EuroPROFEM - The European Men Profeminist Network http://www.europrofem.org
Womens World For International and US programs
Womens WORLD For International and US programs:
Here is the bibliographical information on my books and pamphlets:
The Power of the Word: Culture, Censorship, and Voice (pamphlet; New Delhi: Women's
WORLD, 1995) Union Square (New York: William Morrow, 1988; London: Virago, 1990
[under the title Passionate Women]; New York: Avon, 1990)
My most recent published essay is a memoir in Rachel Blau du Plessis and Ann Snitow, The Feminist Memoir Project (Crown, New York: 1998). Here is some information on Women's WORLD. You can find more about us and our sister network in Latin America, RELAT, on a website in Brazil, www.REBRA.org
Womens WORLD (Women's World Organization for Rights, Literature, and Development)
Mission and General Program First as a committee inside International PEN, then as an independent organization, people in Womens WORLD have been working since 1986 to develop a strong, autonomous world network of women writers, able to educate the public on the relationship of culture to economic development, and to wage international campaigns for womens right to free expression, including its necessary preconditions of access to education, publishing resources, and media. Our goals are: to break down the isolation of women writers, particularly those whose voices are least heard, and strengthen the impact of their voices through solidarity; to support the development of autonomous womens presses and media as a basis for womens independent political thought; to defend women writers under attack, integrate them into a worldwide mutual aid network, and honor their indignation, courage, and creativity; to do research on the silencing of those who challenge existing gender arrangements and educate the public to see this as gender-based censorship, a human rights abuse. Our strategies are: to combine research, writing, and organization to build a movement, not an elite to work in partnership with existing local, regional, and international NGOs, in order to develop a strong network of women writers, editors, and all those who believe in free expression Womens WORLD is governed by an international board whose current officers are Grace Paley, Chair; Meredith Tax, President; Ama Ata Aidoo and Ritu Menon, Vice Presidents; and Lucy Friedman, Secretary-Treasurer. We are working in partnership with regional and local organizations on programs in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, and North America. Our international program, including publications, the defense of writers under attack, and the linking of our regional programs, is coordinated from our office in New York.
Womens WORLD African Program Womens WORLD began its work in Africa with a process of regional networking, gathering resources, and holding conferences in Africa. It is hoped these will build up to a pan-African women writers conference at which participants will adopt a program and structure. Our first two year pilot program was done in partnership with a literacy and development organization in Kenya. We are now doing an assessment and rethinking of this program; for that reason, this section is shorter than the others. We have decided that in 1999 we will work towards an all-African organizing committee made up of writers from various countries. Women publishers are starting to multiply in Africa; within the last year, Womens WORLD has been approached for training by publishers in Mozambique, Uganda, Senegal, and South Africa. We plan to use the occasion of the 1999 Zimbabwe International Book Fair, the theme of which is Women, to do workshops on gender based censorship, and feminist publishing. For this project, we will work in partnership with the Boston Womens Health Book Collective, which is looking for ways to stimulate the African publication of more women-centered health materials.
Womens WORLD European Program Womens WORLD has only recently begun to build a base in Europe, where our work will be coordinated by Luisa Passerini, a feminist writer, scholar, and oral historian at the European University in Florence. She will work in partnership with the Centro de Documentazione delle Donne in Bologna, headed by Annamaria Tagliavini; the Centro is a long-established womens center that does literary and feminist programming, has a large library, and is supported by the city of Bologna, the state of Emilia-Romagna, and the European Union. We worked out a program for our European work at a team meeting at the Rockefeller Foundations conference center in Bellagio in February, 1999. This meeting considered four subjects: Gender and censorship: Women writers in Western Europe have to contend with the double barrier of the laws of the market and the old boy networks within publishing, the media, and European intellectual life in general. In addition to these burdens, women writers in Eastern Europe have to work in the context of a rapidly worsening economic situation where women are being shunted out of all professions. We will consider issues of formal and informal censorship and other factors adversely affecting women writers
The East-West divide: Part of the legacy of the Cold War period is a range of regional differences in consciousness and politics among women. It is necessary to build a bridge which can allow for the formation of a common language and the identification of a common set of problems, between the East and West and across generations. Women writers in war zones: Recent conflicts within Europe (the former Yugoslavia, Kosovo, Chechnya, for instance) have been overwhelmingly defined by the voices and points of view of men, particularly nationalist politicians. Our team meeting will look for means to strengthen the voices of women in combat zones and to help women writers driven into exile. Possible forms of collaboration across borders: how can women in different parts of Europe work together to improve their situation? Possible programs may include: making Bologna a city of refuge for women writers; conferences and publications; a book fair; training programs for women publishers; and residencies at the Centro di Documentazione delle Donne. We are planning a six language publication and a follow-up meeting in the year 2000 in Albania.
Womens WORLD Latin American Program
The Womens WORLD Latin American program is being coordinated by Mariella Sala, a writer and feminist activist who is a member of the Womens WORLD Board of Directors and founder of the publishing and media programs of the Flora Tristán Centro por las Mujeres Peruianas. She and Carmen Ollé have begun by developing an analysis of the culturally-specific ways Latin American women writers are silenced. This analysis is currently being presented for comment at conferences in Argentina, Boliva, and Mexico. It is also being circulated to a core group who will become active in building the network, including writers in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru, Puerto Rico, Uruguay, and Latina writers in the U.S.
In the last decade, Latin America has witnessed an editorial boom of women writers, but writers like Isabel Allende, Angeles Mastreta, Laura Esquivelbestsellers, who focus on domestic life from womens point of view, telling love stories with a political contextare still considered "light literature" by critics. They are also used to show that discrimination against women writers does not exist. In reality, the imbalance in educational opportunities, and the fact that the majority of illiterates are women, means that the possibility of expression, much less literary creation, is still available only to women of the middle and upper classes. The problem is further complicated by the fragility of the publishing industry, and the lack of understanding of the importance of culture among development workers. The Latin American women's movement can point to many achievements over the past 20 years in areas such as reproductive health, the fight against violence against women, and political participation. These successes were due, in great part, to networks that were able to coordinate actions and put forth strategic proposals on a regional scale. No such networks exist in the area of culture or, more specifically, in literature. Although a few localized activities, such as the women writers conference held in Chile in 1985, have been successfully carried out and have mobilized a significant participation of women within their own countries, no one has taken the initiative to start a regional network of women writers. Part of the problem is a tendency to isolate economics and politics from culture within the women's movement itself. Women writers and journalists are considered in a purely instrumental way, as resources for the struggle, and the problem of voice and women's cultural expression has not been systematically addressed. To change this situation, Womens WORLD will first publish the Latin American analysis, then hold an international colloquium in Peru to discuss it, probably in late 1999. This meeting will begin to plan a great democratic womens cultural festival, to be held in Guadalajara in the year 2000 or 2001.
Womens WORLD South Asian Program
We are beginning our work in South Asia with a research program designed to discover and document the barriers that silence women, build a network of women writers, and develop new means of training and publication. This project was initiated by Ritu Menon, co-founder and co-publisher of Kali for Women, the oldest womens press in Asia, and co-author, with Kamla Bhasin, of Borders and Boundaries, an oral history of the experience of women during the partition of India. To carry out this project, we have formed a partnership with Asmita, a womens resource and support center in Hyderabad, which works on issues ranging from family violence to human rights, governance, and reproductive health, and has published anthologies by women and dalit ("untouchable") writers. The three project coordinators are Ritu Menon, Vice-President of Womens WORLD, and, from Asmita, Volga (P. Lalitha Kumari), and Vasanth Kannabiran.
Although the number of women writers in India may be many thousands, most are still invisible, working in isolation, and encountering many obstacles in expressing themselves freely and getting published. These obstacles range from denial of access to education, to a kind of marketplace censorship that decrees which women can be published and on what subjects, to self-censorship, which can be very strong because of constraints placed on women by their families, communities, and political movements. In addition, an age-old gender division of labor leaves women with little time to write, and there are many taboos. Because there is no mutual aid network of women writers, women are in general more vulnerable to attack than their male peers, and their censorship is seen as an individual problem rather than as an example of cultural or social bias. Some of the conditions that can lead to the silencing of women include lack of access to education, status and role in the family, sexuality, religion, caste, the state, situations of armed conflict, politics, and the economic environment. The initial research stage of the project has the following components:
workshops in four regions, covering ten languages a survey of women writers that will document the kinds of censorship they experience interviews with 50 women writers on their role and experience analysis of selected works by women that have been censored or attacked, in order to examine how and when censorship takes place When the survey research and interviews are finished, the findings will be published; a public awareness campaign will begin; and we will organize either a national or regional colloquium to bring together the results of all the research and discuss what programs should be developed to ameliorate these conditions.
Womens WORLDs US Program
Womens WORLDs US program falls into three areas: outreach to identify and help writers in sections of the population where writing is not encouraged; a program on gender-based censorship, currently focussed on research and support for Womens Studies programs under attack by right-wing politicians; and WILL, a mutual aid group of young women writers of color, including a writing workshop. The US program is coordinated by Marta Lucia Serra, an experienced teacher of writing workshops and a co-founder of WILL. We also are working with two consultants, Dianne Forte, of the Black Womens Health Project in Atlanta and the AFSC, who is helping us with capacity building; and Ynestra King, of the Committee on Women, Population and the Environment, who is helping develop our educational programming.
Our "Voices for the Voiceless" program will begin in the spring of 1999 with a writing class at Hunter College for women students on welfare. Most of these students are already active in our partner group, the Welfare Rights Initiative, a nonprofit that trains women on welfare as organizers and speakers. The purpose of the class, which will be taught by Marta Lucia, is to produce a comic book about the situation of women on welfare in the era of "workfare." After this pilot program we hope to initiate a similar program for women union organizers. Our most recent work on gender-based censorship in the US has focussed on the Womens Studies Department at SUNY New Paltz, whose 1997 annual conference, on sexuality, was the subject of a sustained and vicious right-wing campaign. Members of the anti-abortion movement and critics of Womens Studies have been appointed by the Governor to the College Council, an oversight body. Womens WORLD worked with faculty to develop a plan for a conference on censorship, held in October, 1998, and designed to mobilize people to fight back. Meredith Tax was a keynote speaker and she, Dianne Forte, and Marta Lucia led a successful organizing workshop. Womens WORLD has now begun research to determine whether the SUNY New Paltz experience is an isolated incident or part of a growing right-wing assault on Womens Studies.
WILL (Women in Literature and Letters) is a group of emerging women writers of consciousness who came together in 1997 to hear one anothers work, organize public readings, produce a summer conference, and sponsor a free writing workshop called "Write On, Sistas!" They did all this on a shoestring, helped by individual contributions and volunteer labor. Fearing burnout, they came to Womens WORLD and asked for help. They are using the Womens WORLD office for their writing workshop. The long term goal of the US program of Womens WORLD is an Institute where we can gather the programs above, hold a leadership training school, and have residencies, seminars, and a publishing project.
Contact Addresses for Womens WORLD For International and US programs:
For Asian program:
For European program:
For Latin American program: