You can’t read the news today and not feel that our world is heading down a dangerous path. The military conflicts, extreme economic inequality, and gross acts of violence against individuals because of their gender, race, or sexual orientation that happen today, will have repercussions for generations to come.
This International Women’s Day (#IWD2015), we want to headline young feminist groups that can take us down a different road:
1. Girls United for Human Rights (Swat, Pakistan)
Girls United for Human Rights is a young feminist group working against child marriages in Swat Valley, Pakistan (the same area as renowned girl activist, Malala Yousafzai). Loopholes in Pakistan’s law often grant indemnity or leniency to prayer leaders and bridegroom family members who perpetuate forced early marriages. Currently, the fine is only $10 and one month of imprisonment. There is also no proper definition of a child in the bill.
In response to this, Girls United for Human Rights currently advocates for a new child marriage bill that would increase the legal age of marriage to 18 and make the punishment for child marriages harsher. This group also advocates for laws that recognize the dignity of young girls and raises awareness in their community with prayer leaders, legislatiors, schools, students about early and forced marriages.
2. The BuSSy Project (Cairo, Egypt)
The BuSSy Project is a performing arts group that seeks to provide open and uncensored spaces for young women to candidly and anonymously share their personal experiences with a range of social issues.
BuSSy’s storytelling workshops expose real women’s stories and provide a space for free expression. Their performances offer a unique opportunity for young Egyptian women to write for themselves instead of being written about by others. Their stories reflect the gender issues that are experienced by all members of their society, irrespective of class and background. Through their performances, they reach the public directly and expose that which society ignores.
3. Colectiva Feminista Rabiosa (Buenos Aires, Argentina)
Colectiva Feminista Rabiosa is a group working to empower young women, promote sexual rights, and guarantee a life free of violence for all. They provide support to other women in situations in which current public policies are insufficient to ensure their basic rights and bodily integrity. Specifically, they accompany women who are seeking abortion, providing accurate information on the safe use of misoprostol and referring them to friendly health services. The group also helps women to access justice in cases of male violence and institutional violence.
This photo was taken just last week, when the group held a public action to demand the release of a young girl from prison – she is a victim of violence and was unfairly accused of neglect, because her ex boyfriend killed her daughter.
4. Beyond Borders: Linking Our Stories (Armenia and Turkey)
Beyond Borders: Linking Our Stories seeks to build bridges between Turkish and Armenian societies that have been divided as a result of the genocide of Armenians one hundred years ago. This kind of trauma can only be healed together across the border of shame, fear, and land.
Living in shame-based societies that turns women into the ‘other’ and the enemy, Linking Our Stories uses performance arts and storytelling as a method to build solidarity and peace. These activities provide the two communities with an alternative possibility for linking their stories instead of drifting apart.
5. Red Brigade Lucknow (Uttar Pradesh, India)
Founded by survivors of rape Red Brigade Lucknow’s mission is to achieve women’s protection from sexual violence and harassment in public spaces and homes. They do this by empowering girls and young women with self defense and martial arts and basic education on hygiene, sexuality, and rights. In a community where eve-teasing and sexual violence is common, victim-blaming happens at all levels, and administrative and judicial procedures for sexual assault are costly, slow, and inadequate, Red Brigade Lucknow decided they couldn’t rely on anyone else but themselves to make a change in their lives.
The group often actively patrols the streets to end public eve teasing, shames harassers and rapists, demonstrates for persecution of gang rapists, and raise funds and provide legal consultation to support survivors.
(Photo by Gethin Chamberlain)
6. Guyana Trans United (Georgetown, Guyana)
Guyana Trans United (GTU) focuses on transgender rights, and was created to meet the need for more trans-specific organizing in Guyana. Their mission is to provide active safe spaces to incubate new modes of resistance, building from the local to affect regional and global solidarity and change. GTU pursues their mission through social media, skill training within their community and special projects in collaboration with local, regional and international artists, activists and institutions.
By developing and strengthening a dedicated trans organization, they aim to increase trans empowerment and voice in the public domain, so that trans Guyanese are better able to obtain all their inalienable human rights and realize their full potential and dreams.
7. Foundation for Civic Education and Social Empowerment (Balaka, Malawi)
Foundation for Civic Education and Social Empowerment (FOCESE) was formed by girls who have experienced pressure to marry at a young age – often before finishing primary or secondary school. They organize activities within schools to help empower vulnerable, at-risk girls that are likely to drop out of school because of early or forced marriages. Through their child rights awareness campaigns, girls have more confidence and knowledge to delay marriage, avoid unexpected pregnancies, and reduce the risk of domestic violence.
FOCESE’s current project, “The Voice of Young Women”, has mobilized 25 teen mothers so far and has helped bring them each back to school. They organized a school workshop with the identified girls to help them visualize their futures and realize that motherhood should not be an obstacle to finishing their education and achieving ther dreams. FOCESE also provided each girl with essential school support materials like school uniforms, stationery and toiletries.
8. Femenergy (Pirot, Serbia)
Femenergy is based in Pirot, a small town in the South of Serbia. A small town means small opportunities, but a small town does not mean small ideas. Pirot was once an urban center full of factories and craft shops and women were working in high positions. Today, there are many women in Pirot with no jobs and less opportunities. Men hold almost all significant positions of power and women are left in the shadows plagued by unemployment.
Femenergy felt obligated to help create a society they desired. With their collective network, they have created the safe space that their community failed to make for its women. They advocate for the creation of an open space to discuss the taboo subjects of gender-based violence, reproductive health and sexuality.
FRIDA has awarded grants to all of these groups to help strengthen the work that is benefitting multiple communities, and accelerating us towards a world we want to live in. These are just 8 of the over 50 groups we have supported over the past 3 years in over 40 different countries.
The groups are selected through a unique participatory process, that asks all applicants to vote on what they think are the more deserving proposals. We offer the successful applicants not only funds to amplify their work, but also opportunities to build skills, access to new spaces, and most of all, a community of other active and committed organizers.
By Eghosa Asemota (Social Media and Communications Intern) and Devi Leiper O’Malley (Co-Coordinator)