Afrikadag: how do we strengthen the international women’s movement?

Have you ever heard about Afrikadag? It’s the largest annual event on Africa and international cooperation in the Netherlands. Some 1200 attendants gathered in Amsterdam, Saturday, April 13 to share ideas on the social democratic value of international solidarity within three areas: democracy, development and dialogue. We were there to brainstorm around international solidarity at our event #HerstoryofChange.

Around the world, women are often the drivers of change. They are the first ones to stand up for the rights to their bodies. They invent smart, sustainable ways to combat climate change and improve food production. They fight for equality between men and women in society, even when things go wrong and conservative leaders such as Bolsonaro and Trump are in power. Since the first feminist wave, a lot has changed. There are new challenges, but also new opportunities.

We had a panel full of inspiring speakers discussing these issues, such as Hedy D’Ancona, feminist and former politician for Dutch labour party PVDA; Laila Ait Baali, political coordinator at the Dutch Gender Platform WO=MEN; Mary Audry Chard, Zimbabwean LGBT rights activist and founder of the Rise Above Women Organisation; Mekka Abdelgabar, founder of VOND, a women’s peace and security organisation based in Darfur and the Netherlands; and our Sascha Gabizon.

Recommendations coming out of the event

First of all, we need to look within the international women’s movement. Mary successfully emphasized the need for a more inclusive women’s movement. (Those who identify as) women within the LGBTI-community should also be included in discussions about abortion, forced marriage, and debates about having children. The accessibility of the women´s movement can also be improved. Women need to know how to reach the right people to fight for their rights. Capacity-building of women is an important step towards this goal. In order to reach as many women as possible, working with local, grassroots organizations is essential.

Secondly, policy recommendations towards the Dutch government and ministries were discussed. In the current trend of conservatism around the world, women’s rights are more and more at risk and women’s rights organizations have to deal with the increasingly shrinking civic space. The Netherlands is a strong advocate for women’s rights, for example in global forums such as the CSW. At CSW this March, the Dutch government was vocal to maintain women’s rights such as the right to anticonception and the right to their own bodies and also successfully advocated for more support to victims of domestic abuse. There was strong backlash against this from conservative governments from Russia, the Vatican and the US. In order to truly fight these conservative trends, financial resources have to be made more accessible for women´s rights organizations. Threshold criteria should include having women´s rights and gender-justice at the core. It is important to remind donors that this can also include LGBTI-rights organizations (separate LGBTI-funds are not always necessary) Connections between NGOs, formal governments (and specifically women in leadership positions), and grassroots women’s organizations need to be strengthened. The government can do this by creating funding schemes that have these connections as criteria.

Thirdly, the women’s movement should be more included in the fight against climate change. Women are often the first to be hit with climate disasters. Women´s organizations need to be more included in relief work and ideally in the planning of humanitarian aid work. This will ensure that the sector has gender-just solutions and a gender-just approach at its core.

We hope these calls to action will inspire you in your own communities, organizations and networks. Sharing your personal stories of change will contribute to strengthening the international women’s movement.