Kicking off the 2016 AWID Forum; imagining #FeministFutures

Reflections from Preethi Sundaram, Policy and Advocacy Adviser at IPPF who is participating at the AWID forum

Today marked day 1 of the 2016 Association of Women's Rights in Development (AWID) Forum. Today’s sessions focused on “current realities”, with the opening session highlighting the divided world we live in and some of the real challenges that feminist activists face; the rise of the right, of fundamentalisms, a shrinking civil society space and less funding for women’s rights.

We discussed the overlapping privileges of class, race, ethnicity and caste that marginalize women; poor women, disabled women, black women. The Forum is being held in Bahia in Brazil purposefully to honour and acknowledge the struggles of black feminists in the area and also around the world. The declaration from the Black Feminists Forum, held from the 6-8th September, was read aloud on stage and sparked a swell of solidarity from across the room. As the indigenous women’s rights activist Myrna Cunningham eloquently reminded us ‘none of us are free until all of us are free’. And so the tone was set for a day of feminist exploration and hope.

IPPF spoke at a session organised by Women Deliver, discussing the new campaign ‘Deliver for Good’.  IPPF is the lead partner for sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and we raised the centrality of investing in SRHR for women and girls to realize their full range of human rights and to achieve sustainable development. We also participated at a session on abortion rights which highlighted the dire impact the criminalisation of abortion has on women’s lives. We heard about country specific contexts such as India where despite the existence of fairly liberal abortion laws, women struggle to access services, with many pregnancies being unplanned and unwanted.

A session on women’s economic rights and macro-economic policies challenged me to think more about how we can mobilize across the reproductive justice and economic justice movements. As reproductive justice advocates we must talk more about more about how macro-economic policies affect women’s SRHR if we are seeking to shift structural inequalities ( to read more about this issue, see a blog IPPF authored for the Oxfam Herseries on SRHR and women’s economic empowerment).

The day ended with a sobering tribute to the lives of women’s human rights defenders from around the world, many of whom have been killed because of their feminist activism. The lives of women who have fought tirelessly for the collective good were honoured and celebrated and the tribute ended with the words, “we honour our dead and fight like hell for the living” read out by women in Portuguese, English, Spanish, French and Arabic.

The first day of the AWID Forum has surpassed all expectations. Being surrounded by 2000 feminists from around the world, discussing issues of justice, destabalizing power structures, dismantling privilege and building solidarity across movements has revived the fight in me.

As we move on with tomorrow’s agenda, we’ll look at our vision ahead, and how together we can build a feminist future.

Follow what’s happening at the #AwidForum on twitter