The 13th Forum of the Association of Women’s Rights in Development (AWID) was exceptional in three different ways. First because it brought together 1,700 feminists, activists, and women human rights defenders from 140 countries, as well as representatives from the donor community, the media, and a few governments. Second because the organizers urged the participants to venture outside their comfort zone in order to open their minds and hearts to new forms of interaction, new concepts of alliances and strategies, and new languages. Simultaneous interpretation for larger sessions was offered in Portuguese, English, Spanish, French, Arabic, and Russian. Third because the forum was hosted by Bahia, a state in northeastern Brazil in the midst of a pivotal and challenging political situation for the Brazilian civil society and in particular for human rights activists and feminists, who were dealing with an institutional coup.
The 4-day program was very broad and diverse. Besides the four plenaries, there were umbrella sessions on issues that require an urgent and well-planned strategic response, cross-movement initiatives to deepen engagement across movements, and about 200 participant-led sessions. Key principles for all formats were interactivity and creativity involving different art forms, specifically exhibitions, concerts, dance/cabaret shows, and small fairs.