The forum occurs every three to four years, and is a safe space for feminists from all over the world to come together and share their experiences of feminism and the feminist movement. This latest edition saw 2,000 feminists representing a myriad of different organisations, nationalities, sexualities, ages and backgrounds co-create their vision for Feminist Futures.
Facing our current realities
Current realities in this year’s host country of Brazil, set the tone for the forum’s proceedings.The impeachment of Brazil’s first female president Dilma Rousseff and the appointment of an all male, all white cabinet reflected how quickly women’s gains can be undermined.
Stories from the forum made it clear that the backlash highlights a wider global phenomenon. From the murder of Honduran, indigenous leader and environmentalist Berta Caceres to the travel ban put on feminist activist Mozn Hassan by the Egyptian government, the danger weighs down heavily on the activist community.
"We don't like prisons but we don't fear them." - Yara Sallam, Egyptian feminist and human rights advocate
Safe spaces and collective self-care
Being a feminist activist can seem like an uphill battle and often, activists put the people and the issues they are fighting for before themselves. Discussions highlighted the importance of self-care in the struggle for justice, not only exploring the best ways to practice “self-care”, but also the importance of taking back ownership of the term itself. Alicia Garza warned that capitalism would have us believe “self-care” is about the individual, but this weakens us. Instead we should understand that nurturing ourselves is about nurturing our movements and communities.
“Self care is a collective rather than individual action. We must show up for each other.” - Alicia Garza, Co-founder Black Lives Matter
Re-claiming the right to pleasure
Even in the context of hardcore frontline activism, pleasure matters. And it matters especially in the lives of groups that are constantly told that their lives do not matter, never mind their pleasure. The Love Matters Pleasure Quiz was based on the premise that claiming your pleasure is the ultimate manifestation of self-care.
The quiz questions encouraged participants whatever their age, background or sexuality to claim their right to pleasure and explore the ways in which the message of sexual satisfaction could work for them. Whether it be pleasure from an orgasm or pleasure from watching a beautiful sunset; everyone agreed that this feeling is a right and not a privilege.
Photo by AWID
The diversity of the forum participants and of their experiences highlighted the fact that this event wasn’t a celebration of the feminist experience but of feminist experiences. Sessions spanned climate change, big oil, militarisation, capitalism, fundamentalism, disability, sexuality, indigenous rights, black rights and everything in between.
“Working across differences requires a stillness that holds the potential to shift the ordinariness of oppression.”- Tonya Haynes, Caribbean feminist and scholar
The celebration of this plurality is encapsulated by one of Audre Lorde’s famous sayings, strategically snuggled at the back of the AWID Forum schedule: “There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.”
The AWID Forum made it clear that as feminists and oppressed communities, we must break down the silos that divide us and unite across movements. We may not know exactly what the future holds, but the fire of feminism is burning bright.