Local politics must be feminized

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The feminization of politics provides much needed inspiration not only to movements to revitalize local democracy, but also to those seeking to realize the true potential of community wealth creation to bring about meaningful change on inequalities, write Frances Jones. , associate director, and Eleanor Radcliffe, researcher. , both at Keys.

Thirteen years ago, the global financial crisis caused human suffering around the world. In the process, the creation of community wealth appeared as an alternative approach to local economic development.

In strengthening community wealth, local authorities as well as other anchoring institutions of the public sector and partners of the social and private sector are trying to disrupt the structures that allowed the crisis, by building in their place local economies where people have much higher levels of control and ownership of wealth.

At the same time, activists responding to the same inequalities and suffering on their doorstep began to reshape the political landscape in their cities and communities, this time driven by feminist principles. Their work to “feminize politics” has grown into a global movement.

The “feminization of politics” is a practical approach to revitalizing local democracy that has been developed by an international movement of feminist activists, politicians and academics. It seeks to remove obstacles to political participation encountered not only by women but by all those who feel alienated or undesirable in public institutions and social movements. It does so by:

  • Ensure the representation of non-dominant groups in institutional and public life
  • Advocacy for public policies that seek to break the patriarchy
  • Use more participatory methods in decision-making in public organizations
  • Open spaces dominated by people with important privileges so that all people can feel at home by participating in democratic activities.

A decade later, we live in the shadow of another seismic economic crisis which, once again, exposes the inadequacies of our economy. Community wealth building, meanwhile, has grown from the margins to become widely adopted by local, regional and national governments across the UK.

In this blog, we explore why at Cles we believe the feminization of politics provides much needed inspiration not only to movements to revitalize local democracy, but also to those seeking to realize the true potential of wealth creation. communities to drive significant change on inequalities. .

At a time when local government in the UK is beset by challenges on many fronts, it is easy to miss the potential of feminization of politics to spur creativity and unlock new ways of working. To many, elements of these ideas will sound familiar: a commitment to increasing the representation of women and a greater emphasis on participatory decision-making, for example. But narrow interpretations miss the point: the feminization of politics is a “way of doing things” of local democracy that seeks to transform the local landscape as it functions.

The results of this “way of doing things” are far greater than the sum of any single action. To feminize politics is to abandon traditional ways of holding power. Through this, advocates set out to erode deep currents of oppression and privilege – sexism, yes, but also racism, ableism, homophobia and classism to name a few – which determine life chances across the world. Its power is that rather than offering another set of prescriptions for what needs to be done within existing structures, it focuses on how people at the grassroots and within local institutions can together create and share the power in new ways.

A powerful example of the application of these ideas in practice can be seen in the recent history of Barcelona. In 2015, a group of activists and citizens – Barcelona in Comu – won the municipal elections. Their strategy of reorienting public institutions to fight inequalities and build a fairer economy is the story of a revolution in urban governance, driven by feminism.

At Cles, we see a strong resonance between these ideas and our work on community wealth creation, which aims to strengthen the levels of control and ownership of wealth by the local population. Reflecting on this work through the prism of the feminization of politics raises a question: Do approaches led by public institutions, isolated from local populations, risk reproducing the very inequalities they were supposed to fight?

The appetite for community wealth creation and progressive local economic ideas is large and growing. But as the movement grows, it’s more important than ever that we reflect on its main purpose. Engaging in the feminization of politics offers an important opportunity to enhance the potential for community wealth creation to bring about deep-rooted change in local economies.

Thus, this summer, Cles begins a work program to deepen the feminization of politics. In this we see two overarching questions: What does a path to feminized local politics look like for the UK, and how can the ideas behind the feminization of politics help those working on the ground to build local economies? fairer?

Next to a webinar last month we will publish a document outlining our findings and explaining how we plan to move forward.

With the assumptions and standards upset by Covid-19, we have the opportunity to aim high to rebuild a democratic and just future. In the words of Barcelona en Comu “a revolution which is not feminist does not deserve this name”.

You can watch the webinar here


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