by Leonora Tema
The Women Deliver Conference, a global platform dedicated to advancing gender equality and women’s rights, convened in a gathering in July 2023 that left a profound impact on attendees. As advocates, policymakers, and change makers from diverse backgrounds converged, a prevailing theme emerged – the imperative to decolonize power and knowledge. In this blog post, we delve into the significance of this conversation and how it shapes the trajectory of gender equality and women’s empowerment worldwide.
Decolonization of power and knowledge refers to the critical examination and transformation of the structures, systems, and paradigms that perpetuate colonial legacies, particularly in relation to gender, race, and socio-economic disparities. It aims to dismantle the historical patterns of dominance, privilege, and control that have marginalized women and communities in the Global South while perpetuating inequities across the world.
At the Women Deliver Conference, eminent speakers and attendees voiced their experiences and insights, urging a fundamental shift in the prevailing power dynamics and the dissemination of knowledge. The conversation revolved around acknowledging the role of historical oppression, colonialism, and imperialism in shaping societal norms, and the urgent need to dismantle these systems.
One of the key takeaways from the conference was the call for inclusivity and intersectionality. It highlighted the importance of recognizing that the struggle for gender equality and women’s rights cannot be isolated from the broader fight against systemic injustices. Decolonizing power and knowledge necessitate engaging with diverse perspectives, centering marginalized voices, and acknowledging the interconnectedness of various struggles.
The conference emphasized the vital role of indigenous knowledge in shaping policies and interventions. By acknowledging and integrating traditional practices, wisdom, and environmental stewardship from indigenous communities, we can create more holistic and sustainable approaches to development and empowerment. Empowering indigenous women and respecting their knowledge challenges the historical erasure of their contributions.
Decolonization of power and knowledge requires challenging Eurocentric norms that have shaped development paradigms and perpetuated neo-colonial relationships. The conference highlighted the importance of recognizing and respecting diverse cultural practices and belief systems, fostering genuine partnerships that are not based on paternalism or exploitation.
The Women Deliver Conference stressed the significance of shifting global power dynamics, both within organizations and on the international stage. It encouraged dismantling patriarchal structures, promoting female leadership, and ensuring that decision-making spaces include a wide range of perspectives. Only by breaking free from historical power imbalances can we pave the way for genuine progress in gender equality and women’s empowerment.
A central theme was the reclamation of agency and empowerment. Decolonization empowers women to redefine their narratives and take the lead in shaping their destinies. By providing opportunities for education, economic empowerment, and leadership roles, women can assert their rights and challenge the oppressive systems that have held them back for centuries.
The Women Deliver Conference served as a powerful platform for fostering conversations around the decolonization of power and knowledge. As we reflect on its outcomes, we must remember that this is not a mere intellectual exercise; it is a call to action. Decolonization demands tangible efforts to challenge the status quo, confront systemic injustices, and create an inclusive world where all women can thrive.
Through collective efforts, we can create a future where women’s voices are amplified, their rights respected, and their agency celebrated. By embracing diverse perspectives, recognizing the historical roots of inequality, and forging genuine partnerships, we take one step closer to a more equitable and just world for all. As we move forward, let us remain committed to the transformational journey of decolonization, knowing that each stride brings us closer to realizing the full potential of gender equality and women’s empowerment.
(Leonora Tema is the founder and director of Kwanele-Bringing Justice to Women, an innovative app that gives women and children an easy-to-use tool to report and successfully prosecute crimes involving Gender Based Violence. Kwanele is a grantee of the Voice and Choice Southern Africa Fund. This article is part of a series being produced during Women’s Month based on participation by VCSAFund grantees in the Women Deliver Conference held in Kigali in July)