Gender and Social Movements

In order for any action or intervention around rights, democracy and equality to be successful, it must include and value gender equality as part of its analysis and methodology for change. But while women's rights and gender justice are 'on the agenda' in many arenas, activists still encounter strong resistance to changing gendered politics and practices within social justice movements and allied organisations.

This Cutting Edge Pack is intended for a broad audience interested and/or involved in work around social movements and on women's rights and gender justice. The Overview Report contains: 

  • A framework for understanding social justice movements and some of the debates, challenges and tensions they face.
  • An introduction to women's and feminist movements, their visions and strategies, and the gains they have made over recent decades.
  • An overview of responses by broader social justice movements to issues of women's rights and gender justice.
  • An assessment of common challenges in building gender-just movements. 
  • A description of the core elements of gender-just movements. 
  • Some practical routes for nurturing social justice movements that challenge unjust gender power relations in all domains. 

The In Brief bulletin contains an overview article as well as two case studies featuring the CLOC-Via Campesina movement in Latin America, and the global human rights movement.

The Supporting Resources Collection can be found on our new mini website, which contains a collection of research, briefings, learning tools, case studies and multimedia materials on the topic.

Gender and Social Movements Cutting Edge Pack - Overview Report

Across the world there is an active, mass-based demand for an end to gendered injustice in all domains of our social, economic, political and cultural lives. Social movements – led by feminist, women’s and gender justice activists and movements – have been pivotal in demanding, making and sustaining these changes.

However, while women’s rights and gender justice are ‘on the agenda’ in many arenas, activists still encounter strong resistance to changing gendered politics and practices within movements and allied organisations.

This Overview Report makes the case for engaging with questions of women’s rights and transforming gender power relations across social movements committed to progressive visions of society. It draws on effective and promising strategies and reflects on challenges from existing movement practice. It incorporates both social movement theory and experience and analysis from social justice activists from across the world, who are engaged in supporting the advancement of women’s rights and gender justice as part of women’s movements and other social movements working towards development, human rights, justice, sustainability and peace.

Gender and Social Movements Cutting Edge Pack - In Brief bulletin

Social movements worldwide are a critical force for progressive social transformation, and have proven effective in generating change at levels that policy, law and development interventions alone have not achieved. Women’s rights activists and feminists globally have been active both in building women’s movements and participating in other progressive social movements. However, women’s active participation in social mobilisation does not guarantee that movements will take on the struggle for women's rights or embrace more just forms of gender power relations in their politics and practice.

This In Brief bulletin explains why it is so important for all progressive social movements to commit to thinking about and transforming women’s rights and patriarchal power relations, both in their external-facing activism and their internal cultures and practices. It considers some of the challenges that movements face in doing this, and sets out some ‘routes to gender-just movements’ that can be tried and adapted in different mobilisation settings. The two case studies, produced collaboratively with activists and movement leaders, illustrate some of these routes in action: in the global human rights movement, and the CLOC-Via Campesina movement in Latin America.

Gender and Social Movements Policy Brief No 1

How can donors support gender justice within and through social movements? Private and public donors have always played a part in progressive social movements, in particular by funding organisations that have either been created by movements, that provide services to movement members or the public or that are engaged in movement–building. The relationships between donors and movements, however, can be complex. Legal and policy frameworks around donor funding of civil society activities can affect both relationships within and strategies used by movements. This Policy Brief highlights strategies donors can take to advance women’s rights and gender justice in movements, drawing from successful approaches, such as the Dutch government’s MDG3 Fund, supporting organisations with strong links to women’s movements and grass-roots women’s activism. Such approaches have resulted in significant advances in mobilising women’s goals for collective power for change, building alliances with other movements and organisations and strengthening women’s leadership.

Gender and Social Movements Policy Brief No 2

How can social movements become more gender-just? Many seemingly progressive social movements do not consider gender equality fundamental to achieving social justice. They have yet to make it a consistent priority in either their internal policies or their external change strategies. In some cases there is strong ideological resistance; in most cases, experience shows that gender justice is recognised as important but hasn’t received the attention or priority it deserves. This Policy Brief is intended to support leaders in deepening their efforts to bring gender justice to their movements. The brief outlines political, cultural and learning strategies that can help movements to advance their gender awareness and proactive approach towards promoting women’s full participation and leadership. By highlighting examples from Shack/Slum Dwellers International, Amnesty International, the CLOC-Via Campesina movement, the National Coordinating Committee of Indigenous Women and others, the brief illustrates that only by integrating gender justice, movements are able to fully achieve social justice in such areas as human rights, housing, the environment and secure livelihoods.