Literature review: Feminist Activism Works!

We know that “feminist activism works”. We see the evidence every day in the brave and visionary work of the grantee-partners we are privileged to support. These feminist groups work locally in their communities, as well as nationally, regionally and internationally, to create greater freedom and justice for women, girls, and trans and intersex people all over the world.

We also know that not everyone shares this conviction (yet!). We are often asked to produce the proof that funding feminist activism is an effective way to secure deep and lasting social change.

In 2018, Count Me In! partnership sponsored the “Money & Movements” convening that brought together more than one hundred feminist movement actors and funders to strategise about the future of resourcing feminist movements globally.

One of the take-aways from the meeting was a consensus among the funders present that we need more research and evidence to show that feminist activism works. Many of the funders at the meeting acknowledged being challenged by peers within the funding community to demonstrate evidence to support our convictions. Building off of these conversations, Mama Cash decided to take an initial step by reviewing academic literature that contributes to the evidence base regarding the impact of women’s rights movements. 

The literature review “Feminist Activism Works!” is the result of this work. Looking at the variety of studies surveyed, one cross-cutting finding is clear: women’s rights and feminist movements matter significantly in securing and advancing women’s rights across a wide range of issues, including combatting violence against women, securing a range of economic and reproductive rights, and advancing political participation.

The review also found that there are other factors that matter, too. For example, institutionalised religion often has a very powerful constraining influence on women’s reproductive rights. The studies also show that change is not a linear process and that advances in women’s rights are vulnerable to backlash. 

All of the findings of the literature review – both the key role of feminist movements in securing women’s rights and the vulnerability of rights to reversal – underscore the importance of robust, good quality funding for feminist movements so that they can continue their crucial work.

Interested in learning more? We invite you to read the review!

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