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Decolonizing Women’s Activism: Africa in the Transformation of International Women’s Movements

by Iris Berger

State University of New York, Albany


   In their memoirs and biographies many African women leaders credit international women's movements with helping to inspire their approaches to such problems as poverty, environmental degradation, and political disenfranchisement in their own countries. Most striking in making this connection is the testimony of Kenyan Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai. Thinking about how her concern about water, energy, and nutrition led her to launch a radically new women's environmental group, she wrote: "When I reflect on the years leading to the creation of the Green Belt Movement and the years of its emergence and growth, it also seems no coincidence that it was nurtured during the time the global women's movement was taking off, or that it flourished during the decade for women (1976-1985) the United Nations declared in Mexico City."[1]

   A similar synergy between African women's groups and international organizations emerged after the Second World War through connections between local leaders and the Women's International Democratic Federation (WIDF), founded in Paris in 1945. At a time when struggles against colonial rule and racism topped the agenda of African women, the communist-inspired orientation of the WIDF and the opportunities it provided for travel to conferences and smaller meetings in both Eastern and Western Europe gave women a broader context for formulating and advancing the goals of their own political organizations. In Nigeria, the most outspoken advocate of women's rights, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, was particularly attracted to the group's aim not only to unite women across lines of race and nationality, but to "win and defend national independence and democratic freedom, eliminate apartheid, racial discrimination and fascism; [and] work for peace and universal disarmament."[2]

   In these twentieth-century examples, international movements centered outside of Africa sought to incorporate African women and their concerns into broader struggles for women's rights, peace, prosperity, and national independence. This emphasis differed from that of the groups that emerged in the United States and Europe during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, where African enslavement was a predominant trope, whether in the analogy between marriage and slavery, the stress on the idea of "emancipation" for both women and slaves, or the strong links in the United States between feminists and abolitionists. But African women themselves were never sought as members.[3] In the United States, however, some free black women pioneered in combining anti-slavery activity with an assertion of their rights as women and blacks. British women, by contrast, echoing the missionary emphasis on moral and cultural uplift, emphasized their interest in extending their own privileges to women suffering from enslavement.

   In most of Africa, the dominant campaign of the nineteenth and early twentieth century--women's suffrage--had little resonance. Until the "scramble for Africa" of the 1880s, the international links of trade, exploration, and evangelizing left African political systems relatively autonomous. The exception was South Africa, where colonization closely paralleled that of the United States—a Dutch colony in the seventeenth century, later seized by the British. In the discussions leading to internal self-rule in 1910, when South Africa joined Canada, Australia, and New Zealand as a Dominion in the British Empire, women with close ties to Great Britain began campaigning for women's suffrage. The 1908 report of the International Woman Suffrage Alliance included updates from the Cape Colony and Natal. The former report observed: "Public work for women is new in South Africa and much discretion must be exercised as to the line of propaganda pursued."[4] Most of the women involved in this campaign were unconcerned about the disenfranchisement of the overwhelming majority of blacks — a stance that prompted pioneer feminist Olive Schreiner, who advocated a non-racial franchise, to break with the Women's Enfranchisement League. Despite the racially exclusive drive for the vote, ripples of the British suffrage movement resonated across racial lines. In 1913, when black women in the town of Bloemfontein organized lively demonstrations to protest local plans to force women to carry passes, the identity documents required of all black men, protesters added to their immediate demands the cry of "Votes for Women."[5]

   During the height of the colonial period, from 1900 until the Second World War, some European and U.S.-based non-political women's organizations such as the YWCA and the Girl Guides were transplanted into Africa. Some of these groups, such as the East African and South African affiliates of the Associated Country Women of the World, made no apparent effort to incorporate African women.[6] But even more politically oriented women's organizations, including the International Council of Women and the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), reflected colonial attitudes in presuming that Western countries represented the height of progress for women and, in "feminist orientalist" fashion, represented women in the rest of the world as "backward."[7] Furthermore, although a number of Egyptian feminists were in close contact with these groups, sub-Saharan African women figured little in their vision of the world. In its campaign for peace in 1934, however, WILPF was the first international organization to call on the League of Nations to take action against the Italian invasion of Ethiopia. The following year WILPF sponsored a radio broadcast in which the Empress appealed to the women of the world to make their voices heard in protest "in the firm, united demand that the horrors of useless bloodshed and overwhelming ruin shall not be."[8]

   Yet Africa did enter the discourse of some of the most outspoken critics of the imperialist attitudes of European women. At a 1935 WILPF meeting in Istanbul, an Indian speaker, Shareefeh Hamid, denounced the attitudes of her Western colleagues, arguing: "The civilization of peoples in Africa and Asia may be different from the European, but it has the same right of existence as that of Europe."[9] Indeed, one of the most powerful implicit challenges to the western views of downtrodden women outside of Europe and North America came from Ghana (then the British colony of Gold Coast), where a report published in the WILPF journal described independent women, active as traders and sometimes quite wealthy. The writer made the acute observation that under colonial rule, African women were pushed out of government, trade, agriculture, and local government and were generally losing status.[10] In 1970 Ester Boserup's pioneering book would document this idea more fully.[11]

   Only after the Second World War, with the strong emphasis on international organizations through the United Nations, did a range of intensive efforts begin to include African women in newly formed transnational women's groups. They included not only the WIDF, but also the World YWCA. This was a period not only of decolonization, but also of colonial powers' intensified efforts to build new organizations of civil society that included a focus on community development, social welfare initiatives, and supporting domestically oriented women's organizations. The WIDF was the most politicized of these bodies and gave women already active in local women's movements the international contacts that allowed them to expand their view of women's issues and to build connections with women and left-wing political leaders across Europe.

   Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, a leader of the local Abeokuta Women's Union in Nigeria was among the African women who developed strong ties to the WIDF, a group she encountered on a trip to England in 1947. She also met with women active in the Labour Party, including Violet Creech-Jones and Freda Grimble.[12] A month after Ransome-Kuti left Britain, the WIDF executive committee decided to set up a special commission to investigate the situation of women in Africa and Asia. Ransome-Kuti contributed to the book of documents that followed from this inquiry and remained in regular correspondence with the WIDF for a number of years. This pamphlet, That They May Live: African Women Arise,[13] which begins by highlighting the suffering and exploitation of African peoples across the continent under colonial rule, is a call for international solidarity "to support the fight of the African women"[14] who are rising up and intensifying their fight to put an end to repression, terror, and colonial atrocities and to fight for an end to repression and terror. "Women of the world," the pamphlet argues, "must be told what is happening in Africa... . They must be shown that, in their struggle, the people of Africa are also fighting in defence of world peace."[15] Two of the sub-Saharan African women whose activism was celebrated were Ransom-Kuti and Ray Alexander, a white South African communist, trade unionist, and women's organizer whom the apartheid government had recently banned..

   The communist connections of the WIDF left Ransome-Kuti vulnerable to criticism in both Britain and Nigeria, however. After she attended a conference in China in 1956 authorities refused to renew her passport until after Nigeria's independence four years later. Her papers and correspondence also point to a network of international connections across the African continent by the mid-1950s, when she attended women's conferences in Algeria, Dahomey (now Benin), Guinea, Liberia, and Togo. She played a role in founding the Ghana Women's Movement, launched in 1960; had close connections with the Sierra Leone Women's Movement; and sent a telegram appealing to the "maternal feelings" of Queen Elizabeth in the aftermath of the massacre of protesters against racist pass laws at Sharpeville, South Africa in 1960.[16]

   This network of African women's organizations predated the feminist movements of Europe and North America that emerged in the 1960s and early 1970s. The impetus for these groups came from women's key role in independence struggles across the continent as well as from UN efforts through the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) formed in 1958. In the early 1960s, as Tanzania, Uganda, and Kenya won their independence from Great Britain, women political leaders organized the East African Women's Seminars. Many of these women also took part in the All Africa Women's Conference (AAWC), later the Pan-African Women's Organization (PAWO), which met first in Bamako, Mali and in 1962 for a full meeting in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.[17] Illustrating the transnational impetus for these events, Pumla Kisosonkole, a South African then living in Uganda argued:

   These days the cry of the 'role of women' is being heard in Africa from East to West, and from North to South. What is the answer for East Africa? It is this: times have changed and are changing very fast, and the woman must change with them in order that she does not become the 'forgotten factor' … and [she] will be ready and willing to play the fullest part in shaping the destinies of her country.[18]

   The initiatives of the ECA during the 1960s were critical in laying the groundwork for the programs of the UN Decade for Women in the 1970s.[19] Although ECA conferences as early as 1960 agreed that women's voices needed to be heard, organizers perceived women primarily as mothers, confining women's issues to home and family. Nonetheless, by 1963 and 1964, as the ECA expanded its vision of "modernization" to encompass social and community development, the Commission was also expanding its view of women's issues. A 1964 regional conference in Lagos, Nigeria on "The Role of Women in Urban Development" and a 1967 publication, Status and Role of Women in East Africa,[20] verified women's centrality to the economic and social transformation of their counties, while noting critically that few nations had involved women in their community development programs. These efforts spurred researchers to begin the process of documenting the vital economic roles of African women. They discovered, for example, that women in Lesotho performed 90% of the road building under the food-for-work program, that Tanzanian men worked 1,800 hours a year as compared with 2,600 for women, and that in the late 1950s and early 1960s, women represented 83% of the sellers in urban markets in Lagos, Nigeria and 85% in Accra, Ghana.[21]

   Seeking to translate such findings into an action plan, in 1969, at a Regional Meeting on the Role of Women in National Development held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, participants agreed to establish an Africa regional training institute, to create a regional standing committee on women, and to initiate a number of follow-up studies on women's position in trade, business, industry, and agriculture as well as on educational opportunities for girls and women. Thus, some years before the rise of vocal new feminist movements in North America and Western Europe, African women were using United Nations networks to create the new field of women and development and to spark a range of innovative regional and transnational women's groups.

   Another source of African women's organizing, the Women's Africa Committee, began in New York in 1958, at the height of the cold war as African decolonization struggles were beginning to bear fruit. The group evolved from a conversation between Congresswoman Marguerite Stitt Church of Illinois and Secretary of State John Foster Dulles on the possibility of convening a conference in the United States of leading women from various parts of the world, along with American women who had held positions in the State Department. Dulles's involvement raises the question of whether this suggestion was a reaction to the international activities of the WIDF. By 1959, the Women's Africa Committee was sponsoring a variety of activities, working to develop relationships with African American women's organizations, and to promote African women's engagement in community organizing as their countries became emerged from colonial domination.

   The thirty women initially involved, all leaders of women's organizations in their own communities, designed a Community Service Program to give African women in government and women's organizations additional training to enable them to direct programs and to seek change "along peaceful, constructive and democratic lines."[22] Each year African women leaders were brought to the United States for a combination of classroom instruction on a college campus and fieldwork in different parts of the country. The program's ten-year evaluation concluded that perhaps the most lasting work of the Committee might be the exchanges initiated between African women from diplomatic families and American women in New York City. One summer program participant from Kenya wrote enthusiastically about her experience: "I can hardly wait to return to my African home to assist in the various community development projects for the improvement of my people."[23] A perhaps unanticipated response came from a participant's husband who wrote to thank the program for all it had taught his wife. In a tone both patronizing and congratulatory he continued:

   You have sent me back a more sensible, patient, considerate, obliging and on the whole, useful wife. She has learned something I cannot teach her for a life time. I also hesitated thanking you for fear the reformation might be temporary and on the surface, but after two months I still have the same new American wife."[24]

   Not only in Africa, but throughout the global South, the impetus for women's communication and organizing across national boundaries came primarily from the United Nations, particularly from the 1970s onward. But during the 1960s, nationally- based African women's organizations already had a wide network of affiliation with international women's groups. Most prominent were WILPF, the World Movement of Mothers, the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, the World YWCA, and the World Union of Catholic Women's Organizations, as well as professional associations of nurses, midwives, and lawyers.[25]

   The UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), established in 1947, initiated the organization's involvement in promoting women's rights and equality. But, in the view of Margaret Snyder, the first director of UNIFEM (the United Nations Development Fund for Women), it was the independence of fifty-four former colonies, many of them in Africa, during the 1950s and 60s that prompted a new focus on poverty and "development" in the CSW and led to the founding of UNIFEM in 1976.[26] The African Training and Research Centre for Women (ATRCW), formed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in 1970, became the first regional center in the world to work on articulating the role of women in international organizations, helping to facilitate women's participation in the UN conferences for women and formulating policies for women's economic and political empowerment. United Nations agencies had laid the groundwork for UNIFEM and for the international women's conferences that began in Mexico City in 1975 through local research and discussions that engaged women as active agents of social change. Their work coincided with the publication in 1970 of Ester Boserup's path-breaking book, Woman's Role in Economic Development. In this volume the Danish economist made two key arguments relating to Africa: first, that in precolonial times women had been active participants in economic life and, second, that across the continent they had lost status under European colonial rule.[27]

   From the 1970s onward, there was a strong synergy throughout Africa between global efforts to transform women's status and local and regional women's movements. But, unlike earlier periods when the main impetus for women's social movements had come from outside the continent, local women's movements were in the forefront of formulating the ideas and programs for these groups. Thus, in 1977, one of the first Africa-wide networks of women, African Women for Research and Development (AAWORD) was formed. Nigerian-born scholar Amina Mama credits AAWORD with "ensuring the survival of a vibrant intellectual culture" at a time when African universities were deteriorating.[28] A 1984 speech by Miria Obote, wife of the President of Uganda on International Women's Day illustrates the global awareness that had permeated the continent by this time. Her address links the first observance of the holiday in her country to its development in 1907 and, more immediately, to the UN Decade for women. She observed: "I am particularly happy that for the first time in the history of this country, Uganda has joined hands with the International Community in observing this occasion.… As a woman, I share the same concerns and problems that any woman faces in this country and the world over."[29]

   The UN Conference in Nairobi in July 1985, which closed the UN Decade for Women, was a transformational moment for African women in international organizations.[30] From an African standpoint, Margaret Snyder sees the most important outcome of the official conference as the extraordinary consensus delegates reached in their unanimous adoption of the document, "The Forward-looking Strategies for the Advancement of Women." This comprehensive statement covered women's views on a variety of world affairs, including human rights, development, culture, family and children and relationships between women and men — and represented a dramatic change from the confrontational atmosphere in Mexico City and Copenhagen.[31]

   But the impact of the NGO Forum was even more dramatic. Fourteen thousand women from 151 countries took part in the Forum, in addition to the 6,000 official delegates from around the world. Forum attendees included 3,000 Kenyan women, mainly from rural areas. By comparison with the 1980 conference in Copenhagen, there was a massive increase in the number of delegates from developing countries, women representing various Third World liberation movements, and black and immigrant women from Western countries. Particularly outspoken were women from the liberation movements in Namibia and South Africa, where colonial domination and white rule persisted. At this point women's groups in southern Africa associated with the main liberation movements (the Namibian group SWAPO, the South-West Africa People's Organization and the Women's Section of the African National Congress) opposed the idea of independent women's movements as counter-revolutionary.

   Forum 85, the newspaper published by the NGO group, addressed some of the contentious questions related to African women's presence: why (if peasant women were a major audience) sessions were not translated into Swahili, the local lingua franca; how best to address the question of female genital cutting; and the relationship between national liberation struggles and feminism. A cartoon of gaunt dead bodies ironically entitled "Peace Under Apartheid" powerfully established the devastating impact of racial oppression on all South Africans. Perhaps most significant for the future, however, were the articles about the new multi (or trans) national organizations and meetings in the global South formed in the wake of the UN Decade: AAWORD, discussed in an article pointedly entitled "Decolonized Research"; DAWN, Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era, founded in 1984 and planning to have a secretariat rotating among Asia, Latin America and Africa; and a conference held in Khartoum in 1984 with delegates from twenty-six countries, entitled, "African Women Speak Out on Female Circumcision."[32]

   Another turning point for women's mobilization came in the late 1980s and early 1990s, a period of renewed efforts at democratization within Africa. Following the UN Conference in Nairobi new groups of organizations independent of political parties emerged in greater numbers.[33] During this fertile period for African transnational women's movements, ideas and practices diffused through regional and subregional networks and organizations within Africa as well as from other national and international networks and the UN and other multilateral groups, including foreign donor agencies. African women not only received influences from elsewhere, but played an active role in shaping global and regional, as well as national, activism. Even formerly all-white groups such as the Associated Country Women of the World were making efforts to expand their reach into grassroots African communities.[34] Key elements of these transnational networks were the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) as well as feminist organizations in the global South such as DAWN.

   Even more important, however, were strategies coming from sub-regional and pan-African groups. After 1990, numerous Africa-wide women's advocacy groups emerged — based especially in Kenya, Senegal, South Africa, and the UK. Such regional networks have focused on a variety of topics including women's education, development, information technology, political participation, health, leadership, and human rights — and have been especially active and effective in promoting peace in countries devastated by civil conflict. One such group was WiLDAF, Women in Law and Development in Africa, which has drawn on the framework of women's rights as human rights to link law and development in ways that empower women.[35] The South African Women's Charter, developed by a coalition of eighty-one women's organizations and adopted in 1994 was replicated by coalitions of women's groups in Botswana, Uganda, Zambia, Liberia, and Ghana. [36] The lead-up to the Beijing meeting was particularly important in reinforcing these regional networks. In East Africa, for example, a meeting in Kampala, Uganda brought together 120 leaders of women's organizations from Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda to plan for the Africa-wide UN Women's Conference in Dakar in 1994, as preparation for the Beijing conference of 1995.

   Since Beijing, new technologies and demands for peace have shaped the agenda of many women's organizations. New organizations have strengthened women's contacts across the continent through on-line communication networks, listservs, journals, and telecenters that provide access and training to residents of poor communities.[37] The exponential growth in cell phone use has also enabled women's networks to campaign effectively to put pressure on national governments, as in the successful effort to ratify the African Union's protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa. Peace issues also have been important in mobilizing women through both regional and subregional networks.[38] They include AWCPD, the African Women's Committee for Peace and Development and the Federation of African Women's Peace Networks (FERFAP). In 2001, the members of a regional peace network in Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia demanded that the President of Guinea, meet with his Liberian counterpart to negotiate an agreement. A Liberian peace activist, Mary Brownell, told the Liberian President Charles Taylor, "We will lock you in this room until you come to your senses and I will sit on the key."[39]

   Despite the active role of African women in forming national and transnational women's movements, the colonial aura of western superiority did not disappear entirely. Writing in 2006, political scientist Aili Mari Tripp could still argue: "When international support is extended, it is not always offered in ways that reflect an understanding of other women's movements, their local contexts, and their needs."[40] A prime example of these attitudes came from Nigeria.[41] In 2002, when a sharia (Islamic) court in Katsina State in Northern Nigeria sentenced Amina Lawal Kurami to death by stoning, having found her guilty of adultery after she gave birth to a baby out of wedlock, thousands of on-line petitions were launched to save her from the death penalty. Although Kurami was eventually acquitted, Nigerian activists and lawyers working with the local group BAOBAB for Women's Rights had at three different times asked that the letters and petitions be stopped because they contained inaccurate information and portrayed Islam and Africa as barbaric and savage and thus might further endanger both Lawal and her local supporters. By contrast, other organizations that worked closely with BAOBAB, including Amnesty International, negotiated with Nigerian partners about how to organize the most effective intervention.

   Another problem that harks back to the era of slavery — the rescue paradigm — has come to the fore in Western efforts to end female genital cutting. African activists have portrayed some of these efforts, including Alice Walker's film Warrior Marks and her book, Possessing the Secret of Joy, as homogenizing all of Africa and portraying African women as the helpless and passive victims of oppression. Filmmaker Salem Mekuria explained this critique: "Empowering feminist production ... should validate the humanity and dignity of the victims, depicting them as people who possess the potential to change the oppressive conditions that militate against their full realization ... the feminists' task, therefore, is to facilitate the empowerment process; not to take it over, or to dominate the victims' struggle."[42]

   These examples notwithstanding, during the past forty years African women have been in the forefront of shaping the projects and agendas of international women's movements and many ideas and practices that originated in Africa have spread elsewhere.[43] The African Training and Research Centre for Women became the first regional center in the world to work on articulating the role of women in international organizations, helping to facilitate women's participation in the UN conferences for women and formulating policies for women's economic and political empowerment.

   AAWORD, which was formed in response to the first UN Conference on Women in Mexico City and the 1976 conference on Women and Development at Wellesley College, critiqued what these women perceived as inaccurate assumptions of Western scholars and development practitioners and sought to counter outsiders' misrepresentations of African realities. They have also helped to shift the center of global feminism from Western countries to the global South.

   African women's contributions have been especially important in such issues as violence against women, peace and conflict resolution, concerns about the girl-child, resistance to female genital cutting, and women in politics. They have played active roles in both national and regional women's conferences, including such meetings as the UN Conference on Environment and Development, the Human Rights Conference in Vienna, and the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo. The All-African Women's Conference was the only regional organization involved in drafting the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

   In addition, Tripp argues that many ideas that have been central to women's national organizing came from African examples — including Women's World Banking (based on a formalization of local women's rotating credit associations), promoting the rights of the girl child, and insuring that women's organizations kept focus on the broader context for women's rights in such oppressive situations as apartheid South Africa. African women also have led the way in advocating for gender-balanced parliamentary bodies and adopting gender budgets that analyze and clarify the gender implications of national spending. They were instrumental in advocating for the UN Security Council Resolution passed in 2000 to insure women's inclusion in peace negotiations and their protection from sexual assault in civil conflicts and have been in the forefront of discussions on the tensions between cultural rights and women's human rights. These issues, relevant globally, include not only female genital cutting, but also women's inheritance rights, polygamy, and child marriage.

   Thus, just as African independence from colonial domination from the late 1950s onward launched new African nations onto the world stage, African women, already active in local, and to a lesser extent, regional organizations became vocal and engaged in shaping, transforming, and leading new movements for women's empowerment. With added impetus from UN programs, particularly the UN Decade for Women and the 1985 Conference in Nairobi, African women have emerged as key leaders in regional and transnational efforts to address the political, economic, social and environmental challenges of the twenty-first century and to confront the remnants of colonial attitudes that continue at times to portray them (and other women in the global South) as helpless victims in need of rescue by outsiders.[44]



[1] Wangari Muta Maathai, Unbowed: A Memoir (New York: Anchor Books, 2007), p. 125.

[2] WIDF Constitution, quoted in Cheryl Johnson-Odim and Nina Emma Mba, For Women and the Nation: Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti of Nigeria (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1997), p. 137.

[3] Karen Offen, "How (and Why) the Analogy of Marriage with Slavery Provided the Springboard for Women's Rights Demands in France, 1640-1848"; Bonnie S. Anderson "Frauenemancipation and Beyond: the Use of the Concept of Emancipation by Early European Feminists"; and Claire Midgley, "British Abolition and Feminism in Transatlantic Perspective," all in Kathryn Kish Sklar and James Brewer Stewart, eds., Women's Rights and Transatlantic Antislavery in the Era of Emancipation (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007).

[4] Report of the Fourth Conference of the International Woman Suffrage Alliance, Amsterdam, Holland, 1908, by the International Woman Suffrage Alliance, Amsterdam: F. Van Roosen, 1908.

[5] Julia C. Wells, We Now Demand! The History of Women's Resistance to Pass Laws in South Africa (Johannesburg: Witwatersrand University Press, 1993), p. 42.

[6] See Associated Country Women of the World, Proceedings of the 1936 Conference, Washington, May 36-June 11, 1936, p. 28-31.

[7] This phrase and the material in this section come from Leila J. Rupp, "Challenging Imperialism in International Women's Organizations, 1888-1945," NWSA Journal, 8, No. 1 (Spring 1996), 8-27.

[8] Quoted in Gertrude Bussey and Margaret Tims, Pioneers for Peace: Women's International League for Peace and Freedom 1915-1965 (London: WILPF British Section, 1980), p. 134. (lst ed. 1965).

[9] Rupp, "Challenging Imperialism," p. 16, quoting from Minutes, WILPF Ninth World Congress, Luhacovice, 27-31 July 1937, WILPF papers, reel 21.

[10] Rupp, "Challenging Imperialism," p. 17, citing an article in Jus Suffragii, 18:6 (March 1924).

[11] Ester Boserup, Woman's Role in Economic Development (New York: St. Martin's Press), 1970.

[12] This section comes from Johnson-Odim and Mba, For Women and the Nation, pp. 137-51. She was also involved, though to a lesser extent, in the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom.

[13] Published by WILPF in 1954.

[14] That They May Live, p. 22.

[15] That They May Live, p. 21.

[16] Johnson-Odim and Mba, For Women and the Nation, p. 150.

[17] Interview with Margaret Kenyatta in Margaret C. Snyder and Mary Tadesse, African Women in Development: A History, (London: Zed Books, 1995), p. 26 and additional information on this period, pp. 28-29.

[18] Snyder and Tadesse, African Women, p. 28-29, quoting Report of the Kenya Women's Seminar, Nairobi, 1962, p. 18-19.

[19] These initiatives are detailed in Snyder and Tadesse, African Women, pp. 29-35.

[20] Published in Addis Ababa in 1976.

[21] These figures come from ECA, "Women: the Neglected Human Resource for African Development," Canadian Journal of African Studies, 6, no. 2 (1972), 359-70, cited in Snyder and Tadesse, African Women, p. 31.

[22] Women's Africa Committee, Ten Years of the Women's Africa Committee, 1969.

[23] Ten Years.

[24] Ten Years.

[25] National groups and their international affiliations are listed in Contemporary African Women: An Introductory Bibliographical Overview and a Guide to Women's Organizations, 1960-1967.

[26] Margaret Snyder, "Unlikely Godmother: The UN and the Global Women's Movement," in Myra Marx Ferree and Aili Marie Tripp, eds., Global Feminism, Transnational Women's Activism, Organizing and Women's Rights (New York: NYU Press, 2006), p. 27.

[27]Boserup, Woman's Role.

[28] The quote comes from Amina Mama, "Critical Capacities: Facing the Challenges of Intellectual Development in Africa," Wolpe Lecture, University of Kwa/Zulu Natal, Durban, 23 June 2005, She gives credit to CODESRIA, the Committee for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa, as well as to AAWORD.

[29] Miria Obote, "Speech on International Women's Day," Uganda, 1984, in Amandia Lihamba, et al. Women Writing Africa: The Eastern Region (New York: The Feminist Press), 2007, p. 287.

[30] For full reports on the conference, see Mandana Hendessi, "Fourteen Thousand Women Meet: Report from Nairobi, July 1985," Feminist Review, 23 (June 1986), 147-56 and Nilüfer Çagatay, Caren Grown and Aida Santiago, "The Nairobi Women's Conference: Toward a Global Feminism?" Feminist Studies, 12, no 2 (Summer 1986), 401-12. Nita Barrow discusses preparation for the meeting in "The Non-Governmental Forum — Perspectives Nairobi '85,".

[31] Snyder and Tadesse, African Women, p. 167.

[32] See, for example, Forum 85, July 17, July 24 and July 25. A full-page article on July 16 surveys the development prospects for African women. See Eunice Mathu, "African Women to the Year 2000.".

[33] Unless otherwise indicated, this section comes from Aili Marie Tripp, Isabel Casimiro, Joy Kwesiga and Alice Mungwa, African Women's Movements (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008), p. 63-107.

[34] See Associated Country Women of the World, Twenty-first Triennial Conference: Triennial Reports of the World of the Associated Country Women of the World, 1992-1995, p. 11-12. The group's UN Representative from Nairobi was now Wangari Maathai, although local East African groups were having difficulty paying their dues.

[35] For a fuller discussion of the group, see Dorothy L. Hodgson, "Women's Rights as Human Rights: Women in Law and Development in Africa (WiLDAF), Africa Today, 49, No. 2 (Summer 2002), 3-36.

[36] Tripp, et al., African Women's Movements, pp. 63-67.

[37] Tripp, et al., African Women's Movements, pp. 67, 69-71.

[38] Tripp, et al., African Women's Movements, pp. 202-05.

[39] Tripp, et al. African Women's Movements, p. 204.

[40] Aili Mari Tripp, "Challenges in Transnational Feminist Mobilization," in Feree and Tripp, Global Feminism, p. 296.

[41] These examples come from Tripp, "Transnational Feminist Mobilization," pp. 298-99 and 302-03.

[42] Salem Mekuria, "Female Genital Mutilation in Africa: Some African Views," ACAS Bulletin, 44/45, 1995, pp. 1-5, quoted in Tripp, "Transnational Feminist Mobilization," p. 303.

[43] This section is based on Tripp, et al., African Women's Movements, pp. 217-29.

[44] For a cogent example of such attitudes, see Kathleen Sheldon's review of Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, (New York: Knopf, 2009), in CIHA Blog,, accessed July 13, 2012.