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Defending Democracy

A Feminist Blueprint

Our need for a feminist pro-democracy movement will outlast the results of any election.

Through nearly 37 years of work, MADRE has gathered valuable lessons from the experiences of our partners all over the world. They are feminist advocates for rights and justice who have shaped and guided popular movements, locally and globally — and whose work is the backbone of true democracy.

Ahead of the 2020 US presidential election, we spoke to our global partners about how to defend democracy from the grassroots. We asked: What does nonviolent feminist action look like and why do we need it now?

A Nepali woman chants while holding up two signs during a rally.

We know that if our democracy is threatened, we can and must turn out in massive numbers to protect the results of this election. To do so, we can learn from feminist movements the world over to generate the kind of people-powered movement we need to preserve our democracy. We have a feminist blueprint: let’s put it into action. Click below to read an op-ed by MADRE Executive Director Yifat Susskind on the four key steps to follow.

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In this moment, we need to do more than hold on to hope. We need to anticipate and be ready for whatever comes next. To do so, we can borrow lessons from feminist-led pro-democracy movements around the world.

Our Feminist Blueprint presents the three key tactics we’ll need to defend our democracy. Download it and discover what actions you can take now.

Image of Kenyan women in traditional dress standing in front of a blueprint graphic.

Snapshots from Feminist, Pro-Democracy Movements Worldwide

1. Commit to nonviolence 

Research shows that nonviolent campaigns succeed almost twice as often as violent campaigns in achieving their aims. Feminist-led movements use humor, creativity, and festivity to foster nonviolence in protests. In South Korea, organizers built stages for singers to deliver protest songs and popular music. In Belarus, protesters — especially women — are performing folk songs to resist the authoritarian regime.

2. Be inclusive and embrace collective leadership

In Sudan, women protest leaders explicitly spoke out against racism; prominent activist, Alaa Salah, said: “I wanted to get (on the car) and...speak against racism and tribalism in all its forms.”

In Algeria, the Hirak movement has been committed to collective leadership, and the government’s attempts to divide them were ultimately ineffective, precisely because of collective leadership and action.

In Thailand, pro-democracy mobilizations have been led by women, youth, and LGBTQ people who have explicitly linked their appeals for democracy with reproductive rights, feminism, and LGBTQ rights.

3. Build resilience for the long haul

In Bolivia, one year of sustained, powerful grassroots and Indigenous-led organizing recently led to victory. In the US, as we approach a period of uncertainty and contestation, we need to hold steady, take care of each other, and be ready to act.

Be sure to click here to read about more of these lessons and examples!

We asked our partners "What does it mean to defend democracy?" Here's what they told us:

Nida Ali, President of Girls Got Voice (Pakistan), on achieving a truer democracy.  

Maria Al-Abdeh, Executive Director, Women Now for Development (Syria) on choosing non-violence

Aisha Mansour, Former Executive Director, Dalia Association (Palestine) on resilience.