Social change for and by young women

Oxfam Gender, Inequality, Poverty in the UK, Youth

What’s the most effective way of supporting young women to create the change they want to see in the world? FRIDA | The Young Feminist Fund, The Global Fund for Women, Oxfam and the Young Foundation are collaborating to respond to this question. Aly Marczynski explains how.

The Roots Lab, a new social innovation lab, will test the most effective ways of supporting young women activists in countries around the world.

Young women activists in the UK recently gathered in London to discuss the opportunities and challenges that they face in their work. Their inputs were taken up into the design of the Roots Lab to ensure that the programme responds to the needs of young women in a concrete way.

Around the world, young women have been organising, campaigning and developing new and creative ideas to advance social change. Apps such as Não Me Calo, that allows users to rank restaurants based on their treatment of women and girls, and websites like Oiimysize, which aims to raise awareness about how boys talk to girls, are indicative of how young women are changing the
game. Yet there are scant resources for them to develop and scale their ideas.

“What I love about this project is that you’re not just activating young women in some spaces, but in many sectors and all over the world”

The Roots Lab is a social innovation laboratory to advance young women’s rights, leadership and collective action. It aims to bridge the gap between the knowledge, creativity and motivation of young women activists and the financial resources, professional skills and networks necessary for them to develop their ideas and test them for scale. It will be rolled out in the Global South as well as the UK, funding contingent.

Attendees at a consultation on the design and content of the UK pilot programme included Girl Guides UK, Women’s YMCA, Young Women’s Trust, Rosa, the British Council, STEMettes and Hysterical Feminisms. They described the need for a programme of this kind in the UK:
gender inequality is persistent, and some communities are particularly underserved when it comes to women’s rights.

The attendees mentioned mental health, disproportionate responsibility for care, and the pay gap as areas where innovation and change is urgently needed. They argued that young feminists should determine the focus areas (such as violence against women, or political participation) of the projects included in the lab. This represents a shift away from a ‘donor driven’ mentality in which the potential areas of work are determined by the funder.

They discussed ways to enhance project design through the use of experts at key moments, as well as utilizing participants as mentors for future projects. They also called attention to the fact that feminist spaces are not necessarily inclusive and that the Roots Lab should work to achieve diversity amongst participants, project managers and trainers.

The participants also shared their sense of the importance of building transnational links among young feminists, particularly given the global nature of patriarchy and restrictive gender norms. One participant said:

“What I love about this project is that you’re not just activating young women in some spaces, but in many sectors and all over the world. You are building up feminists to be active everywhere.”

Together, the partners working on this programme hope to encourage and support more young women to be change-makers in their communities, and identify support in the form of financial resources, mentorship, and connections to new networks so that they can create sustainable, transformative change in their own lives.

For more information, please contact: Chloe Safier, Roots Lab Program Design Lead.

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Author: Oxfam
Archive blog. Originally posted on Oxfam Policy & Practice.