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Break Silos and Connect Movements Globally:What should Feminists Do ?

What is a feminist? Who is a feminist, and why Feminist? As an answer to these questions the Charter Principle for African Feminist says Naming ourselves as Feminists we politicize the struggle for women's rights, we question the legitimacy of the structures that keep women subjugated, and we develop tools for transformatory analysis and action. We have multiple and varied identities as African Feminists. We are African women we live here in Africa and even when we live elsewhere, our focus is on the lives of African women on the continent. Our feminist identity is not qualified with `Ifs`, `Buts', or `Howevers'. We are Feminists. Full stop.

In the publication Livre Femnet –Her Story Sarah Longwe categorizes feminists social ideologies they subscribe to as:

liberal feminist – believer of women’s emancipation through reforms of rules/ regulations.

•Marxist feminist – believer in the Karl Marx ideology of ending domination of the lower class by the bourgeoisie, so women’s freedom is linked to workers’ control of the means of production through a revolt.

•socialist feminist – believer in social revolution for equality that includes women as activists alongside men.

•radical feminists – strong believers in feminists distancing themselves from men and creating their own relationships, because they believe that men are bent on oppression and control women each time they are allowed into the women’s environment or their initiatives.

Srilatha Bwatiwala says feminist movements espouse feminist values and ideology.

Gender equality, social and economic equality, the full body of human rights, tolerance, inclusion, peace, non-violence, respectful spaces and roles for all, etc., even if they don’t call themselves feminist or articulate these values in more culturally specific ways.

Furthermore the compounded the tower vision concept referred also as silos has mitigated if not reversed the gains that have been achieved in gender transformative work.However it is important to note that there is a common thread that links the struggles despite different approaches, definitions and fragmentation of the various women movements.

What drives the silo mentality and why organizations/movements do get entangled by the silo concept? As defined by the business dictionary the Silo Mentality is a mindset present when certain departments or sectors do not wish to share information with others in the same company. This type of mentality will reduce efficiency in the overall operation, reduce morale and may contribute to the demise of a productive company culture Brent Gleeson Forbes Magazine.

This definition is easily applicable to feminist movements that have been fragmented due to conflict and schisms as they compete for limited resources. It is in this context therefore to view the silo concept as a barrier for feminist movements to mobilize globally. The solution in overcoming the barriers lies in looking at the strategies that will propel organizations to overcome their tower vision and be genuinely involved in propelling the feminist movement sustainably.

Grassroots capacity building remains one of the significant steps in changing mindsets that are myopic. Srilatha Batliwala in Changing their World refers to this as the Theory of Change and goes on to say today, it is difficult to find any clear theory or analysis of how to achieve a broader gendered social transformation informing feminist activism. The theory of change underlying many of our actions and strategies is often outdated and based on assumptions that are no longer valid in the complex economic and political reality of today, they are too narrow or limited, or too short-term and pragmatic, forgetting the longer-term social transformations that would lead to sustainable shifts in gender and social power relations. This is all the more critical since the forces of globalization, fundamentalism, violence and conflict, and the intensifying backlash against feminist agendas require responses that arise from a comprehensive, powerful analysis of how these forces are acting on both gender and social power. We therefore need to re-articulate a theory of change for our times—one that could become the basis for building the common agenda that is either missing or too weak in our current politics and vision.

Feminist Movements need to devise strategies that are will give the movement resilience nevertheless addressing gaps both in the short and long term.The goal should be towards nurturing a symbiotic and synergistic relationship that has a global outlook.In addition it is important to remember that countries' challenges are not heterogeneous and the approach of one size fits all will not be possible in such cases.

Research reveals organizations are baulked down by the impetus to implement projects: There is a widespread sense that we are in an era of building our own organizations rather than movements, of implementing projects rather than processes of more fundamental change in gender and social power relations, and in professionalized research and advocacy, rather than building the base that demands the sort of policies such advocacy might yield. Most of all, there is a trend where many of the hard-won gains of women’s movements— equality under law, sexual and reproductive rights, equal pay for equal work, redress for abuse and violence—are being pushed back or eroded. Without strong, organized resistance to such trends, there is a real possibility of losing much of what we have struggled for over the past decades (Srilatha Bwatiwala).

In view of the foregoing it is crucial that the feminist movement establishes strategic alliances across the globe in pursuit of the movements’ unified vision,which in essence is represented by political goals. It is also important to have effective communication channels. In the advent of social media and technology, virtual conferencing is cost effective and overcomes barriers caused by physical distance.

Last but not least, by building bridges for critical discourse, alliances can provide a global platform where feminists can respond to the issues and concerns that economic globalization raises Friedrich-Ebert Stiftung

Article written by Tshengi Ndlovu.Tshengi is a trade and gender consultant and currently the President of OWITZIMBABWE Chapter

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