When I entered the ‘women’s movements in Europe‘ session at the 2017 EFC’s annual conference yesterday, I immediately felt a very concentrated, energized atmosphere and a strong desire of the audience to participate in the debate.
The speakers described desperate situations of women in their countries, who are facing – or facing the risk of – enormous backlash due to the raise of conservatism, religious fundamentalism, far right politics, and top leaders’ machismo.
Numerous examples were given of human rights violation against women all over the world.
Then I realized I don’t see significant short term signs of such trends in my little country of Belgium, even if we have to stay very vigilant towards some religious communities.
At the end, traditional questions to philanthropists in the room were obviously ‘What can be done, what is our role?’.
Among the various recommendations that have been made, I think one of the most important quotes of the session was ‘We need to help to create a critical mass to be able to resist’.
In concrete terms, this means we need to fund more women’s groups. The NGO front line workers need to be supported by the more powerful women’s movements meaning we need to support the big and the small.
The feminist movement needs resources to act and resist. But it cannot win the fight alone!
If the women’s rights are in danger (knowing that conservatism and fundamentalism are not male monopoly), the strategy should include powerful politics and NGO’s, composed of male and female prominent leaders, who also share the feminist points of view. They are more numerous that we can imagine.
However, yesterday there was only one man in the room! Solidarity is in the heart of sisterhood and is the theme of the conference.
We visibly need to involve our male colleagues coming from different foundations in these discussions.
Therefore we would need some creativity… and courage ?
Françoise Pissart is Director of the King Baudouin Foundation.
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