The words and categories developed to interpret and explain the reality around us are too generic to account for social complexities: global, local, politics, participation, gender, diversity, and inclusion. What does all this mean, in the context of the inequalities that structure countries and the international scene? Overall, what does it mean to think about open government in such diverse and disparate scenarios?
Of the things that surprised me the most during a week of new experiences and learning at the Open Government Partnership Summit in Ottawa, Canada, the biggest one was seeing that building inclusive policies and governments based on feminist principles is possible, and is already a reality today. The presentation of Gender-based Analysis Plus (GBA+) at the event was undoubtedly a time to widen smiles and make eyes shine: a guidebook of feminist principles that must be respected and considered in the development of any and all policies of a country. After all, with all the mishaps that may exist in the implementation of GBA+, it seems like a dream materialized by the minds and hands of many women who occupy spaces in the institutional politics of the country. If this doesn’t resonate with you, my reasoning is as follows: while the path undergone by some countries in recent years has been quite long (no doubt), for others, it seems a path that is still non-existent, almost unreachable. There is a historical, economic and social cliff that cuts across this path and makes the reality of many countries radically more distant from a Feminist Open Government compared to Canada or most European countries.
Brazil, my home country, is marked by strong racial and gender inequalities. Only 15% of the seats in Congress are occupied by women. The country ranks 156th out of 190 countries in female representation in politics, as stated by the Interparliamentary Union. When we look at executive power, the facts are even more striking: it was only in 1994 that we elected our first woman to the state government, and since then, we have never had two women in that position at the same time. In the presidential elections of 2018, there were only two women in the race – and in the final result, they added up to 1.05% of the votes. Yes… there are very few women as heads of governments. And some of the ones that occupy these positions are humiliated, persecuted and killed, as the case of Marielle Franco, council woman in Rio de Janeiro murdered in March 2018 for denouncing police violence in the favelas.
In this scenario, not even the abortion legalization policy to combat one woman dying every other day in Brazil is moving forward. Instead, inserting gender studies into basic education is considered spreading ideology and perversion. So, with all of these roadblocks seeming to make the path difficult, how can we build feminist open government? Clearly, we do not have prompt answers, but one thing is certain: policies are built to fight problems and move forward towards the consolidation of rights – towards more just and egalitarian societies. This means that any idea, concept, or flag (whether democracy, political participation, or open government) cannot remain just an abstract idea. Additionally, they must not be materialized only by the will of few decision makers around the world. Instead, they must be implemented with listening, sufficient analysis of the reality on the ground, and collective construction of the path forward. In addition, solidarity between people and the existence of an international community should help us understand privileges and establish political priorities.
That’s why Open Heroines’ work is so brilliant and necessary. After all, who better to represent the struggle for open governments than Latin, African and Middle Eastern women who build daily political work even though it may cost their lives? Women who have appropriated different technological skills (even when they have been denied to them) and are now using their skills to enable other women and marginalized groups to hold a portion of political power. The careful and attentive targeting of the Open Heroines group for women who work in situations of political and social vulnerability is what we still lack in international open government conferences. Only then we can take as reference the political advances of the first world countries (such as the GBA+), but never fail to prioritize the construction of international policies and pressure on those who most need the support of an international partnership.