“If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.” – Shirley Chisholm
This year, women took up space at many tables. Fed up, angry, and hungry for change, women-led organizing efforts exposed corruption, demanded an end to violence in our homes and schools, and defended the planet in the face of a climate crisis.
Building on years of under-the-radar organizing leading up to this moment, important victories gave us hope in an otherwise grim political landscape. In the U.S., young women, Native Americans, LGBTQ people, and women of color are poised to take their seats in Congress next month. In Mexico, women now comprise 51% of Mexico’s Congress – the result of decades of women’s rights advocacy – and half of the new cabinet, including the Interior Minister Olga Sánchez Cordero, whose humanitarian approach to asylum seekers stands in stark contrast to the militarized U.S. border. These election victories created promising possibilities for change, like the pursuit of justice and truth by mothers and family members of more than 37,000 missing and disappeared, resulting from the last decade of violence and the war on drugs.
Beyond headline news, women have resisted and created collective alternatives to the socialized inequalities, violence, and exploitation embedded in our current systems. Here are some of the key efforts that we, as the JASS network, helped build and were part of in 2018:
- In Zimbabwe’s first elections post-Robert Mugabe’s 37-year rule, JASS Southern Africa and our local partner, Institute for Young Women’s Development, gathered dozens of women from across the country to generate their own electoral manifesto: “What Women Want.” These demands were co-created by those most impacted by the economic crisis – women in informal settlements and markets, sex workers, and LGBTQ activists. This collaborative process initiated a future-oriented agenda towards a Zimbabwe that works for all women.
- In South Africa, JASS Southern Africa joined hundreds of women in organizing the #TotalShutdown to call for an end to all forms of violence. The intersectional march brought together women from all walks of life and promised a fresh, broad women’s agenda for the country.
- In the Philippines, JASS Southeast Asia joined our Filipina sisters and human rights allies to defy a de-facto state of siege to speak out against the “terrorist list” that targeted more than 70 women defenders. JASS Southeast Asia worked with allies to release a bold statement and generated national media attention to join women’s voices to the international pressure on Duterte’s government.
- In Guatemala, 34 years after the unthinkable abuse and enslavement they endured during the country’s Civil War, Q’eqchi’ women won their case against the military, finally receiving reparations and recognition, while paving the way for other survivors of sexual abuse to break their silence. We celebrated with our sisters, as our staff and allies in Guatemala have played a critical role in supporting this process over the last several years.
- In Honduras, we closed the year with an important but incomplete victory on the long road to justice, when the courts convicted seven men of the murder of indigenous environmental defender and feminist Berta Cáceres. Led by her family and organization, the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), this case has been a priority for all of us in JASS and an opportunity for extraordinary solidarity among many. It has exposed the collusion among oligarchs, corporate interests, and government authorities aimed at stealing natural resources and silencing dissenters. The struggle to hold Berta’s killers accountable has surfaced the damage of the “economic development model” and made visible the enormous work that women are doing to defend the earth and life.
These examples of women-led mobilizations and advocacy were only possible due to years of sustained grassroots organizing, leadership development, alliance building, and most importantly, the under-the-radar education and community organizing that change the culture and values underlying misogyny, racism, and exploitation. This has been the heart of our work at JASS for more than a decade since we launched Imagining and Building Women’s Movements of the Future in 2006.
Your support and collaboration over the past decade has allowed us to do this vital work. Together, we have prepared women to win crucial battles for health care, livelihoods, safety, and the environment while democratizing their communities, families, organizations, and political institutions – and we continue to build the next generation of leaders. But our strength and power to bring about change is threatened every day by violence and increasingly repressive governments. Never before has it been so crucial to build women’s voice and power, and invest in community-based political education, leadership, and organizing.
We need your support and donations to keep up the momentum of grassroots women leaders to be safer, stronger, and louder. Your dedication to our growing global community means women activists have more resources to ensure community self-defense and opportunities to multiply their collective power to confront crises and build a better future, starting in the places where they live and fight.
As a JASS supporter, you’re already aware of what women can do: when we’re mobilized, we win against incredible odds. We need you with us as we dig deep into the roots of the world’s problems – and work with women to offer solutions. Join us for the next 10 years of Imagining and Building Women’s Movements of the Future by making a monthly contribution today.