In March 2023, the Grassroots Justice Network and FIDA Uganda co-hosted the first-ever in-person convening for the Network’s Gender Justice Core Group in Kampala, Uganda. The meeting brought together 15 Network member organizations advancing gender justice from 13 countries, along with colleagues from the Legal Empowerment Fund.
Gender justice is a major priority for the Network, with 45% of all members working directly on this issue. Coming together in-person was a long-awaited moment, and a critical opportunity to begin to build a collective gender justice agenda. Over the course of five days, we learned, we shared, we bonded, we visioned, and we planned. Here are a few takeaways from the convening:
We started off by getting everyone on the same page about the LE cycle – knowing, using, and shaping law – to establish why we as a network are distinct from the many other feminist networks out there. This common framework helped ground the days of rich discussions that followed.
Sharing our collective experiences working on gender as a cross-cutting issue, we reaffirmed that we cannot achieve gender justice without tackling the drivers of economic injustice, unequal labor rights, or environmental destruction. Emerging from discussions, members from Asia were interested in organizing a cross-country campaign on worker solidarity, while African members discussed learning and campaigning about the links between child marriage and economic justice. Many members expressed interest in adapting their work to address the ways climate change is uniquely impacting women.
One of the week’s highlights was a site visit to meet FIDA Uganda’s Community Legal Volunteers (CLVs). We learned about the challenges they face – including in accessing funding to cover even basic costs like mobile phone airtime and transportation costs. The visit also led to a nuanced conversation about how we can appropriately use legal empowerment tools – like mediation – to correct power imbalances and mitigate gender violence.
The group was already aligned around key learning and advocacy themes (many of which link to our Shared Learning Agenda.) Everyone was keen to explore how to build community power and promote women’s leadership in decision-making spaces. Generating sustainable financing for legal empowerment work and improving the recognition and protection of women grassroots justice defenders emerged as key priorities.
Meeting in-person enabled us to laugh together and share common experiences. We all left feeling deeply energized as a collective, and excited to collaborate together on the work ahead.