What is SheDecides?
SheDecides is a global political movement driving change for bodily autonomy, fuelled by actions in communities with young people at its heart. The movement is made up of people who together are committed to organising their people to take collective action by Standing Up and Speaking Out for bodily autonomy.
When and how did SheDecides start?
SheDecides was launched at the start of 2017 as a rallying moment in response to the reinstatement and expansion of the Global Gag Rule (Mexico City Policy) under the Trump Administration in the United States. This policy meant the loss of millions of dollars in US funding for NGOs in foreign countries if they provided any abortion services or abortion advocacy. Lilianne Ploumen, then Dutch minister for foreign trade and development cooperation, organised fellow international development ministers from global governments and foundations to raise more than $450m to help fill the funding gap at a pledging conference held just weeks following the Global Gag Rule reinstatement. Since the initial rallying moment in 2017, SheDecides has grown to include movements and activists organising to champion the fight for bodily autonomy in countries around the world. Together, they are guided by the vision in the SheDecides Manifesto: a new normal where girls and women decide about their bodies, their lives, their futures. Without question.
What is SheDecides' purpose and how does it work to achieve this?
SheDecides works to create a world where she decides about her body, life and future. This means that women and girls, in all their diversity, have the access to information about their bodies and rights, have the agency to act on those rights, and have access to the services that support the decisions she makes.
SheDecides works to bring together diverse people to Stand Up, Speak Out and set the terms of debate, and the framing of discussion, about their bodies and health. Together, we:
- Build new narratives, by creating brave and inclusive spaces where women and girls share views and feelings about their bodies, relationships and health and start to understand their personal experiences in a political context. This can help them recognise their own power, address stigma, challenge shame and to shape their own narratives.
- Bring new people into the struggle for bodily autonomy, by organising people and movements who are inspired to act on bodily autonomy issues. This coming together can create opportunities for a shared understanding of power dynamics, the building of collective power and the planning of contextually relevant, politically informed collective action.
- Disrupt spaces of power, by taking action. This action creates and tells alternative and counter narratives, engages new people, occupies and disrupts spaces of power. It creates a space for people to stand up together in moments of solidarity.
This brings about a new normal that influences policy, public discourse and power dynamics, so that women and girls set the terms of debate about their bodies, lives and future.
You can learn more about how SheDecides drives change here.
Where is SheDecides currently working? What is it working on?
In the four years since SheDecides was sparked, it has evolved into a global movement that is made up of a network of approximately 10,000 Friends who have signed the SheDecides Manifesto, 50 young leaders and 40+ Champions based in 60+ countries. There are currently core teams of movement organisers working in 27 countries around the world. See more about where these activists are working here.
These organisers are working on diverse areas of bodily autonomy, including but not limited to work on:
- Bodily autonomy and human rights
- Child marriage
- Comprehensive Sexuality Education
- Female Genital Mutilation / Cutting
- Feminist leadership, activism and political representation
- Gender-Based Violence
- LGBTQIA+ rights
- Mental health and bodily autonomy
- Menstruation stigma / period poverty
- Racial justice and bodily autonomy
- Sex workers' rights
- Sexual harassment and abuse
- Sexual pleasure
- Youth leadership, activism and political representation
Who funds SheDecides?
SheDecides has the financial support of diverse donors including national governments and private foundations. These donors fund the SheDecides Support Unit which supports the movement in its organising. Limited funds are directly disbursed to SheDecides organisers in support of their work advancing bodily autonomy.
How does SheDecides define 'movement'?
A movement is an organised set of constituents pursuing a common political agenda of change through collective action.
How does SheDecides define 'bodily autonomy'?
Bodily autonomy means that we decide what we do with our bodies, and what does or does not happen to our bodies. When we have bodily autonomy, we have the power and freedom to make decisions about our wellbeing, our relationships and our futures; and we are supported to fulfil those decisions.
Bodily autonomy means having the power to choose whether, when and with whom to have sex, to fall in love, to live with or marry, to have children or not. It means being able to access information about your body and wellbeing, to be able to make informed decisions about your body based on that information, and having access to the services that support you in those decisions including access to contraception and abortion.
How is 'organising' different from 'campaigning', 'advocacy' and 'mobilising'?
Organising is leadership that supports people to turn the resources they have into the power they need to make the change they want. It is bringing people together as a group to discuss, address and organise around what their priorities are. Organisers identify, recruit, and develop the leadership of others; build community around that leadership; and build power from the resources of that community with and for the community. They organise a community to become a constituency – people able to “stand together” on behalf of common concerns. Organising is focussed on listening, facilitating discussion, building a sense of trust, and belonging among a group. Organisers are therefore people who aim for diversity in representation, who create an environment where all voices are heard and respected. Organisers create a group of people who agree to act on a common priority together.
Mobilising is a collective expression of protest and demand. It is also a show of power over, so it requires a strong structure of power with. This means that before mobilising, a constituency must be well organised. In mass mobilisations a broader public can join and express support for the demand. This means that a lot of organising happened beforehand for mass mobilisation to take place. Mobilisers fuel engagement in their organising groups and sustain that engagement by showing momentum.
Advocating is planned actions by an individual or group to influence decisions within political, economic, and social institutions. To gain leverage advocacy campaigns sometimes aim at getting public attention. These audiences can be diverse: from policymakers to the media.
Campaigning is the rhythm or organising. In your campaign each peak gets you more resources (people, media attention, connections, money) than the previous one. Sometimes campaigns aim at offering easy ways through which people can express support for an issue that an organised constituency is advocating for. These actions are designed to build public support for change on an issue. It can include many different aspects; lobbying decisionmakers in government, public events or demonstrations, public relations. When these actions are taken together, in planned action, it builds a campaign.
Who is part of SheDecides?
SheDecides is a global movement that includes a network of approximately 10,000 Friends who have signed the SheDecides Manifesto, and approximately 100,000 engaged through campaigns. There are currently 50 young leaders, 40+ Champions and core teams of movement organisers working in 27 countries around the world on bodily autonomy issues.
Among them, are passionate and motivated organisers and young leaders who are leading action for bodily autonomy in their communities and countries. These include two cohorts of young leaders called the 25x25, one group of 25 born in 1994 (Generation of Change, 25 years after the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD)) and one of 25 born in 1995 (Generation of Equality, 25 years after the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action).
The movement also includes influential individuals called Champions who are from diverse backgrounds—some representing governments or organisations or an industry— who act alone and together in their personal and professional capacities to propel us toward a reality where every girl and every woman has power to make decisions about her body, life and future.
Who can be part of the SheDecides Movement? How do you join the Movement?
Anyone can be a part of the SheDecides movement if they believe in the vision of a world where Sshe Ddecides. To join, all you need to do is sign the SheDecides Manifesto. After signing, you will be added to the network of Friends and receive regular updates on the movement and action taking place.
Are there 'local' movements?
No; SheDecides refers to the global network of organisers as the Movement. At the regional and national level, SheDecides supports organisers who are taking action for bodily autonomy. These organisers can use the SheDecides brand along with the name of their country, for example SheDecides Brasil, but there is no obligation to do so. SheDecides also supports likeminded collectives and individual activists who are organising around bodily autonomy issues.
What are Friends? What is their role in the SheDecides Movement?
Friends are people who have signed the SheDecides Manifesto and confirmed that they believe in the vision of creating a world where SheDecides. They are from many different communities and countries and engage with SheDecides in different ways: through the newsletter, following on social media, participating in online action or attending the occasional event in their communities and countries.
Through engagement with SheDecides, some Friends will find out more and want to take more action. We call these people activists. They start to join more SheDecides events and training sessions, to think about developing their own narratives relevant to the issues they face in setting the terms of debate about their bodies, and to bring other people in to think about collective action.
What is an organiser? What is their role in the SheDecides Movement?
An organiser is someone who is organising their networks to take action on an issue. With SheDecides, that means leading their networks and creating spaces to bring people together, organising a core team, building partnerships, and organising collective action to tackle the issues stopping women and girls from setting the terms of debate about their bodies. There are currently core teams of movement organisers working in their communities in 27 countries, at the grassroots and national coalition level, on bodily autonomy issues.
What is a 25x25 young leader? What is their role in the SheDecides Movement?
25x25 young leaders are passionate and motivated people who are leading action for bodily autonomy in their communities and countries.
There are two cohorts of young leaders called the 25x25, one group of 25 born in 1994 (Generation of Change, 25 years after the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD)) and one of 25 born in 1995 (Generation of Equality, 25 years after the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action).
Each cohort consists of a group of activists who are already taking action in their communities and countries for bodily autonomy. They work on diverse issues, and are all committed to Standing Up and Speaking Out for a world where she decides. Many of the young leaders are also organisers, leading collective action on specific issues in their communities and countries along with other organisers and activists in the movement and the wider bodily autonomy ecosystem.
What is a Champion? What is their role in the SheDecides Movement?
Champions are influential individuals who are activists in their own right. They are from diverse backgrounds—some representing governments or organisations, some who are young activists or bring experience in a particular field— and they act alone and together in their personal and professional capacities to propel us toward a reality where every girl and every woman has power to make decisions about her body, life and future.
There are currently 43 institutional and individual Champions using their power to change norms by sharing their space with activists and funding their activism. These Champions include donors, policy makers, researchers, young leaders, service providers, advocates, and artists.
What are national Champions and how do they work at the national and regional levels?
SheDecides Champions are nominated for their positional power and have a role to guide, support, amplify and take action with and for the Movement on a global level. Where it is relevant and useful to develop their organising and advance action, Movement organisers can nominate a Champion at their own national level to work with organisers and other Champions.
Who decides who is a SheDecides Champion?
SheDecides Champions propose other leaders whom they believe will be effective ambassadors for the movement and can add value. There are no quotas but there are basic criteria used to appoint Champions:
- Willingness, and ability, to leverage influence (in network, voice, people, organisations) for the SheDecides Movement
- Political weight (and preparedness to use that weight to support the SheDecides Movement)
- Commitment to the SheDecides Manifesto, and to take proactive and regular action to advance the SheDecides vision and to grow the movement
What do Champions do in the SheDecides Movement?
Champions work in their professional and personal capacities to help advance the mission and priorities of SheDecides. They use their positional power to:
- Raise the profile of the movement and promote it, including its vision and objectives
- Arrange, support or participate in gatherings, events or other activities on behalf of the movement or in support of its mission, goals and objectives
- Secure the resources to create a world where SheDecides. Champions from donor governments, foundations and other donor agencies are expected to provide their resources to advance the vision of SheDecides, as well as leverage their power in their networks to encourage others to do the same
- Help to build and strengthen the movement by reaching out to peers and other individuals and organisations and seeking to engage them in SheDecides
- Engage with and support, if requested, SheDecides movement organisers and young leaders in their own countries or regions
How does someone cease being a SheDecides Champion?
Champions can stand down from their role at any time, through submitting a simple request. The roster of Champions includes people in positions with natural rotation – for example, Ministerial roles, Heads of State or leaders of organisations. Government Champions are appointed by their Governments; who will nominate a new Champion if there is a cabinet reshuffle. Institutional Champions who leave their professional position will usually cease to be Champions as that is the basis of their appointment, unless it is determined by the Guiding Group that they be appointed in their individual capacity.
Champions can also be removed if it is determined that they have acted in ways that directly contradict or violate the spirit and vision of SheDecides, or its principles and standards. This could be through written or spoken comments or through policy decisions. In these cases, this is decided by a majority vote by the Guiding Group.
What is the Guiding Group? What is its role in the SheDecides Movement?
The Guiding Group is the principal decision-making body in the governance processes for the SheDecides Movement. It is made up of a small group of up to nine Champions and has an elected Chair and Vice-Chair. These Champions come from deliberately diverse backgrounds—governments, young activist leaders, civil society organisations—and bring different skills.
The Guiding Group’s role in the Movement is to guide, support and oversee the work of the SDSU in supporting Movement action, in line with strategic priorities.
What is the SheDecides Support Unit?
The SheDecides Support Unit (SDSU) is a hub for the SheDecides movement.
The SDSU supports anyone who believes in the SheDecides vision – people who want to start organising and leaders who are already doing so to unite in collective youth-led action to advance bodily autonomy worldwide.
The SDSU offers ongoing, tailored, and flexible support to develop individual and collective narratives, build on leadership journeys and strategise and support the development of organising structures to take collective action.
What is the SheDecides tone? How do I use it when speaking about SheDecides?
The SheDecides tone is positive, inclusive, clear and empowering. It focusses on building a supportive, caring and joyful environment for activists to come together, discuss, learn and evolve on their own activism journeys.
SheDecides breaks down the barriers of the complex jargon around bodily autonomy to deliver clear and simple messaging about her right to decide about her body, life and future. This means:
- Using straightforward, direct language to describe ideas, emotions and actions to do with sexual and reproductive health and rights
- Avoiding the acronyms often used in the development sector and policymaking spaces and replacing them with direct terms
- Telling a bold, positive story in your own activist voice, using language that focusses on the human aspect of bodily autonomy and the progress that is being made because of your activism
More information on the SheDecides tone can be found in the Style Guidelines.
What is the SheDecides message on bodily autonomy? How do I use it in my activism?
SheDecides is a global political movement driving change for bodily autonomy. Bodily autonomy is a broad space that SheDecides understands as the intersection for many social justice issues. While the space is broad, and the work being done by activists in the movement is diverse, SheDecides has a common priority and purpose: to Stand Up and Speak Out for the right of women and girls to set the terms of debate about their bodies, so that we advance towards a world where SheDecides.
The SheDecides message must therefore always connect the great work being done on wider issues such as racial justice, economic justice, gender justice and equality with sexual and reproductive rights and bodily autonomy. For example, it should make clear that:
- Sexual and reproductive health and rights are fundamental human rights.
- Women and girls’ right to decide about their bodies, lives and future – to have bodily autonomy – is the cornerstone of human rights, without which gender equality is impossible.
- Sexual and reproductive health is closely linked to not only the health of women and girls but the long-term health and wealth of their families, and communities. When women have the right to choose whether, when and with whom to have sex or have children, they create stronger, better educated, more financially stable families and communities.
- The fight for racial justice, and all forms of structural oppression, is intrinsically linked to the fight for bodily autonomy as sexual and reproductive rights repression disproportionately affects Black, Indigenous and people of colour.
SheDecides supports all progressive, inclusive, action-oriented language that aligns to feminist values. However these statements are not directly linked to our collective fight for bodily autonomy. When speaking specifically about SheDecides activism, it is important that the connection to bodily autonomy is clearly made between general statements on women’s rights.
Who can speak on behalf of SheDecides? Can I call myself a spokesperson?
SheDecides does not have official spokespeople. We are a diverse global movement and no one person represents the whole movement.
Anyone who is taking action or organising can speak about their own activity as a part of SheDecides.
When we need to agree on positions about global issues, the Guiding Group will consult with Champions and the SDSU to propose guiding messaging to support anyone in the Movement to speak on those issues regarding her right to decide. The role of the SDSU is to leverage as many voices as possible to make our global message strong.
I'm already organising around bodily autonomy issues in my community/country. How can I partner with SheDecides where I am? What can SheDecides offer me?
Anyone organising around bodily autonomy issues can be a part of the SheDecides Movement. This can take on different forms but it starts by signing the Manifesto.
SheDecides offers organisers ongoing, tailored and flexible support to develop individual and collective narratives, build on leadership journeys and strategise and support the development of organising structures to take collective action.
Organisers can learn more about the SheDecides Movement from the SheDecides Support Unit’s Regional Movement Supporters. They work in their respective regions to support organisers taking action and to create connections with likeminded activists. The Regional Movement Supporters are:
Do I have to use the SheDecides brand if I get SheDecides support? If I do want to use it, how do I access it?
No; SheDecides supports activists, organisers, collectives and movements who are committed to the SheDecides vision. There is no obligation to use the SheDecides brand in order to access SheDecides support.
Those who do wish to use SheDecides branding in their community and country activism can access tools and assets here and the Style Guidelines on how to use them here. The brand asset files are all open source and can be used for Standing Up and Speaking Out for a world where SheDecides.
Do I have to get authorisation to use the brand?
No; the SheDecides brand and assets files are all open source and will remain so.
How is SheDecides involvement / partnership communicated? Can I say that an activity, product or material was developed by SheDecides in partnership with others?
Yes; many initiatives undertaken by organisers have the support, financial or otherwise, of other movements and organisations. The SheDecides logo can be used in conjunction with other organisation logos with a clear message that this is a partnership for this activity, product or material only. For more information on how to do this, please see the Style Guidelines here.
How and where does SheDecides action take place around the world?
SheDecides supports all sorts of action on bodily autonomy around the world, from on-ground events including Open Mics and festivals to social media or political campaigning. SheDecides organisers take action in ways that are relevant and impactful in their communities. More information on what is happening in your community and country can be found on the SheDecides action map.
Can there be more than one SheDecides-supported collective within a country?
Yes; SheDecides can support a variety of organisers in the same country. Different collectives may be organising on related issues and SheDecides can provide support to individual collectives as well as support organising of Regional Coalitions where relevant.
I am part of a core team in my country. Do others in the movement have to ask my permission or authorisation to organise and take action?
No; SheDecides supports organising on an individual and collective level. When activists come together to organise supported by SheDecides, they can also take action as individuals and there is no requirement to seek permission from core team members of the SheDecides movement they organise with.
What are Spark Grants and who can apply?
SheDecides Spark Grants are small grants which aim to spark movement building, led by young feminist groups, collectives, movements and coalitions, for bodily autonomy. Anyone who is starting to organise can apply for the grants, for any activity that fits with the aim - to 'spark' organising for bodily autonomy. Applicants must be part of a feminist group, collective, movement or coalition. The Spark Grants range from USD 5,000 to USD 20,000 per project.