Five Feminist Resolutions for 2017

2017 has already proven to be a tough year for feminists. And we can expect to be tried and tested for the many months to come. As we look to the coming battles, here are five feminist New Year’s resolutions:

1. Show up

After more than four million feminists showed up for the Women’s March on Washington and the 300+ sister marches globally, it is safe to say we are getting good at this one. But, it is crucial we continue to show up for what we believe in. Whether that be to continue marching, or to meet other feminists in your city, or to support feminist films, books, and concerts. While social media is an incredibly powerful tool to link the global community, cultivating a physical community is equally important and special. In 2017, let’s make sure we are there for our fellow females, and remember that together we are stronger.

2. Volunteer

Alongside showing up for events, protests, and meet-ups, we must continue to support the incredible work of Planned Parenthood, ACLU, National Organization for Women, and even Girls’ Globe. You can make a difference with your money, time, or simply advocating for an organization in your own network. Many of these organizations will come under threat over the course of the Trump Administration and we cannot let that happen. Whatever level of participation you can commit to helps, and a little empathy and altruism never hurt anybody.

3. Speak up

Silence is acceptance. And if there was ever a time we needed to elevate women’s voices, it’s now. Contrary to what some have said, words do matter. And words have impact. If we collectively speak up about what we believe in, what we value, and what is not okay to us, we will be heard. It is so easy to accept and internalize the patriarchy that surrounds us, but we cannot let it get us down. We can be empowered by our collective experiences and rather than commiserate, we can rise up. With every social media post, face-to-face conversation, video on Million Women’s Voices, and blog post written we will slowly, but surely dismantle the patriarchy.

4. Educate

I do not know everything. You do not know everything. No one knows everything. But to be an effective ally we must know the facts. In the spirit of intersectionality, we must remember that women’s rights, our legal system, our criminal justice system, our environment, and our public policies are all connected. While you certainly do not have to fight for every issue, knowing the facts is a solid step to continuing effective advocacy.   While certain pieces of the media have simply disregarded the truth as “alternative facts,” it is important to know why we fight, how we fight, and the statistics behind it. With the advent of fake news and spun falsehoods in our social media sphere, it can be easy to end up in a Facebook feud over what is true.

5. Self care

Being a wild feminist in 2017 will not be easy and in fighting all our fights, remember to take care of yourself. Fighting the patriarchy is a lifelong battle, and it does the movement no good for you to burn out. So when you’re feeling down, take a bubble bath, cuddle with your kitten, pop on a feminist film on Netflix. Staying motivated, passionate, and driven is exhausting, so after a long day subverting patriarchal paradigms, treat yourself.

One New Year’s Resolution to Keep: True Solidarity

Women aren’t free until all women are free. Our rights are not fulfilled until all of our rights are met. It is time for us to take things personally and it is time to show true solidarity.

Girls’ Globe is all about raising the voices of women and girls and sharing inspirational stories to create lasting change. We bridge the gap between cultures and communities and have become a global network of young women and grassroots organizations working tirelessly to improve the lives of women and girls in their communities. We also bridge the gap between young women and international decision-makers, creating meaningful meetings for young women to hold leaders accountable and for leaders to learn from true changemakers. We know that more needs to be done – especially after this year.

2016 has been full of scary events that have deprived people of their dignity, rights and lives, and it is more important than ever to stand together and stand up for each other. We cannot move forward if some of us are held back. We need to realize our interconnectedness.

As I look ahead to the new year, I am filled with hopes for a fresh start and to leave some things behind. This week, my good friends and I will be sitting down for a goal-setting evening, where we will discuss S.M.A.R.T. goals to stay healthy, motivated, and engaged. I know that I am a dreamer, an optimist and a true believer of positive change, and although some may call it hopeless, I have seen firsthand how goal-setting has led to real breakthroughs and lasting change.

If there is one goal we should be setting this year, it is this one: show true solidarity by taking action for other people’s rights in my everyday life and through online activism. 

Now, this is not very Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant or Time-bound, so, let’s break it down.

Let’s be specific.

When it comes to showing solidarity, it is often found in the little things related to showing another individual that you see their struggle and that you want to support them. Now, one person can’t do everything, but we can all do something. Often times it is related to speaking out when you see something that is wrong. Here are a few examples:

  • Talk about the rights of women, girls, minorities, refugees, and LGBTQ individuals, with your friends, colleagues, and family. Talk about it during lunch and even at your New Year’s Dinner Party. Don’t let fear stop you from saying something, even if you know that the person you are speaking to doesn’t share your sentiment. Alyssa Singer, Senior Account Executive at Fenton gives some handy tips for difficult conversations (related to the US election, but can be used in many other situations too).
  • Raise your voice and speak out when you see someone being discriminated against, if you’re afraid call for help or report it.
  • Sign petitions that show your support for other people’s equal rights and opportunities.
  • Treat everyone with dignity and worthiness. Smile and say hi to the beggar outside of your supermarket and offer to help in some way.
  • Get engaged through a human rights organization, mobilize more people to do the same.
  • Donate to causes that strengthen the rights of minorities and support refugees 

Now, let’s make it measurable and time-bound.

This goal can be quantified in several different ways to measure success, e.g. number of times I have been in uncomfortable situations because I have stood up for someone else’s rights, number of actions I’ve taken online or that I’ve spoken with my family about something important and found an organization to volunteer with. Choose to quantify or measure this in a way that works for you, to make it both achievable and relevant to your life.   

The most important thing in setting a goal and resolution that is achievable is by setting sub-goals that are time-bound. I am going to take these thoughts with me to my friend’s dinner party this week and specify sub-goals with due dates. I am going to share these with my friends, family and colleagues for accountability and to gain extra support to help me keep them.

Solidarity has nothing to do with being comfortable and content – it is time for us to take action – be bold, brave and dare to do the things that you once did not believe you could. The best thing about solidarity is that you’re not alone, you have an army of peaceful activists and friends who will support, encourage and inspire you to take action, and it is easier than ever before to get connected!

As we go into 2017, I’m excited about what lies ahead for Girls’ Globe – we are a growing global community of true changemakers and I know that we are making a real difference.

Video Credit: Creative Director // Kimberly Graf, Film Director // Tiffany Jackman, Director of Photography / Editing // Skyler Whitehead, Whirlwind Productions LLC

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Tuning in to Change

Written by Ryan Borcherding, International Training Officer, Theatre for a Change

We’re packed inside a small broadcasting studio in Malawi’s capital Lilongwe.

It’s 6:59pm.  In a minute, we’ll hit the airwaves live.  The tension – the excitement – is palpable.

Tisinthe! – meaning “Let’s Change!” – is the first of its kind in the world.  It’s a show that features interactive radio drama, which lets people become characters in the drama they hear.

Aside from being entertaining, this interaction serves to address a major challenge in the world of development:  how to translate knowledge into behavior change?

Tisinthe! aims at improving the sexual and reproductive health of women and girls in Malawi, with a specific focus on preventing HIV.  Most Malawians know how HIV is spread, and how it can be prevented, yet Malawi still has the 9th highest HIV prevalence rate in the world.

The cast of Tisinthe! record an episode on location Photo Credit: TFaC
The cast of Tisinthe! record an episode on location
Photo Credit: TFaC

How can a radio show help to bridge this gap between knowledge and behavior?  How can it go beyond just giving out information, and actually influence what people do?

By design, interactive radio drama does just that.

Pioneered by Theatre for a Change, a UK-based INGO, interactive radio drama lets people test out new behaviors – and their consequences – before adopting them in real life.  The Brazilian dramatist Augusto Boal calls this a “rehearsal for reality.”

But how, and why, does it work?

First, a short drama is aired, featuring the story of a female character in a difficult situation related to the topic of the broadcast.

Then, female listeners are invited to call-in and assume the role of this character in the drama, in order to show what they could have done differently – as this character – to change the situation for the better.

Actors in the studio replay the drama, only with the caller now part of the action.

Now she can decide what happens.  Now she is in control.

How will she use her voice?  How will she stand her ground?  How will she convince her husband to wear a condom?  To go for a test?  To tell the truth?  How will she say no to unwanted sex?

The answers arrive in the form of action.

The callers are empowered as a result, but their actions also empower the other women and girls tuning in from across the country, who silently ask themselves, “can I do that too?”  It’s this blending of the public and the private on radio – the chance for people to experiment with quite personal and controversial subjects in a public forum – that really gives this type of drama its power.

Tisinthe!’s first interactive drama featured the story of a 14-year-old schoolgirl taking a male teacher who raped her to court.  In a country where women and girls are taught to be submissive to men, the idea of a girl pursuing this kind of justice was radical; an almost unimaginable thing.

A community listening club gathers to listen to the weekly episode. Photo Credit: TFaC
A community listening club gathers to listen to the weekly episode.
Photo Credit: TFaC

And yet, it wasn’t so unimaginable that people dismissed it as fantasy, and stopped tuning in.  On the contrary, the drama’s popularity skyrocketed. About 240 people tuned in to the drama the first few weeks it aired.  By the end of its second year, the drama had a weekly estimated audience of 460,000.  The number of listening clubs rose from 4 to 312 in the same period of time.

Characters became household names, and people went out of their way just to tune in – to find out what happened in the story next, but also to hear how their fellow Malawians were responding to it.

The chance to imagine what change could look and sound and feel like, and what it would take to bring that change to life… this, too, likely kept people glued to the story, week after week.

Interactive radio drama doesn’t offer any answers, but it does give people the chance to find their own.

Many women and girls in Malawi are doing exactly that, thanks in part to the solidarity they’ve built, and the skills they’ve gained, from taking part.

Theatre for a Change is now working in the United States with partner organizations to bring this unique methodology to more women and girls around the globe.

Find out more about Theatre for a Change’s work with partner organizations on their website and follow @tfacafrica on twitter.

“Countries Should Thrive, Not Just Survive.”

Opening up the panel, Greg Beck, FHI 360‘s Director of Integrated Development, told the story of one particular attempt to aid in relief efforts. After great effort, and amassing donations and supplies, they opened boxes to find stacks of things like inflateable toilets and acne cream.

Asked Beck, “How is this going to help anybody rebuild their life?”

Beck’s point was an extreme example of a nonetheless integral point: development and aid are not straightforward, not simple. They don’t consist of simply hurling donations and good intentions at a problem, and hoping something sticks.

The term ‘integrated development’ means just that—that development is complex and requires coordinated, planned effort across sectors.

It operates around the idea that development does not exist problem by problem, sector by sector. You can’t improve global health without improving education without improving women’s rights. Naturally, there are some specific efforts that require a concentrated approach, but overall, a holistic view is more effective, and organizations and governments need to address what people really lack in the complex, multilayered environments in which they live—not just what we think they need.

The list of speakers was packed with high-level representatives of the NGO world. Katja Iversen, CEO of Women Deliver; Greg Beck, FHI 360’s Director of Integrated Development; Eliya Zulu, Executive Director of the African Institute for Development Policy; Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the Executive Director of UN Women; Tony Pipa, US Special Coordinator for the UN post-2015 development agenda and Wilberforce Kisamba-Mugerwa, Chairman of the Uganda National Planning Authority.

However, the highlight of the evening might have been Dakshitha Wickremarathne, a social worker and a youth representative on the Lancet Commission on Adolescent Health and Wellbeing.

By far the youngest on the panel, Wickremarathne was walking proof of the refrain of this conference: that young people need to be engaged in order to move forward.

He told powerful stories of the effects young people had in his native Sri Lanka, including one regarding a simple observation made by a young person that in sign language, the same sign was used for ‘rape’, ‘sex’ and ‘sexuality’. The cultural impact of this small detail is immeasurable, and he resolved to correct it, and worked to establish a better glossary for sign language.

Zulu pointed to the danger of ignoring the growing power of young people. In numbers they’re growing, and have untapped potential, for good or for bad. As Zulu explains, even the smartest youth can be proponents of world extremism if they’re disillusioned or unemployed.

“If you treat young people as a problem, not an opportunity, you’re missing the point,” affirmed Iversen.

With Iversen and Mlambo-Ngcuka present, the theme of the importance of women and girls—especially young women and girls—was woven throughout the conversation.

The impact of women’s rights on global development is immense, and that women’s rights also has to expand to include adolescent and girl’s health.

“We’re so focused on maternal health more than adolescent health, and by the time we’re addressing adolescent health, it’s a little late,” said Mlambo-Ngcuka.

The empowerment of young women and girls can have great ramifications for other areas of development.  For example, said Pipa, it’s been shown that getting girls and adolescent girls into school is correlated with lower HIV rates. That’s a small, but important victory in three battlefields: global health, education and women’s rights.

“We’re not living in silos,” said Iversen. “It’s all integrated, and it has to be, and we have to look at this that way.”