Global progress on gender justice is under threat. We are living in an age where major political and social shifts are resulting in new forces that are visibly pushing back to reverse the many gains made for women’s and LGBTQ+ rights and to shrink civic space.

This patriarchal backlash is escalating globally. It aims to other, demonise and disempower those who seek to advance gender justice, and to re-valorise hetero-patriarchal traditional gender roles, binaries, and stereotypes, founded on male supremacy, the subordination of women, and the erasure of sexual minorities and gender fluidity. It deploys a polarising politics of mobilising populist narratives which commingle misogyny, xenophobia, homophobia and transphobia – and with scant regard for evidence or ‘truth’. It is also co-opting existing policy processes and language for gender equality in development, thereby undoing and reversing much progress made in the past, and fragmenting feminist movements.

This timely six-year programme of work aims to create much needed new knowledge of these complex phenomena, and to identify opportunities for women’s rights organisations and other gender justice defenders to counter backlash and address the erosion of gender justice objectives within development. The programme is funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida).

We carry out engaged research, generate new debates, and build capacity across networks and strategic partnerships with women’s, LGBTQ+ and other human rights organisations, activists, academics and policymakers, regionally and globally.

Focused on our central objective ‘to enhance the understanding, capacities and opportunities needed for women’s rights organisations and other gender justice defenders to counter backlash and address the erosion of gender justice objectives within development’, we deliver two key sets of results:

  • Increased access to and use of gender justice research focused on backlash
  • Enhanced methods and capacity development for gender justice efforts.

The programme co-creates and communicates evidence and methods on backlash, the erosion of gender policies and new opportunities for intersectional feminist action. We also – by enhancing capacities – indirectly contribute to other strategic gender equality objectives under Global Goals 5 (Gender equality) and 16 (Peace, justice and strong institutions).

Learning and action on ‘voice’, ‘patriarchy’ and ‘policy’

The challenges of backlash, the erosion of gender policies and finding new opportunities for intersectional and decolonial feminist impact are addressed through three intertwining strands of work: ‘Voice’, ‘Patriarchy’ and ‘Policy and Practice’.

The strands engage research partners and activists, feminist and queer networks, other social movements and policymakers in East Africa, South Asia, Brazil, the Middle East and beyond. We collaborate with actors in research, capacity strengthening, convening debates and communicating knowledge and strategies for reclaiming gender justice nationally and internationally. We work collectively to enable adaptive planning, conceptual development and analysis for influence at all levels.