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Opening Speech Nicky McIntyre op het Gelijk=Anders Festival

Auteur Mama Cash

Op 27 juni opende onze directeur Nicky McIntyre het Gelijk=Anders  Festival, dit is haar speech.

Nicky McIntyre Gelijk=AndersWelkom allemaal. Welcome everyone–friends, colleagues, and guests.

My name is Nicky McIntyre and I am the executive director of the international women’s fund, Mama Cash.

I stand here today on behalf of a temporary coalition of women’s rights organizations and activists to welcome you all to the Gelijk Is Anders Festival.

The festival will be held partly in English and partly in Dutch. You should already have headsets for translation of these opening remarks and for the talk show if you need them. Other sessions will be either in Dutch or in English.

Gelijk is Anders

Equal is Different

Perhaps this is an imperfect translation of the Dutch phrase, but as feminist activists we aspire to justice, not perfection.

And justice is at the heart of the women’s rights and feminist movements and the work that we will be discussing today. The “world we want” is under constant construction and is advanced every time we challenge racism, ageism, classism, homophobia and transphobia; every time we defend migrants’ rights… every time we push for women not to be judged or limited by career choices – whether they choose to be scientists or sex workers.

In the “world we want” domestic work is a valued field of work with labour protections; economic developments support communities rather than exploit and devastate them; violence in all its forms is a thing of past — from gender-based violence to militarism; women, girls and trans people fully own their bodies in both law and practice.

In the world we want, fathers can be free to be stay-at-home-dads, without being ridiculed as a ‘softie’. In this world, everyone can be free to decide for themselves how they define and express their gender identity, without some doctor telling you that you’re somebody you’re not. In the world we want, a young woman is free to choose who she wants to marry and when, or whether she wants to marry at all.

Equal is Different, Gelijk is Anders, implies a world that is different from the one we live in today. This, despite all the hard and amazing work that has gone in to getting us to this point.

‘Women’s rights are human rights’. That was one of the key concepts that rang forth from the Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing 20 years ago. That conference was a landmark for women’s movements. And it was hard fought! Women across the globe organized, lobbied and argued tirelessly. In the end all 189 UN member states signed the Beijing declaration and Platform for Action.

In the decade before Beijing and the 20 years since, the work of women’s rights movements has led to nothing short of revolutionary changes. Changes in public attitudes, laws, governance, the home and civil society at large. Women’s movements have changed how we think about power relations and inequalities, about gender and the meaning that we ascribe to it.

We often neglect to take the time to celebrate the gains that we have made. So let me just note what to me are 4 enormously important shifts that we have collectively made happen:

  • First, many of the injustices, exclusion and discrimination that used to be accepted are now unacceptable.
  • Second, cases of justice or equality that we once thought were exceptional have today become more commonplace.
  • Third, we used to centre on protecting women from harm. We are now more focused on the positive aspects of rights, securing freedom for women, and recognising their power and agency.
  • And finally, women, girls and trans people who were often spoken for by others are demanding to speak for themselves. Many of them will be speaking here today at the festival.

But, as we know all too well: for every victory, another challenge emerges. Hard won rights are undermined by backlash–by extremisms and fundamentalisms of all sorts. The world is getting both wealthier and more unequal. Certain people still face double, even triple, discrimination: black women, migrants and refugees, lesbians, disabled women, trans people. And our movements that do all the hard work continue to be chronically underfunded and activists who speak up to be harassed and met with violence.

So where do we go from here?

What new ambitions do we have?

How do we welcome new allies to the movement?

How de we talk about our work in new ways that touch more people–without feeling like we are selling ourselves out?

These are some of the questions that we wish to explore today. Together we will dream and debate and strategize about how we will make gender justice a reality.

One person or organisation acting alone can rarely shake up the world. It takes many, many people to change oppressive systems. It takes thousands of awareness raising workshops, media interviews, demonstrations, personal stories, research papers, presentations, parliamentary hearings, court cases, one-on-one conversations, coming outs, strategy meetings, long nights, parties and, indeed, festivals like this one we’re having today.

That is why we are here today with people from all walks of life, people from right here in Amsterdam and Groningen to guests from Malawi and Nicaragua. I thank you all for being here. And that is why it is my pleasure and privilege to kick off this festival and introduce our first speaker to you.

Normally at the opening of a festival like this I would ask you all to turn off your phones.

But not today.

Today we will be doing things a bit differently.

This festival is part of a bigger global conversation. Today, everybody present here is thinking about our agenda for the future, a future in which everyone can be themselves and where there is justice. But we also want to include people who couldn’t be here today. And we want to be heard beyond the walls of this building.

So we’ll be using Twitter and the hashtag #gelijkis. Think about what YOUR agenda point for the future is. What issue or idea is most important to you? Keep your phone at hand, because after our two speakers, we will all be sending a tweet with our own agenda point for the future. So have a think about what you will tweet later on.