As at the Feminist Hiking Collective our work is aimed at building collective feminist leadership, we aim to publish a range of collaborative dialogues, articles and resources to unpack it (or at least try!) as a collective reflection project. We understand reflection as a whole practice: we reflect with our bodies and souls, as wholesome and interdependent beings, we reflect collectively. We would be very happy to receive contributions and further reflections on this, as this is very much a working project and it is not meant to be a fully comprehensive analysis – it aims to be part of our grounding and analysis work to honour and document where we've come from and explore pathways forward in practice.
The Unpacking Collective Feminist Leadership project aims to include tools for system transformation, from the inner to the wider society levels, collaborating with feminist groups, organisations and people to collectively reflect, build awareness and analyse the structures that underpin the neoliberal capitalist individualist patriarchal system, and unpacking different elements to build collective feminist leadership, mapping some of its practices worldwide, and grounding the project in a decolonial vision, ensuring dialogues and narratives are not extracting or de-contextualising knowledge, epistemologies and wisdom, but rather co-creating a pluralist feminist narrative that honours and acknowledges the collective experiences, work, struggles and resistance of groups and movements across the world.
We have written an introductory article to the project - you can find it here (with Italian traslation). This initial article is only an initial unpacking of collective feminist leadership, and it has been followed by co-authored articles, projects and initiatives that focus on specific themes but also cover a wider unpacking, including:
We would like to acknowledge and express our profound gratitude to those feminist groups, collectives, networks and organizations whose work have collectively inspired and grounded our reflections and our practice: JASS, CREA, FRIDA The Young Feminist Fund, Iniciativa Mesoamericana de Mujeres Defensoras de Derechos Humanos (IM-Defensoras), AWID, FAMM Indonesia and many more.
Western society is based on a (neo)colonial capitalist and neoliberal patriarchal system which encompasses all forms of discrimination, violence, oppression and dominance. This society seeks to dominate the whole world-system. This Western “way of perceiving and living” has literally led to putting life on Earth at risk. Central to this system and society, there is individualism and egocentrism: a focus on self-achievement and competition, on “success” and the image of the self, on self-centred personalised leadership, and on a lack of connection and sense of belonging as beings of nature. By building collective feminist leadership, society as a collective will be equipped to challenge racism, classism, poverty, and any form of oppression and discrimination. Feminist leadership is at the heart of creating transformative social change, it aims to profoundly transform the way that leadership is practised, and it is necessary to pursue a feminist vision of the world.
An initiative of Srilatha Batliwala and the Feminist Hiking Collective
The From me to we (De mí a nosotres/De moi à nous/De me a nós) initiative is a collective and iterative process that aims to collect and distribute a creative map interweaving and describing the practices of collective feminist leadership, through an open call for submissions on a yearly basis. This is a transformative process of documenting and archiving collective feminist leadership experiences. We believe this process is vital to create new feminist narratives of power, inspiration and aspirations, to learn from collective experiences and continually deepen radical practices, and that the insights and practices gleaned from these stories can be the seeds contributing to and advancing our shared goal of a just and collective feminist society that is grounded in our collective power, interconnection and belonging to nature.
As we reflected together, it is so important to connect the dominant leadership paradigm to the neocolonial system, to the individualism of neoliberal culture encouraged and demanded by the market, and the role of social media. The exploration of collective leadership is really fundamental and needs to be explored deeper. The inspiring individual paradigm of leadership, that is part of the competitive system, is everywhere. We need to heal deeply and collectively from the 'power over' system and dynamics, to build the collective power and responsibility necessary to transform everything, from our way of being with each other to the wider societal structures, for the common good of all nature.
In this time of urgent and profound systemic change, we need to be inspired by movements and collective efforts and feel encouraged to be part of them, to have a role to play - and a responsibility to act - as part of collective power.
We thus need to focus on connecting the learnings and centring the narratives from the diverse practices of collective feminist leadership and power across the world. These practices exist, and resist. Our collaborative initiative From me to we thus aims to build collective inspiration, and strengthen efforts to create and sustain a radically different feminist leadership and practice of power.
This is an effort of collective grounding, inspiration and aspiration.
JASS is a feminist movement support organization rooted in the local movements and community-based organizing of women in Mesoamerica, Southeast Asia and Southern Africa. During our conversation with Shereen, we spoke about power, feminisms, feminist popular education, knowledge production, collective protection and healing.
FHC: JASS’ published works, particularly feminist popular education resources and tools, inspired us to form FHC and made our work possible. We interweaved elements of building collective feminist leadership and power with hiking and mountain protection in our work with mountain communities, and at the same time, continuing to sustain a process of collective radical healing. As part of our continued learning and growth, we developed a reflection project to unpack collective feminist leadership and express our gratitude and honour the work of the groups, organizations and movements that have inspired us.
Shereen: That is so interesting and refreshing, you are bridging generations of knowledge through time in a way that is so critical. At JASS, we take knowledge production seriously because of the politics that underpins it. We are constantly disputing the idea of what constitutes knowledge and who is a knower. We believe that there are many ways of knowing and that “knowledge” doesn’t just sit in universities or get produced by white men. Your approach not only disrupts this idea because you are making visible and building on the work of women who have come before you, but you are also centring the knowledge and lessons that comes from the natural world, which is also critical in this time when the earth is unwell as a result of our actions. Thank you for creating the space for this conversation and for the thought you have taken in doing this.
FHC: ¿Podrías compartir sobre lo que significa la educación popular feminista, su visión y enfoque, los elementos clave, principios y herramientas, y tu experiencia en la práctica?
Patricia: Creo que el elemento fundamental de la educación popular feminista, que tiene su origen sobre todo desde Brazil en los ‘50, ‘60 y ‘70 desde distintos autores como Paulo Freire, es que pone en el centro las prácticas y las realidades de los pueblos y de las opresiones que viven. Y esto desafía la educación bancaria tradicional - donde están quienes saben y quiénes son; quienes aprenden y quiénes “enseñan”, entonces es de la práctica de la gente en general que se parte para teorizar, para elaborar, procesar la información, y volver a la práctica con esos aprendizajes. O sea, la esencia no es producir teoría que se quede encajonada, sino que permita realmente nutrir las estrategias de las compañeras, de las organizaciones y de los movimientos.
Durante todas las últimas décadas las feministas han aportado mucho a enriquecer la propuesta de educación popular - yo diría quizás que el aporte fundamental del feminismo es esto de que lo personal es político. Y que el ámbito público es un continuum del ámbito de lo personal; que no se puede separar lo público de lo privado, y que en ese sentido tenemos que ver a las personas y a las mujeres en particular en su integralidad, en su integralidad en la cotidianidad desde lo que viven - las opresiones al interno del hogar que las mujeres hemos vivido, que están casi siempre ocultas, hasta el ámbito público.
Entonces la educación popular feminista tiene también un sentido de develar, de sacar a luz las opresiones, pero también los aportes de las mujeres que no han sido visibles en la historia "oficial". Esto de partir de lo privado también significa aprender de lo cotidiano, de lo de cada día. Es romper un poquito con esta visión tradicional de que sólo desde la teoría obtenemos los grandes aprendizajes, y de que unas saben y otras no, o que unas enseñamos y otras aprendemos - poner en común los saberes y los conocimientos que todas las mujeres tenemos, y que todas las personas tenemos para reflexionar, deconstruir las ideas que el sistema patriarcal nos ha normalizado y construir nuevos conocimientos y visiones del mundo para transformar nuestra realidad.
FHC: Could you share about what feminist popular education means, its vision and approach, the key elements, principles and tools, and your experience in practice?
Patricia: I think that the fundamental element of feminist popular education, having its origins mainly from Brazil in the 50s 60s and 70s from different authors such as Paulo Freire, is that it places at the core the practice and the reality of the peoples and of the oppressions they live. This challenges the traditional banking education - where there are those who know and "teach", and those who learn. Feminist popular education instead starts from the experiences of people to then theorise, to elaborate, to process information, and to return to practice with those learnings. In other words, the essence is not to produce theory that remains boxed in, but rather one that really allows us to nourish the strategies of our compañeras, of organizations and of movements.
And over the last few decades feminists have contributed a lot to enrich the proposition of popular education - I would say perhaps the fundamental contribution of feminism is the concept that the personal is political. The public sphere is a continuum of the personal sphere; and the public cannot be separated from the private. In this sense we have to see people, and women in particular, in their integrity, in their everyday daily integrity, from what they live through to the oppressions within the home that as women we have lived, that are almost always hidden, to the public sphere. So feminist popular education also means unveiling, bringing to light these oppressions, but also the contributions of women that have not been visible in “official” history. This element of starting from the private also means learning from the everyday, from everyday life. It means breaking away a little from this traditional vision that we learn only from theory, and that some of us know and others don't, or that some of us teach and others learn - putting together the knowledge that we all have, to reflect, deconstruct the ideas that the patriarchal system has normalised for us, and build new knowledge and visions of the world to transform our reality.
Reconocemos y honramos el trabajo colectivo, la práctica y el conocimiento de diferentes territorios y contextos de los grupos, colectivos, redes y movimientos que condujeron a la creación de herramientas, reflexiones, conocimientos y prácticas para el cuidado colectivo y la sanación radical, honramos esta sabiduría colectiva y las luchas de resistencia y liberación que están intrínsecamente conectadas. Este artículo es el comienzo de un recurso más largo que estamos creando colectivamente, que está abierto a contribuciones más amplias, sobre la sanación radical colectiva y el cuidado colectivo, para seguir sosteniendo esta práctica, continuar aprendiendo unes de otres, y mantenernos enraizades y anclades en nuestra interconexión y nuestro poder transformador colectivo para el bien común de toda la naturaleza.
We acknowledge and honour the collective work, practice and knowledge from different territories and contexts of the groups, collectives, networks and movements that led to the creation of tools, reflections, knowledge and practices for collective care and radical healing, wehonour and foreground this collective wisdom and the resistance and liberation struggles that are intrinsically connected. We are grounded in our gratitude for this space of sharing. This article is the beginning of a longer resource we are collectively creating, which is open to wider contributions, on collective radical healing and collective care, to keep sustaining this practice, continue learning from each other, and keep grounded and anchored in our interconnection and our collective transformative power for the common good of all nature.
Building We is a five-year project that aims to document experiences, elaborate on practice-based tools and learnings of and for ‘what could be called’ feminist democracies. The first step of this project resulted in a review of literature, which you can alongside the project outline here.
We are deeply grateful to our partner JASS for the solidarity, support and trust given to us, which made this first step a reality. We believe that within the storm of the patriarchy, the multitude of feminist realities and transformative forms of democracy for the common good of all nature, in any space and in multiple shapes, are the lighthouse guiding our way for the present and future. Another world is possible.