DAY 1 – Confronting hegemonies
Black, Third World, Indigenous and queer feminists have diagnosed and critiqued hegemonic power, throwing light on the invisible and interlocking ways that the powerful maintain control, in particular the control over gender, reproduction, sexuality as fundamental to prevailing systems of power. For system change to happen, progressive forces that stand for social, gender and environmental justice, human rights, democracy, equality and solidarity need to directly confront and overthrow the existing hegemonies that are driving the world towards further crises and disaster. From a South Feminist perspective the existing “matrix of power” is a collusion of forces—cisheteropatriarchy, neo-imperialism, white supremacy and transnational capitalism—which has created global hierarchies of privilege, access, opportunity and accumulation along gendered, racial, geographical, ethnic and caste lines. Systems that previously could act as counter powers— the state, international human rights law, regional and South-South blocs have been massively weakened and co-opted.
DAY 2 – Building a new knowledge base for South Feminist activism
Decolonial and post colonial theorists assert that the current hierarchies of power (colonial matrix of power or global coloniality) consist of four interrelated domains: control of economy, control of authority, control of gender and sexuality and control of subjectivity and knowledge. Neoliberalism has neutralised efforts toward endogenous knowledge production and intermediation in the South, relegating the same to the peripheries of a colonial knowledge political economy. South Feminist knowledge and theory must be foundational to our theories of change. As with all political and social movements South Feminist theory, histories, research, analysis, ‘diagnostics’, information anddata are needed to nourish our action and movement building.
Within the development sector, the geographical (North/South), gendered and racial bias in knowledge production and dissemination and uptake persist. Feminist knowledge, particularly from the Global South is continually marginalised in academia, policy making and even ironically in gender and development discourse and spaces. Furthermore the donor driven nature of womxn’s rights work has too often reflected the interests of Western liberal feminists, the colonial white saviour complex of the aid industry and imperialist linguistic divisions across geographies of the Global South.
DAY 3 – Reclaiming South South Internationalism
The development or international cooperation landscape is itself changing rapidly, particularly as corporate actors seek either to replicate these spaces–but without the necessary binding commitments, or have now entrenched themselves as funders and unelected actors in various UN organisations. In the process of a rapidly emerging conversation on international global governance, it is very clear that there are determined attempts to dismantle, weaken and discredit the existing international human rights and multilateral cooperation particularly those in the ambit of the UN. Critically many attacks on the UN from the ‘anti-gender’ religious right are specifically targeted at its womxn’s rights, LGBTQ+ rights and human rights systems. South Feminist movements must lead with critique, analysis and proposals for preserving the integrity of multilateralism, international cooperation, international human rights law, and global governance.
DAY 4 – Reimagining development
Undoubtedly the development agenda has been hijacked giving rise to a chorus from activists and movements, justifiably so, for a rejection of development calling instead for social and economic justice. For many communities, development has come to mean pursuit of unstopping, unstoppable economic growth at the cost of their livelihoods and resources. Hard as it will be, the project of reclaiming the right to development which includes the right to self determination must be undertaken: development, the rights based approach and social justice are not in opposition, they are in fact interlinked but not the same thing.
Alternative visions and models of development that center those on the periphery of capitalism – womxn, trans and non-binary people, workers, indigenous people – as well as alternatives to development need to be nourished. South Feminist alternatives that value (though not necessarily always monetise) the reproductive economy – including the care and environmental economies – towards a fundamental reorganisation have to be promoted.
DAY 5 – Strategies for change and resistance
The foremost challenge for South Feminist Futures, activists and movements is confronting hegemonies as they become more repressive and brutal. The choice, however, is clear: the next 5-10 years will be instrumental in where the world is headed, who will be victors and who will be victims. It cannot be business as usual. The waves of protests in the Global South and North against the failures of neoliberalism prior to COVID19 was already being met with intensified brutality at the hands of both fascist paramilitary forces, authoritarian and supposedly centrist governments. The COVID pandemic has further delegitimised the neoliberal and corporate elite, resulting in mounting popular anger at a global power system that has either been ineffective at managing the pandemic, indifferent to people’s plight and shockingly rapacious in capturing dedicated public resources.
Despite the evident failure of the neoliberal model and the mayhem it has predictably generated, it is naïve to believe that the institutions in charge of keeping the current system in place will admit to their failures and agree to the many alternatives that have been put before them since the 2008 financial crisis and even before. It is no longer simply a question of developing alternatives, the generational question we are faced with is how to push those alternatives to lead a new global agenda. This is of course made even harder by the failure of electoral politics to push alternatives, new monopolies and streams of wealth accumulation through digital technologies and the collapse of the post-Cold War western order. At the same time, this is an opportunity and hope that South Feminist movements should seize upon to take leadership in shaping the new world order.