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Transforming economic power to advance women's rights

Posted by Chloe Safier Regional Gender Lead

12th Apr 2012

Women smallholder farmers in Malawi
Chloe Safier on the power of collaborative action, ahead of the Association for Women's Rights in Development (AWID) Forum, which takes place in Istanbul from April 19 to 22 2012.

Last year's Arab Spring events have demonstrated the immense power that grassroots organising, social media, and collective power can have in creating change. We've seen revolutions and protests, campaigns and online actions, resonating with greater impact than ever before. Women, and women's rights organizations, have remained an essential part of the momentum of these movements and activities.

This sense of collaborative energy is sure to resonate at the Association for Women's Rights in Development (AWID) Forum, which will take place in Istanbul from April 19 to 22. The Forum, which occurs every four years, brings together a couple thousand women's rights activists, advocates and champions from around the world to celebrate accomplishments, learn about the new frontiers of women's rights work, and inspire new ideas in this arena.

The theme of this year's forum is "transforming economic power." This comes at a crucial time; as the world economy shifts and contracts, and as donors are tightening their belts, and food and water resources become more scarce and land grabs more frequent, women and women's organizations face different kinds of challenges.

Climate change, conflict, labor rights and governance

The forum will be exploring issues related to economic power through various lenses and in several contexts; in-depth sessions include discussions on climate change, militarism and conflict, women's labor rights, and global governance. Four plenary sessions will host panels of activists and advocates to facilitate conversations and discussions on economic empowerment issues. A detailed program is available on AWID's forum website.

Oxfam is excited to support several events at the forum, and to highlight the work of our partners and allies throughout the event. We will be organizing an interactive session jointly with our ally WOCAN, which will strengthen participants' ability to strategize to transform an unjust food system, and influence food and agriculture policies in support of women's rights, sustainable agriculture and the environment. It will draw on participant experience, advocacy tools, and recent research on women's collective organizing in agriculture.

Female Food Heroes

Oxfam will be also supporting partners and allies to attend the forum. We are particularly excited to note that a number of Female Food Heroes from Tanzania will be attending the forum. The Female Food Hero (FFH) project, which has online and offline activities, is taking place in various iterations in Canada, Tanzania, Nigeria, Armenia, Russia, Bolivia, Guatemala, Peru, Philippines, and Tajikistan. The project is part of GROW, Oxfam's global campaign for food justice in a resource-constrained world. The Female Food Hero project aims to publicly recognize the efforts of women in food security, and realize the challenges they face.

Anna, a Female Food Hero from Tanzania who will be attending the AWID forum, speaks of her experience: "There was a time when men used to forbid their wives to visit or come anywhere near me. They told everyone that I was cursed and I was treated as an outcast. Now things are changing. Men cannot call a meeting in my community without consulting me first."

Women as producers

The Gender & Development journal will be hosting its regular AWID Forum reception in Istanbul. As well as offering delegates the chance to learn more about the journal, the reception will feature a photo exhibition focusing on women as producers and processors of food. The journal is delighted that one of the Tanzanian winners of the Female Food Hero competition will be joining them for the evening.

Oxfam staff will also be in attendance, to connect with partners, other INGOs, and activists in order to keep a finger on the pulse of new trends, sources of action and discussions in the women's rights network. Delegates can find the Oxfam stand situated at Kuleli Foyer in the Halic Congress Center.

Blog post written by Chloe Safier

Regional Gender Lead

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