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Feminism Is Not Just A Western Issue

The rise of third-wave feminism, which encompasses intersectionality and inclusion, has paved the way for women of all religious beliefs, sexual orientations, races and ethnicities to find their voice and purpose. It has diversified and leveled the playing field, so that feminism itself extends to serve more than just the average middle-class white woman. As much as we may believe that the frameworks of society are changing for the better, and the feminist movement has certainly evolved from being negligent to the needs of all women; those of us living in the West tend to forget that women beyond our borders are still fighting to obtain the basic rights and privileges we have begun to take for granted. Where American women today are breaking glass ceilings to reach prestigious positions and statuses, women and girls throughout the world are yearning for the freedom to simply live as authentically as they please.

Isis International, a feminist advocacy organization established in the early 1970s, consists of a group of activists working to address and find solutions to the issues affecting women on a global scale. Their mission, as stated boldly on their website, is “documenting feminist visions, creating critical communications, and strengthening social movements.” In essence, their goal is to create a space to stimulate conversations between women who can collectively work to combat international issues like domestic violence and radical fundamentalism. With its origins rooted in the solidarity of women all around the world, Isis International was initially just a small group of women focused on developing solutions to local concerns; but soon expanded to host among the first international feminist activist meetings with passionate and driven women from different countries and regions. Taking on the name of the powerful Egyptian goddess Isis, a representation of the creativity and knowledge instilled in every woman, the organization remains steadfast in its commitment to fight for gender justice, human rights, and equality, especially in the global South where these movements are needed the most.

Focused mainly on amplifying the voices of women and girls worldwide, Isis International also works to bring light to the long and brutal struggle for the realization of women’s rights as human rights against oppressive external forces. War and devastation, food crises, and natural disasters are among other challenges broadcasted through Isis’s networking systems and communication channels, all of which are dealt with through the support of and collaborations with various other social justice groups and feminist campaigns. The Isis International Feminist Activist School and the Women’s House (Bahay ni Isis) in Manila are among many extensions of the organization itself, providing women around the world with the resources and facilities they need to advocate for change.

The African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET), a pan-African feminist organization formed in 1988, is another establishment fixated on tackling the struggles of women outside North America and Europe. Their mission and vision for the future, released as a statement at the 1995 Beijing Conference, is “that we the African women will reclaim, reconstruct and transform Africa, on the basis of gender equality, giving credence to the principles of democracy and human rights; mobilizing and utilizing human and other resources; and take our rightful place in the global arena, on the basis of equality with other nations, from now into the future, in partnership with our men, girls and boys.” Focusing ultimately on the empowerment of African women, FEMNET has been at the forefront of leadership in the women’s movement in Africa, and has worked tirelessly to ensure that African women’s voices are heard on all regional, national, and global platforms. The laws and regulations passed on these levels all have the potential to affect African women and their lives, whether directly or indirectly, and FEMNET is immersed in the knowledge that with the amplification of their collective voices, there is the possibility to achieve their goal of gender equality and advances in the rights for women and girls.

With their core values of professionalism, respect for diversity, integrity, and equality, FEMNET is actively involved in influencing policymakers and those in the ranks to enact monumental changes to the structures of African societies. The height of their concerns, both past and present, are around female genital mutilation (FGM), child marriages, violence against women, sexual/reproductive rights, and the role of women in politics and leadership positions. Membership is welcomed to individuals in all African geographical locations, as well as those in the Diaspora, to truly enable African women to be better informed and equipped with knowledge through the documentation of personal struggles and stories that have contributed to the women’s movement in Africa.

Isis International and FEMNET are just two of the various established organizations today working to advocate for underprivileged and marginalized women, with the common goal of unifying their voices in the fight for equality. Unique in the sense that they are committed to the distinctive struggles of every woman and girl, both organizations go to show that the West has a lot to learn about intervention in global feminist issues. It is not our job as a privileged country to lend a hand based on our own ‘westernized’ theories and principles of equality, rather to show our solidarity by adhering to the prospects for change outlined by the concerned women, which may very well be different from our own. Then, and only then, as we put ourselves in the shoes of women globally, can this new wave of feminism become a movement that truly incorporates all of our voices.

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