3 Years of Women in Dev: Introducing Our 2023 Programme
Four years ago we started planning a conference that we wanted to be totally different from others happening in the sector. Having worked in global health and development for over a decade, I felt there needed to be a shift in the types of discussions that were dominating the stage, the intention behind them, and the overall vibe of these conferences.
As a regular delegate who despised networking, what I got out of any conference was always down to how much confidence I had on the day to approach people. I resented the separation between the speakers and the delegates, and found the sessions to be overly curated discussions with the same voices over and over.
We wanted to create a space that acknowledged the vast amount of talent, energy, and ambition of those in the room, beyond those on the stage – prioritising the delegates as central to the conference design. We wanted a programme that was more engaging, open, and progressive, co-designed by everyone in the space, working on different issues, at different levels and in different regions and therefore offering a 360 perspective on the work that was happening.
Over the course of a year, we did just that: co-creating a programme with social justice leaders and learning more deeply about the issues that were a priority for them. Women connected us to other women, and our network started to grow. We found ourselves immersed in a community and ecosystem that felt entirely separate from the global health and development space. Despite the focus on gendered issues – from SRHR to family planning to maternal health and rights – we found a disconnect between this work and this community and what was happening in the gender space.
This was how Women in Dev found itself at the nexus of global health and gender equality. It is at this intersection that we have grown and integrated our networks across these spaces, leveraging our position to break down these silos and facilitate the sharing of knowledge, research, and resources.
The people in our network are united around 3 broad objectives, identified through the programme development process and conference itself;
- To transform funding practices
- To advance young women’s leadership
- To instil feminist leadership models in development organisations.
Every day since we have continued to grow the WID community, which now stands at over 10,000 people, with 30% of our members being women working at a senior level, and 30% being early career professionals.
This presents a HUGE opportunity.
For many starting their career in ‘development,’ their knowledge of the space is understandably limited. People come in with aspirations of roles with institutions like Oxfam, Save the Children or Plan International, without understanding the limitations of these institutions and the thousands of others that are fundamental to social justice. Over time, Women in Dev has become a space that brings together people around the world working across all types of institutions, from INGOs to feminist movements for critical discussions around the work we are doing, the challenges we are facing, and how, guided by these objectives, we can collectively reform the way the sector works.
Grounded by a set of feminist principles, our programming equips the next generation of leaders for success, offering resources, training, discussions, and perspectives from and with women working at all levels, and across all regions in the development and social justice space.
We are seeing our reach, and the value we have as a network.
Last year, we curated a series of virtual events called Tapestry Series – Visualising Gender Equality in the Development Space, hosting a series of dialogues around topics such as climate justice, racial equity, global health, feminist organising, and funding flows – showing how these topics intersect with gender justice. This series provided a visual tool for members to better understand how interconnected these different spheres are and how the issues and work we do weave throughout different spaces.
Since we came together in March 2020 for the WID conference, we have faced the health and economic impact of COVID-19, witnessed the devastation of war and the climate crisis in different parts of the world, and watched decades of progress in women’s rights being reversed. It has been hard and we have seen the impact on social justice leaders.
That’s why, in 2023, we want to focus our programming around #SelfCare in #SocialJustice.
Throughout the year, we will host discussions, workshops, and self-care spaces where we can unpack the experiences we have as women in this space, learn techniques, and develop toolkits to help us centre our own wellness as we move through our careers.
Stay tuned for more, and until then, take care.
Thank you for being a part of our community!
Rachel Firth, Founder of Women in Dev