Feminism without borders

Zainab Salbi speaking at a previous year's Women's Forum

I spent the end of last week at the Women’s Forum for The Economy & Society, an international meeting of women from a variety of sectors, but predominantly from the corporate world. It was a really fascinating experience for me–particularly as I tend to focus my feminist work so squarely in the U.S. context and spend much of my time in explicitly social justice-oriented communities.

The group of young leaders that I was grouped with were incredible. (The Forum thinks of young as those in their 30s, another interesting contrast from my usual context in which people under 30 are more likely to be described that way.) Claire is working with Tony Blair’s Africa Governance Initiative to try to strengthen young governments to prevent corruption and strengthen the capacity to regulate markets and prevent violence. Suchi helped build Gumtree, the Craig’s List of the UK, and is looking to head home to Delhi to create an e-commerce business. Jessy, organized the incredibly effective U.S. climate change conference Powershift in her former life, and is now co-leading the Citizen Engagement Lab–an incubator for social entrepreneurship. Bel is a chef and restaurant owner in Sao Paolo and teaches disadvantaged teenagers to cook so they can get jobs. Muna is the Secretary General of the Alwaleed Bin Talal Foundation in Saudi Arabia.

The first thing that was most striking was how absolutely ambitious, innovative, and powerful these young women were. The second was how instantaneously we all connected across sector, across international borders, across economic stratification. Here we were, 14 women who shared little other than our gender, and yet the laughter, stories, and support flowed from the very start. At the risk of sounding cheesy, I have to admit that I was once again stunned by the power of sisterhood and left wondering why we haven’t leveraged it better across international borders. Even here at Feministing, we have certainly written about international issues, and always perk up when we see community posts or comments coming in from someone living outside of the U.S., and yet it’s so rare to actually create partnerships (not just funding, but true egalitarian, non-hierarchical bonds) among feminists from different countries.

Why is this? How can we create more partnerships? What are your favorite international blogs? Who are your favorite young feminist leaders outside of the U.S.?

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