2016: You Add, We Multiply


By: 
Adelaide Mazwarira

2016 has been a year of, "mourning and mobilizing". Despite tough circumstances everywhere, JASS is rich with stories of hope and change. It’s been a busy and exciting year for us and we would like to share some of the highlights that have inspired and affirmed the work we do.

WOMEN’S LEADERSHIP: STRONGER AND SAFER

To support women on the frontlines of crisis so they can be, ever “stronger, safer and louder,” we have been hosting and facilitating a series of trainings and dialogues focused on the intersection of power and safety, particularly in relation to women activists who are defending their lands and resources against the devastating impacts of extractive industries. These dialogues bring together women activists from diverse movements to better understand the risks they face, share strategies for protection, and build connections for joint action and greater impact. Together with our partners, we are getting a clearer picture of the challenges and opportunities of this political moment as spaces for activism are being threatened and increasingly shut down. We are developing broader approaches and analyses of what it means and takes to protect activists, while increasing women’s capacity to lead change efforts and stay safe.

This training has been very important to me because it nurtures my struggle and I leave with greater knowledge as I fight to defend our communities and our rights as women.” –  Consuelo Castillo, Honduran Women Defender

SAFE HAVEN FOR LBT ACTIVISTS

Young women at One Day, One Voice IndonesiaFAMM-Indonesia (Forum Aktivis Perempuan Muda) – a 350+ young women’s alliance of LBT, Muslim, rural and indigenous women – that we co-created and continue to accompany has built a safe haven for LBT activists who are being harassed on the street and social media, and ostracized by their families and communities. FAMM is breaking the shame and stigma by creating safe spaces that give LBT activists an opportunity to share their struggles, identify common challenges and collectively develop strategies to address them. FAMM’s safe haven is helping to energize and restore activists’ hope, strengthen their leadership, and sustain their activism for the long haul. 

I realized quite early in my life that I wasn’t going to be “good woman” as expected by my family and culture. I felt ashamed and constantly felt the need to change myself to be a “good woman”. But this all changed in 2007 when I met JASS. JASS gave me a safe space that makes me feel like I can be any person I want to be and still be accepted. – Maria Mustika, FAMM

BERTA MULTIPLIED

Berta protests NYCWe started the year with the loss of our friend and close partner, Berta Cáceres, a Honduran indigenous leader and environmental-feminist activist. JASS together with many allies have been at the center of action – mobilizing and sustaining the important visibility around Berta’s work and why she was assassinated. We are playing a critical role in bringing attention to the realities of many women like Berta, who are under attack for protecting their rivers, forests and communities. This issue is now on the agenda of many international human rights bodies and policymakers including UN Special Rapporteurs, who have called for protection of environmental activists to be recognized as a human rights issue:

Environmental rights defenders are often branded ‘anti-development’ but they're working to make development sustainable…If we continue to fail to protect those fighting to protect the environment, what new disasters will we face in another 20 years? – UN Special Rapporteurs John H Knox, Michel Forst and Victoria Tauli-Corpuz

HIV-POSITIVE WOMEN’S VOICES COUNT

HIV-positive women at workshopWe are so proud of our longtime Zimbabwean activist and friend, Martha Tholanah who was honored with the 2016 Elizabeth Taylor Human Rights Award during the 21st International AIDS Conference in July. Martha was recognized for her courageous work in fighting for the rights of women living with HIV and the LGBTI community. The conference which kicked off in Durban, South Africa, gathered 18,000 people including scientists, researchers, policymakers and celebrities around the theme, Access and Equity. Yet, the conference’s high registration and participation fee meant that the majority most affected by HIV particularly, poor women, were excluded from attending. To ensure their voices were present, JASS and Oxfam teamed up to convene and participate in various pre-and-post conference events—helping to create a parallel space dedicated to HIV+ women leading grassroots solutions in Southern Africa, and in producing a statement from them that was publicized and broadly circulated.  

I am not an educated woman like the rest of you. I am an ordinary woman from the village and the first time I met JASS I could not speak one word of English.... Look at me now…I represent myself and speak for myself. This is a huge change. JASS has given me a second life, a good one too.” – Tiwonge Gondwe, Malawian Activist – Our Bodies, Our Lives

MOVEMENT BUILDING REIMAGINED!

ICT TOOLKIT + WE RISEWe launched two new resources: We Rise: Movement Building Reimagined, and ICTs for Feminist Movement Building Activist Toolkit. We Rise is new dynamic, interactive and accessible online knowledge-building platform that was created by JASS to share an array of methodologies, tools, insights and strategies from our work and from the efforts of our networks and partners in Southern Africa, Mesoamerica and Southeast Asia. The ICT Toolkit is a practical guide for activists who want to build responsive, sustainable and effective communications strategies that support movement building work and amplify women’s voices, published by JASS in partnership with the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) and Women’sNet.

Thanks to JASS for putting these tools up for all of us.  I am inspired.  I look forward to using them to help us bring women together without fear and start challenging these neo-liberal systems that are oppressing us.”  Participant in a We Rise and ICT Toolkit Workshop