At the Crossroads: Rethinking the Critical Advocacies of the Women's Movements
Montes-Rocas, Necta, Ibanez, Malen, Women in Action
There have been many long strides and turning points for the women's movement since the UN Decade for Women (1975-1985), marked at each point by binding frameworks and policies enacted at international, regional and national levels to provide human security to women. (1) The global campaign for women's human rights was aimed to move the advocacy to address centuries of suffering, injustices and discrimination that society has continued to inflict on women to another stage that seeks social transformation. In these times and confronted still by many contradictions and compounding issues of political-religious fundamentalisms, war and militarism, and an intensification of neo-liberal imperialist agenda, the women's movement(s) face new challenges (in the midst of an acknowledged backlash) and impetus to examine the different facets of feminist organising.
Isis International-Manila actively participated in a collaborative effort of several global and regional women's networks (e.g,, Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN), African Women's Development and Communication Network (FEMNET), Women's International Coalition for Economic Justice (WICEJ)) to organise the international Feminist Dialogues, held on 14-15 January 2004 in Mumbai, India, in conjunction with the World Social Forum 2004. The Feminist Dialogues meeting was an opportunity for feminists to meet and discuss four thematic areas: reproductive rights, sexuality, human rights and local and global movements. This meeting provided space for the articulation and exchange of views on, and insights into, the different political projects of the women's movements over the years. The women invited to the forum came from a broad spectrum of political platforms and advocacy positions, even if some commonality on issues such as globalisation, increased militarism, and fundamentalisms were implicit. The two days proved much too short, and many wished for more time to formulate more conclusive thoughts from such a process.
Even so, the Feminist Dialogue clearly showed that the women's movement is at a crossroads. The diversity and subjectivity of perspectives amongst feminist and women activists around advocacy platforms that had been core to the women's movements make it essential for us, as feminists and women activists, to persist in critiquing, debating and more strongly articulating their points of commonality, while recognising our political and ideological differences.
To continue this process of open feminist debate on issues of critical concern to the women's movements, Isis International-Manila and Women and Gender Institute (WAGI) of Miriam College, Philippines held a one-day forum in April 2004. Entitled "At the Crossroads: Rethinking the Critical Advocacies of the Women's Movements," the forum aimed to provide a space for the examination of two more advocacy agendas of central importance to the women's movement: violence against women (VAW) and gender mainstreaming. This forum was also put together as part of Isis International's reflection on how it has moved on after three decades as a feminist information and communications organisation working within the women's movements. Specifically, Isis is striving to find new ways of responding to the diverse and changing needs of the women's movements, cognizant that women's advocacy and issues are now located not only in the women's movements but also in many social justice movements working within sectoral and issue-based campaigns such as the environment, health, education, and peace.
Violence against women (VAW) and gender mainstreaming were chosen as topics for the day-long forum because these are pivotal strategies of the women's movement, yet these two areas have generated some of the most heated debates, most diverse interpretations and even acrimonious points of departure within and outside the women's movement. One could argue that VAW and gender mainstreaming as conceptual categories are so "mainstreamed. …