Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Inauguration of 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence hosted by GaIDI Scholars

Inspired by Amnesty International's toolkit, palm impressions were organized at the event, symbolizing solidarity with those working against gender violence

At the Women’s Studies Research Center (WSRC), GaIDI Scholars hosted a synergy event inaugurating the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence at Brandeis University. The event titled “Gender Violence Knows no Boundaries” was coordinated by Rajashree Ghosh, WSRC Visiting Scholar. GaIDI’s efforts at collaboration with the Gender Working Group (GWG) at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management have reached very exciting proportions and this event is representative of that very effort.

Shulamit Reinharz, Director, WSRC Director addressed the huge gathering of students, faculty and Scholars and welcomed participants to the Center. Dr. Reinharz expressed serious concern about gender violence that it is all-pervasive and is a violation of basic human rights.

Kelley Ready, Associate Director of Academics Sustainable International Development (SID) Program at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management reiterated her keen interest in further collaborations with the WSRC. She also launched the Brandeis Gender and Development Forum Newsletter (B-GAD)and the first copies were presented to Shulamit Reinharz and Brenda McSweeney who is a Resident Scholar, WSRC and has had the honor of being part of the Heller faculty during the Fall semester.

Members of GWG presented a Poster Session, and Open Discussion event. Roberta Salper, WSRC, Visiting Scholar moderated the session. The presentations offered glimpses of countries around the world and their dealing with violence against women. Presentations were made by the following SID students:

Angélique K. Rwiyereka (MSc International Health and Policy and Management) focused on Rwanda and the issue to gender and violence in a conflict ridden country;

Diah Irawaty (MA, SID) spoke on domestic workers and their plight in Indonesia. Her slides and poster that traced the definitions of ground level activities with respect to domestic workers;

Nadia Behboodi (MA, SID) presented her slides on the severe acts of violence against women in Afghanistan;

Muqaddisa Mehreen (MA, SID), presented her slides on women from farms to convention halls with haunting music from Pakistan;

Stephen Lee (MA, SID) presented his slides and film clip on Indonesia and touched on aspects of gender, vulnerability and environment in Indonesia;

Shamila Daluwatte presented her slides on labor rights in Sri Lanka and has been involved with women's rights and activism and spoke about her prior work experience with the International labor Organization

Two local community groups viz., Refuge Education, Advocacy and Change or REACH ( and Kol Isha ( who work in the area of domestic violence participated in the event. Gladys Maida (REACH) and Elana Premack Sandler (Kol Isha) represented their respective organizations. Elana spoke on the “Clothes Line Project.” Gladys introduced to the gathering Detective David Mc Gann from the Waltham Police Department to speak on how law enforcement deals with domestic violence. A subsequent session of discussions and questions ensued.

For pictures taken by Rajashree Ghosh and Sanjeeta Negi, MA/ SID, please visit :

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Brenda Gael McSweeney Shares a Glimpse of Action-Research near Shantiniketan

Last month, Brenda gave a brief description of gender research initiated with colleagues in West Bengal, India, on their programs for self-reliant development. She first became involved in 1998 as the United Nations Development Programme representative providing support to Srihaswani, or “Creative manual skills for self-reliant development,” in West Bengal, India. This is the brainchild of development thinkers and activists Krishno and Chandana Dey and Shantum Seth.

This year the research of Brenda and Chandana with the latter’s Project Team focused on non-formal education. Brenda described some of the changes she had observed since she first visited the area.

A spate of progressive legislation has been enacted in India, ranging from 100 days of guaranteed work at the minimum wage in rural areas to mid-day school meal schemes, plus recent pace-setting provisions against domestic violence against women and child labor. It was fascinating for Chandana and Brenda to hear directly from women in the villages where different groups constitute the majority of the population – Hindu, Muslim and Santhal (tribal) – as to the actual impact of such measures at the grassroots level. Receiving “top marks” from the women was the employment guarantee scheme.

According to Chandana Dey, one of the most challenging issues that the villagers have been addressing with the Project Team is finding ways of getting children to attend school and other government-run programs such as the “Anganwadi” where mothers and children under six are given nutrition supplements. The women both forfeit work and face the dangers of travel with youngsters during the monsoon season. Hence the Team initiated pre-school activities right in the least advantaged neighborhoods. This approach tallies with UNESCO’s emphasis on the importance of early childhood education in its 2007 report monitoring global progress towards ‘Education for All.’

And once ‘hidden’ women were both visible and vocal, reflected in the snap above in a village outside of Shantiniketan, articulating their views on a range of development issues while attending an interactive gathering. Some of the women grew up in the same village where they later married. In their view, today, many things have improved including more access to education and work opportunities.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

GaIDI Scholars among Feminists who Changed America

GaIDI Scholars Ruth Nemzoff and Roberta Salper along with Paula Doress-Worters, have been included in the book, Feminists Who Changed America 1963-1975, edited by Barbara Love, with a foreword by Nancy F. Cott (Harvard historian). Just published by the University of Illinois Press, it is over 500 pages with 2000 biographies of feminists selected by an Advisory Board because of their significant contributions during this period.
Its publication was celebrated by an event sponsored by The Veteran Feminists of America and hosted by Judith Shapiro, President of Barnard College. Hundreds of women representing the broad political spectrum of the second wave women’s movement came to reflect on what they had done right and how they could continue to improve the world. Featured speakers included Gloria Steinam and Heather Booth and a tribute was paid to Ellen Willis, one of the founders of Redstockings, a radical group in 1970s in New York. Other memorable figures in attendance were Catherine MacKinnon, Kate Millet, Sheila Tobias, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Karen Decrow, and Catherine Stimpson. During the "rap session", it was striking to listen to many women, each working in the separate arenas which create the fabric of life (art, music, religion, health, politics, etc), recall what it took to change America: an abused woman thanked the group for the support she received that helped resolve her problems, a lesbian thanked the group for helping her imagine she could have children which indeed she did. Women talked of changes in the health care system, in religions. Discussions ensued on how no field has been left untouched by the 2nd wave feminists who indeed did change the world.
To say a bit more on each of the above WSRC Scholars, Paula Doress-Worters was a founder of the Boston Women's Health Collective in 1969 which wrote Our Bodies, Ourselves which has not only transformed American medicine, but has been translated in multiple languages. Paula was a contributor to all editions of Our Bodies, Ourselves, including Our Bodies, Ourselves for the New Century (1998), Ourselves Growing Older (1986, 1994) and Ourselves and Our Children (1978). She continues to serve on the founders committee and to publish in the field of health care and women.
Ruth Nemzoff started the women's movement in southern New Hampshire and a counseling service for women. Later she was the first woman to serve while pregnant in a regular session of the New Hampshire legislature where she sponsored legislation to open adoption records, and to give education to displaced homemakers. She rose to be assistant minority leader. She began the Equal Opportunity Office in The New Hampshire Department of Education and served as the first women deputy Commissioner of Health and welfare in that state and the first women on the New Hampshire Business Development Corporation and on the board of the Bank of New Hampshire. Later she was one of the founders of the National Women's Legislator's lobby.
Roberta Salper was the head of the first Women’s Studies Program in the United States at San Diego State University (then College) in 1970. As such, she was the first full-time faculty member hired in Women's Studies. Author of Female Liberation: History and Current Politics (Vintage, 1971), one of the first anthologies on the women's Movement, she was an early activist in the Women's Caucus of the New University Conference (1969), was a member of the first Committee on the Status of Women in the Profession of the Modern Language Association (1969) and was a principal founder of Women's Liberation in Pittsburgh (1968). As Assistant Professor and Assistant Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh, she both lobbied to create and taught the university's first women's studies course.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Louise Lopman's presentation: "Counted and Discounted: Murdered and Disappeared Women Women in Ciudad Juárez México”

Poster : Enough!

A presentation titled "Counted and Discounted: Murdered and Disappeared Women in Ciudad Juárez México” was made by Louise Levesque Lopman, Sociology and WSRC Resident Scholar on a panel (with Brandeis faculty members Silvia Arrom and Roxanne Davila), Portrayals of Mexican Women through Art, October 24, 2006. The panel was in conjunction with the WSRC Exhibit of Daniella Rossell’s provocative photographs, The Richness of Mexico, whose subjects are Mexican women from the one percent of the political, economic and social elite of Mexico City. The talk, which included a powerpoint presentation of photos, posters and paintings, was a drastic contrast to Rossell’s images.

The focus of the talk was on the hundreds of disappearances and the “feminicide/femicide” (femicidio), the brutal torture, rape, and murder with impunity of over 400 young poor Mexican women in the U.S.-Mexico border city of Juárez, Mexico since the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1993. Described by neo-liberal policy makers and U.S. multi-national investors as a “laboratory of modernization and globalization,” a “city of the future,” women of Juárez live in squalid slums, colonias populares, in “homes” constructed from wooden pallets and cardboard boxes discarded by the maquilas, with roofs of tarpaper and scraps of tin. There is no plumbing, electricity or sanitation and there is no clean drinking water.

One third of the women who were murdered had worked under abominable conditions for below-minimum wages in the maquiladoras - factories, mostly “sweatshops,” in duty-free export-processing zones where 90 percent of the electronic components and auto parts are manufactured and assembled for export to the U.S. An important objective of the talk was to humanize the discourse, to give a human face to the so-called “cheap labour,” and to the cultural, social, economic, and political vioence that maquila workers, and their families experience in their everyday lives. Also, it is a hope that the lives, disappearances and murders of the young women of Juárez will matter, so that they COUNT AND CANNOT BE DISCOUNTED.

For pictures used in the presentation, please visit:

Friday, November 10, 2006

Mary Oestereicher Hamill's presentation on the Vietnam Medical Project

Village woman in Vietnam
The Vietnam Medical Project is the current subject of Mary Oestereicher Hamill’s video installation art. Sponsored by the International Medical Options program at Stanford University Medical School Mary was part of a team of 20 persons who spent August 2006 in a remote rural village of QuangNam province delivering medical services. In the agricultural village, TraDong, typical housing had dirt floors and no clean running water or toilets.

The team converted a schoolhouse into a clinic (and their dormitory) and proceeded to care for 750 people who in most cases had never seen a doctor. As the sole non-medic, she carried out triage and photography. Mary enjoyed directing a grass roots informal project in which villagers photographed other villagers, culminating in the sewing of a 30 square foot banner with eighteen color photographs, now installed in the village’s cultural center.

For more pictures visit:

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Celebrating Women's Days around the World, Year round

Inspired by the United Nations International Days, GaIDI just launched a series of photographs celebrating women's causes around the world, year round. The seeds of this idea were sown by WSRC Director Shulamit Reinharz, while GaIDI's Founding Convener Brenda McSweeney along with Visiting Scholar Rajashree Ghosh and the support of GaIDI Members and photographer friends took the next steps. From the outset, it was proposed that the photo series represent Scholars' passions! A wall at the WSRC premises on the Brandeis University campus was designated for this purpose. GaIDI and other WSRC Scholars were then asked to choose an officially designated day that captures a cause that they feel strongly about and contribute a photograph (including a woman). Growing numbers of poignant photographs are appearing on the wall for viewing. Each contribution is captioned with the name of the photographer or artist, the International Day concerned, a short description of the compelling cause the photograph depicts, and the Scholar contact to facilitate an ongoing interaction on these global priority themes. To view some of the photographs submitted, do visit :

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Nick Danforth's presentation in Spring '06

An AIDs awareness worker in Zimbabwe showing truck drivers the correct way to use condoms
Photo courtesy: U.S. Agency for International Development
Nick Danforth led a PowerPoint discussion on how to improve the roles of men, particularly African men, in the sexual and reproductive health of women. In particular, he dissected the debate about ABC (or Abstinence, Be faithful and use Condoms) policies to encourage abstinence among youth, being faithful among couples, and condoms if not A or B. As part of his 20-year effort to design and evaluate programs to educate men about reproductive health, Nick described projects like the campaign of the Joint UN Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and other anti-AIDS organizations. Their goal is to complement prevention programs for women and girls with work that more directly involves men as well. "The time is ripe to start seeing men not as some kind of problem, but as part of the solution," declared a 2000 UNAIDS report. Nick's conclusions: A and B behaviors are crucial in determining HIV prevalence. All three ABC behavioral changes are optimal to affect HIV, but A and B must be there. Evidently A and B can be promoted through interventions resulting in partner reduction and delay of sexual debut. However, some people will always engage in high-risk sexual behavior, and so need condoms.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

GaIDI becomes a Committee as of June 20, 2006

As of June 20, 2006, our Gender and International Development Initiatives (GaIDI) work group was deemed a Committee. It is of great honor and privilege to us that the Steering Committee, chaired by the WSRC Director, Dr. Shulamit Reinharz has endorsed this decision. That GaIDI reached this rung in its ladder of success does not come as a complete surprise. Some of GaIDI’s achievements in its nascent yet fruitful year have been:
  1. The GaIDI blogspot has had phenomenal international reach. We have received comments and suggestions from diverse corners of the globe - Pakistan, Burkina Faso, United Kingdom
  2. A strategic partnership was established by GaIDI with the Gender Working Group/Sustainable International Development Program, Brandeis University’s Heller School for Social Policy and Management
  3. GaIDI Scholars played a key role the 16 Days of Action Against Gender Violence at Brandeis
  4. GaIDI Scholars continue creative research and outreach in locations as diverse as Cuba, Vietnam, Burkina Faso, India, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Bangladesh
  5. Success with diversity: bringing gender, geographic, generational and topical diversity to our gatherings

As a Committee, GaIDI’s plan involves:

1. Deepening and expanding our strategic relationship with the Gender Working Group at Heller and other Heller entities 2. Exploring and supporting gender mainstreaming at Brandeis 3. Boosting visibility of WSRC's international work 4. Continuing to support WSRC diversity initiatives

GaIDI will explore helping engender other Brandeis portfolios and courses, for example, with the Anthropology Department. The "mainstreaming" of gender across disciplines might be boosted using new approaches and with fresh impetus. GaIDI's partnership with Brandeis will be further enhanced. The Committee will seek beneficial relationships with other Waltham entities such as independent film makers at Moody Street, like-minded private entrepreneurs, professionals and NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations).

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Brenda Gael McSweeney and Jen Frisanco's presentation on Burkina Faso

A presentation titled "A Gender Case Study in Progress: Whither Women's Education in Burkina Faso?!" was made by Brenda Gael McSweeney, Visiting Scholar, WSRC and Jennifer Frisanco of the Student Scholar Partnership on 16 March 2006. Adapting the Harvard Business School case methodology to the development scene and through a gender lens, this research highlighted women's literacy and girls' education in Burkina Faso. More specifically the Case Study focused on the legacy of a pilot Women's Education Project launched by the Government and UNESCO in the 70s, led by charismatic National Coordinator Scholastique Kompaoré. Since then Brenda Gael McSweeney led numerous United Nations missions to Burkina Faso, and a team field trip undertaken with Mrs. Kompaoré in November-December 2005 was WSRC-related.

Going back, the need for the Women's Education Project came from within the communities and key actors who till date remain active participants and agents of change. After taking in basic impressions and conducting initial studies, the community members and local sociologists decided that to reach women, it would be crucial to reduce their workloads. Women spent their time hauling water, fetching wood, pounding millet and looking after infants and had just over an hour of free time each day.

Given the dire situation of women's literacy and girls' education in the country, this Project introduced workload-lightening technologies. Water pumps eliminated the need for women and girls to plod miles for water, millet grinding mills replaced tedious hand grinding, and donkey carts substituted for hauling heavy loads on their heads. Functional literacy activities conveyed health advice and tips on hygiene, such as how to filter swamp water that dramatically lowered infant mortality.

Mobilizing women's groups was one of the Project's main activities and once formed they boosted women's confidence, knowledge and group solidarity. A new and inspiring change in the community occurred, with women forging ahead, initiating action and recognizing the power of their own voices. Slides showed women today openly discussing sensitive issues in front of large audiences and deciding on community priorities. These women for example vocally condemned Female Genital Mutilation that has effectively been rendered illegal in the country since 1996.

Today the Government of Burkina invests over 22% of the national budget into education, well above the all-Africa average. While female literacy remains low at around nine percent, girls' enrollment and completion rates in primary school nearly match those of boys. The population in the tiny village of Boala is proud to broadcast that girls attend school alongside boys, and that in all but one grade girls are at the top of their classes.

For pictures taken by Brenda Gael McSweeney and Stan Freedman-Gurspan, please visit:

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Geobodies Panel: Global Women: Taking Action

Mei Mei Ellerman and Louise Lopman (Photograph: Courtesy Carolyn Chyu) In the last week of January 2006, the event organized at WSRC premises on global women taking action had presenters such as Louise Lopman and Mei Mei Ellermen. Pam Allara from Fine Arts, Brandeis University hosted the event. Louise Lopman who is also a Resident Scholar at WSRC presented her talk on "Standing in the Face of Corporate Globalization: Women Maquila (Sweatshop) Workers in El Salvador." As a qualitative feminist sociologist, Louise Levesque Lopman's research explores the subjective lived-experience from the perspective of women who work in the maquilas (sweatshops) in the Free Trade Zones in El Salvador. Her talk was based on her interviews and observations in El Salvador and extensive library research on how women’s experiences are impacted by the demands and power relations of (corporate) neoliberal globalization (trade liberalization, investment, privatization and “free” trade agreements), the multinational financial institutions (World Bank and International Monetary Fund) and the trade rules of the World Trade Organization. She also addressed the Salvadoran women’s organized resistance to the neoliberal global economic model and the creation of an “alternative for the Americas” that values human rights over corporate profits. Presented below is a striking note from Louise on “Voices” from the Maquilas At age 23, Marta Diaz, like most women who work in the Maquilas, is not married and must work to support her family. Marta was forced to leave the countryside because of the demise of the family farm. She completed the first grade. She has worked for four year trimming the final lace stitching on Bali bras. She lives with another worker in a small room, five days a week. Marta: The room is small, dark and crowded. There is no electricity. We share an outdoor sink and an outdoor toilet with many other workers. I work 9 to 11 hours a day. On the weekends that I do not work overtime, I go home to be with my sob, my parents, a cousin and two sisters. But most of the time I have to work overtime on Saturdays, for overtime or to try to meet the quota which I hardly ever make because it always changes-higher and higher. Lidia Santos is a 21-year-old single mother who completed the fifth grade. She helps support her two children and her parents by sewing Liz Clairborne jackets. Lidia: Workers are allowed to enter and leave the maquilas only when the guards unlock the gate – at the beginning of the work shift, at lunch, and when our shift ends. Once I was late returning from lunch and the gate was locked. I pleaded with the guard to let me in. he just laughed, and I lost a whole day’s pay. Maria Suarez had difficulties adjusting to the routines and rules of the supervisors and managers. She is 15 and has only worked for six months, and is afraid she will not last in this job. If she loses her job, she will not be able to help support her mother and younger sister. Maria: I get very nervous and cry when the supervisor yells and hits me because I make so many mistakes. I get sick to my stomach and vomit into my hands so they will not see me and fire me. I don’t know what I will do if I get fired. There is no other work in my area. Anita Quitero used to a slow worker but she responded to “incentives” and each day comes very close to meeting the quota. Anita: When I first started working in the maquila the supervisors used to scream at me: “You stupid turtle! I will see you out in the street before you know it.” He hit me, and kicked me, and called me other very bad names. I started off as the last worker on line 3, a “turtle”, and I have worked my way up to the first worker on line 1, a “rabbit.” But there is a lot of pressure and I have severe headaches and difficulty sleeping. Mei Mei Ellerman, Resident Scholar at WSRC presented her paper ,"An Introduction to the World of Sex Trafficking." She gave an overview of the world ‘s third largest and fastest growing criminal industry, human trafficking, for the purposes of labor and commercial sexual exploitation. She emphasized that globalization and the relentless demand of today’s worldwide consumers victimize women and children to an alarming degree. Despite stringent national and international protocols to prevent and punish human trafficking, especially of women and children, Ellerman stated that today, 27 million people live in slavery-like conditions across the globe. She gave detailed definitions of what constitutes modern-day slavery, who the traffickers are and how they lure, coerce and hold their victims prisoners: through threats, extreme physical and psychological violence, debt bondage and varying forms of addiction. Ellerman offered some hope by describing the work of grassroots anti-trafficking organizations such as Polaris Project, an NGO founded in 2002 by two Brown graduates, one of them being her son. Recipient of numerous awards, including the Ashoka and Do Something Brick award, Polaris has become a leading force in the battle to cripple the trafficking industry. Its comprehensive top/down-bottom/up model, based on direct outreach and intervention, client services, policy advocacy, and movement building, has already produced impressive results, affecting hundreds of lives of US-born citizens and foreign nationals, both in our country and abroad.
Encouraging each and every member of the audience to hold the images and stories of the victims and survivors recounted in their own words, Ellerman urged the audience to take action and join in the fight against the scourge of human trafficking.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

International Zero Tolerance to FGM Day by Tobe Levin

FORWARD our girls
Dr. Tobe Levin, Chair, Foundation for Women's Health Research and Development (FORWARD - Germany) rendered a most insightful talk on female genital mutilation (FGM) at WSRC on February 6, 2006. She spoke as representative of a registered charity whose officers have come to Germany primarily from Somalia. FGM, a complex custom not easily understood by outsiders, is rationalized in many ways. Mistakenly thought to be a religious prerequisite, it is practiced in conjunction with beliefs in family honor, to cement social inclusion, and even, in some cases, to enhance sexual pleasure. According to World Health Organization estimates, about 132 million girls have been subjected to FGM. Most live in African countries or in several practicing cultures in the Middle East and Asia. The present-day African diaspora has exported the tradition to Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand. Tobe mentions that ‘not only is FGM normal to those whose ethnicity mandates it as a condition of gender identity and group membership but the result is, where infibulation is concerned, beauty and cleanliness which in turn give the girls a sense of fulfillment, as they have longed for the “event”, that is, to change status and become “women”.’ Depending on the degree of mutilation, FGM can have several short and long term effects such as shock, hemorrhaging, severe uterus and vaginal infections, complications in pregnancy and childbirth, psychological damage and even death. The Inter-African Committee (IAC), an umbrella for 28 national groups, of which 26 are in Africa, voiced their strong concerns and explicitly opposed efforts of countries like the United States to substitute the so-called neutral terms "cutting" or "surgery" for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) when addressing a broad Western audience including opinion- and policy-makers, in order to emphasize the medically unnecessary amputation or maiming of the female organs. For this reason, in 2003, Berhane Ras-Work, IAC president, launched International Zero Tolerance to FGM Day marked by awareness-raising activities on February 6 each year. FORWARD – Germany is an international non-governmental organization that promotes action to stop harmful traditional practices such as FGM and early and forced marriages, which violate the human rights of women and girls and adversely affect their health and well-being. The primary objective is elimination of FGM. It advocates remedial policies be adopted in those countries where harmful traditional practices (such as FGM) have a strongly negative impact on health, including child mortality and reproductive morbidity. Internationally, FORWARD's activities are primarily focused on programmes in Somalia and Ethiopia, working in partnership with local grassroots groups supporting African women's health and economic development. The organization therefore takes a holistic approach to combating FGM and urges changes in health care, education and economic development (income generation). FORWARD-Germany, for instance, continues its efforts to curb FGM with several concrete projects, among them a sponsorship program for Somali girls. School fees are paid in exchange for parental promises not to infibulate. It also sponsors a traveling exhibition of paintings by Nigerian artists devoted to raising awareness and sensitivity toward the topic. View some of the work by the artists at
For more information on FORWARD's efforts visit their website .

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Muqaddisa Mehreen's presentation: Gender and Violence in Pakistan

"Ajrak"- textile print typical to the Sindh region of Pakistan Muqaddisa Mehreen from the Heller School for Social Policy and Management, Brandeis University, made a presentation in January ' 06 on Gender and Violence in Pakistan. She focused on the social role of women in South Asia in general and Pakistan in particular. Some visuals were presented that depicted ruthless acts of violence perpetrated against women as also those of women in places of work, from the farms to convention halls. She pointed out that acts of violence commonly known as "honor killings" are culturally propagated in certain regions. The failing support systems for women render their position as those who have brought shame on their families. Prevailing customs like Karo (literally a black man) Kari (literally a black woman) in the Sindh region were sometimes used to end an act of defiance, with the sanction of the communities involved. Please visit the following URL to view some of the slides presented by Muqaddisa.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Louise Lopman's paper on the role of "Gender and International Development"

Under bright lights and intense heat and at a rapid pace to meet excessive quotas, women between the ages of 17 and 25 sew and assemble GAP T-shirts for export to the U.S. for 60 cents an hour, less than one third of the living wage required to provide for a family.
Louise Lopman presented her paper on the role of gender and international development among the women who work in the maquilas (“sweatshops”) in the Free Trade Zones in El Salvador. These women sew and assemble apparel for duty-free export, mostly to U.S. manufacturers. Using phenomenological sociology as her theoretical approach, she focuses on how these women “experience” specifically corporate (neoliberal) globalization, in their every day lives. Louise points out that free trade and privatization represent a minimalist development agenda that does not incorporate or recognize the needs of women. The impact on the culturally acceptable gender roles in families with women entering the workforce and adding on to the surplus pool of workers is completely ignored. As an example she points out that there was no gender-impact assessment of how the free trade agreement, U.S.- Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA) would impact the lives and livelihood of women throughout the Americas, let alone in El Salvador – and there certainly were no provisions to improve the living conditions of citizens, both women and men, or to correct the serious human rights violations and abuses of workers’ rights. On a positive note Louise mentions that women and men in El Salvador have been mobilizing and taking action to create an alternative just economic system that recognizes people’s right to self-determination. For more pictures visit

Monday, January 30, 2006


Above: Channeling waste water Elinor W. Gadon’s paper titled, Development, Displacement and Gender Inequities, was presented on November 8, 2005. Locating it in the state of Orissa, India, she traced the impact that “development” has on the lives of tribal women and men. Massive projects on irrigation, dams and mining have disrupted lives of the indigenous population of the region. The inherent imbalances that such investments impose on local communities completely uproot its members from their communites and many are being pushed into urban slum dwellings. The brunt of such “rehabilitation” efforts is borne by women. Devoid of their rights to agricultural land and its produce, women are reduced to working as daily wage labor, domestic help and even sex workers. Focusing on Salia Sahi, an urban slum in Bhubaneswar, Orissa, she presented a series of photographs taken by photographer Souvan Kumar, that vividly depict the struggles of displaced tribal women and men in spaces where they have been ostensibly rehabilitated. For some pictures visit:

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Those who comprise GaIDI

The GaIDI work group meets every month and Brenda Gael McSweeny is the group Convener. While new members are welcome to join, there are those members who have been part and parcel of GaIDI since its inception. They are: 1. Brimm, Linda 2. Danforth, Nicholas 3. Eini-Pindyck, Nurit 4. Ellerman, Mei-Mei Akwai 5. Gadon, Elinor 6. Geckler, Cheri 7. Graves, Florence George 8. Gullette, Margaret Morganroth 9. Hamill, Mary Oestereicher 10. Lopez, Maria 11. Lopman, Louise Levesque 12.McSweeney, Brenda Gael 13. Nemzoff, Ruth 14. Reinharz, Shulamit 15. Rosen, Ellen Israel GaIDI has affiliates and they are: 1. Ahmed, Fauzia 2. Fishbayn, Lisa 3. Rosenzweig, Rosie 4. Tyre, Marcie And GaIDI's Research Assistant is Rajashree Ghosh. This blog site is moderated by Brenda and Rajashree.

Special WSRC Events

WSRC Scholars’ research in Cuba (Feb./March ’06) – later potentially followed up by an Art Exhibit: Contemporary Cuban Artists – Life in Cuba for a Woman
Core Action Plan for Academic Year 2005-2006: 1. Liaise with the Sustainable International Development program/Gender Working Group of The Heller School on potential areas in which to boost WSRC collaboration and interaction with Students and Faculty on key issues of Gender and International Development: Fall 2005 - Spring 2006
2. Panel and Group Discussions and/or Installation/s on Critical Issues of Gender in International Development Programs, such as:
  • Trafficking
  • Women in Sweatshops
  • Impact of development on women revisited: how do women fare today?
  • Women's livelihoods – self-reliant development
  • Reproductive health – HIV/AIDS Fall 2005 - Spring 2006.

Friday, January 27, 2006

About Gender and International Development Initiatives (GaIDI)

Welcome to Gender and International Development Initiatives’ (GaIDI) virtual community! We trust that this blog will allow its participants and readers a visual, collaborative, and interactive space. More than a decade ago the Women’s Studies Research Center (WSRC) was established by Dr. Shulamit Reinharz, to build a self-governing community of feminist scholars-women and men-who would contribute to Brandeis University’s canvas while undertaking research and initiating thoughtful cross-disciplinary projects of the highest quality. Today this has developed into a community of researchers in the areas of humanities, social sciences, and art with particular relevance to gender. For more, do visit: Under WSRC’s Scholars Program umbrella, we launched the GaIDI with the idea of exploring various dimensions of Gender and International Development. Our goal is to help shape and implement activities in this International Development and Gender domain, plus networking and boosting visibility. Research, art and activism provide the base for our involvement in the so-called 'developing countries.’ Founding Convener: Brenda Gael McSweeney GaIDI blog Moderator: Rajashree Ghosh For any feedback please write to