The 13th Association for Women In Development (AWID) International Forum was held in Bahia, Brazil in mid September 2016. The 2016 forum brought together 1700 activists from over 140 countries.
Problems and Purpose
The Association for Women in Development (AWID) is an NGO promoting women’s rights and the feminist movement. The issues discussed at the 2016 forum focused on funding of women’s rights groups in developing countries, assessing the impact of poverty in the fight for gender equality, ending violence against women, and women fighting for climate and environmental justice. Participants at the forum were women from all countries and organizations working together to solve issues facing the feminist movement. There were also participants from grass roots organizations including Grassroots Global Justice Alliance (GGJA) and World March of Women (WMW) and Coalition for African Lesbians (CAL).
The summit is held every three to four years. The forum brings together underrepresented or marginalized communities, including indigenous women, sex workers, women with disabilities, and feminist and migrant-worker activists and advocates. In general, the conference focuses on amplifying the collective voice of those advocating for women’s rights in both private and public spaces. Historically, the summit has sought to raise awareness of such issues to government entities, other NGOs, and local communities in an effort to increase overall funding in combating gender rights challenges.
Funding for organizations like AWID have decreased by more than half over the last five years. Securing more funds for such organizations to carry out their respective campaigns and grassroots movements has been at the core of both consecutive AWID forums.
Funding for the forum was provided by different organizations including the WILPF (Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom), the Ford Foundation, and various other organizations that are working on gender equality.. WILPF funded international participants to attend the Forum as WILPF delegates. However, most of the funding was raised through registration fees. The fees listed below covered only part of the approximately $700 USD in direct Forum costs per person. The fees were also a bit high because the Forum is a multi-lingual event, and there are significant costs associated with interpretation equipment and professional interpreters, as well as the technical and logistical coordination of more than 200 different and often simultaneous sessions and events. For more information on the resources click here.
Deliberation, Decisions, and Public Interaction
Participants were selected from 140 countries including women’s and transgender activists totaling to 1700 participants who are active member of the organization.
The forum aimed to celebrate the gains of the past 20 years by diverse social movements and critically analyze the lessons carried forward, assess current reality to locate opportunities and threats for advancing the rights of women, and explore strategies for mobilizing greater solidarity and collective power across diverse movements. Most importantly, the forum aims to put funding for women’s rights organizations at the top of the agenda.
Guiding questions were presented to facilitate the discussion during participant-led sessions. Interaction was face-to-face; the platforms listed below were available to facilitate discussion and deliberation. Virtual participation was also encouraged through online live streaming of plenary events and subsequent discussion on social media using hashtag #AWIDForum.
Languages at the Forum: All plenary sessions and as many breakout sessions as possible had simultaneous interpretation into English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, and Arabic.
- Sessions: Means to engage at the Forum to share and build analysis
- Plenaries: Forum participants come together and are invited to think and frame questions for each day, and provoke debate and discussion amongst the diverse movements present. Expanding beyond "expert panels" - AWID Forum Plenaries incorporate various ways of participating.
- Umbrella Issue Sessions: pre-Forum work with partners on urgent issues translates into 3-hour, in-depth sessions at the Forum to help deepen and formalize cross-movement engagement.
- Cross-movement Initiatives: three-hour sessions spotlight ripe opportunities for cross-movement engagement
- Participant-led sessions: 200 interactive sessions aiming to build more inclusive movements, based on our diverse struggles and the latest analysis.
- Rally: aims to mobilize and show solidarity with local activists in Salvador
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
Participation in the feminist forum effectively involved 1700 women’s and transgender rights activists from 140 countries. The forum explored diverse range of issues could not be pinned down to specific individual needs of the 1700 women participants, rather, it was rallying call on governments and societies to create an enabling platform for women all over the world. It was also an attempt to to coalesce and drive momentum for the budding feminist movement and more pertinently to get voices of feminists and women living in less-privileged locations and in less developed countries heard by using the art of storytelling to give voice to their personal experiences.
The participants made a resolution and a commitment to facilitate engagement with fellow women across countries and to understand the peculiar needs of women from different regions of the world. The forum was about building a social capital of women across counties who are attuned to the challenges of other women from less privileged countries and lending a hand to help them.