Last week I attended Soapbox’s Feminist Intensive for staff and faculty. This event is normally run for 5 days for students in January and June called Feminist Boot Camp. Soapbox is a feminist speakers bureau I have used since they began. It was founded by writers & activists Amy Richards and Jennifer Baumgardner. They are the authors of Manifesta: Young Women, Feminism and the Future, which is an excellent book I have used in many of my classes.
Each day we met with activists and of feminist organizations in NYC. On the first day we met with Equality Now ‘s Global Director, Yasmeen Hassan. This 20 year old organization focuses on four areas: Discrimination in Law, Sexual Violence, Female Genital Mutilation and Trafficking. Their mission is to achieve legal and systemic change that addresses violence and discrimination against women and girls around the world. They have offices in NYC, Nairobi, and London with plans to expand. The work specifically with organizations in the countries where a woman is in need of help, to provide legal and other support.
You can join the organization and get on their Take Action list. Equality Now
We ended up next for lunch at the home of Joanne Sandler. She is a consultant on women’s issues worldwide. She was the Executive Director for UNIFEM and had a role in creating a space for women at the United Nations. She talked with us about the difficulty in getting the UN to understand the importance of women. What sticks with me about her conversation with “we got what we asked for.” She meant that women have gotten to part of patriarchal institutions but we need to now take it a step further. She also spoke of having younger women step in to lead feminist organizations and that it is time for her generation to allow for that space.
We spent our next meeting with Women’s World Banking’s VP of Development Jane Sloane. Women’ s World Banking “is a non-profit, microfinance institution, consisting of 39 financial organizations in 27 countries, providing low-income women access to financial services and information. WWB helps microfinance institutions move away from a strictly credit-led approach toward providing a broader array of financial products and service, including savings and insurance to help the poor build comprehensive financial safety nets.” We learned a great deal about micro-finance and financial investing with a “gender lens.” What this means is looking not only at what companies do, but how they treat their employees, for example, investing in a company that has equal pay for its female workers.
We ended our first long day at a restaurant in Brooklyn with Robin Morgan and Irshad Manji.
“Irshad Manji is a New York Times bestselling author, professor of leadership and advocate of liberal reform within Islam. Irshad directs New York University’s Moral Courage Project, which teaches people worldwide to challenge political correctness, intellectual conformity and self-censorship. As a faithful Muslim, she emphasizes Islam’s own tradition of “ijtihad,” or independent thinking. The Jakarta Post in Indonesia, the world’s biggest Muslim-majority country, identifies Irshad as one of three women making a positive difference in Islam today. Her latest book, Allah, Liberty and Love, is sparking fierce debate internationally.” She spoke of how a woman was arrested for selling her new book before she had even sold it.
“Robin Morgan is an award-winning poet, novelist, political theorist, feminist activist,and best-selling author, who has published more than 20 books, including the now-classic anthologies Sisterhood Is Powerful, Sisterhood Is Global, and Sisterhood Is Forever: The Women’s Anthology for A New Millennium. A founder of contemporary US feminism, she has been a leader in the international women’s movement for 25 years. She has traveled–as organizer, lecturer, journalist–across Europe, to Australia, Brazil, the Caribbean, Central America, China, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Nepal, New Zealand, Pacific Island nations, the Philippines, and South Africa; she has twice spent months in the Palestinian refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Syria, West Bank, and Gaza, reporting on the conditions of women. In 1990, as Ms. Editor-in-Chief, she re-launched the magazine as an international, award-winning, ad-free bimonthly. Recently, she co-founded The Women’s Media Center,” where we start day II. More to come . . . .