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December 4, 2017

Report: why self-led activism works

Every voice matters. But impoverishment, injustice and violence in communities around the world routinely serve to silence women, girls and trans people. This leaves them little choice but to fight to be heard and to have a say in the decisions that affect their lives.

And that is just what they are doing. In villages, towns and city squares, in schools, health centres and courtrooms, through print, electronic and online media, feminist activists in communities around the world are raising their voices to claim their rights.

Why is self-led activism so powerful?

In self-led groups, people who have long been ignored or silenced are speaking for themselves. Self-led groups are founded, led and staffed not by well-intentioned allies or outsiders, but by people whose activism is rooted in personal experiences of stigma, violence and exclusion. Mama Cash believes that supporting self-led activism catalyses change effectively because activists know from personal experience what needs to change and have a deep stake in securing social transformation.

Using personal experience to push for change

Based on interviews with fifteen of Mama Cash’s grantee-partners, the new report Our Voices Are Strong shows that the power of women, girls and trans people at the helm of self-led organisations lies in their use of direct, personal experience to push for greater inclusion and justice in their communities. Whether they are girl domestic workers in Tanzania, sex workers in Thailand, or lesbian, bisexual and trans people in Ukraine, their powerful strategies for change are rooted in lived experience.

The research distilled four lessons about how self-led groups secure change. First, they nurture and strengthen their organisations, building collective capacities to mobilise constituencies for effective advocacy. Second, they use shared values and culturally-specific messages to address their communities. Third, they target stakeholders, including policymakers and media, to shift and shape political agendas to take into account their visions and needs. Finally, they collaborate and create alliances with other civil society actors to amplify the voices of self-led constituencies.

How funders can support self-led activism

The report also shares recommendations for funders about how to support self-led activism – for example, by providing the flexible, longer-term funding that self-led groups need most and by providing support that strengthens movements, not just individual organisations.

We invite you to read Our Voices Are Strong and learn more about how self-led activist groups are working to secure justice and inclusion.

I'd like to read Our Voices Are Strong