Transcript: In conversation with Pragna Patel
Maki Kimura: Hello, I am Maki Kimura from UCL's departments of Political Science, and Arts and Sciences. Today I am delighted to have Pragna Patel for this Sarah Parker Remond Centre 'in conversation' series. Pragna Patel is the director and founding member of Southall Black Sisters, an advice, advocacy, and campaigning centre for and by Black and minority ethnic women established in 1979, and is also a co-founder for Women Against Fundamentalism. For 40 years, first as a coordinator and senior case worker, and then as a trained lawyer, Pragna has been deeply involved in some of the Southall Black Sisters most prominent cases and campaigns concerning domestic violence, immigration, and religious fundamentalism. She has written and spoken extensively on race, gender, and religion, and is also a member of the Feminist Dissent journal. Pragna, thank you very much for joining me today.
Pragna Patel: Thank you for having me.
Maki: When I contacted you to ask whether we could have this conversation, I think I explained how my encounter with Southall Black Sisters was a key moment for me - someone who was not born or brought up here - to really understand how racialisation and race operates in the UK through gender, the legacy of colonialism and the immigration system. Could you tell me how and why you came to found Southall Black Sisters in the late 1970s; and how the centre has been advocating and campaigning for Black and minority women's rights?
Pragna: So, the first thing I should clarify is that Southall Black Sisters as a campaigning group existed before I joined. The Southall Black Sisters as a campaigning group was established by a group of African, Caribbean and South Asian women and women from other minority backgrounds including Middle Eastern backgrounds. They came together to form Southall Black Sisters in 1979. Now, 1979 is a really seminal moment in the political history of Black feminism, but also anti-racism, and particularly within South Asian communities. Southall Black Sisters is an organisation that was located in West London - Southall, West London - geographical area of largely South Asian people. In 1979, the group came together because they were already active in anti-racist politics in the area. At that time, there was an increase anti-racist activity as a result of far-right fascist, racist mobilisations in the area; 1979 saw the marching of members of the fascist organisation, The National Front, through Southall; and they decided to hold a meeting at Southall Town Hall. This was a really key moment in the history of anti-racist struggles in the area because it was seen as a very provocative act clearly designed to create segregation and foment hatred and violence. Many in the community, particularly the younger generation of South Asian backgrounds, decided that enough was enough and that they needed to challenge the kind of racism that they were seeing on the streets. So, they came together in defence of the community, and many of those involved in that anti-racist mobilisation included women from minority backgrounds, many of whom went on to form Southall Black Sisters. This was a really important political moment in the history of anti-racist struggles among South Asians because it was the first time that you see racial uprisings taking place in South Asian communities- they had taken place before in largely African-Caribbean areas where there had been many street battles between the police, between racists and fascists, and members of the Afro-Caribbean communities; but this was the first time you see South Asians rise up. At the time there was a kind of growing consciousness around race and issues to do with race, and it was very much influenced by the Civil Rights Movement of the US and the more radical Black Panther movement in the US. So, it was not unusual for South Asians to also call themselves Black; 'Black' was very much seen as a political term signifying unity across different minorities in the struggle against racism, born out of common experiences of colonialism and imperialism. So, that moment of mobilisation around fascism was key to the development of Southall Black Sisters' politics, and key to our identity as an anti-racist organisation. In the course of those racial uprisings, we see for the first time not only street violence perpetrated by the fascists and the racists, but also the ways in which the police responded, which was to criminalise the anti-racists as opposed to the fascists and the racists who were fomenting violence and hatred. The police arrested over 3-400 largely South Asian but also some Afro-Caribbean youths, and in the process of that struggle also killed a white teacher, Blair Peach, who was an anti-racist activist who had come to Southall to support and show solidarity in the community struggle against racism and fascism. Southall Black Sisters was born in the heat of that moment with a very intense anti-racist consciousness. However, the young women - both Afro-Caribbean backgrounds and South Asian backgrounds and other backgrounds - formed not only to challenge the racism of the state and racial violence and racial discrimination, but they also formed to focus particularly on the needs of women. They were also consciously feminist and they were part of a wider burgeoning feminist movement - which was largely white-led and dominated - but they were knocking at the doors of feminism saying 'we are Black women and we are here and you need to take account of our experiences'. So, the need for Southall Black Sisters arose out of the fact that as minorities and as women we are engaged in struggles against both racism and sexism, and gender inequality. Many of the members of Southall Black Sisters had also faced sexism and sexual harassment from their brothers in the anti-racist struggle. And also, when many of the women tried to raise issues impacting on women, particularly gender-based violence, the response was always 'not now, later', because the bigger struggle, the wider struggle, is the struggle against racism. Similarly, in the women's movement, there was no place for a discussion on race. It felt as if Black and minority women fell between two stools; they neither fitted the anti-racist paradigm, nor the white feminist paradigm, in terms of struggles. Forming autonomously was not to separate ourselves off from those struggles, but to say that as women we needed our spaces to understand and share our experiences and articulate them to enrich these struggles, not to separate ourselves off from them. So, the early campaigns organised reflected a diverse range of issues and interests; one minute they're part of anti-racist struggles; another minute they're supporting minority women on strike for better pay, better working conditions, because minority women were largely working in factories at the bottom of the pile, experiencing very much a casualisation of their labour and exploitation of their labour; the next minute they're campaigning against women who've killed themselves or have been killed by abusive partners and husbands. These were all issues and priorities for feminism; that's how Southall Black Sisters was articulating its own identity as a Black feminist organisation. So, that was the birth of Southall Black Sisters as an anti-racist, feminist, secular, anti-fundamentalist organisation. By the time I joined in 1982, the campaigning group had more or less sort of fizzled out; but I was looking for a political home having grown up in the UK, the child of my immigrant parents who struggled against racism, who struggled against racism in the workplace, in terms of trying to get housing, in the way in which they faced racism on the street, and the way in which I experienced racism growing up. For me, looking for a political home was acute as a way of trying to make sense of those individualised experiences; and also at the same time, I am a child of a community that was socially conservative in relation to women's issues, that mapped out destinies for women that ended in marriage and that was it, there was no notion that women could live independent lives, have agency, have careers; and so, I was also rebelling against that kind of socially conservative structure of family and community. So, for me, Southall Black Sisters was a natural political home. And what I did found was the advocacy centre which we established in 1982 to meet the needs of women- to meet the material needs of women. The wider context was also one of dismantling of the welfare state by Thatcher; Southall Black Sisters was created under Thatcherism, under the politics of Thatcher, the heralding in of neoliberal politics, the privatisation of the welfare state, the destruction of trade union activity- that was the wider political landscape that I inhabited, that Southall Black Sisters inhabited. So, there was a two-pronged need to, one, meet the needs of individual women- material needs of women in the face of homelessness, poverty, destitution and racism, in the face of gender-based violence, in the face of harsh and Draconian immigration laws and nationality laws; women were coming to us with specific personal problems that needed resolving. But we always, right from the outset, also felt the need to maintain campaigning as an integral part of our work; whilst you meet the individual and the material needs and respond to the material realities of the women who come to us, it is also vitally important to maintain a political campaign to challenge the very causes of poverty and gender-based violence and racism and fascism and neoliberalism. So, from the very inception, Southall Black Sisters was both a child of anti-racism and feminism, but also a dissenter because we dissented against the kind of anti-racist orthodoxies that didn't recognise gender as a fault line in our communities and in society; and we challenged the orthodoxies of the white feminist movement that didn't recognise race as a fault line in our communities and in our movements. We were also secular; many of us have come from backgrounds of colonialism, backgrounds where our parents or our grandparents were involved in anti-colonial struggles built around secular values, democratic ideals; and at the heart of which lies the separation of state and religion. That was really important to us - a secular identity - because it provided the space for unity, for collaboration, for solidarity; and opposed the kind of ways in which religion communalises community, and so on- and we've seen that exacerbated under the rise of religious fundamentalism. That's in a sort of nutshell the beginnings and the politics of Southall Black Sisters that we have carried on; and if you asked me to sum it up, I would say that what really defines us is the idea of a politics of resistance - of simultaneous resistance - against race, against patriarchal control and subjugation, against classism, against other forms of discrimination and inequality; and that politics of simultaneous resistance rests on the view that we cannot create hierarchies of struggle, that these are all interrelated and that we have to resist all forms of regressive politics and discriminatory ideas at one and the same time.
Maki: Thank you very much for sharing the history of the birth of Southall Black Sisters. I think in the 1990s this concept of intersectionality became really, really popular; and thinking of that in the grass-roots movements and organisations like Southall Black Sisters, we can clearly see that intersectional awareness did not just happen in the 1990s but actually a lot of feminists like yourself have been working on this issue since the 1970s.
Pragna: Absolutely, because when you are dealing with women's day-to-day realities as we were, you were seeing how they were struggling on so many fronts, both within the family and outside, and that these were all important to understand and analyse, and the way in which structural inequality interrelates and works. So, I would say that 'intersectionality' as a term was coined in the '90s, but many organisations, many Black women's organisations - not just in the UK but also in the US - had an intersectional understanding of what they were dealing with and were practising it long before Kimberlé Crenshaw coined the term. The one thing I would say is that the context in which Kimberlé Crenshaw coined the term was very true to the ways in which we understood intersectionality, although we never articulated it as such; which was very much looking at the ways in which Black women - in the context in which she was writing - their lives were shaped by structural inequalities, by racism that shaped their working conditions in the workplace that led them to struggle against unequal pay for equal work that they were doing, and not only unequal pay in relation to their male colleagues but also female white colleagues; so, she was very much talking about the need for an intersectional gaze in relation to structural inequalities, and we very much have tried to stay true to that understanding of intersectionality, of how different strands of discrimination intersect and create a heightened form of inequality. But nowadays, intersectionality is so often reduced to an idea of intersecting identities; and we very much, from our inception, are more interested in structures of inequality rather than just identities of difference. And I think that's really important because I don't think that intersectionality is just about being able to say that you are a number of multiple identities- it's more than that. And it has become so reductionist in its use these days that it's lost its meaning.
Maki: Yes, I think intersectionality is maybe one of the most popular concepts in feminist and gender studies, but it's really difficult to establish the common understanding of what we actually mean by intersectionality; is it about identity or is it about structural inequality? And I completely agree with you that it is about structural inequality, and how this structural inequality can intersect to create differentiated experiences of inequality. So, a lot of women that you support and work with at Southall Black Sisters, you've said that they suffer from destitution and poverty, and also gender-based violence. Can you share your experience of why these women - obviously, there are gender and racial structural inequalities - but why these women in particular experience poverty and gender-based violence?
Pragna: I think that our work on the rights of migrant women stem from the fact that they are some of the most vulnerable groups of women in our society- in British society at any rate. And they are women who have come to this country on some visa or other, who then fall into relationships; so, a lot of our work is focused particularly on migrant women who, after entering the UK or as a result of marriage outside the UK, but come to this country and fall into abusive relationships or marriages. So, these are migrant women who are dependent on their partners and husbands for their very survival, because they probably arrive with limited leave to remain; and attached to that is a condition called "no recourse to public funds", which is an immigration rule which stipulates that if you have limited leave to remain, you cannot access any form of public support- welfare support, and that you are dependent on your own finances or the finances of your partner for your survival. The problem with that is that there are many migrant women who arrive in the UK, whose relationships or marriages become abusive; and then when they try to leave or escape that violence or abuse, they find themselves unable to protect themselves because they have no recourse to public funds. So, the normal routes of safety and protection that are available to abused women in society - for example, refuge shelters, accommodation, access to benefits and so on - are not available to migrant women in these situations. So, what it does is it creates spaces in which migrant women are forced to remain in abuse; they become trapped in abuse because if they leave abuse they become immediately destitute, and secondly, risk possible removal or deportation because their reason for being here - which is usually based on their relationship with their partner or their marriage - no longer exists, no longer subsists. So, for many women who are subject to violence and abuse, the lack of access to the welfare state or the safety net of the welfare state means that they have to remain in abusive situations and therefore remain at risk of their health and their lives. For many years, Southall Black Sisters have supported women, or tried to support women in these situations. And it's very difficult as a frontline organisation to support women who have no alternative; they usually do not have families or friends in this country because they're migrant women, they have no resources of their own, and they don't have permission to remain in the UK. So, they're in a very precarious position. And so, as a frontline organisation, we usually have to raise funds ourselves to find ways of paying for temporary accommodation for these women, and to pay to meet their basic need for food and health needs, and so on; and to try and find ways to regularise their stay in the UK- because many cannot return to their countries of origin, because as separated and divorced women they're likely to face stigma, ostracisation, and in more extreme cases, even death, because divorce is taboo, and so on. So, what the predicament in which migrant women find themselves highlights so brilliantly is exactly what we were talking about earlier- the intersection of what are particularly harsh, punitive, discriminatory immigration rules with patriarchal control that seeks to subjugate women through violence and abuse. It's the intersection of both these things coming together that heighten migrant women's risks and harms that they face and heighten the discrimination that they face. And what we say is that the patriarchal control through the use of coercion, through the use of abuse and violence by abusive partners, is aided and abetted by the state's immigration policies that keep women financially dependent or construct women as financial dependents, and entrap them in abuse- ever-spiralling abuse. So, actually, this particular predicament and this dilemma and this issue that we are forced to confront, raises so brilliantly the very things that we are saying that we need to resist simultaneously. On the one hand, we need to resist violence and abuse as a cause and consequence of gender inequality, and we have to challenge patriarchal structures of the family, marriage, relationships that subjugate women in this way, that control women in this way, that demean women in this way and that treat them as subhuman in this way. At the same time, we have to challenge a racist state that uses immigration as a way of excluding people from the welfare state, from citizenship rights, that racialises people and that creates a context of surveillance and control, that patriarchy then is able to manipulate beautifully to maintain its control. So you see here patriarchy as a form of structural inequality meets racism through immigration and nationality laws as a form of structural inequality, creating these unique forms of discrimination based on gender and race at one and the same time. And so, our campaigns have been about trying to win concessions from the state to ensure that migrant women don't remain trapped in abuse through immigration and nationality laws, and that they can access the welfare safety net without fear of destitution or deportation. The issue, I think, is also very, very significant at a time when the UK and the whole of Europe, post-Brexit in particular, has moved so much to the right and has enacted what we call the hostile environment policy, which is to make the living conditions of migrants so bad that they are forced to leave the country so-called voluntarily, or that they are thrown out by the state, and to legitimise through state policies the idea of hostile environment. So, we believe that this is one of the most pernicious forms of racist inequality and racist structural inequality that we need to tackle. And it impacts not just on migrants who have unsettled status, but it also impacts on minorities who have settled status. One of the things that if anyone has followed British politics in the last few years will have seen is the ways in which Afro-Caribbean people, who had come to this country post the Second World War to rebuild and re-configure and restructure the economy of this country, found themselves caught up in the state's hostile environment policies, where their citizenship was questioned, where their right to settlement and the right to rights that this brings with it was questioned; and it led to the unsettling of very settled minority communities; and worse, it led to many losing their jobs, losing access to healthcare and even being removed from the country. And what that tells us is that the need to focus on the most vulnerable migrant groups is also vital to the wider struggle against racism. They are linked. They are linked; and one of the tasks ahead for us is to ensure that settled minorities don't invoke the same kind of bigotry, bigoted views and assumptions that replicate the kind of racist assumptions that the state has promoted in relation to migrants, because we have to create that solidarity across these groups because it is part of the wider struggle against racism. And I think migrant rights are a key part of the wider anti-racist struggle, and are a key part of the Black Lives Matter agenda, precisely because we've seen how if migrants are not secure, then none of us are secure as minorities. That's what drives us in our work around the rights of migrant women. And of course it's not just about challenging the racist state and the hostile environment policies and its attempt to create a surveillance society, but it's also about challenging patriarchy and gender-based violence because of the way in which patriarchy is also able to draw upon that resource to strengthen patriarchal hold and stranglehold in families and in relationships and in marriage. So, these are both really, really essential to understand, but the daily realities of the women is what drives us because it's through their experiences that we understand how these structures of inequality work with each other to create this kind of underclass, or what the state would like to see as disposable people.
Maki: So, as you eloquently explained that, I often think of how the state is part of this structural injustice and racism; it's not often understood, but this is a really, really important element to understand how racism functions in countries like the UK. And now we are in the UK and living in this Covid-19 lockdown, but since the first lockdown there have been a lot of reports on increasing cases of domestic abuse and inequalities, in particular for Black and minority ethnic women and migrant women and families; and they are facing tremendous hardships. So, through your activities of Southall Black Sisters, what have you been seeing and experiencing? And what have Southall Black Sisters been doing to tackle these issues?
Pragna: So, even before the Covid-19 pandemic, and certainly before the lockdown in March, we were already - through our work with women - highlighting the fact that Black and minority women are vulnerable to higher rates of gender-based violence, including domestic homicides and suicides. For example, BME women are disproportionately featured in domestic homicide rates in the UK; South Asian women in particular have suicide rates of up to 3 times the national average, linked to experiences of abuse and violence and patriarchal control. So, even before the pandemic we were raising these matters, and therefore demanding more state intervention in its protective capacity to support minority women. When the pandemic arrived and the lockdown was announced by the government, what became very quickly obvious to us is that the government had not prepared in relation to the rise in domestic abuse cases and the rise in domestic homicide cases. I think within the first three weeks of the lockdown there were at least 28 reported cases of domestic homicide involving women and children, and that just then increased; and there were many, many women's organisations reporting a rise in referrals in relation to domestic abuse. We ourselves at Southall Black Sisters received many messages from very desperate women saying they didn't know what to do because of the lockdown; because they found themselves trapped even more 24/7 in situations of abuse. And one of the things that was really striking in their accounts and in the stories that they told us was not so much the physical abuse that they were in fear of, but the psychological abuse; and they were really petrified of being subject to coercion and control all the time during lockdown. Whereas before maybe some women get brief moments of respite, they can go drop the children off at school, they can go to the shops, perhaps visit the GP- they couldn't do any of these things; and that led to really heightened anxiety, fear, uncertainty, depression and trauma, the result of which some women, sadly, committed suicide, and others were killed as I've explained. What was particularly worrying for us was also the fact that if you were migrant women it became even more impossible to escape abuse because not only were you subject to all of these forms of violence and abuse, but you really had nowhere to go even if you left because there was no accommodation available and there was no support available because of the no recourse to public funds condition. So, for migrant women the situation was even more terrifying. Many migrant women who were able to work, lost work and found themselves in situations of complete destitution- that's also true of many migrant families, but women in particular too. And so, our response was to increase our capacity to stay connected with women; to break their sense of isolation which was quite acute; to try and support as much as we could through remote counselling sessions, doing work remotely to support them; to raising additional funds to improve our IT capacity to work remotely. These were concrete challenges that we faced - particularly for migrant women because they often didn't have the means of communication; they didn't have phones; they didn't have money to buy SIM cards; they couldn't use a food bank because they didn't have money to take the bus to go to the food bank- these are real challenges that we had to overcome in supporting women, preventing abuse and preventing destitution. But on top of meeting those daily needs, we were very, very concerned about what seemed to be an indifferent, chaotic at best, and a completely hostile response from the government. And so we brought a legal challenge challenging the government to do more to provide support for abused women during lockdown, and stating quite clearly that the government was discriminating against women in not having had a crisis plan prepared; and it wasn't that the evidence wasn't there because the evidence from other countries that were ahead and had already locked down - Italy, China - had already shown a spike in domestic abuse cases in those countries. So, there was no excuse for this government not to have prepared; and we did try to bring a legal challenge on the basis that the government was discriminating against women for not preparing, when at the same time the government had at least thought about and put things in place for people who were street homeless - which was a good thing - but we were saying that they hadn't done enough other vulnerable groups- disabled groups, abused women, minority women, migrant women, and so on. And it was because we threatened to bring legal action against the government on the basis of sex discrimination that the government backed down and announced a multi-million pound package to support refuges, to support the need for more spaces and so on during the lockdown. But it's been nowhere near enough, and it has been piecemeal, and it has been temporary and now we're in another lockdown situation. So, as always, the government's rhetoric does not match the reality on the ground in terms of the resources needed to deal with this pandemic in a more systematic way that meets the needs of the most vulnerable in particular. So, that's the situation in which we find ourselves; and the other part of the equation is our fear that the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as the Brexit landscape that we've inhabited, means that these things will distract from what the government's also doing in other areas. You know, let's not beat about the bush, this is an authoritarian government; this is a government that is pushing regressive agendas on many fronts. And so, for us, it's also about being vigilant in relation to what else the government's doing that's regressive whilst everybody is distracted by the pandemic and by Brexit and other things. So, we've had to, for example, at the moment challenge other measures that the government's taken around violence against women and girls, which we think will take the feminist struggle back another three decades, because it's trying to fragment what is a singular framework for understanding violence against women and girls and fragment it into different forms of violence against women and girls, and separate domestic abuse from violence against women and girls, which makes no sense. Domestic abuse is a part of violence against women and girls, it's part of a continuum of violence against women and girls so it requires a single framework underpinned by human rights to deal with this; and instead the government is now promoting a two-prong strategy which separates the Domestic Abuse strategy from the Violence Against Women and Girls strategy. Now, this comes at a time when it took us three decades to get the government to create a Violence Against Women and Girls strategy. So, you can see that we're beginning to go backwards and that we need to be vigilant because everybody's attention is elsewhere. So, we have to really, really be vigilant in the ways in which we don't allow this government to push through an agenda that is so authoritarian and so anti-democratic, in which our struggles for rights, our struggles against racism, our struggles against gender inequality, against class inequality, will be set back. And that's the fear.
Maki: I completely agree with that. Since lockdown I think many of us started to develop networks at community level and you can really see how the government support is not reaching those who are most needing; and at the same time, when you look at what's happening in the government, there's a few bills which have been quickly passed which have got quite serious impacts on human rights; and that's something we are all really concerned about as well. So, with your 40 years of involvement in the feminist and anti-racism movements and struggles, what do you think are the biggest achievements and challenges we still face today? Obviously, with Covid-19 there are a lot of challenges that we have to deal with.
Pragna: The achievements are many. In spite of the fact that we are in a period of immense uncertainty and volatility globally, women have achieved so much in relation to violence against women and girls; it's recognised as an abuse of women's human rights, it's recognised globally as an abuse of human rights. What states do about it is another question; but it is recognised, there's a consensus. There are also laws that have been enacted all over the world, and certainly in the UK, in relation to protection for women. The fact that women's movements have set up shelters and refuges. Women have better working conditions- but not all women, so I don't want to homogenise that achievement. Women have achieved equal pay in some circumstances. Women have crashed through the glass ceiling in ways that we've seen around the world and, most recently, in the context of the US elections. We've seen the ways in which Black people have managed to become more visible at all levels of society; there's still a lot that needs to be done and there is still no reckoning with the past in terms of slavery, colonialism, exploitation and so on. Nevertheless, we've seen immense achievements in relation to reproductive rights. We've seen the passing of legislation permitting abortion; and we've also seen the backlash against that. So, we have seen women make considerable gains in so many fields- in culture, entertainment, industry, education, law and the political sphere. Women are pushing forward and forward and forward; demanding better responses to rape and sexual violence, demanding that the rights that they have gained are not obliterated, demanding more access to the welfare state, demanding childcare, demanding equal rights in lots of areas. We've still got a long way to go, but there has been achievement; the right to vote is a considerable achievement, and people have built on that. The challenges are immense. The major challenge is the backlash, but the backlash doesn't come from one source. It doesn't just come from authoritarian states, it comes from the politics of the far-right. It also comes from the politics of the religious-right, and by that I mean religious fundamentalists who use religion to gain political power; I mean religious ultraconservatives; I mean religious orthodox forces - these are what I call part of the religious far-right. And one of the key challenges for us as feminists is to understand that power and the abuse of power doesn't just emanate from the state; it also occurs in our communities and in family structures, community structures, religious structures, particularly when illiberal forces dominate those structures. The resurgence of religious fundamentalism is a challenge that I really think feminism has to do more to grapple with; the way in which religious fundamentalism has created fear, radiated violence, radiated a culture of causing offence- a politics of causing offence which suppresses any form of internal dissent. I think this is a major challenge to those of us who want to promote a more plural democratic society based on the idea of the separation of state and religion, because religion is mobilised by powerful fundamentalist forces who use religion to push a regressive political agenda, particularly on women. In all religions; it's rising in all religions but at the heart of it is its attempt to control women's minds and bodies through diktats in relation to how women should dress, to promotion of agendas on gender segregation in public spaces, to the promotion of faith-based schools that want to eradicate any kind of curriculum that looks at issues of equality and citizenship and sexual rights for women or other sexual minorities and so on. This is a key challenge and it's a challenge that I fear many on the anti-racist left have failed to rise to, because the first targets of such regressive politics are women, and women's rights and struggles have always been put at the back. And feminism needs allies, it needs solidarity across the board if it's to defeat these forces of fundamentalism. The rise of religious fundamentalism- we see its impact in the US, its attempt to roll back the law around women's right to control their own reproductive systems; we see how it has destroyed the secular fabric of a democratic Indian state; we see the ways in which it's denied young children and girls education in Afghanistan; we see what it's doing in relation to partnering with neoliberal politics in Brazil and the way in which it's rolling back not just women's rights, but other rights in relation to the environment, to climate justice and indigenous peoples, and so on. And so, I feel that sometimes our attempt to create an alternative progressive politics focuses so much on racism and the resurgence of the far-right - which is key - but it doesn't do enough to focus on the other kinds of regressive politics like the rise of religious fundamentalism and the way in which it manipulates the state and the laws of the state in certain countries to push a really regressive agenda that is detrimental to democracy, detrimental to a vision of plural coexistence and sharing of civic spaces of humanity and of the ideals of humanity and humanitarian care. It suppresses any form of dissent, and the chief dissenters of those, including women, who dissent against the patriarchy that it's trying to reconstruct and reconfigure. So, that is a huge challenge, it's a massive challenge; as is the rise of authoritarian and right-wing populism around the world; as is the rise of racism that is being legitimised in state structures, and we see that in the way in which race politics in the US has unfolded, or the way in which politics around immigration, as I've described, has unfolded in this country. These are key challenges; these are priorities for feminists. And these right-wing forces - the religious-right, the far-right - are also linked to the rise of neoliberalism, because it is when the welfare state is dismantled that these forces step in to fill the vacuum, to provide the services but on their terms. So, these are some key challenges for us, and our job is to join these dots; it's not that one is more important than the other, but it's to see how they interlink to create an environment of hatred, intolerance and violence; and that's really, really key. And that is, I think, the feminist agenda.
Maki: I think with the current situation this call for solidarity is something that we really need most. So, there's a lot of other things that I really want to ask, but maybe we can have this conversation next time. Thank you so much, Pragna, for coming today. It was such a pleasure to have this conversation with you. Thank you very much.
Pragna: Thank you, Maki. It was a pleasure to be here and to join you in the conversation.