Workshop 2: Austerity, pressure on public dissent and rising neo- conservatism: shrinking spaces for feminist activism

The spaces for civil society are shrinking, not only in terms of reducing political and public rights but also shrinking financial resources. At the same time there is an ideological backlash that is in particularly directed towards progressive women’s rights advocates. How do the two developments interrelate and what can we do to counter them?

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Kathrin Meißner, coordinator of project “political feminism” at Friedrich Ebert Stiftung headquarters (moderator)
Isabel Casimiro, co-founder of WLSA (Women and Law in Southern Africa Research) and current president WLSA Mozambique (speaker)
Alejandra Santillana Ortíz, executive director of the Institute of Ecuadorian Studies and researcher, completing a PhD in Latin American Studies in Mexico (speaker)
Nerea Craviotto, senior advocacy officer at AWID

 Presentation:Alejandra Santillana Ortíz:

Each crisis shrinks spaces for rights. Capitalism needs women for care work social and reproductive realm, then an illusion of possibilities is created, even if women have access to participation they can’t really make use of it mainly because lack of support for care infrastructures.

Yet, in Latin-American the shrinking spaces is reflected in the extreme occupation of the feminine body, Feminicidios: women need justice, land, water, and seeds. Women are fighting to keep their lives. This historical moment of feminicides have also become a space for articulation and linking spaces to fight together within different Latin-American movements.

Understand what the fights of this moment are by linking on solidarities around the world. This is by understating the doing in common – hacer en comun – to be able to build up communalities.

Isabel Casmiro:

Crisis shrinking spaces leading to kidnaping and murdering people.

The paradox – in one side women’s emancipation was recognised, this helped women to participate on public and political sphere, on the other side in the last year’s we have seen the centralization and threat of organizations who doesn’t fit the political parties ideas. Organizations that criticise the government are changed, co-opted or closed.

How can we challenges this? Alliances and articulation as World March of Women enabled spaces for sharing experiences for South African Women mostly rural women.

Capacity to change from within. Experience Gender mainstreaming politics, have shown that women have no capacity to change situation by themselves in order to survive in parliaments for instance, women have to masculinize themselves.

Isabel underlines the need of recognition that feminism is not only one, there are several feminisms.

Nerea Cravioto

AWID where is money for women’s rights.

There is a global backlash of women’s rights like abortions laws. Women and girls and feminism issues is present in media and debates, but is not reflected on increasing funding for women’s rights organization.

How the funding landscape is at the moment: shrinking, affected women’s rights, due to governmental laws, emergency new forms of financing women’s organization. Corporation are having more and more power also in development field, as an answer of a democracy crisis.

What can we do? Private funding are reflecting on new ways to continue supporting civil society organizations.

Some women’s organizations have decided to register as a profits organization. The role of private sector, which is raising up private partnerships. The new funding system has more demands, so more money is gone in to more gender advisors, private consultant firms and audits.

As strategy is to look funds in to private partnerships, and corporate resources.

There is money for climate change and migration but hardly applied on gender and feminist perspective. Which demands to be more involved in the conversation and political discussion around these topics, in order to translate in to access to funds.

Highlight: there is a need to reframing what development aid is.

Key messages from the workshop

  • We can’t wait with countering anti-feminism, it is an urgent need to do it now and in a trans local and transregional way.
  • Concerning dialogues, focus should be on groups that are in between the polarized positions, to be able to address changes.
  • Deconstruct the links between social categories, i.e. don’t make oversimplified connections but analyse the links more carefully. As linking feminism with climate change, or food and security, for instance.
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