Globalizing Women's Movements
With the growth of the globalization of the economy and the development of international trade associations and governmental organizations, women have found it increasingly useful to organize across national boundaries. The United Nations has played a major role in making women's movements international and in defining women's rights as human rights. Women have used the opportunities provided by the four U.N. World Conferences on Women (in 1975, 1980, 1985, and 1995), the official ones and the alternative NGO forums, as arenas in which they could set goals, plan, network, and inspire one another to continue their work (West 1999). They have seized upon the various U.N. accords, especially CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women), as bases for demanding national changes.
Women have established regional networks, such as Women in Law and Development in Africa (WiLDAF) to implement U.N. policies and other regional human rights charters, including the African Charter for Human and People's Rights. In these efforts the Center for Women's Global Leadership, directed by Charlotte Bunch, acted as a coordination center for international women's human rights campaigns. These have focused on sex trafficking, issues of health and reproductive rights, female genital cutting (also known as female circumcision and female genital mutilation), and violence against women.
Regional meetings, such as the biannual Encuentros held in various Latin American cities to define the issues of Latin American women's movements, have been a source of inspiration and strength for many feminist leaders (Sternbach et al. 1992). A 1984 meeting in India of women from different regions of the South led to the formation of Development Alternatives for Women for a New Era (DAWN) to focus on sustainable development to address the worsening of women's living standards as they relate to international lending policies (Stienstra 2000).
The first WAAD Conference, held in Nigeria in 1992, brought together Women in Africa, and the African Diaspora. Conference coordinator Obioma Nnaemeka (1998) affirmed, "Our faith in possibilities will clear our vision, deepen mutual respect, and give us hope as we follow each other walking side-by-side." That kind of hope, determination, and egalitarianism, so critical to the success of grass-roots women's movements, is harder to sustain in more distant and bureaucratic international women's movement organizations; but it is just as vital.
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