On October 28, 2020, Women Deliver announced that Katja Iversen “relinquish[ed] [her] post as President/CEO of Women Deliver [to] step back to let someone from one of the many communities [they] work for lead.” This sanitized announcement has come after Black, Indigenous, People of Colour (BIPOC), LGBTQIA+ and junior staff, volunteers, and participants from Women Deliver gave testimonies about their experiences of structural racism, anti-Black racism, harassment, and a toxic work environment.
First and foremost, Feminists Deliver would like to express our solidarity with the staff, volunteers, and participants of Women Deliver, especially the BIPOC, LGBTQIA+ and junior staff who were at the forefront of the harms that Women Deliver had inflicted upon them. The toxic environment they endured is a reflection of the white supremacy that brews within organizations rooted in white supremacy. We unconditionally support their calls for actions in search of justice for harmed Women Deliver staff who were dissatisfied with the investigation, and lack of accountability from Women Deliver’s leadership team.
In 2019, the Women Deliver Conference made its way to the Unceded Territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and Sel̓íl̓witulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations—colonially known as Vancouver, BC. Before Women Deliver even entered Vancouver, we, the local women-serving organizations in BC, brought forward our grave concerns about Women Deliver’s conference plans to the Canadian government, the BC government, the City of Vancouver and Women Deliver. We offered an alternative that centred the true liberation of women and girls instead of the colonial, paternalistic approach that Women Deliver pursued in their programming. We deliberately asked Women Deliver to respect and integrate local knowledge in a meaningful way. None of this happened. To truly make a difference and an impact with such a global platform, it was necessary to illustrate how local issues are connected to global issues that women and girls face, which trace its roots to the legacies of colonialism, capitalism, patriarchy, and white supremacy. Empowering and mobilizing community-based solutions and resources will contribute to the liberation of women, non-binary people, Two-Spirit people, and children.
As BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, and junior staff outlined in their letter to Women Deliver’s leadership team, the investigation that led to Katja Iversen’s resignation did not hold “leadership accountable for a workplace rooted in white supremacy.” Replacing the head of a powerful organization is not enough. It simply changes the face that replicates and fosters a culture rooted in oppression. Instead, it is essential for those orchestrating oppressive systems to acknowledge the harms caused, and dismantle and shatter foundations before continuing. There is plenty of room to make transformative change, and we look forward to how this will transpire for many organizations and institutions locally and globally. The powerful and the wealthy must be willing to listen and to take immediate and serious actions. This is not limited to Women Deliver. We must all be willing to assess how we have personally contributed to, and benefitted from racist, anti-Black, anti-Indigenous, patriarchal structures. We call for all organizations, institutions, and corporations—including Women Deliver—to join us and centre anti-oppression, decolonization, and intersectional feminism. People who are marginalized globally can accept nothing less.
As a response to the Women Deliver Conference in Vancouver, advocates joined together to form Feminists Deliver, a grassroots resistance rooted in decolonization, anti-oppression, and intersectional feminism. Our mission is to amplify urgent issues facing marginalized communities in BC and the grassroots organizations struggles leading the way for transformative change. We aim to build transnational connections between grassroots intersectional feminist movements and re-envision the global women’s agenda as one that centers a diversity of grassroots intersectional feminist voices.
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