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Globalizing women
Excerpt from new book


Valentine M. Moghadam
September 26, 2005

Preface: Valentine M. Moghadam's "Globalizing Women: Transnational Feminist Networks" (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005). Dr. Moghadam joined UNESCO in May 2004 as Gender Equality and Development Section chief. Until June 2005 she was Director of Women's Studies and Professor of Sociology at Illinois State University. Also see Chapter One.

This book examines globalization as a gendered process, which means that I draw attention to the role of female labor in the global economy, the gender implications of the changing nature of the state in an era of globalization, and new forms of women’s organizing and mobilizing.

In particular, I analyze transnational feminist networks (TFNs), their relationship to globalization processes, their responses to such features of globalization as neoliberal capitalism and patriarchal fundamentalism, the ways that they engage with public policy at the national and international levels to accomplish their goals, and their organizational dynamics.

I seek to show that transnational feminist networks are the organizational expression of the transnational women’s movement and are guided by a set of emerging ideas and goals that may be referred to as global feminism.

Since 1985, transnational feminist networks have proliferated around a number of broad agendas or on specific issues and campaigns. For reasons that I explain in Chapter 1, I have chosen to focus on three TFNs that formed in opposition to structural adjustment and neoliberal economic policy, developing a feminist critique and an alternative feminist economics framework; and on three TFNs that promote women’s human rights in Muslim countries where fundamentalism emerged and the legal status of women became compromised.

As such, this book is about how “globalization-from-above” has engendered “globalization-from-below”, producing a dynamic and transnational women’s movement that has been confronting neoliberal capitalism and patriarchal fundamentalism.

In addition, I describe the weaknesses of feminist organizing, the financial constraints that transnational women’s organizations can face, and the dilemmas of professionalization. Although a number of feminist studies have appeared that emphasize the exploitative effects of globalization on women, in this book I also examine how “globalizing women” are responding to and resisting growing inequalities, the exploitation of female labor, and patriarchal fundamentalisms.

Research Methods and Plan of the Book
In preparing this book I used several qualitative research methods. In addition to a survey of the relevant secondary sources, I used the participant-observation method and gathered interview and documentary data. Some background information on the process leading up to this book may be helpful.

In the early 1990s, in my capacity as a senior researcher with the WIDER Institute of the United Nations University, I began to encounter, at various international and regional conferences and at UN expert group meetings, representatives of organizations that I later called transnational feminist networks.

At times, these women were representing their non-governmental organizations at preparatory meetings and at the major UN conferences; other times, they were presenting papers at expert groups meetings to which they (and I) had been invited. I became intrigued by their activities and decided to study them more closely. I began by observing their interactions with UN officials and members of governmental delegations, reading their literature, and holding informal conversations with them.

In 1995 I attended (and spoke at) an annual conference of one network, WIDE, in Brussels. The following year I published my first article on the subject, entitled “Feminist Networks North and South: DAWN, WIDE, and Women Living Under Muslim Laws”. At the 1997 annual meetings of the American Sociological Association, I helped to organize a panel that examined global feminism from a world-systems perspective, and three articles followed.  At that point I decided to write a book and began to more systematically collect interview and documentary data.

In the summer of 1998 I attended the annual conference of the Association of Women of the Mediterranean Region (AWMR); two years later I attended the annual meetings of WIDE and AWMR, and wrote a short article that compared and contrasted the meetings and networks. In the meantime, I conducted interviews in various locations with women associated with DAWN, WEDO, SIGI, and WLUML. This book draws heavily on the literature of transnational feminist networks, as well as on the interviews I have conducted over the years. 

The book begins in a conceptual vein and moves on to describe the feminist networks in more detail. Chapter 1 provides an introduction and overview to my argument. Chapter 2 surveys globalization studies and then maps out my own gendered account of globalization. Chapter 3 shows how female labor incorporation, growing inequalities, and regional crises led to increased unionization and transnational activism among women.

The focus of Chapter 4 is on the nature and characteristics of women’s organizations and the factors behind the emergence of transnational feminist networks in the mid-1980s. Chapters 5, 6, and 7 are more empirical accounts of the six case-study TFNs and describe the networks’ activities, organizational structures, strengths, and weaknesses. In Chapter 8 I summarize the argument and conclude with some reflections on the relationship between globalization and global feminism and the future of global governance.

This book would not have been possible without the support of two institutions, Illinois State University and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.  At Illinois State, I was centrally involved in two year-long seminar series on globalization (1997-98 and 2000-2001) that allowed me to test my ideas about globalization and the women’s movement, present my work in progress, and learn from the many speakers -- off-campus guests and ISU colleagues alike -- who similarly took part in the seminar series.

A University Research Grant that I was awarded allowed me to travel to Brussels and Cyprus in the summer of 2000 to attend the annual meetings of two transnational feminist networks, conduct interviews, and collect documents. During the academic year 2001-2002, a sabbatical leave enabled me to accept a fellowship at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, D.C., which provided the time, space, and resources that I needed to complete the final research and to write the first draft of the book manuscript. I thank the Woodrow Wilson Center for its stimulating environment and student intern Lisa Viscidi for her excellent research assistance and intellectual curiosity.

I also wish to thank various friends and colleagues who read and commented on draft chapters, and in particular Ann Sisson Runyan, Mahnaz Afkhami, Miriam Cooke, Marieme Helie-Lucas, and Brigitte Holzner for their cogent and generous comments. I am also grateful for very helpful suggestions by an anonymous external reviewer. Needless to add, the analysis and any errors are mine.

>>> Globalizing Women: Transnational Feminist Networks available from

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