Toward Gender Justice: A Call to Center the Full Participation, Power, and Perspectives of Intersectional Feminist Activists in the Generation Equality Forum and Beyond

The upcoming Generation Equality Forum is the most important opportunity we have had in nearly three decades to center the power, participation, and well-being of women and girls, trans, gender non-binary and intersex people. 

As a collaborative of feminist funds who provide holistic support to community-based intersectional feminist activist movements led by and for women, girls, trans, gender non-binary and intersex people, the Feminist Generation Consortium knows these movements’ full and substantive participation in the Generation Equality Forum is vital to ensuring relevant and responsive state and donor commitments to gender equality and the true realization of gender justice worldwide.

We believe that if we are to truly accelerate gender equality, as the Generation Equality Forum calls for, we must do all we can to ensure those most affected by gender injustice are the foremost participants in decision-making to realize gender justice. The Generation Equality Forum, and other such international forums, are of vital importance to increase the awareness, interest, and investment in gender equality to set the pace worldwide. 

To ensure meaningful progress toward gender justice at the Generation Equality Forum and beyond, it is vital that leaders ensure the full, substantive participation and leadership of structurally excluded women and girls, including but not limited to: racialized, Indigenous, and defenders from other marginalized castes, ethnic and religious groups; environmental and land rights defenders; disability rights activists; lesbian, bisexual, trans, queer, intersex, gender non-binary defenders; sex worker and informal, domestic, and low-wage worker rights defenders; women living with and affected by HIV and AIDS rights defenders; and migrant, displaced, refugee, or stateless defenders and those affected by conflict and occupation. 

When women and girls in all their diversity, who have been most affected by patriarchy and other intersecting forms of violence and oppression, lead action for gender justice, it is more transformative, sustainable, and responsive to the root causes of gender inequality and gender-based violence. Already, autonomous intersectional feminist movements led by women and girls in all of their diversity have been key to achieving recent gains in gender equality at local, regional, and global levels. 

But worldwide, women, girls, trans, gender non-binary, and intersex people’s voices remain too often excluded within the states, markets, communities, and households in which they live—a pervasive reality that reflects, perpetuates, and maintains systems of entrenched gender inequality around the world. 

In this same vein, women, girls, trans, gender non-binary and intersex people are consistently denied access to—not to mention leadership and power within—decision-making and agenda-setting processes where some of the most consequential decisions are made about their lives. Even when they are represented, they are too few, and unequal power dynamics within these processes continue to exclude many voices, particularly the most marginalized like sex workers, women with disabilities, Indigenous women, and too many more.

Unfortunately, as we prepare for the Generation Equality Forum in Paris, we are witnessing the replication of practices that prevent, diminish, or deter the full, substantive participation and leadership of feminist women, girls, trans, gender non-binary, and intersex activists. Because feminist leaders are routinely under-represented in critical decision-making processes such as the Generation Equality Forum—the most consequential global gathering on gender equality in over 25 years—they face significant barriers to realizing the transformative change for gender justice that our world so urgently requires. 

Given that we are seeing some of the same barriers to the full, substantive participation of women, girls, trans, gender non-binary and intersex people replicated in the structure and design of the Generation Equality Forum, we must—and can—act quickly to assess and remedy mistakes that have been made. 

It is not too late to make key changes to the upcoming Generation Equality Forum in Paris that will help ensure more substantive, meaningful, equitable participation of intersectional feminist movements led by and for women, girls, trans, gender non-binary and intersex people. And it is not too late to incorporate feedback from intersectional feminist activists and movements to inform subsequent global gender justice processes.

To the fullest extent possible, we must ensure the full and meaningful participation of structurally excluded women and girls, trans, gender non-binary and intersex people in the Generation Equality Forum and related processes, systems, and structures that follow.

Moving forward, we urge United Nations and Generation Equality Forum leaders to recommit to ensuring feminist movements are equal partners in the global gender justice agenda, through the following practices: 

  • Hold yourselves accountable to feminist, intersectional movements throughout the Generation Equality Forum and beyond. 
  • The Generation Equality Forum and subsequent processes should be shaped by and for feminist movements, especially at the grassroots level. Clear messages from movements around the urgency of systems change, in particular in the context of the intensity of crises we are currently facing, must be centered in the structure, framework, and vision of the GEF. 
  • The GEF planning, design, and decision-making processes should be transparent, flexible, inclusive, expansive, and spacious, to ensure the active inclusion of feminist, intersectional activists who are most structurally excluded from global processes — including people who are disabled, sex workers, and transgendered. This includes ensuring that Forum sessions are sufficiently reflective and inclusive of, and sufficiently accessible to, all structurally excluded groups.
  • Support a redistribution of power and resources in a way that is inclusive and cognizant of issues of gender, age, race, caste, ethnicity, religion, class, sexual orientation, ability, HIV status, statelessness, and other intersecting identities, and centers the transformative power and perspectives of those best positioned to address the root causes of inequalities. This also involves a continuous commitment to resisting tokenism and remaining vigilant about the reproduction of practices and behaviors that deter collaboration, co-leadership, co-ownership, and that benefit a few at the expense of others. 
  • There should be full disclosure of decision-making procedures to ensure transparency and accountability throughout the whole Generation Equality Forum process and beyond.
  • Ensure easy, clear access to the agenda online, and ensure the accessibility and prominence of sessions and forum events organized and led by civil society.  
  • Ensure full and substantive participation of civil society, including allowing for self-organized civil society sessions to be part of the agenda and provide spaces for civil society to gather and strategize. 
    • Give civil society sufficient time to consult partners and allies and to engage meaningfully in ways that balance the urgency to act with the necessity to move at the speed of trust.
  • Ensure justice and accessibility across ability, language, technology, and time.
    • Ensure time justice by considering the geography, labor and available bandwidth of women, girls, trans, gender non-binary and intersex activists in your planning for Paris and beyond. 
    • Decolonize your relationship to time. Schedule sessions that accommodate time differences in order to ensure the viable, meaningful participation of women, girls, trans, non-binary and intersex people from the Global South. 
    • Ensure language justice by providing interpretation well beyond English, French, and Spanish and remove a glaring obstacle to the full participation of grassroots feminist activists who hail from all over the world. Refuse to let convenience be the enemy of equity, impact and a truly inclusive opportunity to advance gender justice. 
    • Ensure digital accessibility. Use technology and tools that are accessible and available to all people in all regions, as opposed to relying on technology that is clearly not available in certain parts of the world.
    • Ensure inclusion across abilities. GEF and other spaces should consider all accessibility issues, as to be truly inclusive we need to at minimum consider the needs of those who are visual or hearing impaired in our communities to facilitate their participation as well.
  • Collect intersectional data: UN and GEF leaders should develop a framework that facilitates assessment of the potential impacts of policies, programs and initiatives on different groups of women and non-binary people. This should include access to more nuanced data on intersecting social stratifiers, such as race, age, class, sexuality, and disability. The collection, analysis, and use of such nuanced and disaggregated data, should be used for operationalizing intersectoral analyses that creates opportunity for participation, voice, and meaningful change for those who are most impacted.
  • Finally, we call on the GEF organizers to learn from these processes and be accountable to do better in the future, with clarity, intention, and practical steps that will be taken to do things differently. In doing so, you can model a practice of explicitly seeking out and taking in constructive critical feedback from movements and activists best positioned to lead the gender justice we all envision and require. 

Together, we can bring about transformative change for gender justice if—and only if—we center the power, perspectives, and participation of women and girls, trans, gender non-binary and intersex people who have been most affected by patriarchy and other intersecting forms of violence and oppression, and if we ensure intersectional feminist movements are equal partners in the global gender justice agenda.

—Feminist Generation Consortium (Women’s Fund Asia, Urgent Action Fund-Africa, Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights)