How Does Change Happen? Women’s Rights And Development Conference

This was the question that was the central focus of the 10th International Forum of
the Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID). The Forum was held
in Bangkok, Thailand from October 27th – 30th, 2005. The AWID is an international
organization, founded in 1982, and hosts an international forum every three years.
What was notable about the AWID Forum was its diversity, in the most literal
sense. The participants were from all regions, from places as far apart as the U.S.A.,
Serbia, India and New Zealand, and represented many different concerns. “Governing
Digital Spaces”, “Changing Public Opinion on HIV/AIDS”, “Patterns for Change:
Labor Rights in the Garment Industry”, “”Is There Any Movement? Social Change in
the US” and “How Can We Balance Pleasure, Sexuality and Safety” are a taste of the
range of session topics.
A significant aspect of the forum was the number of sessions focusing on sexual
rights. The need to fight against heteronormativity in the spaces of human rights
advocacy was brought up in the Opening Plenary itself. LGBT issues, sex workers’
rights, transgender and transsexual issues were all discussed here. As a signal of their
commitment to make sexual rights more central, AWID presented a performance by
the PRIMADONA troupe, a group of transgender, transsexual, and MSM individuals
from Malaysia, at a plenary session.
In the Final Plenary, there was a chance for many participants to propose
fundamental changes for the way ahead. Many activists called for LGBT rights and sex
workers’ rights to take a more central place in social movements. The AWID Forum
was a space for getting to know many people. It was also a space for defining the
future avenues of advocacy for many activists.

Kaushalya Perera is a student in the Linguistics Program at the Graduate Center, CUNY and a member of the
LBT organization in Sri Lanka, Women’s Support Group.