Feminist Popular Education

no-9-costa-rica-jassThe JASS community is steeped in a particularly political way of learning, analyzing, and taking action. From the beginning, this approach – feminist popular education – has shaped JASS’ vision and strategies. Drawing on the thinking and experience of many pioneering popular educators within the network, JASS set out to better understand and define how feminist popular education shapes our movement-building in different contexts.

“Popular education” comes from Latin America where “popular” means “of, for and by people.” It is a learning approach where people teach and learn from each other by critically examining their lives and contexts, and the issues that matter most to them. By questioning the structural and ideological causes of these issues, the learning process raises awareness, helps empower people, and defines a shared agenda for their organizing and joint actions. Attributed to the ground-breaking political work of Brazilian scholar and activist Paulo Freire, popular education was forged within peasant land struggles, influenced revolutionary movements against dictatorships in Latin America, and shaped grassroots struggles for justice in the USA and around the world for decades. Where initial approaches identified class as the major force creating social hierarchies, feminists and racial justice activists from the 1970s onwards have added gender, race, and other dimensions shaping inequality.

Recognizing how the private sphere is often the primary force shaping women’s internalized oppression, feminists identify multiple, intersecting markers of oppression, including gender, class, sexuality, age, ability, nationality, location, and ethnicity. JASS is contributing to these important advances in philosophy and pedagogy today with strategies that combine individual and collective empowerment aimed at problem-solving while building more dynamic movements for greater influence and social change.

Popular education is an educational approach that collectively and critically examines everyday experiences and raises consciousness for organizing and movement-building, acting on injustice with a political vision in the interest of the most marginalized. ~ Paolo Freire

jass-seaFeminist Popular Education in practice

JASS political facilitators apply the same core principles in every region:

  • Create a safe space of trust and solidarity
  • Start with the concrete experiences of women’s daily live
  • Use stories, art, theater and other ways to generate open-ended questions that promote critical and creative thinking and deepen understanding about power
  • Promote learning by doing, connected to concrete problems and practical solutions
  • Prioritize reflection, dialogue and action as the primary way to learn
  • Acknowledge and address diversity, power dynamics and conflict
  • Recognize the need to challenge assumptions and probe alternatives
  • Share new information and terms that enable participants to name what they are experiencing and see the global forces behind the local and personal
  • Tap women’s sense of hope, inspiration, and joy
  • Provide time for self-care and personal renewal