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Feminist Leadership

CREA nurtures and strengthens the leadership capacity of women, girls, trans people, and activists from diverse movements, to challenge social norms on gender and sexuality and build collective power to transform unjust power structures.

CREA defines leadership as a process through which we continually question and analyse our roles in society, challenge power structures, and build movements to catalyze positive social change. However, the models of leadership that we are exposed to in both private and public spaces are rooted in patriarchal and heteronormative practices of power and individualism and cannot realise feminist visions of social transformation. Yet leadership is a site where feminist politics and practices must come together to build new cultures of individual and organizational power, and pathways for change.

CREA therefore seeks to advance feminist models of leadership – which require transforming ourselves, as well as our organisations and movements, to build non-oppressive, inclusive structures and processes of shared power, decision-making and action that model feminist values and politics. Feminist leadership is about building both individual struggles and larger movements to shift the practice of power at the most intimate levels of the self and the body, as well as in the private and public domains. CREA believes that when feminist leadership is truly practiced – by individuals, and within their organizations and movements – it allows people to experience, in real terms, the meaning of feminist social transformation, and what a just and inclusive world could look and feel like.

CREA believes there are four essential elements to practicing feminist leadership:  First, we must start from ourselves: feminist leadership begins with critical self-reflection, analysing our own practice of power and the way we treat others, and transforming ourselves before we ask others to change.  Second, we must make visible and transform the “deep structures” of our organizations and movements, where normalized and often hidden dynamics of oppression, discrimination and exclusion lurk within our organizations and movements, and generally remain unaddressed. 

Next, we must consciously focus on  strengthening others. Feminist leadership is not only about changing ourselves, but supporting and strengthening the leadership capacity of others – helping each other to discover and practice feminist ways of leading change.  And finally, we must design and implement transparent, accessible mechanisms that help us monitor whether our individual, organizational and movement practices truly reflect and advance feminist values and visions.

 Further readings:

  1. S. Batliwala, 2011: Feminist Leadership for Social Transformation: Clearing the Conceptual Cloud, New Delhi: CREA, 2011,
  1. S. Batliwala and Michel Friedman, 2014: Achieving Transformative Feminist Leadership: A Toolkit for Organizations and Movements, with Michel Friedman,
  1. Hope Chigudu & Rudo Chigudu, 2015: Strategies for Building an Organisation with Soul, for- Building-an- Organisation-with- Soul-for- web1.pdf
  1. Transformative Leadership for Women’s Rights – An OXFAM Guide, 2014: womens-rights- oxfam-guide.pdf