Feminist Movements: Strengthening Democracy and Protecting Rights for All

Background media: A crowd of feminine-presenting people of varying ages is gathered outdoors with homemade protest signs that say: Protect all workers, I believe you and Stop violence against women. On the bottom right of the image, there is a child of approximately 10 years old speaking on a bullhorn while visibly upset, face contorted and tears in her eyes.

On June 24, 2023, it will have been a year since the decision to overturn Roe v. Wade was made – a move that saw access to safe and legal abortions in the United States taken away. The decision to roll back progress for women’s rights, gender rights, and bodily autonomy was influenced by a global movement that opposes democracy and equality. To fight against this growing hatred and ensure everyone has the right to make their own choices, we need to support strong feminist organizations.

Feminist movements play a crucial role in improving sexual and reproductive health, including access to abortion. They work tirelessly to improve both sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and upholding the human rights of women, girls, and 2SLGBTQ+ people and communities. These feminist organizations and grassroots spaces advocate for policies that address gender-based violence and discrimination, and they mobilize resources for a range of sexual and reproductive health services. They also work on policies and programs to ensure that everyone has equal access to life saving services, information, and resources.

The rise of far-right attacks on gender equality and sexual and reproductive rights is a major concern.  The far-right often uses concepts like gender and sexuality to create hostility towards feminist activism, diverting attention from the real threat to security: patriarchy, colonialism, and white supremacy.

Advocating for the rights of women and 2SLGBTQ+ individuals, including the right to safe abortion, is crucial to strengthening democracies. The feminist sector, along with grassroots allies, often leads the way in this fight. SRHR is a core pillar of realizing a wide range of rights including bodily autonomy, democratic participation, and right to livelihood. When comprehensive sexuality education, abortions, and contraceptives are easily accessible and available, and when everyone has the ability to make decisions about their body, people’s economic, social, and political opportunities improve.

We must ensure that feminist movements have the necessary resources to uphold and protect the rights of women, girls, and 2SLGBTQ+ people.  Providing sustained financial support for the feminist movement is crucial to safeguarding these rights in Canada and around the world. Supporting the work of programs like Stand Up, which work to raise the profile of SRHR in Canada, Mozambique, and Uganda, helps strengthen youth-led sexual health and rights advocacy, mobilization, and education campaigns. This, in turn, helps strengthen the fight for protecting our right to abortion and increase our access to SRHR services in all its diversity.

Oxfam Canada takes pride in bringing together feminist organizations, both domestically and internationally, to build capacity and protect the rights of women, girls, and 2SLGBTQ+ people.

To learn more about the priorities of feminist organizations in Canada and the importance of supporting their work, including on protecting and increasing access to abortion in Canada, you can read more here.

Lisa Gunn is a sexual and reproductive health and rights program officer at Oxfam Canada.

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