Feminist organizations around the world face remarkably different challenges. Some have a very wide mandate, trying to fix as many problems in structural gender equality as possible over a giant area; others focus on a very specific issue in hopes of providing lasting solutions. So why do we need to know about international, non-Western feminist organizations? The big reason is this: feminism isn't just white, straight, and Western. The fight for women's rights is a diverse one, encompassing many different struggles worldwide. Seeing feminism through these different prisms emphasizes the local and universal natures of the fight for equality; every woman has her own particular struggles against entrenched gender issues, and there's no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach.
It's a complete lie to say that women in the U.S. and other Western countries are protected from gender inequality; rape culture, the wage gap, and societal expectations of womanhood continue to be toxic. But it's also important to be conscious of the extent of difficulties elsewhere, and what's being done to combat them. There's no hierarchy of feminist needs; everybody deserves their rights, whether they're next door or on the other side of the world. With that in mind, here are some of the most remarkable feminist organizations fighting for gender equality around the world, from Pakistan to Honduras.
If you're in a giving mood, they're definitely a good place to donate some spare cash; but spreading their message is also a good way to contribute.
The African Women's Development Fund
Picking one feminist-oriented organization across the entire African continent is a tricky choice; but the reach and range of the African Women's Development Fund (AWDF) distinguishes it as one of the biggest players in the realm of women's rights in Africa right now. Their role isn't grassroots; it's as a funding body, attracting the big bucks to distribute to companies, organizations, and activists across Africa that further feminist ideals, from education to female-led industry. They've handed out $26 million to 1,235 women-led organizations in 42 African countries.
One of its most crucial elements is that it's not a foreign-led organization attempting to proscribe feminist solutions in an unfamiliar country; as activist Jessica Horn writes, the basis of its grant-giving is "its total commitment to responding to and resourcing the activism and methodologies that African women themselves propose as solutions to the continent’s crises." On the ground, that means education programs for girls about HIV/AIDS in Zimbabwe, a specific fund for ideas for combating gender-based violence, and investments in local women's businesses.
To check it out, go to http://awdf.org
CREA, a 26-person organization based out of New Delhi, is focusing on some very specific methods to bring about gender equality. They run educational courses based on various fundamental aspects of global feminism, and hold workshops for the courses around the world, from Africa to Southeast Asia. Currently, the courses are divided into four prongs: developing effective female leaders worldwide, educating women's rights defenders about gender violence and strategies to defeat it, giving insight into sexuality and reproductive health, and enhancing the visibility of more marginalised women's groups, including the disabled and LGBTQ. The theory? Educated, well-trained women are the best advocates for their own freedom and rights.
To check it out, go to http://www.creaworld.org/who-we-are/vision-mission
Being a feminist in Pakistan can be an extremely dangerous business. The people behind the NGO Aurat, though, aren't letting that stop them. The formidable organization is challenging patriarchy across a host of different areas, from children's education to violence against women. Its remit is vast; at the moment it's running projects to encourage women to enrol their children in preschool in return for a small cash payout, give grants to other women's organizations, examine how women's voices are represented in Pakistani politics, collect real data on violence against women, and more.
"We see ourselves as essentially an organization for women’s empowerment," executive director Nigar Ahmad told the Washington Report On Middle East Affairs back in 1996, when the organization was only 10 years old. "We see this as women’s participation in government requiring women’s control of knowledge, resources and institutions. This cannot be done except in a large context for social change."
To check it out, go to http://www.af.org.pk/index.php
Fraternal Black Organization of Honduras
From the very general to the extremely specific: the Fraternal Black Organization of Honduras is based around defending the rights of the Garifuna community, whose indigenous land rights have been threatened by development across Honduras. The thing that distinguishes them from other land-rights organizations, though, is that the Garifuna are traditionally matrilineal, and the society and culture they're defending is a strongly woman-focused one.
"The Garifuna live in a matrilineal society," a Fraternal Black Organization organizer told Telesur; "we play a fundamental role and women are at the forefront of our resistance. Women are making decisions and are the principal safeguards of our people." It's an activist group run largely by women, through advocacy, protests, radio networks and Garifuna-language education. As a feminist organization, it's basically unique in the world.
To check it out, go to http://ofraneh.org/ofraneh/index.html
Fiji Women's Rights Movement
The Fiji Women's Rights Movement, founded back in 1986, was created to battle the legal obstacles facing women across Fiji, and it's been expanding ever since. Now its focus is on both undoing structural prejudice across institutions and on creating new generations of women leaders in Fiji. It's a pretty powerful legal force: it's the body that creates the report for the UN on whether Fiji is obeying the Convention on the Elimination Of All Forms Of Discrimination Against Women, and has successfully lobbied for new laws on family, employment fairness, domestic violence, and other key issues for gender equality. This is a group with muscle.
To check it out, go to http://www.fwrm.org.fj
There's a bigger conclusion to be drawn here: feminism isn't just American, and the needs for women's rights to be attended to across the globe encompass many different approaches, communities, issues, and personalities. But it's comforting to know that the fight is worldwide.