Five: Social change through collective action: campaigns and mass mobilisations

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Collective action is a crucial aspect of feminist activities aimed at securing transformational social change including campaigns and mass mobilisations to achieve specific goals that can cover housing issues, social problems including poverty, transportation and the formulation and implementation of community development, sustainability and resilience strategies. This chapter draws on case studies to consider how communities enhance their capacities to form alliances and develop strategies for mass actions and community resilience, such as the development of hurricane action plans for Charleston, South Carolina in the USA; or anti-poverty projects promoting entrepreneurialism and enterprises run by women in South Africa. Women have achieved considerable success in local community-based projects founded upon their local knowledge, skills, networks and community mobilisation capacities. Some initiatives have floundered against men’s opposition. Lessons can be learnt from the fragmentation of the women’s movement and its failure to sustain the creativity, vision and ambition of the 1960s and 1970s. Mainstream feminists’ neglect of marginalised women’s voices, particularly those of black and minority ethnic women, queer women and diverse sexual orientations, fractured and fragmented a movement that remains in that mode. In contemporary society, the securitisation of the state and legitimacy of Islamophobia have increased schisms within feminist groups and communities. This leaves the concern of how to enable women to form alliances that promote unity of purpose while recognising their differences.

In this chapter, I scrutinise feminist campaigns around childcare, domestic violence against women and children, child sexual abuse, and peace. I show that feminist community activists use ‘the personal is political’ as a central organising principle to redefine matters that society relegates to the private realm outside the scope of social concerns that are public and affect everyone.

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