Strengthening Women Human Rights Defenders to achieve feminists’ practices in their human rights work.

From 29th- 31st August 2022, WHRDN-U in partnership with Civil Rights Defenders, held a workshop titled ‘Building Feminists Practice’ at Essella Hotel in Uganda. The workshop provided over 20 WHRDs from diverse social movements an excellent opportunity to discuss strategies for feminists’ perspectives on their human rights work. The workshop raised the participants’ consciousness about power structures.

The organizers and facilitators used CRD Feminists Pocket book in presenting practical ways of practicing feminism in human rights work. The pocketbook indeed resonates with the experiences of WHRDs that were shared during the workshop.

Participants discussed systems of oppression and power more deeply, using a feminist lens to assess cultures and programming components of an organization, and learned to apply basic feminist practices in their work. Some of the main topics discussed included:

  1. Power

Under this topic, the workshop emphasized different forms of power, noting that there are different kinds of power, namely: Feminist consciousness (Power within), Solidarity and community (Power with), Personal and collective action (power to), and Oppressive power (power over). Participants discussed what they understood and their experiences of different types of power. The workshop highlighted the difference between positive power and negative power.

Participants learnt that there are different types of power, power can be used positively and negatively, we all have the power within us, even if at times we don’t realize it, using power over someone else is an abuse of that person’s right, we can join our power with other to give marginalized support groups of people noting that we all have the power to do something to act.

Furthermore, the session inspired participants to reflect on how ‘Using one’s power over another person creates negative feelings, such as resentment, hopelessness, and anger. Using one’s power over another person is abusive. It is a violation of the person’s rights. That certain groups of people are usually allowed to use their power over sexual minority groups in our families, communities, and organizations, and Men are generally allowed to use their power over women in our families, communities, and organizations, and Certain groups of people are generally allowed to use their control over sexual minority groups in our families, communities, and organizations.

2. Feminist consciousness

The workshop emphasized that feminism is the belief that women and girls have the same value and worth as men and boys, and it is a commitment to take action to change inequitable social norms and reduce the structural inequalities which prevent the advancement of women’s and girls’ rights. Feminism is intersectional, meaning it recognizes that women are not a homogenous group; it acknowledges how our multiple and complex identities interact and overlap to create different experiences of power, oppression, discrimination, and privilege. However, it was also noted that as a movement, feminism stands not only for gender equality but for eliminating all imbalances in power that further marginalize women and girls based on their sex, race, age, sexual orientation, ability, religion, caste, or ethnicity. Several ideas emerged from participants of what they understood as feminism, such as;

  • equity and not equality
  • feminism is fighting oppression
  • accessibility of services by the women at the grass root levels
  • dismantling the system of domination
  • unapologetic way of dealing with issues that affect women
  • deliberate oppression
  • empowering women to realize their full rights
  • creating equality around all spheres of life
  • Inclusiveness

3. Intersectionality

The workshop delved into understanding the concept of Intersectionality, which helped participants understand how Intersectionality identifies multiple factors of advantage and disadvantage. These factors include gender, sex, race, ethnicity, class, sexuality, religion, disability, weight, physical appearance, location, and height. These intersecting and overlapping social identities may be both empowering and oppressing. As a way to engage the participants from diverse perspectives in a conversation about Intersectionality, it was emphasized that women experience intersecting forms of discrimination based on the above factors that stop them from participating on equal terms.

4. The Personal is Political 

Participants learned and discussed the concept of the personal is political as a feminist practice. During the workshop, participants understood how to deal with resistance, noting that feminist activists experience backlash, harassment, and violations when they confront unequal power relations.

Here are videos with some of the reflections that emerged from the workshop 

For more details, read the 3 days’ workshop report