Building a 21st Century Transnational Women’s Movement: A Collective Statement of Shared Vision September 10-14, 2005 New York
This statement reflects the discourse and thinking of a group of women activists from around the world who met for three days in early September 2005 at Sarah Lawrence College in New York. The gathering was catalyzed by the growing concerns voiced by women from outside the United States about the grave and detrimental impact of increasing militarism, globalization, religious and political fundamentalism, and U.S. foreign policy on their communities. Almost a year prior to the meeting, a planning group came together to conceive of a gathering that could share the voices of international activists with their potential allies within the United States, and take the first steps in building effective transnational alliances.
The 83 activists who came together represented a diverse group of local, regional, and national leaders in the U.S. women’s movement, international women’s rights activists from about 20 countries, policy makers, scholars, and a few progressive and feminist donors. Our meeting not only coincided with the anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001, but also came on the heels of a more recent tragedy – the devastation wreaked by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and much of the Gulf Coast of the United States. Thanks to the efforts and networks of the Planning Committee, Black, Latina, Asian and Native women, immigrant women and young women were well represented among the 50 participants based in the United States. We engaged in spirited, sometimes painful dialogue informed by our different life experiences, identities, perspectives and core concerns.
Our charge over the course of our time together was to deepen our understanding of how the conditions facing women worldwide are directly related to the unequal and unjust exercise of power by a few over the many. In particular, we used feminism as a lens through which to analyze and critique structures of power, whether at home, in local institutions, or in global governance mechanisms. We also explored our shared experiences of discrimination, violence, and exploitation and debated how we might begin to exploit the potential of transnational organizing for women’s rights.
In many international gatherings, the distance between those who live in the so-called “developed world” and those who come from the so-called “developing world” is so great that it requires much time and effort to overcome. But in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina – which was widely covered in the international media – the historic realities of race and class oppression in the United States were vividly highlighted, enabling many international participants to see for the first time how closely U.S. domestic policy mirrors its foreign policy. We were able to jointly critique the delayed and narrowly militaristic response to the crisis, ignoring local wisdom and networks, and the rapidly deteriorating conditions of life that face the world’s women.
For many international participants the gathering offered a rare opportunity to listen to U.S. activists working with farm workers, prisoners, recent immigrants, and factory laborers in the United States. This proved pivotal to their ability to look beyond their most prevalent image of the United States as a wealthy, white, dominant superpower. We quickly arrived at a basic level of agreement about how women, even within the