Global feminist conference launches ‘Call for participation’
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
18 January 2010, Ottawa
A ‘Call for Participation’ was launched today for Women’s Worlds 2011, a global feminist conference being held in Ottawa-Gatineau in July of 2011.
Acknowledging that important insights come from academia, community, and everywhere in between, organizers have deliberately dubbed this a ‘Call for Participation’. Proposals from individuals, groups, coalitions, networks, and teams will be accepted until September 15, 2010. Potential presenters are being invited to submit proposals under the main congress theme, “Inclusions, exclusions, and seclusions: Living in a globalized world”.
Since its first congress in 1981, Women’s Worlds has grown from a modest academic gathering to a distinguished international and interdisciplinary event. The 30th anniversary of Women’s Worlds in 2011 will potentially be the largest gathering of its kind in Canadian history.
Bringing together academics, advocates, researchers, policy-makers, workers, activists, and artists of all ages from around the world, the 2011 congress will be an occasion for equality advocates from around the globe to discuss globalization as it relates to women. Organizers also consider it an opportunity to strengthen connections while collaborating on approaches to advancing women’s rights, women’s empowerment, and gender equality.
Proposals are invited in French, Spanish, or English via the online form at the Women’s Worlds 2011 website.
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For more information:
Communications, Women’s Worlds 2011
AVIS AUX MÉDIAS
Lancement de l’Appel à participation d’un congrès féministe international
POUR DIFFUSION IMMÉDIATE
Le 18 janvier 2010, Ottawa
Mondes des Femmes 2011, un congrès féministe d’envergure internationale qui se tiendra à Ottawa-Gatineau en juillet 2011, lance aujourd’hui son Appel à participation.
Les organisatrices de Mondes des Femmes ont délibérément choisi de généraliser leur ” Appel à participation ” parce que, de l’université aux groupes communautaires, tous les milieux ont des perspectives importantes à proposer. Individues, groupes, coalitions, réseaux et équipes de travail peuvent soumettre leurs propositions d’ici au 15 septembre 2010. Les présentatrices sont invitées à s’inspirer du grand thème du congrès, ” Inclusions, exclusions et réclusions: Vivre dans un monde globalisé “.
De modeste rencontre universitaire lors de son premier congrès en 1981, Mondes des Femmes est devenu un prestigieux événement interdisciplinaire. Son 30e anniversaire en 2011 pourrait s’avérer le plus grand rassemblement du genre de l’histoire du Canada.
Rassemblant universitaires, militantes, chercheures, décisionnaires politiques, travailleuses, activistes et artistes de tous âges et de partout sur la planète, MF 2011 fournira aux militantes pour l’égalité du monde entier l’occasion d’explorer les enjeux femmes et mondialisation. Les organisatrices y voient également un lieu de renforcement des liens et de collaboration sur des approches visant l’avancement des droits des femmes, leur autonomisation et l’égalité entre les sexes.
Les présentatrices sont invitées à soumettre leurs propositions en français, en espagnol ou en anglais au moyen du formulaire Web qui se trouve sur le site de Mondes des Femmes 2011.
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Pour plus d’information:
Communications, Mondes des Femmes 2011
AVISO A LOS MEDIOS DE COMUNICACIÓN
Conferencia feminista global publica ‘Convocatoria abierta’
PARA PUBLICACIÓN INMEDIATA
18 de enero de 2010, Ottawa
Hoy se publicó la ‘Convocatoria abierta’ para participar en Mundos de Mujeres 2011, una conferencia feminista global que se llevará a cabo en Ottawa, Gatineau en julio de 2011.
Al reconocer que las contribuciones de la academia, de las comunidades y de cualquier forma de acción intermedia son igualmente importantes, l@s organizador@s han decidido dirigir esta “Convocatoria abierta”, a ponentes individuales, grupos, coaliciones, redes y equipos para que envíen sus propuestas de participación antes del 15 de septiembre de 2010. Se espera que l@s interesad@s en participar propongan presentaciones en torno al tema del congreso: “Inclusiones, exclusiones, y reclusiones: vivir en un mundo globalizado”.
Mundos de Mujeres, cuyo primer encuentro tuvo lugar en 1981, ha pasado de ser un pequeño encuentro académico, a ser un prestigioso acontecimiento interdisciplinario e internacional. En 2011, el 30o aniversario de Mundos de Mujeres será, con toda seguridad, el encuentro más importante en su tipo en la historia de Canadá.
Como punto de encuentro de académic@s, activistas, investigador@s, legislador@s, trabajador@s y artistas de todas las edades y de alrededor del mundo, el congreso de 2011 será la ocasión ideal para que defensor@s de la equidad de todo el mundo discutan las maneras en que la globalización afecta a las mujeres. L@s organizador@s también lo consideran una oportunidad para fortalecer contactos y colaborar en la construcción de enfoques que contribuyan a la equidad de género, al empoderamiento y al
progreso de los derechos de las mujeres.
Se invita a l@s ponentes potenciales a enviar sus propuestas de participación en español, francés, o en inglés, a través del formulario disponible en línea en el sitio web de Mundos de Mujeres.
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Para obtener más información:
Comunicación, Mundos de Mujeres 2011
Women’s Worlds 2011
SMS Campaign: Speak out! Stand out! Commit to preventing Violence
against Women Join us to Speak Out, Stand Out, and Commit to
preventing Violence against Women during the 16 Days of Activism
Against Gender Violence
With your participation, WOUGNET in collaboration with Womensnet,
South Africa and APC-Africa-Women (AAW), will be conducting an
SMS-based campaign. The idea is to send out an SMS on each of the
Days of Activism that will allow individuals and organisations to
Speak Out, Stand Out, and Commit to preventing Violence against
We would like you to send your slogan/message which highlights your
resistance to violence against women. You can participate in any or
all of the following ways:
1. Contribute a short message or slogan on the theme of the
campaign. If your slogan is chosen, it will be sent out via SMS with
you/your organisation credited as the source of the message. It will
also feature on the Take Back the Tech campaign website at:
2. Send us news on your activities and events for the 16 Days of
Activism 3. Register your mobile number to receive the SMSs that
sent out during the 16 Days of Activism
For more information and/or to participate, please send a note to
In addition, WOUGNET in partnership with Overcoming Gender Based
Violence (Overcoming GBV) – Oxfam GB, is making a number of
materials available to WOUGNET members and partners to mark the
16 Days of Activism. Stop by the WOUGNET Office, Plot 53 Kira Road
Kamwokya, to collect purple ribbons that you can wear to Stand Out!
and posters to pin-up. E-cards and e-posters are also available online
TAKE BACK THE TECH:
16 DAYS OF RECLAIMING TECHNOLOGY
IN ACTIVISM TO END VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN
//In Uganda, a SMS campaign called Speak out! Stand Out! is organised
by WOUGNET to collect messages against VAW//
//In Quebec, feminists and communication rights activists are creating
short video clips and comic postcards on VAW.//
//In Malaysia, Burmese refugees are creating audiocasts on issues
related to VAW and women’s rights together with Centre for
>From 25 November to 10 December, get ready to pull out the mouse,
>flex your SMS fingers and engage full energy in activism to end violence
against women (VAW). APC Women’s Programme (APC WNSP) calls
on users of the radio, television, internet, emails, mobile phones and all
kinds of information and communication technologies (ICTs) to Take
Back The Tech!
What is the campaign about?
Take Back The Tech is a collaborative campaign by ICT users,
advocates, collectives and organisations that take issue with the
prevalence of VAW in our diverse realities. Initiated by APC WNSP in
2006, the campaign is part of the 16 Days of Activism Against
Gender-based Violence initiative.
It is our right to shape, define, participate, use & share knowledge,
information & technology, and to create digital spaces that protects
everyone’s right to interact freely without harassment or threat to
safety. Take Back The Tech aims for this & calls all user of ICTs –
especially grrls & women – to take control of technology and
consciously use it to change unequal power relations.
How can you Take Back The Tech?
**16 daily actions**
Simple daily actions throughout the 16 days that uses ICTs
strategically to counter VAW. From sending SMS, making digital
postcards, snapping pictures, playing with radio to remembering
forgotten names in the history of ICT development, you can take action
with the tools and platforms that you have access to.
Explore and thicken the knowledge around ICTs & VAW by joining the
days blogathon. New to blogging? This is the perfect reason to start
your own, or at least, click that ‘comment’ button to have your say.
Daily topics will be posted on the campaign site to stir conversation,
as well as instructions on how to set up a blog.
Start your own Take Back The Tech campaign. As seen above,
independent and creative initiatives to Take Back The Tech are taking
off in different parts of the world, translating content and action to
address local needs and priorities. Use the campaign website to
highlight your action, or find information and resources. There are tech
tools & tips, articles & links, portable applications, images & graphics,
and if you don’t have an online publishing space, you can have your own
page on the site. Email us to let us know how we can support your
**Digital stories, audiocasts & more**
Learn by listening to the experience and stories of women and men
affected by VAW. The campaign website will feature created digital
stories, audiocasts, video clips and postcards. If you have something
you would like to share, just log on to the campaign site and submit
**Suggest an action**
Help shape the campaign by sharing your experience & ideas. If you
have thoughts, email us or log on to the site, and make it part of the
Check http://www.takebackthetech.net daily from 25 November to 10
December, and take action. Reclaim technology to end violence against
For more information: send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or
“Take Back the Tech” is an initiative of the APC Women’s Networking
Support Programme (APC WNSP), a global network of women who
support women networking for social change and women’s
empowerment, through the use of information and communication
technologies (ICTs) especially internet, founded in 1993. The APC
WNSP is part of the Association for Progressive Communications
(APC). http://www.apcwomen.org/about/ http://www.apc.org
Now I turn to address two of the questions from the visiting colleagues I spoke about in my previous blog entry.
1. The first was about the nature of the challenges we face in gender generally, and then, as specifically linked to the public education system.
My response to this question is quite simple, really. Firstly, on the education system, much remains to be done. In schools, the South African Schools Act lays out progressive gender frameworks, but research is showing that even when teachers and principals are aware of these provisions, they often fall short. They do this often by resorting to more familiar patriarchal ways of living gender even as they know this disadvantages many of their students. Often staff at school argue that they are unable to be beacons of change that encourage performances of gender that differ radically from those in the communities around them. As far as I am concerned, this is just refusing to take responsibility and choosing instead to pass the buck. Schools do a whole lot of other things that surrounding communities don’t do, when it suits them. But this irresponsible buck-passing is the same reason that misogyny and homophobia goes unchecked in our schools.
A second challenge we face on the gender front has to do with how under-resourced the National Gender Machinery (NGM) is in SA. Much has been written and said on how this under-resourcing prevents the NGM from fulfilling its mandate as it best sees fit.
Thirdly, although this is beginning to change, somewhat, the discussion on sexuality continues to be largely stifled unless coupled with violence – so pleasure, choice, orientation, etc are muted to large extent.
Fourth – class, the burden of HIV and stitma, and access to infrastructure continues to hamper women’s life choices more significantly. Although the digital divide is gendered worldwide, as much research into women and ICTs shows, we continue to worry about what this gendering means in the SA contexts. Yes, there is progressive government legislation and policy on ICTs. And, yes, there are phenomenal organisations like Women’sNet and LinuxChix Africa that do feminist work in the ICT space. These deserve mention and recognition. But much needs to be done still.
Fifth, and turning to speak of the higher education sector more directly now, the challenges abound. At the level of faculty and staff, there have been shifts, although some of these are not sustained. Some universities are doing better than others in terms of promoting and supporting women’s leadership. Sadly, some are worse off now than they were a few years ago, so there is backlash foot soldiers are alive and well.
Sixth, while the Employment Equity Act was designed with penalties to dissuade universities from defaulting on the Equity Plans submitted to governments, some universities simply do not see their plan through and simply pay the millions in fines to government during the audit periods.
Seventh, student enrollments continue to be gendered in troubling ways – with divisions between faculties, and low retentions of women students from disciplines like Computer Science and other hard sciences, for example. (Again, global research shows us how hostile and masculinist ICT disciplines and professions are.) Medical school enrollments seem to be the only exceptions to this rule.
Women experience a range of gendered situations differently depending on other power differentials at play: race, class, sexual orientations, ability, religion, etc. Indeed, one of the heated gender debates in RSA currently is linked to whether affirmative action policies have so far advantaged white women, and invisibilised Black women that they need to be revised so that white women no longer qualify.
2. The second question was about how hopeful we are.
Gender transformative work is an ongoing project, but I am very aware of the vast changes we have seen in previous years. I was an adult when apartheid ended, and I had been explicitly identifying as a feminist (among other things) since high school. In many respects, I really feel like this is another country. Much work needs to be done still, but this really is not the same country. One of my closest friends, the feminist writer Gail Smith, often remarks on how well we have taken to the enormous changes at the small everyday actions and choices level in post-apartheid South Africa. This is true for me, as for her, as Black women who lived our childhoods under apartheid. So, when you have seen such enormous change in your lifetime, you really have faith in significant changes and can commit to being part of further change, if you wish.
There is amazing feminist energy in this country – far from the majority – but look at how much has been achieved innovatively by a small cluster of women who are impossible to silence. How can I not be hopeful that my feminist work will contribute to changing this country even more?
I am hopeful because I see such innovation often. Further, because I teach young adults, I can also often see immediate challenges and changes in thinking about gender. I have also seen how certain strategies within the academy can push through change, and at my past institution was able to witness through the fatigue how much our stubborness in less than a decade had change the gendering of hierarchy.
I am hopeful because even though there is annoying undermining of women leaders, such figures continue to be on the rise especially in the political arena.
I am also hopeful, finally, for the same reason I am often frightened: by the backlash. Backlash is exhausting, but it also helps make us more stubborn. Powerful systems do not fight back unless they are under threat. We must be doing a lot right.
Another one of my closest friends, the feminist activist and writer, Nomboniso Gasa, points out that we need to start thinking of power differently all the time as feminists. We need an ever-evolving understanding of how different forms of power work – destructively and affirmingly. Another reminder from her is the importance of affirming the self as an important part of doing feminist work wherever we are.
I am not the only hopeful one.
I went to a meeting with various people who work in the gender transformation arena yesterday. The meeting was at the Commission on Gender Equality Constitution Hill offices. Invited to the meeting from the South African side were a few Commissioners, representatives from other offices in the National Gender Machinery, the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities, as well as various people from the feminist and women’s movement drawn from different sectors. The meeting was with a mixed group of women from academia and civil society in Canada, Australia, the USA and New Zealand. Their next meetings were with South Africans from NGOs and community based organisations (CBOs), MPs, community leaders, etc.
My brief input was about the state of gender in the new South Africa, and did not cover some aspects because I did not mean to be comprehensive, but also because other feminists and gender activists who had spoken before me had traced some of the historical developments. Mine, then was really to scan the landscape as many of us, South African feminists, see it. It was also for me to just throw about some ideas about gender patterns as I see them emerging in contemporary SA – one of my favourite topics and the subject of a manuscript I am finalising for the new academic press, S&S (but more on that much later. In other words, watch this blog-space).
I started by refering to the importance of centering gender in much SA discourse and outlined that the legal recognitions and policy framework which sought to do this were invaluable. I know that we often worry and complain about how much of this proto-feminist legislation does not translate into the the law as lived and experienced by most citizen on a daily basis. This is true without a doubt. At the same time, the fact that gender redress is made visible, state responsibility in all legislation shows how much headway has been made in the last thirteen years. It means that gender stays on the national agenda in ways that many feminists the world over are still battling to have recognised in their own countries. It means that our starting point is therefore radically different from those with the same feminist politics who are trying to get specific gender transformative legislation passed.
At the same time, the gap between legislation in SA and practice (lived reality) is no joke. We can all continue to narrow this gap in the various work we do as activists, lawyers, academics, policy makers, therapists, religious figures, teachers, etc. At the same time, it seems that the specific manifestations of the gap — as well as the specific challenges posed by the failure of legislation and policy to change how men and women live gender — are also sites of learning. In other words, we can see these challenges as instructive.
But what lessons can we learn, then? First, that we continue to feel the absence of a large and consistent feminist and/or woman’s movement in South Africa. At the same time, the feminist provisions we have in the founding documents on the new SA were possible in the absence of such a strong, largescale feminist movement. This is because of a few determined and stubborn feminists who worked really hard to ensure that political parties took gender seriously, that women were part of the negotiating team, that many feminist concerns stayed on the agenda and were reflected in the final documents with which South Africa would be negotiating the transition. Therefore, as wonderful as a millions strong feminist movement would be, much work and many successes are possible without it. This energises me and I am sure many others. It suggests that stubborn will changes the world. It also says a lot about feminist strategies that work. We are lucky many of these women continue to walk amongst us and, therefore, that this herstory is available to us.
I am also pleased to be in the midst of a vocal feminist presence in the South African public sphere as well as equipped with the National Gender Machinery.
I am energised by the visible and unapologetic presence of feminists inside and outside South Africa’s government and by the fact that we can see the benefits of some of the feminist work past and present in the following:
a) the ongoing public discourse on women’s empowerment in SA’s public sphere. I am a big critic of the more conservative manifestations of this, but also recognise that the fact that gender is something South Africans talk about publicly and explicitly shows that it is seen to matter. We’ve come a long way from more than a decade ago when this was NOT the case by any stretch of the imagination;
b) a powerful and vocal NGO sector that does amazing work on gender, from ICT and women, to gender based violence, to sexualities and sexual orientation, to reworking and re-imagining masculinities and femininities;
c) radical work on sexualities from organisations such as the Lesbian and Gay Equality Project over the last decade (an NGO which is being resuscitated as we speak after burn out and other complications),the Black lesbian NGO Forum for the Empowerment of Women and Sonke Gender Justice Network;
d) we’ve seen affirmation of the importance of coalition building. Coalitions are really hard work, as many political activists know. I remember how frustratingly exhausting some early Women’s National Coalition meetings were in the Western Cape, where I was then based since politically the women meeting to ensure gender was a central lens in how the new SA was built came from such diverse political ideologies and organisations. Yet, that coalition achieved phenomenal successes in the end – again because stubborn feminists change the world;
e) contestation has become a central part of what constitutes the SA public sphere and identity landscape. Feminists have had a huge part in this, as have activists on other fronts;
f) we have a clearer sense of how patriarchy is buttressed by allusions to religion, culture, education and so on. This needs ongoing contestations because all religions and cultures can work oppressively (e.g., patriarchally) and in liberating and life-affirming ways. They take on the politics of their users; and,
g) there is a shift in masculinities and femininities that is not unidirectional – sometimes this finds expression as a hardening of violent masculinities (in the school system, political arena, popular culture, courts) but we also see a more dynamic expression and imagination of masculinities and femininities (popular culture, creative arts, political arena).
There are more lessons – but you’ll have to read my book for some of these or visit my website for an early glimpse in what I’ve already written on this topic. Yes, a little self-promotion goes a long way every once in a while.
This morning I attended a discussion on Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) and women as part of an all day programme co-hosted by Women’s Net and Agenda to launch the latest issue of the Feminist journal, a special issue titled ICTs: Women Take a Byte, guest-edited by Janine Moolman, Natasha Primo and Sally-Jean Shackleton. I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but look forward to digging in.
As one of the panelists at the opening discussion, I pointed to some of the misconceptions about ICTs and ICT use, and I used one of my favourite anecdotes from Nnenna Nwakanma, the Chair of the Free and Open Source Foundation for Africa (FOSSFA) about the washing machine and the river. She tells the story of development aid workers who cross an iconic village en route elsewhere, and, in an attempt to help the women “advance” since the former currently carry their household laundry to the river, the latter introduce several washing machines to make laundry duties easier. These washing machines are received by the village community with much pomp, celebration and ceremony. The well-meaning development aid workers see this as a fantastic thing and feel sufficiently thanked for their philanthropy.
Imagine the grave disappointment of the same workers who chance upon the same village a few years later only to realise that the women have moved the washing machines to the river and are using them in the exact same way as they used boulders before. The washing machine make the laundry motion easier on the waists, the women remark, upon questioning.
When Nnenna Nwakanma tells this tale, she usually uses it to point to how technology is often erroneously presented as the simple, solve-all problem without any attention to the needs and resources of the people it is being “given” to as a solution. The village had neither electricity, nor water, so the women made use of the washing machineslogically given their setting.
It has always struck me, however, that the women’s choices can be reconciled with the development aid workers’ larger intentions at the ideological level. The gift is provided to make the women’s lives slightly easier, but without fundamentally alterning the power dynamics of the society in question. Even if electrified and provided with running water, the village would still expect the women to embark on a whole range of other domestic chores sanctioned by patriarchy. So their time might be freed up to take up some other chore, rather than being freed up and therefore available for the women’s own leisure.
Some of us are much more interested in technology that does feminist work, and therefore not the introduction of more technology into our lives only to modernise the unfree ways in which most women live our lives. New technologies work politically, which is to say ideologically, the same way as other older technologies and social phenomena. ICTs are never neutral, and never gender neutral at that.
Therefore, ICTs can be used equally easily for violent pornographic use as they can for interesting dynamic work. Experiences of discussions of women’s closed sites, or feminist listservs show how safe and exciting virtual spaces can do the work of building community and political activism. At the same time the pornographic spam that occasionally makes it through our email filters, or the growing industry that trafficks in women’s bodies and body parts online, point to how the same enabling tools can be used to oppressive, violent ends.
For example, research on women in (even) some of the IT quarters with the most egalitarian-speak, has shown that the IT world is incredibly masculinist. A cursory glance at the iconography of many of the key sites of the Free/Libre and Open Source (FLOSS) Movement, which is the ICT sector I am most biased in favour of, shows it to be a male-centric culture that is often alienating to women, and oft times directly hostile. Here’s a how-not-to drive women away from FLOSS and other IT communities manual, which illuminates many of the reasons women IT professionals and geeks have given for feeling alienated from IT spaces. And if that still doesn’t make you think, then take a look at the icons here and here, for example.
At the same time, there are some incredible uses of the ICTs in the interest of transformation towards a more equitable world. Among these are the NGO, Women’sNet, and Girl’sNet whose many programmes spread the benefits of new technologies widely by combining them with older technologies for dispersal. I am particularly fond of them because they take content generation very seriously across languages, media and spaces, and also because they are unapologetically feminist techies. Another favourite, which is also an enormous resource especially for academics is the Gender and Women’s Studies for Africa’s Transformation portal, and LinuxChix, especially LinuxChixAfrica, although I prefer the old template to their new one.
I like these sites, and many blogs, especially Blacklooks, who I am sad to say is not blogging anymore, for a while anyway. I hope it is temporary.