Event: Sustaining and expanding south-south-north partnerships and knowledge co-construction on global backlash to reclaim gender justice

We are living in a time of global unrest and division stoked by increasing polarisation in politics, authoritarianism and backlash on gender equality, inclusion and social justice.

This event, during the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) 2024, will explore how effective south-south-north partnerships can develop better and more nuanced understandings of gender backlash, to inform strategies for defending gender justice.

Based on research from the Countering Backlash programme, this event will be a discussion between researchers, civil society activists, with bi- and multi-lateral development agencies. It will provide insights from research and policy spaces on how we can work together more effectively to reclaim gender justice.

Starting in a panel format, speakers will be asked to reflect on key insights from partnering in research on backlash, in activism and in international policy spheres. The co-chairs will facilitate a dialogue between panellists and then open up the discussion with the audience.

This event is hosted by the Lebanese American University, and co-sponsored by the Government of Sweden.

When

  • 13 March 2024
  • 12:00-14:00 EST // 16:00 – 18:00 UK Time

Where

  • In person – Lebanese American University, New York
  • Online – WebEx

Speakers

  • Nay El Rahi, Activist and Researcher, Arab Institute for Women, Lebanese American University
  • Phil Otieno, Executive Director, Advocates for Social Change Kenya (ADSOCK)
  • Tessa Lewin, Research Fellow, Institute of Development Studies
  • Jerker Edström, Research Fellow, Institute of Development Studies
  • Ida Petterson or Sofia Orrebrink, SIDA – Sweden
  • Nils Mollema, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Netherlands – TBC
  • Constanza Tabbush, Research Specialist, UN Women

Co-chairs

  • Myriam Sfeir – Arab Institute for Women, Lebanese American University
  • Sohela Nazneen – Institute of Development Studies

Event: Counting the cost: funding flows, gender backlash and counter backlash

Major political and social shifts are stifling the possibility of gender justice across the world. Analysing this backlash as operating on global, regional and local scales in this webinar, we ask, where is the money?

While predominant anti-gender backlash movements and actors appear well financed, those countering backlash face significant financial challenges, heightened in the context of rising authoritarianism and shrinking civic space.

In this event, we were joined by leading experts and partners from Countering Backlash and beyond. Isabel Marler from the Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID) presented a mapping of sources of funding for anti-rights actors, and interrogate what is effective in countering anti-rights trends, while Lisa VeneKlasen (Independent Strategist, Founder and Former Executive Director of JASS), explored ‘where is philanthropy on anti-gender backlash’? Turning to national restrictions, Sudarsana Kundu and Arundhati Sridhar from our partner organisation Gender at Work Consulting – India focused on the impacts of funding laws for women’s rights organising in India.

When

  • 12 December 2023
  • 13:00 – 14:30 UK time

Speakers

  • Lisa VeneKlassen, Independent Strategist, Founder and Former Executive Director of JASS (Just Associates)
  • Isabel Marler, Lead, Advancing Universal Rights and Justice, Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID)
  • Sudarsana Kundu, Executive Director, Gender at Work Consulting – India
  • Arundhati Sridhar, Gender at Work Consulting – India

Discussant

Chair

Watch the recording

Conference: Anti-feminist backlash in the Global South

Anti-feminist backlash is gaining momentum. It is essential for feminist organisers, activists, and researchers to collaborate to effectively counter this backlash.

The eruption of feminist responses to this backlash is evidence of just how important the concept of backlash is to feminist theorising and mobilising. Around the world, journals have devoted entire issues to the study of backlash. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) Working Group on discrimination against women and girls released a paper on gender equality and gender backlash, arguing that in light of the ‘increasing misuse of the concept of gender [and] attacks on gender (equality) and women’s rights,’ it is ‘important to take stock of these developments, to counter the anti-gender attacks, and to clarify the use of the concept in relation to [OHCHR’s] mandate’.

In 2019, the European Parliament adopted a resolution ‘on experiencing a backlash in women’s rights and gender equality,’, and The New York Times published an article on backlash with the following tagline: ‘The rise of authoritarianism has catalyzed a rollback of gender violence protections and support systems’.

But it is essential that we do not overlook local specificities of backlash. In Lebanon, anti-feminist backlash extends beyond its normative definition as a hostile reaction or response to progress made within or by the women’s movement. Instead, anti-feminist backlash is embedded across institutions and social structures in Lebanon. This makes anti-feminist backlash less of a targeted response to a singular event; rather, anti-feminist backlash is systemic and diffusive in several contexts in the Global South.

This timely and important three-day hybrid conference, live from Beirut, Lebanon, and hosted by Countering Backlash partner Arab Institute for Women (AIW), will bring together feminist and gender experts to share, produce, and build knowledge on anti-feminist backlash. They will compare counter backlash strategies and build cross-sectoral and transnational alliances among anti-backlash actors in the Global South.

The sessions will be led by leading organisations, researchers, and activists from Countering Backlash, the Middle East region and beyond, including: the Lebanese American University, BRAC BIGD, the California State University, the Institute of Development Studies, Nucleus of Interdisciplinary Women’s Studies of the Federal University of Bahia (NEIM), Sakeena, University of Belgrade, and more.

Date and time

20 – 22 June

Location

In-person: LAU Beirut Campus, Arab Institute for Women, Beirut, Lebanon

Online: WebEx

Languages

The sessions will be conducted in English.

Find out more about each day of the conference below.


20 June

Join us on 20 June for the Anti-feminist backlash in the Global South conference. You can sign up to exciting sessions and hear from leading gender-progressive researchers and activists from Lebanon, Brazil, Inida, Palestine, Tunisia, Turkey, the UK, and the USA.

All times are UTC+3.

Register to attend the 20 June sessions


  • Keynote Speech / 09:30 – 10:30 (UTC+3)
    • Maya Mikdashi

  • Panel 1: Backlash: Understanding Power Dynamics / 11:00 12:30 (UTC+3)
    • Moderator: Lydia Both – Program Director at Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES)
    • Speakers:
      • Elif Savas: “Gendering the Far-Right: A Comparative Perspective” – Ph.D. Student, Department of Political Science, University of Massachusetts Amherst
      • Hasina Khan: “Muslim Women’s Rights in the Context of Muslim Personal Laws in India: Between State Repression and Patriarchy” – Founder and Member of the Bebaak Collective 
      • Isis Nusair: “Anti-Feminist Backlash, Counter Strategies for Resistance and Modes of Building Transnational Alliances” – Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies & International Studies, Denison University
      • Caroline Ramos: “Redpill Movement in Brazil: Straining a Re-thinking of Identity Politics Under Neoliberalism” – Researcher in Gender and Women’s Studies, American University in Cairo (AUC)

  • Panel 2: Backlash Against Gender Rights: Exploring Global and Regional Perspectives / 13:30 – 15:00 (UTC+3)
    • Moderator: Lina Kreidie – Academic Director of the Tomorrow’s Leaders Gender Scholars (TLS) Program, LAU
    • Speakers:
      • Amel Grami: “Learning from the Anti-Feminist Backlash in Tunisia” – Professor of Gender Studies, University of Manouba
      • Nurseli Yeşim Sünbüloğlu: “Masculinist Backlash and KADEM” – Visiting Faculty Member in the Core Program and the Director of the Women’s Studies Research Centre, Kadir Has University
      • Islah Jad: “The Backlash Against the CEDAWISTS: The Case of Palestine” – Associate Professor and Lecturer on Gender Issues and Politics, Women’s Studies Institute and Cultural Studies Department, Birzeit University
      • Abir Chebaro: “Misogynistic Discourse and Other Types of VAWP as Tools for Backlash on Feminism in Lebanon” – Gender Consultant and Activist

  • Panel 3: Linking Backlash and Crises: Why Now, Why Here, There and (Almost) Everywhere? / 15:30 – 17:00 (UTC+3)
    • Moderator: Sohela Nazneen – Research Fellow, IDS
    • Speakers:
      • Nay El RahiResearcher and Activist, AiW-LAU
      • Jerker EdstromResearch Fellow, IDS
      • Nurseli Yeşim Sünbüloğlu Visiting Faculty Member in the Core Program and the Director of the Women’s Studies Research Centre, Kadir Has University
      • Teresa Sacchet: “How Far is the Concept of Backlash Helpful in Analyzing Gender-Based Political Violence? Reflections from Brazil” – Professor and Researcher of the Graduation Program in Interdisciplinary Studies on Women, Gender, and Feminism, Federal University of Bahia

21 June

Join us on 21 June for the Anti-feminist backlash in the Global South conference. You can sign up to exciting sessions and hear from leading gender-progressive researchers and activists from Lebanon, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Pakistan, Tunisia, and more.

All times are UTC+3.

Register to attend the 21 June sessions


  • Panel 4: Countering Backlash Against Gender Rights: Innovative Practices and Lessons Learned / 09:00 – 10:30 (UTC+3)
    • Moderator: Zina Sawwaf – Assistant Professor of Gender Studies, Social & Education Sciences Department, LAU
    • Speakers:
      • Deepta Chopra: “Innovative Strategies to Counter ‘Cyclical Backlash’: Women Protestors in Shaheen Bagh” – Senior Research Fellow, IDS
      • Diana Ishaqat: “Lessons and Experiences: The Anti-Feminist Backlash at the Protection of Orphan Women in Jordan” – Communications and Fundraising Manager, Sakeena
      • Faten Mbarek: “Can Intersectional Movements be a Solution to Counter Anti-Feminist Backlash – Case Study from Tunisia” – Assistant Professor, University of Gafsa, and the Head of Department of Sociology, Higher Institute of Applied Studies in Humanity
      • Sriya Satuluri: “10 Steps Forward And 3 Steps Backwards: A Journey Towards Creating a Gender Just & Violence Free World” – Social Worker and Mental Health Professional, Swayam

  • Panel 5: Misogyny, Morality, and State Repression: Anti-Feminist Backlash in Pakistan, Malaysia, Ethiopia, and Bangladesh / 11:00 – 13:00 (UTC+3)
    • Moderator: Jennifer Skulte-Ouaiss – Director of the Title IX Office, LAU   
    • Speakers:
      • Azza Basarudin: “Anti-Feminist Backlash: The Case of Malaysia” – Assistant Professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, California State University, Long Beach
      • Tina Beyene: “Anti-Feminist Backlash: The Case of Ethiopia” – Assistant Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies, California State University, Northridge
      • Khanum Shaykh: Anti-Feminist Backlash: The Case of Pakistan – California State University, Northridge
      • Maheen Sultan & Shravasti Roy Nathan: “Reform of the Hindu Family Law under a Muslim Majority State: Intersectional Backlash Dynamics: The Case of Bangladesh” – Senior Fellow of Practice and Co-Founder of the Centre for Gender and Social Transformation, BRAC University / Research Associate, Gender and Social Transformation Cluster, BRAC Institute of Governance and Development

  • Panel 6: Workshop: Grasping Patriarchal Backlash: Briefing and Interactive Gameplay – Chess / 14:00 – 16:30 (UTC+3)
    • Facilitator: Jerker Edstrom – Research Fellow, IDS

22 June

Join us on 22 June for the Anti-feminist backlash in the Global South conference. You can sign up to exciting sessions and hear from leading gender-progressive researchers and activists from Lebanon, Bangladesh, Morocco, Serbia, UN Women, and more.

All times are UTC+3.

Register to attend the 22 June sessions


 

  • Panel 7: Backlash in the Media: Analyzing the Role of Traditional, Digital, and Alternative Media Outlets / 09:00 – 10:30 (UTC+3)
    • Moderator: Diana Mukalled – Co-Founder and Managing Editor of Daraj
    • Speakers: 
      • Omar Khaled: “Voices of Change: Exploring the Impact of Alternative Media Platforms in Combating Hate Speech Against Feminism in Lebanon” – General Manager, Spot Cast in Lebanon
      • Nađa Bobičić: “Anti-Gender Discourse in Serbian Mainstream Media” – Research Associate, University of Belgrade
      • Israr Hasan & Sharin Shajahan Naomi: “Online Misogyny in Bangladesh: Facebook as a Site of Anti-Feminist Backlash” – Research Associate, BRAC James P. Grant School of Public Health, BRAC University / Gender Expert, BRAC James P. Grant School of Public Health

  • Panel 8: Breaking Barriers: The Struggle for Gender Rights and Freedoms / 11:00 – 12:30 (UTC+3)
    • Moderator: Gretchen King – Assistant Professor of Multimedia Journalism and Communication, Department of Communication, Arts & Languages, LAU
    • Speakers:
      • Sanae Ansar Ech-Chotbi: “Anti-Feminist Cyberviolence as Perceived by Activists: The Case of Morocco” – Ph.D. Candidate at the Centre for Communication and Digital Media, University of Erfurt
      • Nastaran Saremy: “Woman, Life, Freedom Movement in Iran and its Regional Connections” – Ph.D. Student in Media and Communication Studies, Simon Fraser University
      • Iffat Jahan Antara & Pragyna Mahpara: “Silencing Dissent: How ‘Piety Policing’ and ‘Cancel Culture’ are Undermining Gender Justice Activism Online in Bangladesh” – Senior Research Associate, Gender and Social Transformation Cluster, BRAC Institute of Governance and Development / Researcher, Gender and Social Transformation Cluster, BRAC Institute of Governance and Development

  • Panel 9: Case Study on the Feminist Civil Society Platform in Lebanon / 12:30 – 13:00 (UTC+3)
    • Speakers:
      • Representative from the Feminist Platform (TBD)
      • Marianne Touma & Rima Al Mokdad: “Presentation of the Study Findings on Backlash in Lebanon” – UN Women
    • 12:30 – 13:00 (UTC+3)

  • Panel 10: Reflections on Backlash: A Conversation / 14:00 – 15:30 (UTC+3)
    • Moderator: Nay El-Rahi – Researcher and Activist, AiW-LAU
    • Speakers:
      • Sohela Nazneen: Research Fellow, IDS
      • Tessa Lewin: Research Fellow, IDS
      • Jerker Edstrom: Research Fellow, IDS

 

5 ways Kenya can #EmbraceEquity

The present decade has witnessed a visible backlash against gender equality and the women’s human rights agenda across continents – and Kenya is no exception. This backlash has immediate and long-term implications for women, men and individuals who identify as not sexually- or gender-conforming, and for the consolidation of democracy, social cohesion, and economic growth in any country.

Gender inequality undermines the hard-fought values of human rights, equality and freedom embedded in Kenya’s Constitution 2010 and in other national and international instruments that Kenya is a signatory to.

The LGBTQ+ community’s challenges in Kenya continue unabated against the backdrop of social exclusion based on sexual and gender identities. These challenges are increasingly seen as being interdependent and shaped by a multitude of different pressures that converge within the gender and development sector.

With this in mind, and for International Women’s Day 2023, here are five ways Kenya can better #EmbraceEquity.

1. Generating and managing knowledge

The research, co-creation and framing of gender issues can significantly help in understanding gender and patriarchal backlash. There is a need to work with different people and organisations to improve the understanding, nature and forms of this backlash.

Knowledge generation and management can strengthen interactions and debates about gender and patriarchal backlash, and find ways of countering this backlash in different contexts in Kenya. Various actors can draw on their past work and the existing knowledge of how to package, disseminate and add to the evidence of backlash where it is lacking. But we must understand how to communicate research findings without doing more harm. This can be done by properly positioning emerging gender equality issues to inform policy and programming.

2. Positioning policy

It is pivotal for all stakeholders to address the erosion of gender policies and agendas at the national and county levels away from egalitarian ideals. Efforts to change political, socio-economic, cultural, and religious norms along with power relations which prevent gender equality should go together with efforts to identify, disrupt, adjust or dismantle policies, structures and systems which reinforce negative norms and stereotypes that strengthen gender backlash.

Policies should be framed to engage different groups of men and boys in overcoming gender inequality. It should also help them overcome and address their own gender-related vulnerabilities and oppression. This can bring forth a major shift in debates about the ‘boy child’ or generalised ideas about ‘men in crisis’, thus guarding against victim blaming and the impression that women empowerment is being advanced at the expense of men and boys.

3. Transforming attitudes and social norms

Enabling an environment to change attitudes and social norms needs to be informed by contexts. Decision-makers should put in place efforts to support communities in confronting stereotypes, attitudes, values and structures that perpetuate social exclusion and promote gender backlash. This can be achieved by consolidating and building upon knowledge and practices that inspire action among different groups in addressing social justice issues. Ultimately, this requires structural and systemic transformations towards favourable social norms, attitudes and behaviours at institutional, community and individual levels.

4. Promoting accountability

There must be more work done with men through gender transformative approaches to address negative social norms. This should also extend to encouraging dialogue between male activists to support Women’s Rights Organisations (WROs) on accountability with regards to development and gender equality agenda. This is because a lot of men are experiencing hesitancy leading to shifting roles toward gender equality. This is particularly important in the socio-cultural space between what used to be and what is currently expected in the human rights space.

Working with men and boys for gender equality is crucial. A comprehensive engagement process is needed to ensure that women are not targeted or ostracised by men in the belief that measures to address entrenched gender inequality are unfair and a form of ‘reverse discrimination’. Working with men and boys to address underlying social norms and help them become more gender-equitable and address their own gender-related vulnerabilities will help to counter patriarchal backlash on a large scale.

5. Building advocacy and movements

Kenya is a signatory to many international treaties, conventions and instruments on gender equality and human rights. There is a need for like-minded partners and stakeholders in the field of gender justice, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), Women’s Rights Organizations, feminists, and male allies to forge strong alliances to advocate for the fulfilment of the commitments made by the government

CSOs and Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) have acted as catalysts and progress leaders in legislative and policy developments over the years. Advocates for Social Change Kenya (ADSOCK) alongside organisations such as the Wangu Kanja Foundation (WKF), Center for Rights Awareness and Education (CREAW), African Women’s Development and Communications Network (FEMNET), Collaborative Center for Gender and Development (CCGD), Gender Violence Recovery Center (GVRC) among others, have been in the forefront in advocating and championing for gender equality including addressing the rights of survivors of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in Kenya.

Looking ahead

It is critical for all actors in every sphere of society to openly condemn all forms of gender inequalities. They can do this by providing the impetus to confront the environments where social exclusion and discrimination are rationalised, justified, internalised, normalised, and allowed to thrive. An equal world where everyone’s rights are respected, protected, preserved and promoted is possible. We must #EmbraceEquity!

Event: Engaging men and boys on gender issues in India

Global progress on gender equality is under attack. Engaging men and boys on gender issues is a key way we can counter gender backlash.

This seminar was a collaboration between Countering Backlash, Men Against Violence and Abuse (MAVA), and Men end FGM for a discussion about methods, lessons learnt and reflections on working with men and boys on gender issues in India and Kenya.

Mr Harish Sadani from MAVA spoke about his work on gender and masculinity, which he has been involved in for over three decades. He showcased part of a documentary he produced – “Yuva Maitri: Young Men Breaking the Moulds” – which focuses on the tools and methodologies used to engage young men on contemporary gender issues.

Mr Sadani also discussed the process and methods used, reflecting on the challenges he has been facing while addressing gender-based violence, in the current political context of India. He shared the outcomes and insights of a unique international travelling film festival on Gender Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, which he has been running over the past five years.

Our discussant, Tony Mwebia, commented on what we have seen and heard, with some reflections on working with men to end female genital mutilation (FGM) in Kenya.

When

  • 14 July at 13:00 UK Time

Speakers

  • Harish Sadani, Executive Director of Men Against Violence and Abuse (MAVA) India
  • Tony Mwebia, Executive Director of Men End FGM Foundation in Kenya and MA Gender and Development student at IDS

Chair

  • Jerker Edström, IDS Fellow and programme convenor for Countering Backlash

Event recording

Due to a technical issue with Zoom, only the half of the event has been recorded. However, you can view Harish Sadani’s presentation slides here, and watch MAVA’s full documentary.

Advocates for Social Change are tackling backlash in Kenya. Here’s how

Advocates for Social Change – Kenya (ADSOCK) see victim blaming and ‘what-about-ism’ (‘but what about men and boys?’) around sexual and gender-based violence gaining ground in the country. The organisation’s latest resource book ‘Paradigm Shift: Countering Backlash Reclaiming Gender Justice‘ provides practical ways individuals and organisations can counter this backlash.

Phil E. Otieno, Executive Director of ADOSCK, shares some reflections from their work on this.

Developing methods and knowledge

At ADSOCK we engage with a range of partners and actors in the field of gender, identifying what drives patriarchal backlash. We have been able to document how male supremacist ideologies are installed and flourish in combination with other oppressive ideologies through our capacity building workshops, and we have seen how male resentment is mobilised within diverse contexts in Kenya.

Our activities are complemented by knowledge strengthening for different audiences, by designing and delivering training workshops and modules, developing and sharing Social Behaviour Change and Communication Materials (posters, stickers, t-shirts), and the ‘Paradigm Shift: Countering Backlash Reclaiming Gender Justice’ resource book.  This has been important in supporting our trainers and audience (a range of local and national gender justice actors) in understanding forms of gender backlash and by providing them with real examples of promising interventions to counter patriarchal backlash.

The resource book is one of the best, because it has all the materials that a trainer needs for proper grounding on patriarchal backlash and other elements of gender inequality

Anne, ADSOCK Trainer

We include 17 modules which provide step-by-step guidelines and practical resources that help the user in understanding a particular module and how to apply the information acquired. Feedback from practitioners and those using the resource book (particularly men) have shown that module three – ‘Roadmap to male allyship’ – and module 11 – ‘Understanding and Countering Patriarchal Backlash’ – have been of most interest and use.

The resource book is empowering and is loaded with very insightful information on Backlash including the module on male allyship towards gender equality

Steve, Family Health Options Kenya (FHOK)

Open Debates

Since inception of the project, we have conducted four workshops that brought together a diverse range of stakeholders for challenging and reflective debates and learning. They have included; women’s rights organisations, civil society organisations, university students, member of the LGBTIQ+ community, Kenya Police Service, persons with disabilities, media personalities, religious and cultural leaders, county leadership among others. The trainings helped to contextualise situations and how we internalise contested ideas.

In the workshops, a vast majority of men felt that gender equality is a ‘Western phenomenon’ (non-African) and a system aimed at destroying the so-called ‘African’ family. We also found that there is discomfort in some language, with many people feeling gender equality should be anchored in Pan-Africanism for it to be accepted. A vast majority of men expressed that ‘men are in crisis because of the feminisation of society’.

Another common trope in patriarchal backlash is ‘What-about-ism’ and victim blaming regarding sexual and gender-based violence, which is slowly but surely gaining ground in Kenya. Interestingly, we found that conversations about the ‘boy-child’ being ‘left behind’ is advanced by both men and women. This has led to a stereotyping and labelling of human rights defenders and feminists as ‘angry individuals’.

We believe that ADSOCK’s Resource Book will help people by providing an understanding of the importance of gender equality, accountability towards social justice (including identifying how patriarchal backlash happens). It also provides knowledge on how gender backlash is manifested both in online and offline spaces, critical factors contributing to the success and failures of different actors in their work on gender equality, as well as methods and approaches for challenging the status quo.

Curbing Erosion of Gender Equality and Women’s Rights

There is a need to document and analyse how backlash mobilises forms of male resentment across different contexts in Kenya; how can we tackle restrictive masculinities that may hinder men’s engagement in gender equality initiatives? A comprehensive male-engagement process is needed to ensure women are not targeted or ostracised by men’s organisations who believe that measures to address entrenched gender inequality are unfair and a form of ‘reverse discrimination’. Engaging with men and boys in the promotion of gender equality is one in many strategies for tackling the ever-growing problems of inequality, injustice and oppression.

To sustain the campaigns on gender equality, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) need support with resource mobilisation and the development of advocacy and awareness messages. CSOs also need support in building knowledge and action towards political mobilisation, along with allyship in movement and partnership building for gender and social justice. This is incredibly important in political spaces. Shifting norms concerning women’s leadership, leading towards a more transformative role for women’s collective agency – in both formal and informal settings – which both depends on and determines their individual agency. It also calls for men’s reflective allyship and support without mansplaining, patriarchal protectionism or ‘bro-option’.