18. Women’s Movements Offer Global Paradigm Shift toward Social Justice

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From LGBTQ movements and indigenous farming struggles to Black Lives Matter and efforts to create sustainable development, women around the world are leading the way toward greater social justice. In YES! Magazine, Rucha Chitnis wrote that, as responses to “corporate power, land grabs, economic injustice, and climate change,” women’s movements offer “a paradigm shift.” Women-led movements have “redefined leadership and development models, connected the dots between issues and oppression, prioritized collective power and movement-building, and critically examined how issues of gender, race, caste, class, sexuality, and ability disproportionately exclude and marginalize.” Chitnis’s YES! Magazine report gave numerous examples of such developments.

One is the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA), which stood in solidarity with the women of Ferguson, Missouri, in opposition to police brutality there. The letter of support from NDWA read in part, “As domestic workers, as women, we know that dignity is everyone’s issue and justice is everyone’s hope …We organize to create a world where every single one of us, domestic workers, black teens, immigrant children, aging grandparents—all of us—are treated with respect and dignity.”

Women have long understood that social movements benefit from recognizing the intersections among different forms of oppression. Women around the world are working with a clear and common theme, which Chitnis framed in terms of a 1983 essay by the black lesbian feminist poet, Audre Lorde, “There is No Hierarchy of Oppressions.” In that piece Lorde concluded, “I have learned that oppression and the intolerance of difference come in all shapes and sizes and colors and sexualities; and that among those of us who share the goals of liberation and a workable future for our children, there can be no hierarchies of oppression.”

On LGBTQ issues, Kimberlé Crenshaw, executive director of the African American Policy Forum, stated, “People of color within LGBTQ movements; girls of color in the fight against the school-to-prison pipeline; women within immigration movements; trans women within feminist movements; and people with disabilities fighting police abuse—all face vulnerabilities that reflect the intersections of racism, sexism, class oppression, transphobia, ableism, and more.”

Another example Chitnis cited comes from India, where Dayamani Barla, a tribal journalist from Jharkhand, has “led a powerful movement to stop the world’s largest steel company, ArcelorMittal, from displacing thousands of indigenous farming communities.” Taking into account hydroelectric dams, mining, and extractive industries that have displaced, dispossessed, and impoverished millions of tribal people across India, Barla told YES! Magazine that globalization “has given rise to a kind of fascism.” But Barla is not “anti-development.” Instead, she said, “We want development of our identity and our history. We want that every person should get equal education and healthy life. We want polluted rivers to be pollution free. We want wastelands to be turned green. We want that everyone should get pure air, water, and food. This is our model of development.”

After Nepal’s devastating April 2015 earthquake, Rita Thapa, a Nepali public health physician, women’s rights advocate, and peace activist, saw how women and girls were more vulnerable than their male counterparts. Nevertheless, Thapa told YES! Magazine about the crucial role of women in the country’s recovery and rebuilding efforts: With “little display of money or power,” women held their communities together, feeding the young and old, caring for the sick, and (literally) picking up the rubble. “Everyone can learn from this,” Thapa told YES! Magazine.

Chitnis summarized, “Whether it is indigenous women in the Amazon fighting corporate polluters and climate change or undocumented Latina domestic workers advocating for worker rights and dignity in California, women’s groups and networks are making links between unbridled capitalism, violence, and the erosion of human rights and destruction of the Earth.”

Rucha Chitnis, “How Women-Led Movements are Redefining Power, from California to Nepal,” YES! Magazine, March 8, 2016, http://www.yesmagazine.org/people-power/how-women-led-movements-are-redefining-power-from-california-to-nepal-20160308.

Student Researcher: Mariah McHugh (San Francisco State University)

Faculty Evaluator: Mickey Huff (Diablo Valley College)