Grassroots or Government: Which Approach is Best for the Women’s Rights Movement

The primary purpose of the Women’s Rights Movement is to end social practices that negatively impact  women and girls. One of the challenges of the movement is deciding which strategies are the most effective in realizing this global vision. Much of the work completed within the Women’s Rights Movement takes place at the grassroots and government levels. This is why feminists should consider whether one of these approaches may be more effective than the other.

People who think that working with the government is the best way to bring about positive change for women and girls should consider these statistics. First, a mere one in five Americans trust the government. Second, 74% believe that public officials put their own interests ahead of the interests of everyday people. Finally, 55% maintain that ordinary American citizens would be more effective in solving problems than political officials.

Though these statistics do show a very negative opinion of the government,  it’s important to note that there are many ways that the political realm is used to promote the liberation of women and girls. For example, the Obama Administration created the White House Council on Women and Girls. Obama also appointed two women to the Supreme Court. Additionally, the government was responsible for passing Title IX, a policy which promotes equality for girls within the sphere of education.

Clearly, gains have been made on behalf of women through the government. However, the relationship between politicians and Women’s Rights activists remains strained. This is the case for many reasons, including the fact that women hold few seats in the government. Also, the government has failed to pass bills that would create a better world for women. An example of this is the Equal Rights Amendment bill. The bill was created to guarantee equal legal rights for everyone regardless of gender that was proposed in the 1970s and has yet to be ratified.  This reality shows that even when the government attempts to operate as an ally for women, it may not be the best medium through which to bring about positive change.

Ultimately, the government’s ability to effectively advance  the Women’s Rights Movement is questionable at best, so it’s important for feminists to consider other strategies for change. As noted by social movement researchers, the grassroots approach is likely the most effective. Although defined broadly, grassroots work is basically a method for change which involves collective action being taken at the local level.It is a “bottom up” method in which citizens put pressure on various power structures to create change. As noted in Collective Action and Women’s Agency: A Background Paper, grassroots work can expand the set of opportunities available to women while also challenging social norms.

There are many examples of people using a grassroots method to create more opportunities for women and girls. An example would be the work of Leymah Gbowee, the Liberian Nobel Prize winner. In the face of a devastating war, Gbowee organized demonstrations and sit-ins to mobilize women in her local area. By working with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, she played a role in ending the civil war which lasted 14 years.

Another example of grassroots efforts leading to social change for women is the #MeToo movement. For over a year, the Twitter hashtag has been used to draw attention to women’s ongoing struggle against various forms of sexual violence. By developing a platform through which women can share their stories, the #MeToo movement created a global environment of solidarity and sisterhood for women.

It’s important to note that research supports the idea that grassroots organizing is a better tool for change than the government. The Gender Equality & Development study found that the grassroots efforts were more important than government efforts and women’s presence within political parties. In reviewing these conclusions, writer Kim Milan concludes that “ the single most powerful resource in transforming the state… are the women and girls in their own cities, villages, countries.”

Whether you think the advancement of Women’s Rights should take place through the government or grassroots efforts, now is the time to get involved. Here at Live Your Dream, we offer readers a wide range opportunities to become active in promoting gender equality. Contact us now to learn about how you can get involved!

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Jocelyn Crawley is a radical feminist who found feminism in her late 20s. She has published several works on a wide range of feminist topics, including rape culture, gender identity, feminist literature, and misogynist music lyrics. Her favorite feminist books are Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. In addition to volunteering with awesome organizations such as LiveYourDream.org, she enjoys doing yoga and sipping coffee while having great conversations with friends. Her objective for 2019 is working at the local level with other radical feminists to develop strategies for resistance to rape.

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