In the inaugural global Women’s March, millions of women and allies around the world, many who would never before have called themselves feminists or women’s human rights defenders, took to the streets to make themselves seen and heard. Since then, the movement has gained huge momentum, as women around the world call for rights and equality. The power of the movement has translated into the frontlines of political, civic, and social life; with more women standing and gaining prominence, and thousands of members worldwide organising in their local communities to amplify and support those working to advance and expand women’s human rights globally.
We need to take that energy and impact into every structure, institution, and sector. The international development and global health spaces are no different. Women may make up around 70% of the global health workforce, but they only hold 25% of senior roles – and, of course, the results for women and effective policy are dire. Women feel the everyday impact of a gender pay gap, disproportionately weather the brunt of humanitarian crises and climate change, and live each day within unequal power structures in every country around the globe.
Global institutions, entrusted to help the world’s most vulnerable people, often fail the women they serve and those within their own ranks. When a United Nations programme is found to have had ‘a work culture of fear, lack of trust, and retaliation’ and a leading charity is reported to have had a culture of ‘racism, colonial behaviour and bullying’ it is time to look to our allies for lessons on how to make #TimesUp a reality.
In 2020, we are promised that things will change – it marks the start of the ‘decade of delivery’. The United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, has called out chauvinism in Silicon Valley and pointed out that ‘men are not so easy in leaving power’. There will be forums, commissions, and inquiries – all welcome, of course.
But if we have taken any lessons from Women’s March Global’s campaign, and from pioneers of our movement for decades, it is that we need to take our fate into our own hands. Global attention is focused on the topic of gender equality. Feminist forces are influencing policies, changing behaviours, and transforming institutional practices all over the world.
This is our chance to harness the momentum of the women’s movement and demand change from our sector. It is an opportunity to be truly intersectional and progressive in how we tackle gender equality together within our sector. It’s time to ask ourselves, how can we do things differently? How do we ensure that we move beyond lip-service? How do we demand accountability from global institutions?; and How do we demand the instillation of intersectional feminist principles into our business practices and leadership models?
In London on March 5th, in the run up to International Women’s Day, we are bringing together women from across the sector and beyond. We are whistle-blowers, campaigners, marchers, and leaders who feel that we cannot pass up the opportunity to achieve real change. Nothing will be off the table; it will not be like other conferences.
Let’s learn from one another, challenge each other, and voice our opinions surrounded by women who have come together to do the exact same thing. This is our chance to shape the conversation and approach key moments in 2020 and beyond clear in our message, strong in our convictions, and bold in our demands. Join us. #WomenInDev