The Challenge of Local Feminisms: Women's Movements in Global Perspective

The Challenge of Local Feminisms: Women's Movements in Global Perspective

The Challenge of Local Feminisms: Women's Movements in Global Perspective

The Challenge of Local Feminisms: Women's Movements in Global Perspective


This pathbreaking book provides for the first time an overview of the genesis, growth, gains, and dilemmas of women's movements worldwide. Unlike most of the literature, which focuses on the industrialized Western world, this volume devotes greater attention to the postcolonial states of Asia, Africa, and Latin America. The book challenges the assumptions that feminism can transcend national differences and, conversely, that women's movements are shaped and circumscribed by national levels of development. All the authors reject the notion, proposed by its detractors and champions alike, that feminism is of middle-class origins and Western inspiration. Instead they seek to locate women's movements within the terrain from which they emerge. Virtually all the authors are from the countries or communities about which they write; the few exceptions are women who have spent lengthy periods studying and living in the region. Most are scholars, often in women's studies, and many are closely associated with the movements they describe. Thus, these writers share a commitment to the substantive concerns as well as the collective processes of women's movements. As a key book for the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, this volume will be essential reading for anyone interested in the global scope and implications of feminism.


The Ford Foundation's programs to improve women's status and opportunities reflect its long-standing mission to provide resources to individuals and organizations working to reduce poverty and injustice, advance human achievement, and strengthen democratic values. Since 1972, when the first grants for women's programs began, the Foundation has supported a wide range of efforts to help women shape better futures for themselves, their families, and their communities.

In 1986, as part of the process of strengthening understanding about gender issues and women's concerns, the Ford Foundation established the Women's Program Forum. The Forum brings together Ford Foundation staff and colleagues from other foundations to explore issues important to women and produces written materials based on discussions held under its sponsorship. To date, the Forum has organized two international meetings and a seminar series on women's issues at the Foundation's headquarters in New York City. Recent forums explored women and violence, the 1992 elections in the United States, women and agricultural institutions in Africa, gender dimensions of school reform, and the relationships among women, population, and the environment.

Members of the Women's Program Forum expect the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women scheduled for 1995 in Beijing, China, to be an important milestone in the worldwide movement to expand women's opportunities and choices. The world has changed since the close of the U.N. Decade for Women in 1985 was celebrated at the Third World Conference on Women in Nairobi, Kenya. Over the ensuing ten years, feminist activism and scholarship have profoundly altered local politics, national policies, and international debates about our common future.

The 1995 gathering will bring together, among others, some of the dynamic women throughout the world who have struggled for justice and who increasingly help shape the international agenda. Many others who attend the conference or follow its course through the media will not be familiar with the work and struggles that contributed to the present state of affairs. With this in mind, beginning in 1992, staff in a number of the Foundation's offices, with support from the Women's Program Forum, engaged scholar-activists to assess the characteristics, achievements, and current priorities of the women's movements in their coun-

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