Women’s Movements Offer A Global Paradigm Shift toward Social Justice

by Mickey Huff
Published: Last Updated on

From LGBTQ and indigenous farming struggles to Black Lives Matter and movements creating sustainable development, women around the world are striving for social justice and making headway.

In her article in Yes! Magazine, Rucha Chitnis writes that around the world, women’s movements have long known that social movements benefit by recognizing the intersections between different forms of oppression. She gives numerous examples of such developments.

One is the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA), who stood in solidarity with the women of Ferguson, Missouri, that were affected by 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.”

Chitnis states, “In the face of growing corporate power, land grabs, economic injustice, and climate change, women’s movements offer a paradigm shift. They 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.”

Women around the world are working with a clear and common theme: that there can be no hierarchy of oppression. Black lesbian feminist poet, Audre Lorde, in her essay “There is No Hierarchy of Oppressions,” wrote, “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 LQBTQ issues, Dr. 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 cites comes from India– “Dayamani Barla, a tribal journalist from Jharkhand, India, who led a powerful movement to stop the world’s largest steel company, ArcelorMittal, from displacing thousands of indigenous farming communities. Barla’s struggles are rooted in cultural survival as big dams, mining, and extractive industries have displaced, dispossessed, and impoverished millions of tribal people across India. Barla firmly believes that territorial sovereignty is key for achieving food sovereignty. ‘Globalization, in fact, has given rise to a kind of fascism,’ she notes.”

Like many women the world over, Barla is flipping the script. Barla has flipped the script on traditional models of “development” by defining it from an indigenous worldview. “We are not anti-development,” she said.  “We want development, but not at our cost. 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.”

Chitnis summarizes, “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)