Why gender matters in activism: feminism and social justice movements

Bhattacharjya, M.
Birchall, J.
Caro, P.
Kelleher, D.
Sahasranaman, V.
Taylor & Francis Online
Publication date: 
January 2013

How can social movements become more gender-just? This article illustrates the challenges and successes of integrating gender equality as a core principle into social justice movements. The findings are based on three case studies analysing experience from the global human rights movement, with a focus on Amnesty International, the CLOC Via Campesina movement in Latin America, and the Occupy movement in the United States. The case studies have been developed as part of the three-year BRIDGE Cutting Edge programme on gender and social movements. The programme aims to inspire and support social justice movements to integrate gender equality principles and practices in social justice mobilisation.

Although gender justice is integral to social justice, it is often perceived as secondary to class or economic injustice by social justice movements. While women’s participation might be encouraged, gender stereotypes are not challenged and women are not enabled to take up central roles. The article emphasises the importance of establishing a movement’s central body that determines actions to create gender parity in membership and decision-making, and ensures senior-commitment to gender equality. A combination of high-level strategies and educational initiatives is necessary to change power dimensions and structural inequalities. It is essential for men and women to work together, to jointly reconsider their ideas about social justice and to explore the mutual benefits gender equality can offer.

Gender & Development 21.2: 277-293
Bhattacharjya, M.; Birchall, J.; Caro, P.; Kelleher; D. and V. Sahasranaman (2013) 'Why gender matters in activism: feminism and social justice movements', Gender & Development 21.2: 277-293
social movements
human rights
Via Campesina
Amnesty International