What is a social movement?

The struggle to end hunger is about achieving a dignified life for all. To end hunger, we need to tackle entrenched structural issues such as communities’ rights to land, water and seeds. We at WhyHunger believe real transformations in society take place when individuals and collectives especially those who have the most at stake — build power together as they work towards common goals and a common vision of society. We call these collectives “social movements,” which are expressions of people’s desire to end oppression and injustices.

We believe that social movements – mass, popular organizations led by communities directly affected by hunger and short-sighted policies – are the critical actors to bring about the structural changes required to advance towards a society that protects and supports the right of all people to live with dignity. It was the social movements led by peasant farmers, indigenous people, and women who developed the concepts and practice of Food Sovereignty and Agroecology, which we see as the ways to guarantee that people have control over their food and agriculture and can provide for their family.

Social movements can have a regional, national or global presence and are community-based and community-led coordinated efforts with a broad base of actors. They are necessarily and ever-evolving as external barriers and obstacles shift and emerge. They challenge social, oppressive structures present in society through organizing actions while at the same time building solutions to those problems. Their vision for a new path to society is borne out of democratic values and an analysis of what defines the current political, social and economic realities. They are political in that they seek social change. They are the wisdom and the voice of organized sectors of society. In other words, social movements as an ideal type are the truest representation of real democracy.

Social movements get their energy from solidarity across sectoral, cultural and geographical boundaries; from building broader alliances with like-minded organizations; and growing the number of people who will stand with them. To advance Food Sovereignty and Agroecology, social movements are building solidarity with other communities, food producers and consumers in other countries and other regions. This international solidarity is fostered through shared vision and a long-term commitment to support and struggle alongside one another. We believe that communities fighting for social justice inside the United States have always fostered links of solidarity just as much as communities in the Global South. From this perspective, WhyHunger learns with grassroots organizations and social movements in the U.S. and abroad and works to build international solidarity for a more just society globally.

We understand at WhyHunger that, as we work with social movements, it is important that we learn and build together. By supporting and accompanying social movement for food justice, food sovereignty and agroecology, we seek to contribute to a multi-layered impact on our communities that is larger than any impact we could have alone. This impact is realized through individuals’ transformation and growth, stronger links of solidarity and compassion between people (stronger communities), and the growth a grassroots-led effort capable of transforming people, policies and social structures for the common good.

Saulo Araujo