Feminisms On Wheels: Driving Feminist Grassroot Activism to Small Cities and Villages

Feminisms On Wheels, an initiative co-organized by transform! europe, is an activist project that aims to bring feminist activism to new regions of the country and to strengthen the local presence of women’s struggles. The success of this type of initiative is fundamental for the contemporary feminist movement.

The Feminist movement in Portugal

Feminismos Sobre Rodas (Feminisms On Wheels) follows the feminist political agenda and was launched by a group of feminist activists involved in the call for the Women’s March, a online platform created in December 2016 with the goal of establishing a link between the Portuguese feminist agenda and the international rise up of the feminist movement.

Since then, several feminist mobilizations followed the rise of the feminist movement concerning not only national demands, but also international concerns related with women’s rights and the struggle against gender-based violence. In 2018 some of the activists that would become involved in Feminismos Sobre Rodas were responsible for the organization of the Encontro de Mulheres 2018| Todas as vozes contam (Women’s Gathering 2018 | All voices count), a Portuguese experience based on the women’ gatherings in South America. Following the historical moment of the Women’s Feminist Strike in Spain, this national meeting was organized in preparation of the 8M international Women’s strike on the 8th March 2019. With the rising of the feminist movement around the world and the success of the International Feminist Strike in Portugal at the 8th March 2019, Feminisms On Wheels came to be.  

How the project began

24 women (7 of which with no prior experience in activism) of different age, political and life background, ended up constituting the team that was collectively responsible for the development of Feminisms On Wheels.

The project was inspired by the oeuvre Mulheres do Meu País (Women of My Country, 1948-50), the seminal work of the historical Portuguese feminist Maria Lamas (1893-1983), where Lamas denounces the peasant, working and bourgeois women’s difficulties during Salazar’s dictatorship, identifies their common problems, the inherent inequality of the women condition in a patriarchal society and challenges women to take action.

The underlying strategy was to organize activities outside the main urban centres and took place between 8th November until the 15th December, in more than ten different towns in the north and centre of Portugal.

The activities promoted were organized according to the territories, and previously decided at meetings with local stakeholders. We carried in our luggage films (CineRodas), knitting groups conversations (Roda de Tricot), street interventions (Já Dizia o Diatado), workshops for young people (São Sete Dias da Semana), parties (A Festa Feminista) and much more. All these events aimed at gathering activists and women with diverse convictions, political and social backgrounds. From the silent writing on city walls (with the presence of an activist from the Collages Feminicides Paris) to the rounds of discussions and workshops, the debate on an anti-capitalist feminism agenda was produced as the thread of a knitting ball that progressively and steadily unfolds – simultaneously used as metaphor and conversation deblocker – resulting in the production of a ‘collective knitting work’ where women possess both the needles and the ball of wool.

Feminisms on (all) the road(s)

In a conservative country, where awareness of Feminism as a social and emancipatory movement – not just for women but for the society as a whole – is still incipient, Feminisms On Wheels enabled an ongoing dialogue with people who usually don’t participate in public mobilizations, collective processes or political awareness moments.

The outreach of the initiatives promoted in the 2019 edition of Feminisms On Wheels, with robust participation of people who usually remain apart from feminism as politics, demystifies the idea that only people engaged in political processes have developed awareness for understanding oppression towards women. Together, we realized that there is a clear and definite opportunity to broaden the women’s movement, given the mutual recognition of common and transversal problems, notably on the topics of violence and reproductive work.  

Finally, the itinerant non-formal activities put in place throughout this journey revealed to be important tools for democratic access to information and debate, especially in territories where there is a lack of feminist initiatives or any kind of problematization and discussion around women’s issues.