Promoting Feminism, Opposing Inequality

By Jessica Hope, University of Manchester

Image credit: Jessica Hope

Image credit: Jessica Hope

Last week UN Women Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson launched the HeForShe campaign, a solidarity movement for gender equality that calls upon men to stand up against the inequalities and discrimination faced by women. This week is the 69th session of the Un General Assembly, held in New York between September 24th and 30th.  During this assembly, UN Women will help deliberate a post 2015 development framework, new sustainable development goals and an appraisal of the Beijing Declaration.

As debates about gender inequalities are once again hitting the headlines, with a view to implementing new policies and practice, critical analysis of current practice is vital.  In August this year, Lata Narayanaswamy published a review article in Geography Compass Journal titled ‘NGOs and Feminisms in Development: Interrogating the ‘Southern Women’s NGO’. In this article, Narayanaswamy advocates firstly for more nuanced understandings of the diversity Southern Women’s NGOs and their relationship to wider NGO networks and secondly, for recognition of the contested politics of gender and its entanglements with broader identity politics. The article unpacks  how Southern women are represented, categorised and treated by development discourse and shows that too often, ‘Southern Women’s NGO’ is used as a short hand for subaltern, grassroots, collective action – without recognition of the power dynamics and diversity within the category. Moreover, working with Southern Women’s NGOs is too often viewed as synonymous with working with the most marginalised – ignoring the multiplicity of voices that cannot be heard.

As gender inequalities are debated in global platforms, it is vital that geography contributes to these discussions and helps to illuminate the common assumptions and representations that underpin development practice and shape development impacts.

 Narayanaswamy, L (2014) NGOs and Feminisms in Development: Interrogating the ‘Southern Women’s NGO’ Geography Compass 8 (8), pp 576–589

60-world2 United Nations Women (2014) HeForShe 

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