International Handbooks on Gender series
Edited by Jill Steans and Daniela Tepe
Chapter 23: NGOs, feminist activism and human rights
When members of the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 1325, “Women, Peace and Security,” at the end of October 2000, acknowledging for the first time the disproportionate impact of war and conflict on women (United Nations, 2000), it almost seemed as if women organizing at the international level had come full circle. A century earlier in 1915 women’s organizations mostly from around Europe and North America had also rallied around the issues of peace and security. Prompted then by the outbreak of World War I, however, women from both neutral and belligerent countries organized the First International Women’s Congress in The Hague, from which a series of proposals emerged for how to bring about world peace. While security figured in subsequent issue campaigns on occasion throughout the following decades, it took until the present for the role of gender to be recognized by states in this policy domain. Granted, the ways in which women organize today and interact with international institutions have changed significantly and in many ways. Nevertheless, we still can detect similarities between the present and the past, including that today just as back then it often takes favorable political opportunity structures, mobilizing resources as well as strategic frames, to gain access to particular policy domains and international governmental organizations where problems as well as likely solutions are discussed. This chapter provides an overview, albeit brief, of feminist organizing at the international level throughout time, highlighting what have been key issues and debates, continuities and breaks.
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