We are living in complex and scary times. The world is navigating its way through what has been termed the ‘the three C’s’—Conflict, Climate and COVID-19. For many parts of the world, the crises they face don’t fit neatly into these three C’s. Not only is there conflict in Ukraine, but there continues to be conflict in many parts of the majority world that go unnoticed. For example, there has been an extended war in the Northern region of Tigray in Ethiopia for over a year now. The climate crisis is differentiated as some parts of the world are feeling the impacts a lot sooner and a lot heavier than many others. The recent floods in Pakistan that displaced 50 million people as an example. COVID-19 has indeed affected economies across the world—however even then, deep inequalities manifested through vaccine inequality as well as the aftermath. The majority world economies have been left in deep debt crises with no cushioning and are facing a new wave of structural adjustment. What is clear however, is that all these iterations of ‘global crises’ are just but manifestations of the underbelly of a systemic rot and global injustice that seems to be coming to a head. They tell a story of a world so deeply unequal with deepening power and access divides between class, race, gender, sexual orientation and geography. In thinking about this piece, I have also thought a lot about how development can only come via forms of justice that are both transformative and restorative as an important pathway to liberation. From this trail of thought, two areas of questioning arise for me.

My first area of question and thought lies around the tension between reformist and revolutionary actions. The global economy has been constructed and continues to exist on the premise that its multiple deficits can be bridged by subsidies. Subsidies by regions, genders and races that have less representation, less power, less meaningful voice continue to hold up a global economy for a select few. These subsidies manifest within areas such as women’s labour and social reproduction, which continues to be under recognized and/or invisibilized; but also, with the majority world providing a majority of global labour and raw materials while accruing the least gains. It also manifests in terms of which economies of the world have grown at the expense of overshooting planetary boundaries and by extension, which regions bear the greatest cost of this climate crises without any of the benefits and even less ability to secure resourcing to ensure resilience against these devastating climate impacts.

With the above as a backdrop, ‘global’ institutions that set normative and governance frameworks come into question, as they are at the heart of this deep and structural power disproportion. Their membership and power structures as pertains to agency and process are areas that have repeatedly shown to be deeply problematic and skewed towards rich nations. It then begets the question of whether the global order has gotten to a point in history where we must do away with these existing institutions and recreate new equitable and just ones? For they have shown to be deeply incapable of ensuring the rules that govern the world work for all. Or is there merit in working within and changing what we already have? From the feminist movement, we have seen fearless feminists across time win battles that have meant many of us are able to enjoy freedoms that are sometimes taken for granted now. These were wins won in the battles of halls of power and have shifted global institutions which in turn has been felt at very local places. There is the thought that maybe we can do both. That is work towards bringing down the current global architecture that governs our economies and at the same time work within them to shift pivotal areas that are urgent. Both truths and both strategies can exist at the same time. There is space to push for reform and at the same time fight in the trenches of the halls of power of decision-making. All the while knowing that we must be fighting for a liberation that is carried by a complete overhaul of the systems, of processes and of the institutions that currently exist. What is also clear is that whether a reformist agenda or a revolutionary agenda—both happen in collective. With others—always building and working in solidarity. In this collective action we must centre this idea that Lyn Ossome refers to as ensuring that a developmental path must always start with the concrete—lived experiences and realities and only then can we begin to abstract and theorize, but the theory must always land back with the concrete—the real life. It is the liberation of actual people, their families, their communities that we continue to fight for.

My third area of thought is the politics of dreaming and (re) imagining. To tackle the complexity and intersectionality of the multiple crises we are all going through, our response has to be equally complex and intersectional. This can only happen if we begin the arduous journey of radically reimagining our current world and its governance as well as our relationships with our planet and each other. The feminist movement has had to be constantly forward looking and imagining a better, more equal and just world all the while living through multiple forms of violence. Dreaming is a gift the feminist movement can share with the world. We know our emancipation will be carried by our dreams and we sometimes get lost in the shackles of what this world that we exist in looks like currently, and demean the power of imagining a radically different world. We sometimes forget that everything is a construct and, not only can we deconstruct it to reconstruct it, but it is our only chance. Knowing, as I put it earlier, that that can be done both in a revolutionary way but also a reformist way. Our dreams, however, must be so clear that we have a solid and definitive idea of what we are fighting for and towards. For many of us in different parts of the world—this concept of dreaming has been robbed from us and has been replaced with what some call the ‘industrialization’ of the space. Encumbered by proposals and reports and the need to justify ourselves in words and narratives we think are needed to guarantee funders continue to fund the work. At the same time though, we know that dreaming is what keeps so many of us going and constantly fighting from our respective spaces. For a world that is fair, that is just to everyone and to our planet, there needs to be a reprioritization that centres people and planet instead of power and profit for a minority. Being able to dream and (re)imagine a better world will also push us to fight for both equality as well as liberation. The feminist movement knows that liberation comes from not just fighting for basic rights but beyond that to fight for people’s aspirations and dreams for better and more fulfilling lives for themselves and the generations to come.

To end, I leave you with some words from a creative visioning piece by Agazit Abate (2021):

In a time not so far away, a time perhaps parallel to the one we are in now, a new way is coming into being. The next time you blink, stay there. Keep your eyes closed for just a few more seconds and you will see it. The future, coming into being. The future, now.

In this place, care is a story also told in numbers. When the people create their budgets, they ask questions like, how can numbers look like liberation? How can percentages be kind? So many stories can be told in how a country spends its money.

There are so many stories of broken hope and unfulflled dreams, of tragedy and what ifs. The perceived heroes becoming villains, the real ones becoming martyrs, the ideas and the hope becoming notes in history. Even the temporary sparks of light were once in a generation miracles. Bright, shiny, sometimes solitary things. But this is a time that envisions everyday miracles like grass that grows through concrete, or rain on a summer day, or rivers of hot steam, or honey from bees. The people want the vision to be as mundane as breathing, for the spectacular to be the norm. So, they work in solidarity, to be one among many.