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JASS launched movement-building in Zambia through broad-based consultation and assessment. Dialogue with diverse groups and leaders revealed that, despite its strong history in this country, women’s rights organizing seems demobilized in recent years, fragmented by competing issue agendas.
We have rights but we are still limited. Now it changes a lot, we can be candidates for election, for commune council, and also district council and deputy governor…women are encouraged to participate in society.– Workshop participant, Cambodia
“My safe space called the women’s movement is going, or even gone. It’s been taken over by men. And I am scared and angry," writes the provocative Zimbabwean feminist Everjoice Win on the JASS blog. When conducting an assessment for a movement building institute in Zambia, the JASS Southern Africa team was struck by the large number of men who are leading women’s organizations. A subject of debate, we invited Everjoice share her thoughts on this topic.
“We must involve the bosses. We can not move without them. The bosses are our partners. Many of them are just victims of the system too. Most of the employers mean well. All we need to do is raise their awareness and they will be ok. We did a workshop with some of the most senior bosses last year, just one workshop.
This morning, the women left. We had a great time but also experienced some Oh! moments. A young woman, six months pregnant, fell really sick. The truth is she came to the workshop sick. Most of the women we were with earlier this year look extremely wasted now. Part of the reason is that they are malnourished. Malawi is expensive. To remain connected on the internet for a week is almost US $ 100.
Tonight we decided to chill – candles, blankets, drinks, chips; creating the kind of accommodating and comfortable atmosphere that would allow the us to engage effectively with issues that are regarded as very personal, reflective, spiritual – a challenging process indeed.
Some of us wore expressions of a most unprofessional glee as Victoria, one of the women at the workshop, a teacher by profession, made us smile by sharing a story of how she has been using also the training acquired in the last JASS workshop to ‘disorganize’ her church. She demanded to talk about HIV and AIDS, thus ending the culture of silence and stigma regarding the subject. We used her story to invite the other participants to share their own experiences.
Hope Chigudu
Women living with HIV who are leaders in the AIDS movement in their communities in Malawi came together for the start of a four-day workshop organized by JASS. They started by creating startling and beautiful body maps. They did it without any artists to help. In groups of five, the women started by outlining their bodies on large sheets of paper. Each woman was drawn by the other women in the group. People stayed in their small groups to do this, sharing magic markers and other art materials. Through a series of imaginative exercises they added parts to the outline of their bodies.
JASS’ Malawi Movement Building Initiative – Amayi Tadzuka! Women Awake! –launched in February 2009 with three workshops in Lilongwe, Mzuzu, and Blantyre. Then, at the end of 2009, a national workshop consolidated the transformative process with district-level leaders from February, together with their national-level coordinators.
JASS (Just Associates)
JASS Southern Africa is building the leadership and organizing capacity of Malawian women to pressure local and national government to make development resources accessible and to deliver on laws that supportwomen and HIV‐positive people. By organizing the power of their numbers, women can make their voices heard in order to confront stigma, increase access to healthcare, and improve basic livelihoods.