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Opening letter to the Global Feminist Coalition

20th September 2022

28 Sep 2022

Dear sisters,

I use the word sister in the most expansive and in the deepest of senses. We are all here today because of something that has happened to us at some point in our lives. An act of violence, an act of injustice, an act of neglect, an act of abuse. Sometimes it was one specific moment you can point to and say that is what opened my eyes, that is what made me a feminist, sometimes it a slow coalescing over time of various injustices until one day you cannot bear it any more and saying it, expressing your feminist, feels like coming out, out into the light. So when I call you sisters, I don’t mean in the sense of our bodies or gender identities, I am referring to that sense of shared freedom, that sense of shared purpose, that sense of just knowing that if we could dismantle the patriarchy, we would achieve every SDG.

I am so grateful to you for taking the time and putting in the energy and the commitment to be here today. I want to especially acknowledge those who are not here physically but are joining us online. One day there will be no visas and no borders but we have to wait for that day because we don’t have enough women leaders yet.

You have important work to do here today and tomorrow. We are depending on you to answer the following questions:

What does progress in achieving gender parity look like in your country – in your eyes and your words?

Where is the education system failing girls and where is the progress genuine and meaningful? What does that progress lead to for gender equality more broadly in your country?

What do we do about “whataboutboys”? Are we actually responding to the gendered vulnerabilities of boys? How do we do this without making it a zero sum game?

Your answers – and this is 100% true and you can ask the consultants we have hired – will define UNGEI’s next five year strategy and plan. It will inform what we say on global stages and in closed-door conversations by which I mean late night WhatsApp of course.

So yes we very much have our own selfish motives in bringing you here but we also hope that being here and listening to each other, working with each other and dancing with each other, you will also build important relationships and networks with each other. I’m always a bit surprised when people say but what feminist mean because to me it has always been so clear: feminist is solidarity for equality. So I hope that bringing together feminist education actors from 31 countries means that we are strengthening our shared world and space.

Help us do our job right. Help me do my job right. What do girls need? What do children on the ground need? You are the experts, you tell us.

We look forward to two days of learning and laughter and argument and discussion and coming together to celebrate that space in our hearts that makes us sisters.

Thank you.

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