LIVE! from South Africa: Blog Entry 1

November 1, 2008: Cape Town Bound for the AWID International Forum

For two weeks in November 2008, Women, Power and Politics Curator Masum Momaya blogged from Cape Town, South Africa, where she met with hundreds of women artists, activists and advocates from all over the world. Follow her reflections during the trip and check out videos and audio from the Feminist Technology Exchange and AWID International Forum.
One of the plenaries from the 2005 AWID International Forum in Bangkok, Thailand. Every three years, 2000+ activists, advocates and scholars from around the world gather to share strategies and build movements to ensure women View Larger >


The AWID International Forum takes place in a different part of the world each time it is held. This allows for much local and regional participation. Here, Thai women speak in a special session to highlight the status of women in their country and Southeast Asia.View Larger >


Sharing cultural artifacts and media used in rights is an important part of the Forum. View Larger >


At the AWID Forum in Bangkok, part of movement building took place at 6am on the banks of the Chao Phraya. I (on the far left) woke up early each morning to teach a group of participants "Feminist Yoga." Most of us did not speak a common language and relied on imitation to communicate. International organizing at its best! View Larger >


Danie van der Merwe
When Gandhi was thrown out of the first class compartment of a train in South Africa in 1893, seeds of movements for nonviolent resistance were sown. View Larger >

Starting next week, I will be blogging from Cape Town, South Africa as I attend two events on behalf of the International Museum of Women. First, I will be part of a retreat called the Feminist Technology Exchange (FTX) in which NGOs from around the world who uses technology to advance women’s rights will gather to share strategies about how to use the internet, radio, cell phones and web 2.0 technologies to raise awareness about women’s issues and build social change movements. The FTX will be the first of its kind so it’s very exciting! 

The organizers of the retreat, the Association for Progressive Communications, have a fabulous initiative called Take Back the Tech, which aims to put technology in the hands of people, not the media conglomerates who dominate (and increasingly own) the airwaves and broadband. We at IMOW are honored to embrace the spirit of and be part of the movement for internet democracy.

Then, from November 14-18, I will attend the an International Forum put on by the Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID), where 2000 activists, advocates and scholars from around the world will gather to share the most current thinking and strategies employed by women’s movements worldwide. I have attended two previous AWID International Forums, in Guadalajara, Mexico in 2002 and in Bangkok, Thailand in 2005, and I know of no better space to think and connect. I’ve posted some photographs from the Forum in Bangkok so you can see what it’s like.

In addition to photographs, I will also post some video and audio files as well as some links to others blogging from the 2008 Forum so you can be part of the proceedings.

This month (November 2008), in our Women, Power and Politics online exhibition, we are bringing you a focus on Women’s International Organizing, and I’m blogging so that you can see and feel what this actually is like. Please feel to post questions for me using the "submit a comment" feature below, and I’ll do my best to respond.

On a personal note, I am particularly excited to go to South Africa as it’s the birthplace of the first social movement that I, as a member of the Indian diaspora ever learned about – the movement for India’s independence. Twenty-six years ago, when I was just five years old, I watched the film Gandhi. In the film, the main character, the future Indian independence leader, was kicked off of the first-class compartment of the train by British officials in South Africa while traveling there as a young attorney because he was Indian.

That moment was a turning point for him, in which he was treated as less than human, and it seeded India’s movement for self-determination and self-rule. Watching this scene gave birth to my own commitment to social justice and my passion for doing my part to ensure that women and other oppressed groups are treated as human. This photograph of the train posted here reminded me of that scene and my connection to a place that I will visit for the first time next week! What a beautiful landscape, huh?

Thanks for reading my first post – and “see” you in Cape Town!

Until next time,

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