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Category: Feminism, International

Global Feminism in One Place? It’s Possible!

| January 2, 2014

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If you’ve been looking for a way to connect with other feminists and organizations worldwide, there’s a new tool to enable you to do just that: The Feminist Network Project. The Network was created by a group of feminist activists who met this past May at the World Social Forum in Tunis. The group of five women—from Canada, France, Morocco, Spain, and Tunisia—came from very different backgrounds but shared a common vision: to create a means for feminists from many countries to connect and communicate. They recognized that the more that individuals and small, local groups can connect with each other, the more they build their strength and reach.

Within several weeks, content in English, French, and Spanish was available on the site, with its centerpiece, the interactive World Map of Feminists, where individuals can add their names, social media platforms, organization, and location to join the worldwide network. Those who worry about privacy, or fear backlash for being openly feminist, can add their location with a pseudonym and opt out of sharing their social media contact information. So far the Network has more than 3,000 subscribers from dozens of countries, including Brazil, Cameroon, China, Finland, Haiti, Indonesia, New Zealand, Panama, Tanzania, and Uganda.

One of the founders, Shelley Buckingham of Canada, says the founders “share a common belief that the fight for gender equality and a just world can only be accomplished through feminist values and ideologies. Like any movement, we find strength in numbers and by standing in solidarity with each other’s struggles.”

One of the participants is Mujeres Transformando, an organization that promotes labor rights for women in El Salvador. “We joined the Feminist Network because our organization is eager to network with key players in the struggle for a more just society,” said Katia Villafranco, a communications manager at the organization. The members of Mujeres Transformando would like to have access to a list of similar organizations worldwide that they can contact to learn and share best practices in their area of expertise. “Primarily, we want to learn about successful campaigns and efforts so we can replicate them, but we also want to share our experiences in the movement.”

The Network is still a work in progress. A survey conducted by the founders found that members want to share information on feminist issues, but they also want to increase the presence of progressive feminist voices in the media and build tools to mobilize at local and international levels. The founders hope to expand the online platform and use it to create a database of contacts. They also want the site to offer tools for groups to amplify mainstream media attention to their issues.

One of the founders, Soraya Chemaly, a U.S. writer and activist, says that the main objective for the project is to create a forum where feminists can leverage the strength of the network transnationally to promote the work they do. “Right now we have many examples of people doing just that, but we are spending a lot of time recreating the wheel each time. We'd like to create a platform, best practices, tools, and a community that are all optimized to raise the visibility and effectiveness of feminist political action at every level.”

Though the Network is growing fast, there are challenges. The site is, at least for now, funded solely by the founders, and all the work is done on a volunteer basis. Some challenges are logistical, such as managing time differences. “We try to find a day and time to speak on Skype, but it’s hard to find a moment where India, France, and the United States are all awake,” says Caroline de Haas, one of founding members from France.

There are also linguistic challenges, as translating news and information so that members across the world can read it is a time-consuming task. “We use a lot of Google Translate, but it’s not enough,” says de Haas. For example, phrases like “street harassment,” “women of color,” and “reproductive justice” cannot always be directly translated into other languages and still keep their meaning. But these are also reasons that the Feminist Network Project is so important. Creating a global lexicon to speak about feminist issues is crucial in helping local feminist movements garner international attention and support. To meet the demands of a growing membership of transnational feminists, the founders asked for help from current members. So far more than 100 members have answered the call to translate information for publication.

The founders and members of the Feminist Network Project represent a host of different countries with different feminist priorities, and yet the aim remains first and foremost to stand together and support each other and the work that is being done on all feminist issues, even when those issues are not the same.

“Building this network will be a long process, and in order for it to be successful, it must be built in a democratic and representative way. As such, we welcome anyone who can volunteer their time and dedication to become actively involved in this building process,” says Buckingham.

We’ve seen the impact that feminists working together can make with stories like those of Beatriz, Jyoti Singh Pandey, Esperancita, Savita Halappanavar , Jakiyah McKoy, and the Steubenville rape case . People around the world came together to demand action and move their stories from the sidelines to the headlines. The Feminist Network Project organizers are inviting all feminists to join this unprecedented effort to further international feminist initiatives and amplify any and all feminist voices.

The views expressed in this commentary are those of the author alone and do not represent WMC. WMC is a 501(c)(3) organization and does not endorse candidates.

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