The Power of Convening
Something very powerful happens when we, women human rights activists, meet in person: we are reminded of the extraordinary power of solidarity and then, possibilities are born.
It is not that we do not know that there are many of us, throughout the world, engaged in a constant battle against patriarchy, misogyny, and oppression. We do know. But in the midst of the struggle, the daily attacks, the need to react and make decisions quickly, coping with threats and loss, many of our sisters feel isolated—not just from those of us in other countries, but also from those fighting a similar fight in their same country.
Sometimes it is physical distances and armed conflicts that make it difficult for activists in the same country to meet. Sometimes it is the manipulation of identities by regimes in a quest to divide their own people, and the reflection of these divisions within national women human rights movements. Or sometimes we simply do not know of each other’s existence because there are not enough resources to ensure that our relationships are established and nurtured.
Last month, I attended a convening in Iraq co-sponsored by the Global Fund for Women and organized by the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq, Asuda for Combating Violence Against Women, Madre, and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. Participating in the convening were 26 women human rights defenders from across the country, many of whom were meeting each other for the first time. The convening lasted for two days, during which time activists representing the country’s rich—and yet torn—cultural diversity developed concrete, practical, and comprehensive recommendations for ongoing gender-sensitive reconstruction and stabilization efforts throughout Iraq. Most importantly, they learned of each other’s existence and work. The conversations I witnessed during these two days were of such a vitality that I left Iraq hungry for more; more convenings, more discussions, more relationships, and finally, more common and collective work. We know that we cannot win on our own as individual women human rights groups, so the question is, what can we do to ensure we work in symphony, and how do we get there together?
Providing a safe platform for women human rights activists to meet, talk, share, learn from each other, plan, and keep in touch is not only important for the strengthening of movements, but a requirement for their survival.
So to you, all my sisters, those I know and those I am yet to meet, may we always be strengthened by each other’s solidarity and have the chance to meet each other soon.
Program Officer for Middle East and North Africa
Global Fund for Women