Viviana Waisman, Women’s Link’s founder and CEO, writes about what the past twenty years have meant to her and the fight for women’s rights
It is hard to believe that it has been 20 years since I set out with colleagues to create a practical tool for advocates to be able to learn about legal arguments and innovative strategies that they could apply in their own local contexts to advance the rights of women. This was how the Gender Justice Observatory began – a project where we conducted research and did a feminist analysis of legal decisions from around the world and summarized them so that both attorneys and non-attorneys could access this information.
This ambitious project quickly expanded and became the start of Women’s Link Worldwide. I went from working alone in my study to working with other attorneys to test out the strategies and embark on what has turned out to be many years of creative lawyering with a growing team of amazing human rights advocates and partners. I did not set out to start a non-profit and yet I have now had the privilege of leading this unique organization working to get more rights for women and girls in East Africa, Europe and Latin America.
It has been a wild, sometimes rocky, exciting, difficult and exhilarating twenty-year journey. I only have words of gratitude for so many people - team members, board members, friends, family, allies, partners, funders, and supporters - who have walked alongside the organization and me all these years. And for the brave women and girls who have come forward to share their stories with us. I am so proud to see how Women’s Link has become a transnational feminist organization doing cutting edge legal work to put the needs and realities of women and girls, especially of those in the most vulnerable situations, at the center of laws and policies.
Over the past two decades, we have contributed to increasing access to sexual and reproductive rights, especially abortion; we have defended trafficking victims’ right to protection and access to justice; we have raised awareness of the specific rights violations that women and girls crossing borders face; and we have put the focus on what happens to women during conflicts and dictatorships.
If there is one thing I know for sure, it is that Women’s Link’s mission is more vital now than ever. Anti-rights groups are coming for women’s rights and slowly eroding the power of democratic institutions, including the courts. Women’s Link is ready to continue to partner with those in the powerful global movement for women’s rights to fight these groups. We are ready to take all we have learned and achieved in these 20 years and look towards a future that is more just and equitable for all.
Let’s celebrate Women’s Link’s anniversary together and join forces for what is yet to come! This journey, this celebration, would not be possible without you. Thank you!