“In this space, I could just BE. I did not have to prove myself. In my country, and in every space I am in, I have to make the case for women’s rights, why I do this work, why my organization takes on controversial issues… why, why, why. Here, among you all, I do not have to prove myself. I can relax and reflect.”
These words from Gohar Shahnazaryan from the Women’s Resource Center in Armenia struck home particularly strongly for me. We activists know this feeling all too well, the weariness which comes from the constant questioning of our life choices by society, our families and our friends. It is especially difficult for those whose actual lives are at stake, like Christina Hardaga whose organization Centro de Derechos Humanos de la Montaña Tlachinollan (Tlachinollan Human Rights Center) in Mexico regularly receives death threats.
These were some of the sentiments shared by women who participated in the Transnational Feminist Activist Exchange (TFAE). The exchange was originally conceived of by former GFW board chair, Jacqueline Pitanguy, and later brought to life by Amina Mama during her term as Global Fund board chair and as the first Barbara Lee Distinguished Chair at Mills College.
Our three-day gathering was organized, funded and hosted by Mills College and brought together international and local activists, Global Fund board and staff, along with Mills students and faculty. The mission was to understand the struggles facing feminist activists, learn what we do, what inspires us, and our visions for global women’s movements. This gathering was a follow up to the 2009 Mills exchange that focused on women’s movements, militarism, and armed conflict.
Women’s rights leaders came from Mexico, Uganda, Hungary, Serbia, Egypt, Pakistan, Indonesia, Kenya, Nigeria, Colombia and Armenia. San Francisco Bay Area activists were well-represented by Muslims Advocates against Violence, Dignidad Rebelde, labor activists from the Port of Oakland, Design Action Collective, and Asian-American Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy. The program was led by Professor Margo Okazawa-Rey, the current Barbara Lee Chair in Women’s Leadership at Mills College, and her dedicated team of student volunteers. Amina Mama, now Director of Women and Gender Studies at the University of California at Davis, and Charlotte Bunch, GFW Board Member and founder of the Center for Women’s Global Leadership also facilitated.
Mozn Hassan, an Egyptian activist and Executive Director of Nazra for Feminist Studies in Cairo, gave a thought-provoking talk on the Egyptian revolution, which has inspired hope that a genuine democratic space that includes a feminist agenda, might very well come into being. Through spoken word, dance, theatre and creative exercises designed to generate discussion, participants returned home nurtured and full of new possibilities.“This meeting recharged me, my spirit and my feminist courage more than you think or I had imagined possible,” said Mozn.
“This meeting recharged me, my spirit and my feminist courage more than you think or I had imagined possible," said Mozn.
This experience re-affirmed for me what the Global Fund for Women is all about. We support these amazing women to do their work. We bring together donors and activists to chart a better world. We create space for activists to reflect, share and strategize. As I return to my desk, I am bursting with ideas for how we can better provide solidarity and support for these women, for all our women’s movements.
Connect with #TFAE Participants on Twitter
Executive Director of Institut Pelangi Perempuan and GFW grantee partner Kamilia Manaf (@KamiliaManaf).
Zawadi Nyong'o (@Zawadin), an African feminist social justice consultant and former GFW grantee partner.
GFW grantee partner Karmen Razmirez Boscan's organization Sütsüin Jiyeyu Wayuu—Strength of Women Wayuu (@MujeresWayuu).
GFW Advisor and grantee partner Gohar Shahnazaryan's organization Women's Resource Center in Armenia (@ArmenianWomen).
GFW Board Member Charlotte Bunch's organization, the Center for Global Women's Leadership (@CGWL_Rutgers)