JASS Southern Africa
JASS (Just Associates) Southern Africa strategizes to infuse / integrate a feminist analysis into the thinking and practice of existing social justice groups. They work to increase the visibility and political agency of the most marginalised, through networks of young women, women living with HIV/AIDS, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LBT) women and community-based women leaders. JASS uses feminist popular education as a core part of their movement-building work. They also work with organisations to ensure that women’s experiences inform economic, social and political solutions.
JASS seeks to build and mobilise women’s collective power for justice. They do this through working with strategic allies, strengthening the leadership and organising capacity of community-based women activists and their networks which are important components to a movement building approach. “At every stage, JASS creates safe and empowering spaces for women where personal lives and struggles are as central to leadership-development and organizing as their shared public battles,” as Shereen Essof, JASS Southern Africa regional director], explains. JASS sees this as central to feminist movement building. “Through feminist popular education participants come to recognize how deeply power and patriarchy marginalize women. Participants experience how alternative approaches can inspire, unite and transform.”
Women activist leaders, women’s organizations and community-based organisations.
JASS SNA strategic partnerships include: In Malawi with HIV+ rural women and MANERELA+. In Zimbabwe with GALZ (Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe) and Katswe Sistahood. In Zambia, with Youth Vision Zambia. In South Africa, with Women’s Net.
What does feminist movement building entail?
- Dialogue on context, power and issues of movement building, gender, patriarchy, sex, sexuality, safety and security
- Power analysis and change strategies
- Organising and mobilising – Movement building
- Constructing democratic structures based on a division of labour
- Leadership based on feminist principles (equality; sharing resources)
- Understanding patriarchy and capitalist globalisation
- Media, materials development and the use of ICTs as part of outreach (incl. documentation and publishing)
JASS uses a feminist popular education approach; this entails starting with where women are at, the lived experiences of women, building a safe space of sharing and solidarity, moving from sharing to analysis of power relations, and then acting to build collective agency.
In this, they draw on a range of traditions and philosophies such as
- Latin American revolutions and Freire
- Feminist analysis: radical feminism that looks at all forms of oppression. (eg. bell hooks and Audre Lorde)
- African feminists e.g. Amina Mama
Being part of an international organisation they have ongoing dialogue and cross-regional conversations with international practitioners.
In particular, JASS employs popular education tools such as the following:
- Power matrix (exploring power within; power to; power with; power over)
- Body mapping
- Story-telling and sharing
- Timelines of personal and historical reflection
- The Masters house (understanding patriarchy)
- Building visions and dreams
JASS has a holistic approach to their work; they engage deeply with heart, mind and body. They believe in long-term commitments to the communities with whom they work and are both patient and persistent in the actions.
Understanding of popular education
JASS learning and action is shaped by the principles of feminist popular education. Building on Paulo Freire they have added gender, race and other dimensions that shape inequality to the approach: “Recognising how the private sphere is often the primary force shaping women’s internalized oppression, feminists identify multiple, intersecting markers of oppression, including gender, class, sexuality, age, ability, nationality, location and ethnicity.” (JASS website)
Core principles include
- create a safe space of trust and solidarity
- start with the concrete experiences of women’s daily lives
- use stories, art, theatre and other ways to generate open-ended questions that promote critical and creative thinking and deepen understanding of power
- tap women’s sense of hope, inspiration, and joy
- provide time for self-care and personal renewal