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Feminist Community Organizing

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Nicole O'Connor

on 21 February 2015

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Transcript of Feminist Community Organizing

Action Plan
we know that current services for immigrant women are being considered as not useful so we would definitely want to ask: what are the current services available for immigrant women?

Gender, Race, and Class
Potential Barriers to Step 1: Gain Understanding
Part 2

Here, a conflict emerges within a meeting regarding a male member and his objection to providing services for the women.
He mentions a lack of housing and job opportunities within the community as is.
The next goal is to resolve the conflict to find any success in the previous plans.
Issues with Gender Associated Roles:
The male member lacks understanding or empathy with the immigrant women and their situation
A male member brings up good insight from another perspective, it was ignored.
Not all members felt as if their opinion was significant or respected. Not everyone was included in the planning process
Step one to resolve issue:
Work with those who object

Use a macro approach; share beliefs, ideas, reasons for them; find some common ground among each other
A feminist movement includes both genders, since both can contribute in a way that benefits everyone

Step two to resolve issue: Empowerment

Have women organize other women as a means of empowerment
Help women volunteer to contribute to the community such as gardening, building, handing out brochures, ect.
Help women gain confidence through language classes, support groups, information sharing, etc. Let them become familiar with surroundings.
Accessing the Women
There are many logistical factors to consider when accessing the women, both initially and on a continuing basis. Developing and implementing services right away is not going to work in this situation, as time must be allotted to promote social inclusion and relationship building with the immigrant community.

• Basic information needs to be obtained about the community, including customs, roles, expectations, language, etc.

• Contacting the service users that have offered to help previously and asking them to act as liaisons between us and the community members would be a good first step.

• Connect with community leaders for valuable information and suggestions, and brainstorm ideas that could help engage the men as well, as they seem to be resistant to having these services put in place. More open dialogue is needed at this point to determine why.

• Have the leaders personally invite the community members to the gatherings.

Feminist Community Organizing
Using a Gender Lens

I will begin our presentation by sharing our group's action plan! Our plan has five steps and has been guided by the principles of feminist organizing and Ponic & Frisby's community organizing framework.

The goal of our project is to address the social isolation that women of immigrant communities are experiencing.

By following FO principles, we will strive to address the barriers the women may be facing, as well as other contextual issues such as power, race, poverty and class.
Step one:
In order to construct our best action plan, I think we must begin by exploring what we already know about the community we are seeking to work alongside. This exploration could include asking the following questions...

we also know that these services are not accessible for these women so we would want to find out: where are such services located?
what are the barriers and obstacles the women are experiencing when attempting to access and engage with community services?
we know that we would like to gather as many women together as we are able to listen, share and plan, it is essential that our first gathering location held a spot that is accessible (in all ways) to this community: where should this be?
we want to hear the women speak of their needs, difficulties and desires!
our first gathering is very important... there are many facets we need to take into account when planning it (location, transportation, child minding, time of day, etc.)
Step two:
Following the first principle of feminist organizing…

bring women together and listen
invite women to tell stories, share, have voice heard
as social workers we may support and facilitate conversations between smaller groups of women
ultimately our goal with this step would be listen to the women share about…
services they would like
what they are experiencing in their community - barriers? accessibility? isolation?

the step is crucial because we will be laying the foundation for a safe, welcoming, comforting space for women to gather, learn, support one another and grow
Step three:
Following the second principle feminist organizing…
establish connections/working relationships with the other services users in the area who are interested in helping us get our programs up and running
connect with leaders of the community to which the immigrant women belong to
reach out to other potential partners in the community

base our organizing process off of what the women have shared and what their experience has been
Step four:
Following the third principle of feminist organizing…
this step is all about the process of community organizing
a process that will be grounded by an equal distribution of power
organizing will be of a democratic nature and follow a consensus model
as social workers we will be allies in this process, modelling the process
we will follow Ponic and Frisby’s framework, which utilizes different subgroups in the organization to plan, discuss and organize
throughout this process we will remain very aware of systemic power imbalances and strive to organize horizontally, rather than through a hierarchy model

Step five:
Following the fourth principle of feminist organizing…

we will remain aware that as a group, we may have goals and objectives we would like to meet, however, it is the PROCESS of meeting these goals that is essential and of utmost importance
as we learned in this week’s learning activities, the process is where trust is built, connections are formed/deepened, confidence is built and empowerment is grown
through collaboration, relationships are formed and isolation is diminished
By: Nicole, Tiffany, Krista & Alana
In order for us to be able to hear the women tell their stories, we first need to address some of the logistical concerns and work to gather them in one place.
Find an
interpreter to
assist with
Choose a location
that's accessible
via public transit
and easy to find

Distribute bilingual
newspaper ads, posters,
and brochures about the
gatherings in targeted neighborhoods
There are many unknowns at this stage, but the potential for growth and development is tremendous. What the women want and need in terms of services will stem from the sharing of their lives and experiences. It’s up to us as social workers to listen and build a support network from there...
Let's Get Together!
In keeping with feminist organizing principles, meetings are run democratically and are based on consensus decision making. The process is just as important as the end goals!
• Social workers can encourage large and small group interaction, and schedule free time during the sessions for relationship building amongst the participants or for them to access the workers privately
• The foundational gatherings are casual and open to everyone, including spouses, children and family members
• Everyone’s story matters, and everyone’s voice must be heard. It will be up to us as facilitators to ensure that happens. Some participants might need gentle encouragement to engage while others may need to be guided to “share the floor”
The end goal of this process is to diminish isolation, foster connections and networking, and empower the women of this community. We aim to implement services that are useful, relevant, and tailored specifically to their needs.
Gather, Learn, Grow
Gender, race, and class play a pivotal role in the women's increasing social and material isolation...
In many cultures women are viewed as less than men. They have less rights and less freedom.
Different values and beliefs may influence their choices.
Lower socioeconomic status families have less resources available and may prevent someone from doing different things.
While we have an excellent action plan to address the issues of social and material isolation of immigrant women...
We may encounter a few barriers in each step...
How might our own gender, race, and class impact our ability to gain understanding?
In this step we need to consider our own values and beliefs so that we can understand how they might impact our work.
By doing so, we put ourselves in a position where we are ready and willing to be allies, rather than leaders.
Potential Barriers to Step 2: Tell Stories...
The greatest challenge here is hearing the women tell their stories from their own point of view. We also need to consider the communication barriers. Not all women can speak English and may require a translator.
Furthermore, men are representing the women at meetings. How can we encourage the women to speak for themselves without disrespecting their culture?
Differences in gender roles amongst different cultures.
Are there conflicting cultural values and beliefs amongst the women we are working with and what can we do to minimize any sort of conflict we may encounter in the decision making process?
Many of these women are newly immigrated from war torn countries and may not have been able to bring many resources with them when they immigrated.
Barriers to Step 3: Diverse Inclusion
The barriers here are conflicting opinions among other service providers, the women we are working with, the women’s community leaders, and ourselves. Are we all respecting the women as the master’s of their own lives? Furthermore, we need to make sure that we are considering the intersectionality of gender, race, and class. We need to set clear goals so that everyone is on the same page and has an understanding of exactly what we are trying to accomplish.
Barriers to Step 4: Process
Working in a democratic setting may cause conflict amongst women. In order to prevent arguments we need to set clear guidelines and expectations about what we are trying to accomplish.
Also, women may not show up or stop showing up. We need to con
The intersectionality of gender, race, and class creates issues because each woman has a different set of barriers preventing her from being socially and materially included. That is, each woman is unique, with very different and specific needs.
Barriers to Step 5: Means vs. Ends
Not everyone is going to have the same understanding that the process of meeting goals is the most essential. Some of the women may expect to see results, and quick. How are we going to handle situations where the women are disappointed in the outcome? We need to be upfront with the women from the beginning and explain how these things take time to come together. If we are able to address this issue before it happens, we can minimize the potential for conflict.
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