Global Feminist Profiles on IWD: People who have made a change in the fight for equal rights
For Blog for International Women’s Day, we’ve asked you to describe a person or event that has helped to fight for equal rights around the world. At GAB we decided to answer our own question, and each editor came up with her/his own Global Feminist Profile.
As some of you may know, a Global Feminist Profile [GFP] is a monthly column on Gender Across Borders that highlights feminist leaders all over the world who are creating change and empowering their countrywomen to demand equality. GFPs run on the third Monday of each month. Some previous Global Feminist Profiles have been: Audacia Ray, Marta Lamas, and Dr. Shershah Syed, to name a few. You can look at the complete archives of the Global Feminist Profiles by clicking here.
And without further ado, I give you the mini-Global Feminist Profiles from each of the GAB editors:
Dr. Lee Ae-ran, profile by Erin Rickard
Dr. Lee Ae-ran’s activist pursuits have risen out of her early experience with political oppression. Dr. Lee was born in North Korea, and when she was 11 years old she and her family were imprisoned in a labor camp. After suffering eight years of abuse she was released, and she went on to earn a college degree and eventually fled to South Korea. She has founded several aid organizations for North Korean refugees, including the Hana Defector Women’s Organization that provides women with education and child care; the North Korea Traditional Culinary and Culture Institute which trains women in culinary and entrepreneurial skills; and the Global Leadership Scholarship Program for students. Dr. Lee is one of this year’s recipients of the US State Department’s annual International Women of Courage Awards.
Hélène Cixous, profile by Kyle Bachan
Hélène Cixous is a French feminist writer, poet and playwright. With over seventy works detailing the relationship between sexuality and language, she is considered one of the mothers of poststructuralist feminist theory. Hélène’s body of work is considered to be a wealth of self-liberation, for herself, and for all others. She founded the first centre for women’s studies in Europe at the University of Paris VIII, and still teaches there today.
Chandra Talpade Mohanty, profile by Emily Heroy
Chandra Talpade Mohanty, originally from Mumbai, India and now resides in the U.S., became influential after her essay “Under Western Eyes: Feminist Scholarship and Colonial Discourses,” published in 1986 by Duke University Press. For me personally, this essay changed my outlook on what international feminism meant. Specifically, she breaks down the structure of the “Third World Woman,” and how oppression is very diverse, from country to country and from culture to culture. Mohanty writes about this subject further in a book of essays entitled Feminism Without Borders: Decolonizing Theory, Practicing Solidarity. Mohanty is currently the department chair of the Women’s and Gender Studies Program at Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York.
Fahmida Riaz, profile by Elizabeth Switaj
Fahmida Riaz is one of Pakistan’s leading Urdu writers and poets. Her poems and stories confront the roots and fruits of patriarchy and other social injustices through bold images and statements with powerful emotional resonance: the reception of this work has not been without controversy, as some have called it indecent. She served a short tenure as the managing director the National Book Council of Pakistan during Benazir Bhutto’s first term as Prime Minister, and during Bhutto’s second term, she was associated with the Ministry of Culture. After each term, Riaz faced government persecution. You can read more about her at Jahane Rumi, Pak Tea House, and The Hindu Times.
Arundhati Roy, profile by Amy Littlefield
Arundhati Roy is an Indian writer and social justice activist who speaks truth to power in all of its destructive, imperialist, and misogynist incarnations. Roy’s novel, The God of Small Things, won the Booker Prize in 1997. She has also written influential screenplays and essays. Roy’s speech, “Come September” made before the Lannan Foundation (you can watch the video of the speech here) when she received their Cultural Freedom Prize in 2002, shows how imperialism and conquest in Afghanistan, Palestine and South America imprison the entire world. She possesses a remarkable ability to reveal the loss and the grief caused by the striving of the powerful for more power.
The theme of much of what I write, fiction as well as nonfiction, is the relationship between power and powerlessness and the endless, circular conflict they’re engaged in.
With her beautiful words above, she issues an urgent call for justice everywhere, for everyone.
Vandana Shiva, profile by Colleen Hodgetts
Vandana Shiva is an Indian ecofeminist. An outspoken, inspiring and brilliant activist, she has worked tirelessly for years to promote gender equality and environmental conservation. The author of hundreds of papers in scientific journals and several books, most recently Soil Not Oil, she received her Ph.D. in physics from the University of Western Ontario, Canada. Shiva participated in the non-violent Chipko movement, an environmental movement notably led by women, and is a leader in the International Forum on Globalization. [you can check out her speech at the Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen here]
Sister Zebider Zewdie, profile by Jessica Mack
Sister Zebider Zewdie is an Ethiopian nurse, visionary-feminist, and entrepreneur. In 1994, she founded the now-acclaimed community organization, Mary Joy Aid Through Development, to respond to the inequities faced by women in her country. Mary Joy provides microfinance services, comprehensive reproductive health care, including HIV/AIDS prevention and testing, as well as leadership training for women. In 2009, I had the privilege of meeting Zibder, who was warm and dynamic, though her eyes conveyed the struggles she’s both witnessed and fought to overcome herself, including a lack of reproductive freedom and economic opportunity. “Men have the upper hand in this country,” she told me. “My dream is to see women empowered across Ethiopia.”