INEVAWG: Why a South-based, Black Feminist International Network to End Violence Against Women and Girls?
By Savi Bisnath, PhD, and Dr. Lesley Ann Foster
International Network to End Violence Against Women and Girls
This piece is part of the NoVo Foundation’s Radical Hope Blog Series, a platform for social justice movement leaders from around the world to share learning and insights, hear what’s working and what’s not, build solidarity, and spark opportunities for collaboration. Amid daily headlines of division, this blog series is intended to serve as an active and dynamic beacon of hope, possibility, resistance, and resilience.
The International Network to End Violence Against Women and Girls (INEVAWG) was founded in 2014 in South Africa as a response to heightened global concerns about violence against women and girls, and increasing levels of impunity and poor state accountability therein. INEVAWG is consciously and unapologetically created to be by, and for, Black women in the South, and Black women/women of colour in the North. Our approach is rooted in radical love, and black, intersectional feminist analyses that recognize and seek to address the multiple and intersecting forms of oppressions faced by individuals and groups of women worldwide. We believe that violence against women and girls is a deeply political process that requires re-politicization, conceptual clarity and movement building from feminist, de-colonial, and anti-racist positions. Therein lies our radical hope for a more peaceful and just world, where women and girls are able to live free of fear and free from want.
The founders of INEVAWG came together because we believe it’s critical that women and girls located in the South and women of colour in the North speak about their experiences, articulate their own demands for change and accountability, and are their own change agents. INEVAWG values the lives and experiences of women from the South, and trusts in their leadership and capabilities to affect the changes they need. INEVAWG’s analysis is grounded in history and the current geo-political realities, and prioritizes the need to contextualize women’s lived realities by linking violence against women and girls to economic, cultural and political processes, as well as laws, policies, everyday practices and public and private institutions.
The narratives that are forged in, and often embraced by, the North have a tendency to erase and/or invisiblize the complex and contradictory realities of women in the South. They create gaps and omissions that reinforce foreign policy objectives of high-income countries, especially economic and military polices, that serve to undermine the realization of human rights in general and economic, civil and political rights in particular, through wars, economic exploitation and the ousting of democratically elected governments. We do not excuse the behavior of corrupt and authoritarian governments in the South.
INEVAWG is deeply concerned about the current rise of white nationalist and right wing populist governments. The rise of populism and the erosion of multilateralism pose many challenges to the realization of women’s rights. Women human rights defenders are also at risk because of the surveillance state, militarism and extremism, all of which are underpinned by misogyny, racism, economic inequality, casteism and homophobia, which together contribute to increased levels of violence we witness across the world.
Across all regions, States are working to control the media, attack democratic institutions including the judiciary, and undermine the rule of law. Often, governments are working in the interests of capital instead of people. In fact, specific corporations have more power than several States, and their influence on governments serve to erode democratic processes and practices. Within the context of violence against women and girls, the neoliberal discourse has recycled patriarchy as gender equality. The re-politicization of analyses of, and approaches to, end violence against women and girls are therefore crucial elements of INEVAWG’s approach and work.
INEVAWG’s approach is rooted in black, feminist intersectional analyses that recognize and seek to address the multiple and intersecting forms of oppression, discrimination and marginalization faced by individuals and groups of women worldwide. We locate violence against women and girls within the patriarchal framework of unequal power relations between individuals, groups and institutions. We prioritize a multi-sectoral approach within which local realities inform national, regional and global approaches to end violence against women and girls. This approach serves to link diverse social movements and strengthens the movement to end violence against women and girls. With radical love, we appreciate the connections that exist across oppressions. We see our liberation as inextricably linked with other struggles, including those of gender non-conforming people, and those men who are subjected to discrimination and marginalization on multiple fronts. INEVAWG also values the ally-ship of white women who are committed to working intersectionally.
We aspire to move beyond shifting narratives to changing systems for the realization of women’s rights and social justice. We are building conceptual clarity to speak truth to power as a first step, and to address the erosion and co-option of the language of women’s rights, gender equality and violence against women within the “professionalization” of the so-called sector and the instrumentalization of the lived realities of women in and of the South. Our analyses situate the actions of individual men within broader structural analyses of power, inequality, oppression and injustice.
Acknowledging the systematic and widespread nature of violence against women and girls, INEVAWG contributes to an engaged, locally grounded black feminist civil society movement that disrupts the processes that undermine and erode women’s human rights and addresses the root causes of violence against women and girls. INEVAWG seeks to amplify the voices, and strengthen the movements, of black feminists working towards our collective liberation.