Feminism under construction: A push for new alliances in Asia

FES helps building new alliances that can bring feminist visions into the mainstream.

“Feminist” is not a popular word in Asia, those trying to promote gender justice face nationalist and fundamentalist backlash. FES helps building new alliances that can bring feminist visions into the mainstream.

As part of the three-year project titled Political Feminism in Asia, 21 feminists from seven countries are participating at four events called Future Labs, forming a network of progressive male and female feminists with backgrounds as activists, scholars and economists.

The Future Lab events are a platform where participants split in four working groups are developing innovative projects that aim to introduce feminist perspectives and discourses into the mainstream, using tools such as animation videos, a mobile reporting documentary, a feminist curriculum for trade unionists and an app.

The groups have come a long way since their projects were developed using design thinking at the second event, Future Lab 2 in Nepal (link). In preparation for the upcoming third meeting at the Future Lab 3 (28- 30 September) the groups have met with graphic and animation designers, a film editor as well as app developers to make progress on their projects. All projects will be presented at the closing Future Lab in 2019. 

Making feminist perspectives accessible to a wider audience

With #HerStoryYourStory the first group is working on an animation film that brings feminist perspectives from Thailand, Philippines, India, Indonesia and Pakistan, dealing with reproductive rights, sex work and gender-based violence. At the meeting in Bangkok, the group finalized their storyboards and created drafts of characters, discussing details, considering culture, clothing and debating how to make women’s issues more accessible and relatable to a wider audience. 

Giving working mothers a voice

Only 28 per cent of employed women worldwide enjoy any paid maternity leave in practice. The second working group met in Kathmandu and explored maternity in patriarchy and how women’s lives are affected by neoliberal policies. The documentary is done by the group members themselves, using and experimenting with mobile reporting. They filmed women talking about the working conditions in factories or as health workers and how difficult it is to know about and to avail themselves of maternity rights. The group made progress with their documentary on maternity rights in Asia by discussing their material and learning how storytelling can connect different voices of working mothers.  

Uniting feminists and workers

How can the workers’ movement and feminists learn from each other and support each other in their struggles? This is the question dealt with by the group called Proletarization of Feminism is dealing with. The team is developing a feminist curriculum for the Global Labour University and the discussions at the meeting in Singapore led to a focus on care work and informal work. The curriculum aims to enable a feminist analysis of women’s work, which is often unpaid or underpaid.

The economy of care fits well into current debates on the future of work and is placed at the centre of feminist and workers’ movement's interests. Feminists have been demanding the recognition, redistribution and reduction of care work for decades. A recent study by the International Labour Organization (ILO) found that women do four times more unpaid care work than men in Asia. The group hopes to be able to contribute to the debate, bringing care work to the top of the workers and feminists agendas.

5 Mangoes for a feminist movie

The fourth group in the Political Feminism Network met in Jakarta, to work on their app for intersectional feminist ratings of movies.By rating how sexist, racist, misogynist and classist the portrayals of women in popular culture are, they aim to raise awareness and gender sensitivity about the stereotyping and discriminatory content of cultural products.

The app is called Mango Meter – Feminist Film Reviews and intends to show how engrained the negative and traditional images of women are and how, in the absence of highlighting and criticism, they will be continued to be reinforced and reproduced. Inspired by the movie rating site Rotten Tomatoes, the app’s name of Mango Meter reflects its Asian origin.  A rating of one mango means a movie is on the sexist end of the spectrum, while five mangoes attest to a movie being fully feminist. For the team behind the app, a feminist movie includes representation of marginalized and diverse voices, female lead characters who aim for more than marriage and motherhood, and a positive portrayal of female relationships.  

The short animation film #HerStoryYourStory, the documentary about maternity rights, the feminist curriculum for trade unionists, and the movie rating app Mango Meter are to be launched at the fourth Future Lab, which concludes the three-year project Political Feminism in Asia in the beginning of 2019.


For more information on the regional project Feminism in Asia contact Lea Goelnitz, Programme Manager at the FES Office for Regional Cooperation in Asia.


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