The e-journal Contestations was launched in May 2010 with an issue examining the relationship between Islam and feminism, edited by Hania Sholkamy. The aim of the journal is to offer a space for lively disagreements on issues relating to women's empowerment.
In this we recognise that there have been heated debates amongst feminists in all the areas in which Pathways work - work, politics and sexuality - and that the concept of empowerment itself is contested. Contestations is inspired by a vision of deliberation that is about people feeling able to air their views, listen to a plurality of positioned responses and take from that what they will - without any pressure to arrive at a consensual conclusion. And it is, above all, about the freedom to dissent with any of the orthodoxies that exist in this field - and there are many - and take the opportunity to provoke others to think again about the things they take for granted.
Contestations has been very successful in sparking a lot of debate. The second issue on 'Sexual Pleasure Empowers Women!', edited by Susan Jolly, received over 250,000 hits on its translation into Chinese.
Islam and Feminism edited by Hania Sholkamy.
The instrumentalization of religion, and of Islam in particular, is worrying and problematic. The promotion of religion as a route to social justice may, in the short-term, succeed but, in the long term, will make religion the arbitrator of politics and of social change. In this article Hania examines the interactions between feminism and Islam and how women negotiate their identities between these.
See also Religion, Rights and Gender at the Crossroads, IDS Bulletin 42.1
Sexual Pleasure Empowers Women! edited by Susan Jolly.
Images of women as victims are rampant in gender and development. This is particularly the case in discussions of sexuality, where the world is portrayed as so fraught with danger, it seems almost impossible to imagine women enjoying themselves. This focus on the negative can be paralyzing – both in terms of ease with one’s own body, and in terms of mobilizing around women’s wants and desires. And such narratives dovetail with religious right agendas to protect women’s chastity. In this article, Susan Jolly argues that promoting pleasure is one part of how to get beyond victimhood, and can even help in addressing sexual violence.
Women's Empowerment: What do Men have to do with it? edited by Andrea Cornwall and Emily Esplen.
Representations of men as perpetrator and patriarch have profoundly shaped the terms of gender and development’s engagement with masculinities discourse and practice. Many of those working in the field have remained hesitant, tentative, often hostile to the notion that men might be potential allies in the struggle for gender justice. Even feminists broadly sympathetic to the principle of working with men tend to set out from the notion that all men everywhere are inherently part of the problem. And so efforts have focused on involving men, engaging men, inviting men in – usually on our terms. This is a women’s issue, we say, but there may be a little space for you here.
What is happening to Donor Support for Women's Rights? edited by Rosalind Eyben.
Human rights, including women’s rights are dropping off the donor agenda. ‘Give it another two years’, said a United Nations official off the record recently, ‘and they will have completely disappeared’.
Recent years have seen a marked shift in official development discourse, with less emphasis on a rights-based approach and more on an efficiency approach to gender equality. In this article Rosalind Eyben gives a call to action, asking for massive push back from women’s rights activists to make the space for social transformation that donor action risks shrinking.
See also Rosalind's website The Big Push Forward