more than 5,000 people have participated in their community programming in Colombia, Chile, and other countries in South and Central America. Pansexual artivist, transfeminist, and MaB co-founder Ana Lucia Ramirez shares her reflections on the group’s work.

A revolutionary desire

“Our desire is our revolution!” This has been our slogan since we created Mujeres al Borde. We are convinced that desire (exclusively in the sexual sense) is political.

When we embody a desire that is not heteronormative we begin to live differently in the world and can become more conscious of the oppressions we need to change and the injustices which have been normalized,” explains Ana.

“With this slogan we give a revolutionary and transformative place to our desire, our desire for other possible bodies, other ways to love, to experience pleasure, to have relationships with people, with other beings, with the earth. It is a desire that also goes beyond the sexual, that refers to the desire for another world and the commitment to making way for more just, free, and happy worlds,” she adds.

There are many ways to transform the world. One of Mujeres al borde’s ways has been to ensure that all voices are heard, especially the voices which have been marginalized or, out of concerns for their own personal security, have remained behind a wall of silence.

“The tagline of our community film project AL BORDE Productions is ‘We tell stories to change the world’. ” While we were making autobiographical documentaries with LGBT activists, we learned that one of the first fears that people who are sexual or gender dissidents need to confront is breaking the silence about who we are,” she says. For Ana and her fellow activists, for people to tell their stories in their own voice, and to recognize that their stories are worth telling and being heard “is a huge act of courage; it means confronting a society that threatens to symbolically and materially exclude us if we decide to be visible.”

Finding pleasure in the margins

Ana remembers that in their beginning the idea was to create a space to come together and “create other ways of being ‘the women’ who are living sexual and gender dissidences.” They identify as women who are ‘on the edge’ for not conforming to expectations about “gender, beauty, decency, or ‘political correctness,’ and who are not interested in giving up who we are to enter a place of privilege. On the edge, on the borders and margins, we find pleasure, fluidity, creativity, we find a place to create together with others who no longer fear being the weird ones, and on the contrary, enjoy it.”

The group has had bisexual women participants, 70-year-old lesbian women, trans women who find themselves and begin their transition in their 40s, 12-year-old trans children, women with intersex experiences, lesbian and bisexual women, pansexual women, girls with lesbian/bisexual moms, non-binary people, men who reject and question their gender identity and privilege, people with different abilities, transvestites of different ages, transformists, cross dressers, queer people, marimacha butch women, and heterosexual cisgender women who are critical of sexual norms and advocate for their rights.

“We have been a very happy group with so much beauty and difference that has come together around transfeminism, art, and activism.”

And if we are talking about artivism…

We understand art as an experience that changes us and through which we can also change the world. The activism that moves us recognizes that the power to create the world we dream of is in our own hands, in the strength of our own community doing activism through art.

In a film we are creating images
of what will be our collective memory.
In the creation of a character
people are valiantly discovering themselves.
When we create other narratives through storytelling,
documentaries, femzines or performances, we produce
references that will help others to know they are not alone,
they are not the only ones. Artivism gives our voice back,
heals us, emphasizes community and the collective,
brings us together to dream as a group
and to create new potential dreams.

Our artivism is contrasexual and transfeminist. It is that way because from here on the edge, we have understood that there are certain truths that need to be challenged so that our lives are possible, truths that sustain oppressions that are ending the lives of women, girls, children, gender and sexual dissident people all over the world. We challenge the patriarchy, cissexism, gender binaries, norms on corporality, desire, love, pleasure, the obligation to be heterosexual, to be mothers, to be women and to be men.

No more masks

The theatre troupe of Mujeres al Borde, “Las Aficionadas” (The Fans), debuted in June 2001 with its first play, “Olga sin pelos en la lengua” (Straight-talking Olga; or literally, “Olga with no hair on her tongue”). Ana recalls that it was harder to come out of the closet in Colombia in those years. More than half of the lesbian and bisexual women participating in the group hid their sexual orientation and would often march in the Pride parade wearing masks or eye masks.

Clau Corredor, a co founder of the group, imagined a scene in which several of them would take centre stage and say over and over, “I am bisexual. I am a lesbian.” They would say it for three months of rehearsals, “even though they hadn’t found the strength to say it in their own lives,” Ana explains. On opening night there was a full house, with more than 200 people in the audience and “our compañeras were really nervous. The play was a hit, and they said their lines with such strength and determination. ‘I am bisexual. I am a lesbian.’ The audience gave them a standing ovation.”

The “LGBT Pride” parade in Bogota was two days after the show opening, and the protagonist and other compañeras from the show went to the place where they were handing out masks to wear for the march. “We saw them just then and went up to say hello,” Ana recalls, “but before they could put them on, some people on the street started yelling, ‘Olga! Olga! Olga sin pelos en la lengua!’ They came up and excitedly asked whether we were the ones from the play. We were all surprised and happy about being recognized, especially the lead actress.

Just then the person handing out the masks asked them how many they would need. They looked at one another and said, ‘No, this time we are not going to wear a mask.’ That was one of the most meaningful moments for us when we were starting out—one we still remember today with tears and laughter.”

Region
Latin America
Source
AWID

The freedom to decide what to do with our lives

Gabby De Cicco

“My dream is for there to be no more violence against us, no more injustice, and for us to become visible and respected in society and to no longer be stigmatized,” says Rosa Alma Ramos, Salvadoran sex worker and coordinator of the Liquidambar Association of Women Sex Workers of El Salvador.

Rosa’s dream cannot be realized alone, and she has been working with other sex workers who want to see this change and believe there is strength in organizing. Together they are part of an association that has been working towards this dream for close to nine years, and have been an institutional member of AWID since January 2017.


The Beginnings

Angélica Quintanilla, Liquidambar founder

During the 2009 election campaign in El Salvador, the right-wing candidate, Norman Quijanos of the Alianza Republicana Nacionalista party, promised to remove sex workers from the streets of San Salvador. Angélica Quintanilla, a sex worker in that city who was alarmed by these threats, made her way to City Hall together with ten other as-yet-unorganized women, to speak with mayor Violeta Menjívar. That and other conversations led to the creation of the “Sex Worker Violence Prevention Committee,” which would facilitate coordination and dialogue between sex workers, local government, and the police force.

The logo for Liquidambar Women’s Association, which has a tagline that says, ‘For the respect and recognition of sex work’

A few months later, the women had organized, and named their new association Liquidambar [sweetgum tree]. “For us that name represents the freedom to decide what to do with our lives and how to achieve our dreams. In our logo you can see a bridge, which represents all the connections or steps we need to take to meet our needs,” explains Rosa with contagious energy. She explains that “the sweetgum tree grows in mountainous areas well above sea level. Those trees have a balsam [“liquid amber”] which runs through their veins down toward the sea, collecting sticks, leaves, and a variety of insects along the way. When it reaches the sea, it is transformed into the only gemstone that comes from a plant: amber. Just as those transformations are as deep and blue as the ocean, so is the strong and beautiful potential and spiritual energy of the woman sex worker.”

Sex Work is Work

Liquidambar began working “without resources or support,” recalls Rosa, until they started forging links with other local and international organizations. From their office in the capital, San Salvador, and with the support of the Foro de ONG en la lucha contra el VIH [NGO Forum Fighting HIV], they are training sex workers in sex education, HIV and STI prevention, and techniques for building self-esteem.

In the Sex Worker Violence Prevention Committee, they lobby different local and national governmental institutions for the implementation of public policies to improve the conditions in which they work.

“The Global Network of Sex Work Projects and the Latin American Platform of People who  Exercise Sex Work (PLAPERTS) give us technical support and help us to prepare for participation in international fora, where we advocate for the defense and promotion of sex workers’ human rights.”

As part of activities to mark International Women’s Day, the group issued a statement calling for Congress to debate a bill legalizing sex work, which was delivered to the legislative body by organized sex workers.

Demanding Answers within Feminist Networks

Liquidambar is part of the feminist network Concertación Feminista Prudencia Ayala, which coordinates over 20 feminist organizations in El Salvador, and is linked to Las Dignas and the Salvadoran Network of Women Human Rights Defenders.

“According to the National Constitution, all people are equal before the law, so why are women who are raped revictimized? Why do they keep killing us for being women? Why is there impunity for those femicides?” asks Rosa. “All of this means we need to participate in actions and to learn about and from feminism. That is why we belong to the Red de Defensoras [WHRD network]. As a network, we are demanding that the relevant authorities, such as the Public Prosecutor Office, investigate murder cases so there is no impunity and that these public authorities  protect defenders when we file complaints.”

According to a Liquidambar statement, only 10% of women sex workers denounce and follow through on complaints of institutional violence. Among the 90% who do not file complaints, the main reasons cited for doing so were fear of reprisal and lack of confidence in the judicial system.

Beyond Fear

(AWID honored Angelica in its 2016 Online Tribute to WHRDs no longer with us. The Tribute is launched annually on 29 November.)

On 6 May 2016 Angélica Quintanilla, the leader who brought together that group of sex workers for the first time in 2009, was murdered. Rosa remembers the founder of Liquidambar as a woman of strong personality who did whatever was necessary to advance her principles and ideas. Her murder is one of the crimes that languish in impunity. Following her death, some of the women left the group, but others remained, convinced of the need to continue resisting as an organized group. Yet the fear was both tangible and strong. Once again, as at the time the association was born, the women of Liquidambar are gathering strength, looking inside, figuring out how to heal and to overcome fear.

Following Angélica’s murder, they had to move their office for security reasons. “We are in a smaller, but cozier office. We have been working hard to overcome the fear that has overtaken us following her murder. The American Jewish World Service (AJWS) helped us through training with a systemic approach to go out with less fear and return to the streets empowered.”

Angélica’s murder is not an isolated case. Liquidambar denounces the 35 recent murders of sex workers in 2018 alone as femicides.

“The threat is so real, we feel it every day. It comes from the gangs, but also from the state and others who think they own the sex work districts.”

Overcoming challenges 

Rosa tells us that “the majority of our compañeras come from situations of extreme poverty. Those working in the street encounter threats and demands for ‘fees’ by the gangs just to have the right to work in certain areas, and sometimes the situation leads to a lack of clients.”

In addition, they face institutional violence, the abovementioned femicides, stigma and discrimination on the part of Salvadoran society. “We have been working to raise awareness among uniformed police personnel through trainings, and we use those opportunities to expose those in the force who are violent toward us.”

Training with uniformed police personnel

Liquidambar also carries out projects to fight the poverty facing sex workers, but implementation of some has been complicated by limited funding. The association demands that the local political authorities recognize sex workers and their need for stable employment. “We ask them to offer trainings in entrepreneurship, such as how to make sweets, or to help us set up a day care centre for sex workers’ children.”

Rosa says Liquidambar is raising money as a seed fund to start a cafeteria run by sex workers. “That is a project that has been pending since Angélica’s time.”

The women sex workers of El Salvador are organizing, going out into the streets, and entering decision-making spaces to demand their rights, in order to improve the quality of life of sex workers and their families and dependents. Sex work is work, and it is time for it to be included in state policy.

Region
Latin America
Source
AWID

Project X: Telling ‘untold stories’ around sex work

Valérie Bah

Lejla Medanhodzic

A sex workers’ rights organisation in Singapore confronts the stigma and discrimination that fuel violence against sex workers and their communities.


Bella is a migrant transwoman and sex worker based in Singapore. This is her testimony:

 “The police treat us like terrorists, destroy our room during raids. We don’t like to be treated like that, like we are criminals. They come to disturb us, but don’t give us a license or provide jobs in Singapore. We want a license, but the process is not easy. Some jobs also require us to cut hair and be like a man. That is why we do sex work.” 

Bella’s story, which she contributed to a report toward the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), reflects on the many legal, social and economic challenges migrant and sex workers as well as women of trans experience encounter in Singapore. 

Sherry Shequeshaa (Project X writer and Researcher) and Lisa Ja'ffar (sex worker, human rights and drug activist) at the 68th CEDAW Session

Take, for example, the police violence that sex workers face and the fact that they are primarily treated like criminals, not workers. Many sex workers in Singapore work in legal grey areas where the city-state considers their labour illegal but the “government allows them to operate within Designated Red-Light Areas (DRA), within brothels regulated and monitored by police despite the law.” Where some sex workers can receive a ‘yellow card’, (a license of sort) others are not eligible if they are over 35, are not from a listed country like China, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, or Singapore, or are not legally recognized as female. 

Migrant workers face even harder restrictions, and those considered ‘illegal’ even more so, as the fear of deportation is a daily reality. 

Meanwhile, trans persons are extremely vulnerable to social stigma and discrimination and consequently find it hard to find work in a society that is filled with prejudices towards them. The general media portrayals of sex workers often do not help dismantle stigma, instead:

“Their sensationalistic portrayal of sex workers demeans and dehumanizes them, encouraging public prejudice, further feeding the stigma that causes social ostracization, employment discrimination, and violence.” (CEDAW 68th Session Stakeholders Report by Sex Workers in Singapore)

Project X advocates against the systemic obstacles that sex workers experience as they try to live and work. The organisation is the first and only rights-based sex workers’ organization in Singapore and, alongside a variety of programming, does much through public education to shift harmful and mainstream views of sex work and the people who do this work. As Vanessa Ho, the director of Project X says, "Sex work is a topic that nobody wants to talk about." 

Untold Stories

To transform silence into stories, images, voices and dialogue, the organisation works with partners and allies on media and public awareness campaigns. These take shape in written form, photography, or as humorous caricatures. 

In 2017, the organization partnered with Dear Straight People, a leading online LGBT publication based in Singapore, to bring ‘Untold Stories’ told by sex workers. These illustrate that sex workers do not have one single unifying experience, but that they each have unique and interconnected stories. Most importantly, those who lived those stories are the ones to tell them. Here are just a few:

Sandhya, 40: “I actually came from a family of ministers. My aunts and uncles are all pastors and worship leaders so it was pretty difficult for me to transition. To them, it was the ultimate betrayal. They couldn’t understand why I was transitioning and would quote paragraphs to me from the bible telling me how transitioning was a sin... When my pastor uncle came by, he told my mum it was time for them to accept me. He said if they don’t accept me, the public wouldn’t accept me either… "

Sherry, 25: “If you were to ask me 5 years ago what I would be doing now, I wouldn’t have believed that I would be working as an activist with Project X and talking to members of the public and educating them about sex work...”

Qistina Asyurah aka Echa, 37: “I am a very good cook and my goal is to actually open my own Muslim food stall soon. I come from a family of good cooks. Right now, I am actually saving up. My signature dish is the Ayam Lemak chilli padi...” 

Image from Sisters, a documentary Project X collaborated on with photographer Kyle Ngo
Image from Sisters, a documentary Project X collaborated on with photographer Kyle Ngo

Movement Matters

In August 2016, Project X joined AWID as an institutional member. In addition to their work on public education and media awareness, they mentioned that intersectionality and movement building is important in creating social change and justice. It is crucial to build solidarity, partnerships, strengthen alliances.

Find out more about Project X and how to get involved.

Topics
Sex work
Source
AWID

Adebisi’s Feminism: Shaped by the past, sustained by the present

Valérie Bah

Lejla Medanhodzic

About a writer and photographer from Nigeria and the ancestral forces that led to her kind of feminism. 


The alarm goes off at 3:00am daily for Adebisi. She confirms that it’s part of her motivation to write, something she has done since primary school. 

“(I) Gave it up upon entering the university because I thought no one would take me seriously as a writer.” 

Ten years later, she picked it up again. If she ignores the alarm she says, “I miss writing so much that I run back to it”. 

Through her writing practice, Adebisi explores issues connected to feminism, gender and topics with strong social and political context. She has written on child marriage in Uganda, ending sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo, sponsoring women technology events, nurturing one’s own creativity, gender stereotypes at work and other spaces. 

Adebisi Adewusi

Ancestries of resistance 

Across her body of work, Adebisi pinpoints her favourite piece as “Finding Biko: The Spirit of Black Consciousness Lives Among Born-Free South Africans”, a feature published in OkayAfrica, a media platform that highlights activism, arts, and culture across Africa and the diaspora. 

In the article, she describes in-depth how the current generation of South African activists from the #FeesMustFall movement was influenced by their forerunner, Steven Biko, who propelled the Black Consciousness Movement and fought for Black liberation in South Africa. 

“Thirty-nine years after his death, Biko continues to inspire the struggle for freedom in South Africa. This time the struggle is not for freedom from white minority rule but from the dismantling of a system that sentences South Africa's black born free generation to a cycle of exclusion. (Adebisi, OkayAfrica)”

“Unquestionably, to a keen observer of South Africa's history inherent in the #RhodesMustFall, #FeesMustFall and #OpenStellenbosch fallist movements, this political awakening (is) similar to that found among youths in the Soweto Uprising of June 16, 1976. (Adebisi, OkayAfrica)”

“This is South Africa's born free generation's way of embracing Biko's philosophy of Black Consciousness which states that ‘the black man must reject all value systems that seek to make him a foreigner in the country of his birth and reduce his basic human dignity’. (Adebisi, OkayAfrica)"

Intergenerational Feminisms

In the same way that she draws connections between Biko’s activism and the Fallist movement in South Africa, Adebisi is aware of how her own ideas on gender were shaped by her mother’s and grandmother’s feminisms (which they never labelled as such). 

“My maternal grandmother climbed trees and refused to marry my grandfather. My grandmother’s daughter knew too much. She was the kind of woman most men aren’t comfortable with. These African women were the first feminists I knew even if they never identified themselves as such. Therefore, when people say feminism is un-African I smile.”  

The young creative describes her journey toward rejecting pre-formatted brands of feminism and shaping a version of her own, one that suits her context and needs. “I am more inclined to see feminism as a daily, sustained practice”, she says. Adebisi points out that certain choices she makes are not because there is a specific point to prove, but are part of her space and being comfortable there: 

“For instance, I hold a camera because I love it, not because I want to prove women can capture moments better. Consequently, to me feminism is not an ideology of competition.”

If you’re wondering, Adebisi told us that her feminist grandmother stopped climbing trees and eventually married her grandfather. But as she says:

“You probably figured that part already”.

Adebisi’s Quest

In May of 2017, Adebisi joined AWID as an individual member. She maintains a dynamic pace as a freelance writer, photographer and blogger from Nigeria. The Female Orator, an online platform she runs, is “created to inform, educate and inspire African women by sharing content related to them”.

Her writings have been published in African Feminism, OkayAfrica, Circumspecte, SheLeadsAfrica, and the Huffington Post. She has a firm handle on contemporary issues, but also reflects on what factors led her there: 

“As a third wave feminist, I am still my mother’s feminism. My affiliation with the past is because it is still very much my present. This is because I still exist in spaces where sexism thrives. We still seek change and equality as found in the second wave.”

The spaces Adebisi mentions, where sexism, social injustice and inequity still exist, where second meets third wave feminism; these are points of convergence between the past and present. Here legacies and struggles of our ancestors’ feminisms intersect our own. Here we also find incredible opportunities for renewed energy and change as we step into our feminist futures.


Follow Adebisi @biswag, take a look at the Female Orator and see some of her photography work below.

Women of a Fulani Settlement. Location: Moboluwaduro, Fulani Settlement, Ilorin South LGA, Kwara State, Nigeria. 15 July 2017.

 

Women of a Fulani Settlement. Location: Moboluwaduro, Fulani Settlement, Ilorin South LGA, Kwara State, Nigeria. 15 July 2017.
Girl from a Fulani Settlement. Location: Moboluwaduro, Fulani Settlement, Ilorin South LGA, Kwara State, Nigeria. 15 July 2017.

 

Source
AWID