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Haveit: Kosovo’s conscience disguised in performance art

Haveit, a Kosovan art collective consisting of four young women, use their performances to explore gender and social issues. - free thinking for the world

Haveit: Kosovo’s conscience disguised in performance art

Haveit, a Kosovan art collective consisting of four young women, use their performances to explore gender and social issues. - free thinking for the world

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Changing the tune

by Jane Gabriel

A story from Colombia told by Monica Roa, Programme Director of Women's Link Worldwide in Colombia, vividly illustrated the power of taking Professor Sai's advice and changing the tune to fit each audience.

Clandestine abortion providers

Sexual abuse by doctors, inflated prices charged by providers and high rates of suicide as a result of unwanted pregnancies were just some of the experiences raised by some amazing individuals providing clandestine abortion services around the world.

Global safe abortion: the world in London

This week, London played host to the world's first international conference on safe abortion. 800 delegates from over 60 countries around the world attended, and openDemocracy was there to report, speaking to advocates, practitioners and campaigners.

In these first blog reactions, Jane Gabriel reports on the scale of the problem, one woman's amazing work in Ghana, and says it's time to break the silence on gender and power. Jessica Reed investigates the medical abortion revolution, anti-choice tactics, and abortion as a human right. Plus: crossing borders for abortion and the inspiring work of clandestine providers.

Abortion as a human right: the case of Karen Noelia Llontoy vs. Peru

Abortion as a human right

A lot of the speakers at the Global Safe Abortion Conference addressed the right to safe abortion as a human right.

Luisa Cabal, director of the Center for Reproductive Rights' International Legal Program, underlined the fact that human rights are a universal language, a common ground to build on, and a tool for governments to save women's lives. [more...]

The other silence

by Jane Gabriel

Legal barriers, sheer physical pain, stigma and fear are not reducing women's demand for abortion, and the number of unsafe abortions is still rising. What is driving this need and this demand by women?

The conference was the world's first international conference on safe abortion, and at the plenary session declared that it had broken the silence of this "preventable pandemic" (Lancet).

Anti-choice tactics: from manipulation to extremism

An eternal clash

Upon our arrival at the conference at an early 8.30 in the morning we were greeted by a group of anti-choice women silently picketing the Queen Elizabeth Conference Centre, holding a huge banner stating that "women deserve better than abortions" (ironically enough, my colleague Jane Gabriel remarked that the banner was folded in such a way that at the right angle it read "women deserve better abortions"). I was also handed misguided pro-life leaflets stating (amongst other things) that Marie Stopes was racist. [more...]

The universal struggle

by Jane Gabriel

At independence Ghana inherited the restrictive British law on abortion, and it wasn't liberalised until 1985. In Ghana today between 20% and 30% of all maternal deaths in Ghana are directly related to unsafe abortion.

Nearly 60 years after Professor Sai came to London, Faustina Fynn Nyame was working in a London hospital. One of the women who came to her for help had had an ‘abortion'. What the young woman did not know until then was that the abortionist had removed her ovaries, her womb and her uterus. Like Professor Sai, this woman's story decided Faustina's life's work. She returned to Ghana to work for safe abortion, she opened a Marie Stopes Centre. She worked alone for the first year. One year on she has thirty two paid staff, 35 franchised service providers of safe abortions, three centres and an outreach team - and no-one is denied an abortion because they cannot afford it.

Medical abortion: a revolution for women's reproductive rights

Dr. Hilary Bracken, Senior Program Associate with Gynuity Health Project, opened the session titled "Ensuring Women's access to medical abortion in their own communities" declaring that medical abortion (the abortion pill, or RU486) is the most important revolution in women's medical health since the commercialisation of the contraceptive pill. [more...]

Crossing borders - abortion journeys

The plight of the many women having to undertake long, distressing, often expensive journeys in order to gain access to safe abortion due to restrictive legislation in their home countries was the focus of discussion on day one of the conference.

The choir

by Jane Gabriel

"I am a man out of a woman" - so began the rallying cry of one of women's human rights lifelong advocates, Professor Fred Sai, at the opening of the world's first International Conference on Safe Abortion (MSI Global Safe Abortion Conference).

The numbers of women dying are appalling: 100 million women alive today will have an unsafe abortion and more than 13% of them will die as a direct result. 68,000 women die a year as a direct result of an unsafe abortion - that is one woman every 8 minutes. Of the 42 million known abortions a year, 20 million of them will be unsafe. Professor Sai came from Ghana to London as a medical student in 1949, one of the nurses he trained with at the time became pregnant, she swallowed sleeping pills and died weeks later. He asked himself "What kind of law leads to this lonely death?" That was the point at which Professor Sai decided that his life's work would be to provide safe abortion.

Gender based violence linked with reproductive rights and HIV/AIDS

A lot of the breakout sessions organised by the Women Deliver conference focused on AIDS/HIV treatment and prevention for women and girls, and how it should be treated as an integral part of the fight for reproductive rights for all women, everywhere.

One of the most important and recurrent issues underlined by speakers is that the spread of HIV/AIDS is directly linked to gender based violence, especially in unstable regions where rape is used as a weapon of war, or where women have to sell their bodies as a means to survive and provide for their families. [more...]

Seeing Double

I was at a Fawcett Society round table yesterday discussing how ethnic minority women can access positions of power in Britain - part of their "Seeing Double" project. The under representation of women, and minorities, in British public institutions is a key issue for OurKingdom. Black and ethnic minority women make up 5.2% of the population of the UK - you can probably guess what % of positions of power they hold. I was there to mainly listen - and two themes came out strongly for me.

The first is that ensuring equal representation is important for two reasons. In a system of representative democracy it is intuitive that public representatives should be, well, representative of their public. But the relative exclusion of women, and especially ethnic minority women, from public life represents a loss of talent and creativity. Sitting at the Fawcett table I was reminded of another round table I had attended recently. I won't mention the name of the think tank, but in a table of 20 or so there was only one woman, everyone was white, and I was the only one under 40. How can such a table claim to think creatively if their pool of minds starts out so homogenous? Our Houses of Parliament currently suffer from a similar problem.

Women, men and rape

Sensuality is a source of delight. At least that was what I had assumed as a young child - before sex educationalists in school associated sex with images of disgusting venereal abscesses and threats of violence. As a girl, I learned that I was at risk of abuse from the rapacious penises of every boy and man I would encounter on this earth. The mantra that "all men are rapists, rape fantasists, or beneficiaries of a rape culture" took some of the uncomplicated joy out of my early heterosexual explorations.

Water problems in Somalia: a photo-essay

child searching for water

A thirsty child sucks futilely on a dry tap in Somalia's Mudug province


Men for women?

The latest issue of Critical Half, the journal of Women For Women International is entitled "Engaging Men in Women's Issues"; its sections include one called "Women Are Not Islands: Engaging Men To Empower Women".

50.50 blog

Welcome to the 50.50 blog. Here you will find ongoing discussions involving men and women concerned with gender parity, as well as reports from conferences, news and commentary. Blogs which are also part of our 50.50 initiative:

In 2007, openDemocracy covered the G8 process from a women's perspective. This blog gathers contributions from women across the world, writing about what they would like the G8 to adress.

The first international conference of the Nobel Women's Initiative took place in Ireland in June 2007. The openDemocracy team live-blogged it.

The United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is the principal global policy-making body dedicated exclusively to gender equality and advancement of women. openDemocracy observed the process closely.

The 7th World Social Forum brought the world to Africa as activists, social movements, networks, coalitions and other progressive forces converged in Kenya. Patricia Daniel blogged live from Nairobi.

Egypt’s family courts: route to empowerment?

An Egyptian film of 1975 epitomises the experiences of women in the country's law-courts at that time: protracted, costly, painful, and with no expectation of justice at the end of the process. Duria, the female protagonist of Uridu Halan (I Want a Solution), struggles in vain to obtain court-ordered divorce from the playboy husband who has abused her for twenty years. The gaps in the legal system and its biases against women enable the husband to exploit the situation to his advantage. After four years of litigation, Duria loses the case because the court has not found "strong" evidence of spousal harm.

Behind the melodrama was the living reality of many thousands of Egyptian women for whom the existing family-law system - regulating matters such as family property, marriage and divorce, alimony, child custody, and paternity disputes - offered no guarantee of their civil rights or human dignity.

Mulki Al-Sharmani is an assistant research professor at the Social Research Center at the American University in Cairo. Since January 2007, she has been conducting a study of family courts in Egypt. This research activity is part of the Pathways of Women's Empowerment project.

A fuller elaboration of Mulki Al-Sharmani's work in this field is here

The generation since then has seen a wide-ranging effort to reform Egyptian family law. This culminated in the introduction of a new legal framework which came into effect in three tranches of legislation in 2000 and 2004. This was a real advance, but as with any attempt to bring about social change through legal reforms the new system has had complex and multidimensional effects. In this light, I examine here one aspect of the reform package - namely mediation-based family courts - in order to assess how far Egypt's women have travelled in achieving "empowerment through law".

A long campaign

The struggles of Egyptian women in the post-1970s generation to reform family law have owed much to the inspiring example of their predecessors over the past century. This objective has been one of the main goals of Egyptian women's-rights advocates since the "renaissance" of the late 19th century. In the second decade of the 20th century, for example, the Egyptian Feminist Union headed by Huda Shaarawi called for the raising of the minimum age of marriage, restrictions on polygamy, and the introduction of fair divorce laws.

In the 1920s and subsequent decades, reform efforts continued with varying degrees of success until, in the 1970s and 1980s, the hunger for change found expression in the emergence of a collection of diverse groups - including women activists, local NGOs, government agencies and officials, prominent lawyers and judges, and intellectuals. But this was not a single "movement": the various groups had different ideas and agendas, which led to different ideas about what kinds of reforms of family law were needed.

Some efforts, for example, targeted the existing, substantive law to amend articles that discriminated against women and/or to introduce provisions that would enhance women's rights; others focused on reforming the procedures for reviewing cases; yet others championed initiatives intended to preserve the cohesion and stability of Egyptian families.

The Egyptian government, moreover, had in this period its own family-law agenda, though it was motivated by multiple (and sometimes conflicting) desires: among them were strengthening state institutions, creating equality and justice for all citizens, making claims to religious and cultural legitimacy, improving the status of Egypt within the international community, and securing the support of international organisations and donors.

These differences and tensions notwithstanding, the reform project eventually resulted in the passage of three new laws: Law 1 of 2000, Law 10 of 2004, and Law 11 of 2004. Law 1 reformed the terms and procedures of personal- status cases, and includes two articles of great significance: guaranteeing women the right to file for no-fault divorce (Article 20) and the right to file for divorce from unregistered marriages (Article 17). Four years later, Law 10 introduced the system of family courts; and Law 11 established the Family Insurance Fund, a mechanism through which female litigants could collect court-ordered alimony and child support.

A policy success?

A look at the mediation-based family-courts system, one important element of these reforms, is one way to measure their effects on the women they were designed to help. The aim of the courts model is to establish an efficient and non-adversarial legal system that is based on mediation. Thus every potential litigant in a family-dispute case is obliged to file for mediation before he or she can bring a case to court. Mediation offices have been set up in each court, staffed with specialists who are trained in social work, psychology, and law.

Since the agreements reached between disputants in mediation sessions are binding by law, it was expected that compulsory pre-litigation mediation would save a lot of the time and costs spent in court. However, the new system is facing challenges. Three problems are particularly worth mentioning:

The first is the existence of gaps in the legislation that effectively diminish the power of mediation offices. The second is a lack of adequate resources and training offered to those required to operate the system.

Also in openDemocracy on women, power and the state:

Andrea Cornwall, "Pathways to women' empowerment" (27 July 2007)

Srilatha Batliwala, "Putting power back into empowerment" (30 July 2007)

These articles open a new collaboration between openDemocracy and the research consortium Pathways of Women's Empowerment at the Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex.We explore ideas, projects and initiatives from around the world - Brazil to Egypt, Sierra Leone to Bangladesh - which aim to understand what enables women to empower themselves and sustain changes in gendered power relations
A third obstacle (related to the second) merits greater consideration. This is that some court personnel and litigants reject the very idea of formal mediation. One of the judges and many of the lawyers I interviewed for a research programme thought that formal mediation was an alien concept borrowed from western legal models. They argued that it was inappropriate and offensive for couples to recount intimate details of their lives to mediation specialists; and that formal mediation was unnecessary because existing, local mechanisms of mediation (e.g. relatives and community elders) were routinely available before a couple resorted to court.

Another judge had a different take on this issue: he thought that resistance to mediation inside the legal system was owed to the that that its advocates and their legislative backers had failed to create a sympathetic, transparent environment in which the new system could operate and be understood. He pointed out that there had, for example, been no coherent effort to highlight the compatibility of the new system with mediation-based Islamic laws that regularly govern family disputes and which are valued in Egypt's public culture.

Several mediation specialists I interviewed offered a further insight into the subtleties of the process. They noted that family-based mechanisms of mediation often escalate a conflict between wife and husband since family relatives are emotionally invested in the problem. Indeed, specialists often have to begin by defusing the anger and resentment of accompanying relatives before they can conduct useful mediation sessions with disputants. The argument here is that formal mechanisms of mediation were needed precisely because local, familial, "informal" ones were not working.

The experiences of female litigants themselves, whom I interviewed for my research, reflect the problems with legal mediation. Some women do not make use of the system because their counsels persuade them of its futility and social awkwardness. The lawyers then go through the motions of mediation without the presence of the disputants. Other women show up to the initial sessions but then stop coming since their husbands regularly fail to appear - mainly because the latter are unprepared or unwilling to reach agreements to which they will be held accountable, particularly in alimony cases.

Yet some women are appropriating the new system of mediation for their own advantage - and in creative ways. They use it, for example, at an earlier stage in the marital conflict and as one of several means (family pressure can be another) of negotiating with their husbands for different claims such as adequate spousal maintenance or the right to work. Thus, Egyptian women have "fused" the existing and new systems to maximise the opportunities which society and its legal framework offers to them.

A dynamic process

The lesson of this story is that the relationship between legal reforms and social change is not a simple one. Many factors affect it: flaws in the legislation, difficulties in implementation, the way judges are recruited and trained, the influence of social attitudes and cultural beliefs. All can pose challenges to the effectiveness of a new system.

Those who seek to use legal reform to aid social progress and women's rights need to make sure that new laws are well formulated, just, and well implemented; that social and institutional conditions are favourable; and that the political and cultural environment is supportive. These are large aims in any circumstance, which so far perhaps have been met in only very few cases. But the experience of Egyptian women in their search for legal and social empowerment in the area of family law shows that small victories are possible.

Pathways of Women's Empowerment: Egypt

Listen now to Dr Hania Sholkamy on gender and empowerment in Egypt, and the challenge of engaging with global feminism

Sexual violence as a weapon of war

Last Tuesday the UN Security Council approved the use of a hybrid armed force in Darfur, hoping it will help to bring a sense of stability in the region. The resolution also grants the use of force ("necessary measures") to the UN soldiers who will be in charge of securing the region by protecting and assuring the circulation of humanitarian workers, stoping the attacks and threats towards civilians, and encouraging the peace process in Sudan. (more...)

Reclaiming Feminism(s): Gender and Neo Liberalism

This month the Pathways of Women's Empowerment blog will focus on Reclaiming Feminism(s): Gender and Neo-liberalism, a conference held in Brighton on July 9-10, which also kickstarted the ongoing relationship between Pathways and openDemocracy. Many conferences will be held throughout the year, with (but not exclusively) participants from the 5 Pathways hubs, located in Egypt, Bangladesh, the UK, Brazil and Ghana.

The conference gathered around 40 academics and activists from Africa, South America, the Middle East, Asia and Europe.

Pathways of women's empowerment

“Empowerment” has come to be regarded by many mainstream development agencies as a destination that can be reached through the development equivalent of a motorway: fast-track programmes which can be rolled out over any terrain. A new kind of feelgood talk about women is gaining ground: one that puts women at the forefront of achieving peace, prosperity and democracy. Empower women, the story goes, and they will become the motor of development.
Development’s emphasis on women’s empowerment has been welcomed by some as a return from the fog of “gender equality” and the blind alley of “gender mainstreaming” to a sharper, clearer concern about the injustice, discrimination and lack of opportunities that women the world over experience. But the straight talk about power that was once part of feminist discourses of empowerment has given way as development agencies have taken up the term. Today’s softer, more conciliatory, calls for women’s empowerment have none of the rough edges of older demands for justice and equality.
Andrea Cornwall is a fellow of the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex, southern England. She is the editor of Spaces For Change? The Politics of Citizen Participation in New Democratic Arenas (Zed Books, 2006) and co-editor (with Elizabeth Harrison and Ann Whitehead) of Gender Myths and Feminist Fables: The Struggle for Interpretive Power in Gender and Development (Blackwell, 2007)
The answer to women’s persistent disadvantage, we learn from the proponents of the new empowerment narrative, is to enable them to gain “power”, exercise “agency” and make “choices”. There’s a familiar-sounding ring to this narrative; it seems to resonate with the kinds of things feminists have been talking about for decades. But what exactly does all this mean? Talk of “empowering women” turns “power” into a transferable commodity rather than a structural relation. “Agency” becomes self-assertion - taking control of one’s own life, making one’s own decisions - through self-actualisation. Making “choices” says less about the capacity to determine the parameters of the possible than the possibility of selecting the options that development intervention makes available.
The image and the real
Taking a closer look, what appears at first sight to hold some semblance of responsiveness to feminist demands reveals itself as a simulacrum.
“Empowerment-lite” looks like the real thing. It sounds like the real thing - borrowing words from the feminist lexicon, although often in combinations that deprive them of their bite. And it seems to be doing just what feminists have been doing and demanding for decades: from organising women into groups to providing training, resources and rules that get more women into work and into politics. But is it really doing anything to address the underlying structural inequalities and pervasive discrimination that roused feminists into action in the first place?
Much depends on how the term “empowerment” is interpreted. In some parts of the world, “empowerment” has come to be synonymous with projects that give women small loans and enlist them in small-scale business activities such as producing handicrafts for sale. Claims to be “empowering women” through engaging them in the market conflate power with money, and imbue the acquisition of money with almost magical powers - as if once women had their own money, they could wave a wand and wish away overnight the social norms, institutions and relationships that are part of their lives. Empowerment-lite promises this, and more: a chain of causalities culminating in development’s holy grail, poverty reduction.
In the midst of all this, women’s own strategies to negotiate the constraints of their everyday lives are rendered virtually invisible: poor women are, almost by definition, lacking in power and in need of development’s interventions. These interventions may not only bypass the sources of women’s power, they may also undermine it. Women may make safer borrowers, but whether small loans enhance their “agency” and “choices” depends as much on what comes along with the package. And the ambivalent effects of training courses that seek to “empower” women came home to me when a colleague returned from evaluating one of these courses and reported the following exchange. She’d asked women what difference being on the course had made to their lives. “Now I know how to say to my husband ‘I would be happy if I could go to market tomorrow’,” said one woman. “What did you do before?” asked the evaluator. “I just used to tell him I was going”, she replied.
openDemocracy teamed up with Pathways of Women's empowerment to produce a blog which will run on the last week of every month to address gender issues in their diversity. You can also listen to our first Pathways podcast.
It’s high time to ask whether and how development’s adoption of the term “empowerment” has offered women anything that they can use to empower themselves. What might we learn by reversing the gaze and refocusing attention on women’s own experiences, and on what they’ve learnt from their own travels along diverse pathways of empowerment?
Feminists have long argued that empowerment is not something that can be done to or for women. The feminist slogan “the personal is the political” roots the process of empowerment in an expansion of women’s consciousness.
Feminists have long recognised that it is when women recognise their ‘power within’ and act together with other women to exercise ‘power with’, that they gain ‘power to’ act as agents. Feminist experience has shown that this is a process that may take a diversity of pathways, but for which there are rarely the kind of short-cuts envisaged by the proponents of empowerment-lite.
A journey without maps
This calls for seeing empowerment less as a destination than, as Naila Kabeer puts it, a “journey without maps”. Each “journey without maps” is also one of discovery, one on which horizons shift as the terrain changes. To understand how women experience empowerment calls for cutting away the tangle of assumptions and stereotypes that have filled the field of gender and development. Tracing these journeys, as they take place in different contexts at different times, can help to provide new insights into what it takes to bring about the kind of change that can advance social and gender justice. Starting from women’s lived experience brings into critical scrutiny the taken-for-granted chain of causalities proposed by advocates of empowerment-lite. And it helps to bring power back into the frame.
Economic empowerment policies, for example, may bet on women pouring their resources into their households, expanding their roles as mothers and wives to meet needs that are outsourced to them and their “communities”. But much depends on how they choose to spend such newly-acquired economic power, and whether, where and how entry into the market offers women sufficient resources to begin to challenge and transform the persistent institutionalised inequalities that shore up the established gender order. To work for women’s empowerment, the empowering effects of work need to be better understood - and better contextualised, given the enormous differences between the countries that are the targets for development’s one-size-fits-all interventions.

Andrea Cornwall's article opens a new collaboration between openDemocracy and the research consortium Pathways of Women's Empowerment project at the Institute of Development Studies.

Putting power back into empowerment

Of all the buzzwords that have entered the development lexicon in the past thirty years, "empowerment" is probably the most widely used and abused. Like many other important terms that were coined to represent a clearly political concept, it has been "mainstreamed" in a manner that has virtually robbed it of its original meaning and strategic value.

Podcast: pathways of women's empowerment

Andrea Cornwall, Srilatha Batliwala, Cecilia Sardenberg and Anne Marie Goetz talk to Jane Gabriel about feminism and gender in a neo-liberal age.

Putting power back into empowerment

Of all the buzzwords that have entered the development lexicon in the past thirty years, "empowerment" is probably the most widely used and abused.  Like many other important terms that were coined to represent a clearly political concept, it has been "mainstreamed" in a manner that has virtually robbed it of its original meaning and strategic value.

Launching the Pathways of Women’s Empowerment / openDemocracy Blog

The Pathways of Women’s Empowerment / openDemocracy blog brings together academics, policy makers, activists and journalists concerned about gender and power. As part of our 50.50 initiative, and along with a series of articles and podcasts on the Pathways project, the blog aims to provide a space for the many diverse views of women and men campaigning for greater gender-related justice worldwide.

The Pathways of Womens Empowerment RPC is a DfID funded research and communications programme linking academics, activists and practitioners to find out what works to enhance women's empowerment. You can visit the website and find out more here.

Pathways podcast and article

In our first podcast, Jane Gabriel talks to Dr Hania Sholkamy about gender and empowerment in Egypt, and the challenge of engaging with global feminism. Click on the image below to listen now.

You can also read our opening Pathways articles; Andrea Cornwall on moving beyond "development-lite" and Srilatha Batliwala on reclaiming empowerment for the women's movement.

Patriarchy: beyond gender?

During lunch I found myself chatting with a couple of participants when the topic of the male experience of patriarchy came up. While a lot has been written about the relationships between men and women and between women and women, the topic of men vs. men power dynamics within a patriarchal society remains rarely talked about. Strangely enough, there is little doubt that men suffer from a system of patriarchy too.

Women's resistance vs. feminism

Is it fair to label any form of women's resistance groups as atoms of the global feminist movement?

Josephine Ahikire was intrigued by the wording surrounding women's resistance and feminism, and how it systematically separates the two. In her view, what a woman resists is mediated by her situation, which is itself affected by gender, class, employment or poverty issuses - so by definition, it is about feminism.

Ahikire cited as a case study the Aba women's riots of 1929, part of Nigeria's struggle against colonialism: was this an act of feminism? Josephine argued that the gendered nature in which those women experienced colonialism and how they organised resistance made it a feminist act.

Sign of the Times

Cecilia Sardenberg shared a very telling story about a meeting taking place in Brazil - a progressive country by all accounts- in which a government representative spoke for two hours at a conference about gender and political dialogue, but mentioned the word 'women' maybe twice. As Srilatha Batliwala underlined, it is a worrying trend which speaks volume about the current situation: men in politics don't even feel the use to be politically correct anymore.

Magic Bullets

"Magic bullets" is the name for several forms of action in the gender field which can come across as a magic band-aid that will fix everything. Two of them are micro-credits and women in politics, and according to many women at the conference, they need to be questionned.

Take micro-credits for example: it is now presented as a solution which enables women to single-handily solve all their issues by creating their own micro-businesses. In reality, this is not entirely true (see our related entry written by World Neighbours on the openSummit blog), as the power of decision is still held by those who loan women funds. Without a complete control over their capital, these small communities of women are not empowered, but reliant on micro-crediting.

Feminism: appropriation and concepts slippage

A lot of skepticism linked to feminist theory steams from the lack of practical initiatives inspired by the second and third wave movements. Josephine Ahikire, senior lecturer in Kampala, would agree with these criticisms: she explained her love and hate relationship with a movement she thinks is often too abstract.

Sure enough, development agencies and individual countries do have gender policies - but they have yet to be really efficient. Their themes are distorted and do not make way for actual changes in women's lives which are not yet fully understood by bureaucrats and other UN agencies. In her words, 'the world is listenning, but the distortions are overwhelming'.

The Development Lotto: redefining buzzwords

One of the main concern shared by the participants was that feminist thinking has been appropriated by the global process, its meaning transformed wrongly along the way. Concepts like 'empowerment', 'agency' and 'good governance' are being disconnected from reality and used to further the neo-liberal agenda. Kalpana Wilson underlined that recenly the notion of women's agency has been elaborated within the framework of a neo-liberal model of development, which does not address women's needs and does not recognise the multiplicity of feminisms across borders and countries.

Who said feminists were not fun?

Cecilia Sardenberg

If one thing wasn't missing from the conference, it certainly was humour. The 40 participants might have been holding PHds in gender and development, gender studies and history, but it certainly did not seem to prevent them from being refreshingly silly, making (feminist) jokes and puns, very much to our delight.

After all, the conference started with Cecilia Sardenberg, leader of the Brazilian Hub, exclaiming: "In 2004 we talked about "repositioning feminism". In 2007 we are reclaiming it!".

Violence is preventable not inevitable

save face poster

by Patricia Daniel

The World Health Organisation held the 3rd milestones meeting for its global campaign for violence prevention at the Scottish Police College in Fife last week. Scotland is one of the very few countries in the world to have adopted the WHO framework for violence prevention, which emphasises violence as a major public health issue, while in many countries the enormous medical, social and economic costs of violence are only now being recognized. In 2006 the Scottish Executive joined with the Violence Reduction Unit of the Strathclyde police to provide a holistic approach to the problem through a national action plan involving education, justice, health, security and economic sectors in addressing underlying causes of violence for a a safer Scotland. (more...)


HIV and women: fighting hypocrisy

by Jessica Reed

During the month of June openDemocracy ran a blog written by female voices, titled "openSummit: Women talk to the G8". We ran stories and opinion pieces written by practitioners, journalists, policy makers and researchers on various topics they would have liked the G8 to treat seriously and in depth, with a gender perspective in mind. Climate change, micro-credit, sexual education, reproductive choices and fundamentalism were some of the burning issues our dedicated bloggers have explored (more...).

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