“The school contributed directly to boosting my confidence and breaking the chain of fear existing around me. I am proud to be a part of this historic movement. It is a remarkable achievement, helping facilitators become skilled and effective leaders.” — Asma, World March of Women, Pakistan
On March 10th, just two days after International Women’s Day, grassroots feminist organizers from around the globe gathered for a virtual celebration. This event was to celebrate the launch of the Decolonial Feminist Popular Education facilitator’s guidebook by the Berta Cáceres International Feminist Organizing School (IFOS) – a project years in the making. It was a lively gathering full of music, dancing, beautiful videos, and testimonials. Throughout it, the spirit of the movement felt alive and strong, and the connection between participants undeniable.
Sonia Moreno of Grassroots Global Justice Alliance spoke saying, “This has been a very powerful process, to be among so many strong women, to feel as family, to be ourselves; to know that we’re not alone as women, that we have rights, and we can organize ourselves to achieve a better world [and] security for our families.”
IFOS was born two years ago through an effort led by Grassroots Global Justice Alliance (GGJ) in collaboration with Grassroots International, World March of Women, and Indigenous Environmental Network. It began with the goal of celebrating the power of women and gender non-conforming people to organize and make local changes that are felt globally. Over the years the knowledge and frameworks shared in the school have expanded. Currently, a key component is the introduction of “feminist economies for the sustainability of life” as alternatives to current extractive and exploitative economies.
As stated on the GGJ webpage, the IFOS “provides a space for grassroots leaders to create a shared vision for the grassroots internationalist feminist movement we hope to build.”
The namesake of the school is Berta Cáceres, an Indigenous Lenca woman and activist who was murdered seven years ago in an attempt to silence resistance to a major hydro-dam project. Berta founded the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) which continues to work tirelessly to protect Lenca territory and fight against extractive megaprojects. Berta’s legacy lives on through IFOS and the spreading of grassroots feminist organizing.
In IFOS’ remarkably successful first year in 2021, participants from around the world came together at all hours of the day via videoconference to share their experiences and learn new skills. Although meetings were forced to be remote due to the COVID-19 pandemic, organizers are excited for IFOS to host its first in-person school in Honduras later this year.
IFOS emphasizes accessibility, striving to make information available to as many people as possible. The IFOS Guidebook released last year is a beautiful publication available in five different languages (English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, and Arabic) that is a means of using popular education to disperse the powerful frameworks developed through IFOS. The newly released Facilitators Guidebook is a powerful addition and an important resource in the commitment by IFOS organizers to “train the trainers.”
They write, “By training IFOS students to teach others, we are growing a worldwide movement of people working toward a vision of a feminist, regenerative, life-affirming economy.”
The Facilitators guidebook contains an abundance of impactful information including historical context, Indigenous and traditional knowledge, decolonial popular feminist education, study materials, and exercises. It is this wide breadth of contents that makes the guidebook such a powerful tool. Sefu Sanni of World March of Women Kenya mentioned that, through IFOS, “we are learning the theory that informs the practice. There can be no organization and mobilization without both theory and practice.”
Cindy Wiesner of GGJ said that the Facilitator’s Guidebook is intended as “an offering to the movement – not only documentation of lessons and methodology, but also a political basis and orientation to what we’re teaching and sharing.”
This is just the beginning for the IFOS as the work continues to spread the knowledge of feminist organizing far and wide. Each participant is just one link in an ever growing chain. “Berta didn’t die, she multiplied!” was the communal cry throughout the event and a sentiment reflected in IFOS itself.
As Cindy said, “The idea was always for this school to multiply; to be something that we could take back to our movements and communities and adapt to our conditions.”
Anna Marklin is an intern from the University of New Mexico.