"Watch your enemies, for they are the first to notice your mistakes" - said Antisthenes. Therefore, we read about the world forum of feminists "Women's Worlds"
The World Forum of Feminists "Women's Worlds" celebrated its 30th anniversary this year.
Women's Worlds is a worldwide feminist forum that is held every three years and attracts women activists, scientists working in gender studies, women politicians, public figures, women in the creative professions, representatives of ethnic minorities and all from all over the world. who cares about women's rights and gender equality
The idea of "Women's Worlds" arose in 1981, when the first world forum was held in Haifa (Israel) to discuss the prospects for a new direction in the social sciences - gender studies. Since then, "Women's Worlds" have been held in small and large cities around the world: the Netherlands, Ireland, USA, Costa Rica, Norway, Uganda, Australia, Korea, Spain. The concept of "Women's Worlds" envisages holding them in different parts of the world, so that as many women as possible can take part in them. I was fortunate enough to be a participant in a congress in Tromso, Norway in 1999 and at the just-concluded Women's Worlds 2011 in Ottawa, Canada.
Women's Worlds 2011, which took place July 3-7 in Ottawa, celebrated the 30th anniversary of the event. In its organization, "Women's Worlds" resemble the Olympic Games: the venue is determined by the organizing committee after the end of the previous congress. The right to host "Women's Worlds" on its territory is a high honor, and to earn it, one must not only meet certain technical standards, but also prove that the government and society of the host country are open to the ideas of gender equality. The fact that in the anniversary year the capital of Canada became the hostess of "Women's Worlds" is quite natural - great attention is paid to gender equality in this country, and any tourist can notice this if they look closely at the public service advertisements placed on the street, sculptures on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, skim the Canadian newspapers. Although one should not think that "Women's Worlds" is a gathering of exclusively feminists, moreover, radical ones, who are the embodiment of an image that is pretty frightening for our average man in the street. "Are you a feminist?" - I asked one of the members of the organizing committee at the opening ceremony and received in response: "This is a difficult question."
But definitely the general atmosphere of the "Women's Worlds" corresponds to the spirit of the feminist movement as a democratic and multidirectional movement. Equality, accessibility, diversity and tolerance are the main principles of the Congress. Following this philosophy, the Solidarity Fund, which is formed during the preparation of each congress, provides a large number of travel grants for women with disabilities, the elderly or very young, representatives of ethnic minorities and poor countries.
Diversity and multiculturalism are the basic principles by which Canada also lives. It is no coincidence that "Women's Worlds" were held on the territory of two Canadian provinces: English-speaking Ontario, where Ottawa is located, and Francophone Quebec, where the satellite city of Ottawa Gatineau is located. The main burden of organizing and hosting the congress was borne by the University of Ottawa - and it bore this difficult burden with honor.
When in 1999 we were at the "Women's Worlds" in Troms (Norway), where, apart from the university, about 30 thousand people live, it felt like the congress swallowed up the city. Everything revolved around him, and the entire city administration and city community were involved in providing it. Ottawa is a larger city, but in the center of the congress was noticeable thanks to bright banners and constantly flashing here and there groups of participants with branded badges. This mobile multi-lingual mass of participants of numerous ethnic types and races turned the capital of Canada into a city of women for a week, although not quite in the same vein as in the famous Fellini's film of the same name.
Women's Worlds lives up to its name: this year, more than 2,000 participants from 92 countries came to Ottawa, many of them came with their families, so there were quite a few men at the congress who looked after the children while their wives were in session
For five days, more than 800 reports were presented, so that 25-30 sections were going on at the same time. At the same time, proceeding from the principles of democracy and openness, the format of the congress allowed those participants who did not have time to make a report in advance, announce a new section, organize a discussion, presentation of a film or book. After the sessions were over, the cultural program began, which was also very varied: every evening the participants were offered a choice of several events, representing different aspects of women's or feminist creativity. Naturally, it was simply impossible to visit everything, so each participant had his own congress: his own set of events and, accordingly, impressions and acquaintances. I want to share mine.
It is striking that, despite the huge number of participants and events, everything worked like a clock: all sections began exactly on time in the indicated auditoriums, the buses arrived on time, all organizational problems were resolved promptly. If you had any question, then a volunteer immediately appeared next to you, ready to answer it. I would like to say a few words about the volunteers at the congress. The Congress was served by more than 350 volunteers not only from Canada, but also from other countries. The only benefit for volunteers was the exemption from the registration fee, but people came to help, in addition, to be a volunteer at such a large event, to see the congress from the inside is honorable and interesting. The policy of selecting volunteers also showed adherence to the principle of equality and accessibility: a significant part of the volunteers were elderly people and wheelchair users. But how hard they tried! How well they worked! The uninterrupted work of such a complex organism as the "Women's Worlds" was in many respects to their credit.
The location of the congress influenced the composition of its participants: the most represented were Canada, the USA and Latin America. There were many delegates from the countries of the British Commonwealth and Africa: the presence of a large number of travel grants was felt. Europe this time was less represented, except for the traditionally large number of women from the Scandinavian countries, which have a reputation as a region where feminism has been elevated to the level of public policy. The Swedes and Finns lived up to this reputation not only by supporting the participation of a large number of their delegates in the congress, but also by investing in the program of the congress by organizing an exhibition of works by photographer and social educator Miina Savolainen The loveliest girl in the world) and a reception on the occasion of its opening. This exhibition, already successfully exhibited in Europe, has become the most significant cultural event of the congress, since the photographs presented at it are not only the work of a talented master, but also the result of a longitudinal pedagogical project. For ten years, Miina Savolainen worked with ten orphanage girls, whom we would call “difficult teenagers,” documenting the process of their growing up in photographic portraits. Looking at the photographs, one can guess that in ordinary life these are girls with different external data, but in Meena's photographs they are all beautiful, like princesses from a fairy tale. The background surrounding the models also lends charm to the portraits: landscapes of unthinkable beauty provide additional sound to each of the images. The pedagogical task of the art project was to help teenage girls realize their uniqueness and believe in themselves. It was successfully implemented, and the Savolainen technique, called empowering photography (which can be roughly translated into Russian as “confidence through photography”), is now being actively adopted by social educators and psychologists. Although it must be admitted, Meena's pedagogical success was largely due to her artistic talent. In any case, it is understandable and justified why this particular exhibition was chosen by the Finnish and Swedish embassies in Canada as a visiting card of the gender policy of their countries.
"But what about ours?" - you ask. Russia and the post-Soviet space were poorly represented at this congress. There were only five women from Russia who managed to find funds to participate, and we managed to meet only one participant from Belarus
The Congress quite clearly demonstrated that the women's movement in the post-Soviet space is again dropping out of the global civil society. But the Congress also demonstrated that in the globalized world in which we live, isolation is impossible, because everyone's problems are surprisingly similar and absolute gender equality does not exist even in the countries of “victorious feminism”. It is no coincidence that Women's Worlds have chosen globalization as their main theme several times in a row. This year it sounded "Inclusion, exclusion, isolation: life in a globalizing world." But we will tell about the program, key topics and discussions of "Women's Worlds" in the next article.
The material was prepared within the framework of the program "Gender Democracy" of the Foundation. Heinrich Böll