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Title: MADRE An Ethnographic Study of Feminism, Social Change and Women's Human rights
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: Lindegren, Erica
Publisher: New College of Florida
Place of Publication: Sarasota, Fla.
Creation Date: 2011
Publication Date: 2011


Subjects / Keywords: Feminism
Women's Human Rights
Social Change
NGO (nongovernmental organization)
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation


Abstract: This thesis is an ethnographic exploration of how the staff members of one New York City-based nongovernmental organization, MADRE Inc., effect transnational social change. MADRE is a self-proclaimed women�s human rights organization that works with grassroots women�s organizations worldwide to provide �rights, resources, and results.� Using anthropological and feminist theoretical frameworks, I draw from interviews with staff members, observations from my internship experience, and research from MADRE and its partner organizations to analyze how MADRE serves as a conduit for social transformation through two partners in Sudan and Colombia. I examine how feminist goals have informed women's human rights, and why organizations influenced by feminism(s) still resist association with it. I conclude that a women�s human rights framework is a more useful model for MADRE�s endeavors because it appeals to a broader audience, but acknowledges how feminism and other global movements nuanced the direction the organization.
Statement of Responsibility: by Erica Lindegren
Thesis: Thesis (B.A.) -- New College of Florida, 2011
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The New College of Florida, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Local: Faculty Sponsor: Vesperi, Maria; Dean, Erin

Record Information

Source Institution: New College of Florida
Holding Location: New College of Florida
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: local - S.T. 2011 L74
System ID: NCFE004393:00001

Permanent Link:

Material Information

Title: MADRE An Ethnographic Study of Feminism, Social Change and Women's Human rights
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: Lindegren, Erica
Publisher: New College of Florida
Place of Publication: Sarasota, Fla.
Creation Date: 2011
Publication Date: 2011


Subjects / Keywords: Feminism
Women's Human Rights
Social Change
NGO (nongovernmental organization)
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation


Abstract: This thesis is an ethnographic exploration of how the staff members of one New York City-based nongovernmental organization, MADRE Inc., effect transnational social change. MADRE is a self-proclaimed women�s human rights organization that works with grassroots women�s organizations worldwide to provide �rights, resources, and results.� Using anthropological and feminist theoretical frameworks, I draw from interviews with staff members, observations from my internship experience, and research from MADRE and its partner organizations to analyze how MADRE serves as a conduit for social transformation through two partners in Sudan and Colombia. I examine how feminist goals have informed women's human rights, and why organizations influenced by feminism(s) still resist association with it. I conclude that a women�s human rights framework is a more useful model for MADRE�s endeavors because it appeals to a broader audience, but acknowledges how feminism and other global movements nuanced the direction the organization.
Statement of Responsibility: by Erica Lindegren
Thesis: Thesis (B.A.) -- New College of Florida, 2011
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The New College of Florida, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Local: Faculty Sponsor: Vesperi, Maria; Dean, Erin

Record Information

Source Institution: New College of Florida
Holding Location: New College of Florida
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: local - S.T. 2011 L74
System ID: NCFE004393:00001

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MADRE: AN ETHNOGRAPHIC STUDY OF FEMINISM, SOCIAL CH ANGE, AND WOMEN’S HUMAN RIGHTS BY ERICA LINDEGREN A Thesis Submitted to the Division of Social Sciences New College of Florida In partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Bachelor of Arts Under the Co-Sponsorship of Maria D. Vesperi and Er in Dean Sarasota, Florida April, 2011


iiDedication This thesis is dedicated to the defenders of people s’ rights who risk their lives daily to improve everyone’s quality of life and to all those who have struggled to leave the world a little bit better than they found it. May you have the strength to persevere, the courage to speak the truth, and wisdom to know when change is possible.


iiiAcknowledgements I owe many thanks to: The staff and interns of MADRE for their time and i nterest; without you, this thesis would not have be en possible My parents, John and Cecile, for always supporting my dreams and adventures, no matter how unattainabl e they may have seemed My co-sponsors and advisors, Erin Dean and Maria Ve speri, for their guidance, kindness, dedication, be lief in my intellectual capabilities, and for being wond erful co-sponsors. I appreciate the long hours you spent reading and editing my thesis. I hope to never make the mistake of using “they” instead of “it” again My committee members Uzi Baram and Amy Reid for the ir time, advice, and recommended readings The Anthro Lab and all of the people who sat at its table before me, with me, and after me, for provid ing comfort, inspiration, and late night solidarity The Four Winds Caf and 2010-11 Staff for providing me with delicious food, a dysfunctional family, so lid friendship and support, abundant hugs, dangerously comfortable couches, and the creature comforts necessary for sleep deprivation and academic excell ence My fellow thesis supports and friends: Cassie for keeping me grounded and rolling on the f loor with laughter Nicole for a shared sense of concern over the peril s of international development Christina for thesis solidarity and to Liz, the Ant hro Lab T.A.’s, for unlocking the door to late nigh t motivation Chelsea for being both my anchor and wandering spir it Jessica C. for always being able to put things into perspective We all made beautiful thesis babies My dance crew: Chrissy, Caitlin, Wendy, and Ariel f or always lifting my spirits as well as my feet. Chloe, Morgan, Mackenzie, Tess, Agne, Jessica W, Bo elang, Tacy, Stefanie, Sabina, Kate, Leah, Wilson, Johannah, Roxanne, Juliana, Maya, Alex, the 47th Street House, and all the rest of my beautiful fri ends whose names my sleep deprived synapses failed to in clude for inspiring me and supporting me through th e 4th year crunch The many fellow students who assisted with my trans criptions: thesis karma blessings Pandora Radio for musical genius and endless playli sts that kept my writing spirit alive and for finding the words when I could no t


iv Table of Contents Dedication………………………………………………………………………………...ii Acknowledgements…………………………………………………………………...…iii Table of Contents……………………………………………………………………..…iv Abstract…………………………………………………………………………………...v Acronyms……………………………………………………………………………… Introduction………………………………………………………………………………7 Chapter One: Framing Women’s Human Rights in Feminism ………………………...35 Chapter Two: Case Study 1: Sudan: Zenab for Women in Development ……...............54 Chapter Three: Case Study 2: Colombia: Taller de Vida ………………………………79 Conclusion……………………………………………………………………………..104 Works Cited………………..………………………………………………………..…113


vMADRE: AN ETHNOGRAPHIC STUDY OF FEMINISM, SOCIAL CHANGE, A ND WOMEN’S HUMAN RIGHTS Erica Lindegren New College of Florida, 2011 ABSTRACT This thesis is an ethnographic exploration of how t he staff members of one New York City-based nongovernmental organization, MADRE Inc. effect transnational social change. MADRE is a self-proclaimed women’s human rights org anization that works with grassroots women’s organizations worldwide to provide “rights, resources, and results.” Using anthropological and feminist theoretical frameworks I draw from interviews with staff members, observations from my internship experience, and res earch from MADRE and its partner organizations to analyze how MADRE serves as a cond uit for social transformation through two partners in Sudan and Colombia. I examine how femin ist goals have informed women's human rights, and why organizations influenced by feminis m(s) still resist association with it. I conclude that a women’s human rights framework is a more use ful model for MADRE’s endeavors because it appeals to a broader audience, but ackno wledges how feminism and other global movements nuanced the direction the organization. _____________________________________ Maria D. Vesperi _____________________________________ Erin Dean Division of Social Sciences


vi ACRONYMS AUC Auto-Defensas Unidas de Colombia CEDAW Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women ELN Ejrcito de Liberacin Nacional EU – European Union FAO – Food and Agricultural Organization of the Uni ted Nations FARC Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia FGM – Female Genital Mutilation FIMI – Foro Internacional de Mujeres Indgenas, als o known as the International Indigenous Women’s Forum (IIWF) GAD – Gender and Development ICCPR – International Covenant on Civil and Politic al Rights ICESCR International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights INGO – International Non-governmental Organization MDG – Millenium Development Goals NGO – Non-governmental Organization UNDP United Nations Development Programme VAW – Violence Against Women WFP – World Food Programme of the United Nations


7 INTRODUCTION MADRE: Friendship to Women’s Rights What motivates people to take action and demand ch ange on behalf of people in another country, on another continent? For the wome n’s organization studied in this thesis, the spark was acknowledging that people in United States “don’t realize the human impacts of what it means to go to war,” accor ding to Lena, the Media Coordinator. The roots of this realization began in 1983, when a group of women from Nicaragua’s national women’s association reached ou t to a small group women activists and artists from the United States. Perceiving a po tential alliance, the Nicaraguan women invited the American women to visit so they could w itness firsthand the effects of an undeclared war, perpetuated by right-wing militias funded by the U.S. government, on Nicaraguan women’s lives. The impact of this experi ence on the group of women from the U.S. was immense. They returned from Nicaragua with a newfound commitment to improve the lives of the women they had met and beg an to organize on their behalf. The result was the creation of a small grassroots-based nongovernmental organization named MADRE1 in tribute to the mothers of the Women’s Committee s of Nicaragua whose children were killed as a result of armed conflict with the Contras (MADRE: History 2011). MADRE is the actual name of the organization that I studied, but the real names of all of the staff members mentioned in this thesis have been changed to protect confidentiality.


8Participant-Observation as an Intern My initial connection to MADRE began as the Media a nd Communications Intern during January ISP of 2009. While this experience i nformed my research questions, I did not engage in ethnographic fieldwork during this ti me. My individual tasks included researching the campaigns and issues of other NGOs and progressive media outlets, doing background research for current events and MA DRE’s position on natural disasters, humanitarian aid, and American domestic and foreign policy, and compiling briefing papers on the International Violence Again st Women Act, the United Nations Human Rights Security Framework, and MADRE’s prior work on therapeutic abortion in Nicaragua. In the mornings our group did research a nd assignments according to our individual internship positions, and in the afterno ons we worked together on group projects. Along with two other students, I research ed and designed a comprehensive and accessible series of workshops that MADRE could use to present the organization to high school and college students. We created three diffe rent workshops around the three program areas of: Economic and Environmental Justic e, Women’s Health and Violence Against Women, and Peace Building. This was my firs t real research-based internship in college, and I loved the way it made me feel global ly connected. It made a deep impact on my perceptions of the possibilities for social c hange. The internship sparked my enthusiasm for MADRE as an organization, and when I began to brainstorm ideas for thesis topics, I kept returning to MADRE. In December of 2009, I decided to apply for an inte rnship with MADRE for the much coveted Program and Human Rights Advocacy Inte rn position. After five months of uncertainty as to whether I would have an intern ship or a thesis topic, I finally found


9out that I was one of three Program and Human Right s Advocacy Interns and that MADRE had consented to my thesis research. From Jun e 6 until August 9, 2010, I interned with MADRE Monday through Thursday from 10 :00 am until 6:00 pm and conducted thesis research throughout the week, comi ng in to do most of my interviews on Fridays. By the time I left, I had fifteen 20 to 60 minute interviews with staff, interns, and volunteers, and I had filled up a spiral bound note book with notes from meetings, interviews, observations, and reflections on my exp eriences at MADRE. If I had been able to spend more time in the field, I would have conducted multiple, shorter interviews with each staff member. I would also have liked to have been more consistent with the questions I had asked and inquire more into the bac kgrounds of staff members to gain a better understanding of their perspectives. Collaboratively Partnering with Women Worldwide MADRE is a self proclaimed woman-run, woman-led in ternational women’s human rights organization that promotes gra ssroots social change by partnering with local or regional “sister organizations” in de veloping countries. The organization targets U.S. policy as an instrument in a larger sy stem of hegemonic oppression and incorporates an analysis of U.S. policy into all as pects of its programming and initiatives. MADRE’s partners include community-based women’s or ganizations and local movements that share its commitment to social justi ce, gender-equitable policies, and progressive politics. MADRE’s model of social chang e consists of a broad array of institutional initiatives directed and filtered thr ough the work of its partner organizations. Its approach to addressing issues of social change was built upon the experiences of previous social movements, including the African Na tional Congress’s anti-Apartheid


10movement in South Africa, which identified the syst em of apartheid as its enemy rather than attacking racialized groups, such as white Sou th Africans (MADRE: History 2011). MADRE uses a grassroots-focused, bottom-up approach that incorporates local concerns into international discourses, thus enabling the lo cal to inform the global by recognizing locally produced knowledge as expert knowledge. Gra ssroots women’s groups “work to change the balance of power in favor of women and t heir families” in their local communities and regions through collaborative partn erships with MADRE through a wide variety of endeavors by building health clin ics, nutrition programs, domestic violence shelters, community radio stations, human rights training centers, literacy campaigns, and programs to promote human rights adv ocacy and women’s political participation (MADRE 2010). Since 1983, MADRE’s entire process of defining, fig hting for and applying human rights has been explicitly political and subj ective. MADRE’s founders recognized the affects of U.S. foreign policy and hegemony on the rest of the world, especially women and Indigenous Peoples. They began by campaig ning against the Reagan Administration’s support of the Contras in Nicaragu a and working domestically to combat the cutbacks in public programs, such as day care, health care, and economic inequalities. “We understood that our target was U. S. policy; not men, or the rich, or the people who voted for Reagan, but the policies and i nstitutions that perpetuated suffering. An understanding of the role of U.S. policies becam e crucial to every issue that MADRE addressed” (MADRE:History 2010). MADRE recognized t he potential of its position of power and privilege as a U.S.-based NGO to effect p ositive social change abroad. According to the historical background section of t he MADRE website: “They set out to


11build an organization that would respond to the nee ds of women and families threatened by U.S. foreign policy and give people in the Unite d States the means to demand alternatives to unjust policies” (MADRE:History 201 0). This history has been central to MADRE’s mission and goals ever since. Adrian, the E xecutive Director, elaborated: When I assumed the directorship of MADRE, MADRE was working principally in Central America. We were working in Nicaragua and El Salvad or with plans to expand to Guatemala. I agreed to come on as the director if we could go to the Middle East also, and everyone on the board gave me their full backing. And so we expande d. We changed the name [to MADRE, Incorporated], we changed the logo a little bit and we began to see ourselves and put ourselves forward as an international human rights organizati on rather than an organization that worked only in Central America. The friendship between women in Nicaragua and women in the United States grew gradually into a small nonprofit organization based in New York City, with more than 20 partner organizations in 16 countries in Central an d Latin America, the Middle East, Africa, and Southeast Asia. Spatial Capacity MADRE’s office was located on the third floor of a ten-story apartment building between the Manhattan districts of Chelsea and Midt own, an area teeming with the headquarters of nongovernmental organizations, busi nesses, and commerce transactions. The organization was conveniently located between s ubway stops on either the red, yellow, or green lines and within walking distance of a diverse array of coffee shops, convenience stores, and restaurants necessary for q uick lunch breaks, coffee runs, and afternoon errands. On MADRE’s street alone, a hot y oga studio, caf and frozen yogurt bar, world dance studio, liquor store, several bode gas, and numerous cheap imported clothing and accessory stores were juxtaposed with prominently displayed corporations or unmarked organizations in highand low-rise apa rtment buildings. A doorman and/or security desk personnel greeted people as they came through the door, sometimes


12retrieving and holding elevators for people they kn ew. A staircase was located to the left of the two elevators, and when it was not being ref inished and repainted, it was usually faster to get to the third floor than taking the el evator. There was another set of stairs and a larger, more precarious freight elevator located on the opposite side of the building; the elevator opened into a storage room with street acc ess for large shipments and equipment. MADRE frequently used this elevator for its Helping Hands shipments, donations, and other bulky equipment and packages. MADRE’s office was located in the left corner of the building facing the street, across from the fre ight elevator. A corridor with about two to three other business or organizational offices o n either side connected the freight elevator with the elevators to the lobby. In order to get into the office, all visitors and i nterns had to ring a buzzer that was usually answered by the nearest intern or staff mem ber. Each staff member had his or her own key to the door and people usually arrived betw een 9:30 and 10:30 in the morning. At first, all the new interns showed up at 9:30 am, as I did, but after several mornings of lining up along the corridor waiting for the first staff member to arrive to let us in, I started coming in around 9:45 or 10:00. The office atmosphere was generally relaxed about arrival and departure times as long as intern s finished their assigned tasks on time. Offices and workspaces were set up in semi-organize d chaos. There were nine official staff member offices and five areas set up for inte rn workspaces. Two of the offices were set aside for the Foro Internacional de Mujeres Ind genas (FIMI), also known as the International Indigenous Women’s Forum (IIWF). One office was used only on rare occasions when FIMI’s president was in the country and another primarily used by FIMI’s New York City-based intern.


13 Map of MADRE’s Office Space


14 All of the staff members shared office space with o ne other intern or staff member, except for Adrian, the Executive Director, Kara, th e Accountant, and Marie, the Helping Hands Coordinator whose “office” was located in the corner of the main entryway. Temporary workspaces of folding tables and laptops in the Shipping and Receiving Room helped to meet MADRE’s stretched thi n office space capacities. MADRE was constantly receiving shipments of donatio ns for Helping Hands projects, although the quantity ranged from one or two small packages of something like contact lens to several huge boxes filled with clothes, boo ks, or medical supplies. The boxes were piled up next to intern desks by the front door unt il Marie or one of her interns or volunteers could receive them and put them in the b ack room to be sorted. MADRE severely lacked storage space for all of the shipme nts and supplies they acquired, and received boxes waiting to be sorted or shipped over flowed into intern workspaces, Monica’s office, and any other nooks and crannies t hat could be found. MADRE kept hard copies of all organizational communications, r esearch, legal, and monetary documents, which were kept in different filing cabi nets by each staff member in their office, the merchandise storage room or in a cabine t outside of the office supplies room. Staff members had their own filing systems as well. The meeting room/kitchen formed the core of office interactions for staff meetings, meals, and social gatherings. Special projects and upcoming program focus areas were disc ussed and tasks were delineated during weekly staff meetings, which usually occurre d on Mondays before or after lunch. Sometimes staff meetings occurred later on in the w eek or happened twice a week,


15depending on whether the Executive Director or Poli cy and Communications Director was in the office and whether there were major even ts or programs to discuss. Staff Capacity The organizational structure of MADRE consisted of ten to twelve full-time staff, nine to twelve unpaid interns, and many volunteers. In the summer, MADRE was at maximum intern and volunteer workspace capacity. MA DRE was heavily dependent on interns and volunteers to take care of the organiza tion’s large volume of communication, research, translations, and other work. MADRE had v olunteers year round, and three different sessions of interns – fall, spring, and s ummer. Occasionally interns stayed on through multiple sessions throughout the year. Most of the interns came in four or five days a week for the whole day, although a few came in every other day or for half days. Volunteers usually either translated documents in F rench, Spanish, or occasionally Arabic in one of the intern workspaces or assisted with Helping Hands activities. MADRE had a hierarchical organizational structure c onsisting of a Board of Trustees, Executive Director, Policy and Communications Direc tor, Program Director, Development Coordinator, Media Coordinator/Intern C oordinator, Online Membership Coordinator, Helping Hands Coordinator, Development Assistant, Bookkeeper, and Human Rights Attorney. All staff members, except th e Executive Director and Policy and Communications Director, had at least one intern to help them with their work, and the Helping Hand Coordinator had a small army of intern s and volunteers. The staff was almost all women. While I was there, the only male was the Accounting Intern. In terms of ethnic and racial diversity, all but one of the staff members had been born in the United States, all were citizens, and only one was a native Spanish speaker. I know that at


16least three or four of the staff members spoke conv ersational Spanish, one spoke conversational French, and one spoke Hebrew. I am s ure there were other languages spoken that I was unaware of and most of the staff members had lived outside of the United States for a significant portion of time. I did not inquire about staff members’ sexual orientation because I did not want to make a ssumptions or unintentionally “out” anyone, but the majority of the staff referenced hu sbands, boyfriends, or ex-boyfriends, and this included the interns. Due to the small size of the office, staff members’ tasks were not always clearly delineated – there was a lot of overlap between pro jects, and the workload was divided in various capacities among staff members. Each staff member had seemingly infinite tasks, responsibilities, and duties that were not always p art of their initial job descriptions, and often overlapped with the responsibilities of other staff members. With these overlapping obligations came a sense of how each individual con tributed to the work of the larger whole. Staff members were often able to add their o wn personal insight and knowledge to projects but also had to negotiate among the intere sts of the Board of Trustees, Executive Director, MADRE’s mission and goals, funders, const ituents, and each of the partner organizations. Balancing staff capacity with extern al need was an issue that many NGOs struggle with, including MADRE, which had a staff t urnover rate of about three years. The longer-term staff members were more devoted to MADRE’s mission and the needs of its partner organizations because they had the m ost personal and direct connections to individuals within the partners. They were also abl e to travel transnationally to visit sister organizations, which further reinforced this connec tion. This staff hierarchy and partner loyalty increased internal office discord among fre quently overburdened staff, often


17prioritizing commitments of solidarity and accounta bility to external partners over the needs and capacity of internal staff. These issues had much to do with MADRE’s foundational structure as an informal “friendship o rganization,” where every woman was expected to be a Renaissance man. The founders had not intended for the group to transform into an NGO working across multiple conti nents that required a professional staff and growth plan. Staff Positions Adrian, the Executive Director, was in charge of ov erseeing program planning, development, fundraising, and implementation; super vising staff and making financial, programmatic, and legal decisions for MADRE and on behalf of its partners. She added that she was “on call 24/7, literally, because we w ork all over the world so phone calls could come in at any time of day or night.” Adrian was a seventy-year old woman who used her self-described “Brooklyn intercom” voice t o direct staff members into action. She spoke Spanish fluently and had been involved wi th MADRE from the very beginning of its relationship to women in Nicaragua. As a res ult, Adrian had deep loyalty to the organization’s Nicaraguan partners, reinforced thro ugh fictive kinship (familial ties not related by blood or marriage) – the founder of FIMI was her “daughter” and lived in Adrian’s Brooklyn apartment with two young children whom she considered her “grandbabies.” She had been a founding member of MA DRE’s Board of Trustees and Co-chair of the Board until 1990, when she left her job as the director of a public school music program in New York City to become MADRE’s Ex ecutive Director. She had been in the position for 20 years and was in the pr ocess of retiring to become MADRE’s Senior Advisor, a permanent position created to ass ist with the transition process and to


18ensure her continued participation after a proper r eplacement was found for Executive Director. Janet, the Communications Director, was responsible for all of MADRE’s communications and directly oversaw the work of the Media Coordinator, Development Coordinator, and Development Assistant. Adrian was frequently out of the office, and whenever the Executive Director was absent or unava ilable, Janet was second in command. She often ran the weekly staff meetings, s upervised employees, and made major financial, directional, and organizational de cisions. A woman in her late thirties, Janet spoke fluent Hebrew and had done human rights work in Jerusalem for seven years before joining MADRE in the late nineties as the Pu blic Education Coordinator. She described her relationship to MADRE as feeling at h ome immediately from the first day she met Adrian: “When I walked in the office I saw on the publications shelf…the very tiny English-language journal that I had been writi ng for and editing in Jerusalem…the world is a small place but it’s not that small.” Si nce then, she had worked in various staff capacities for MADRE. Carolina, the Program Director, unofficial third in command, worked to support sustainable programming initiatives and seemed to h ave a never-ending list of responsibilities. She was in charge of communicatio n between MADRE and partner organizations; updating Partner Program Profiles, i dentifying priorities for funding partner’s needs; retrieving updates, stories, and p ictures from partners for the storybank used for programming, fundraising, and media campai gns; distributing wire transfers to partners in need of immediate cash; visiting partne r organizations abroad to maintain personal connections, deliver supplies, and purchas e hand-made items to sell for partners


19on MADRE’s website. A woman in her early thirties, she was described by one staff member as the “heartbeat of the organization.” She had recently been promoted from Program Coordinator to Director, but her previous p osition had not been filled, so in addition to previous duties, she was supervising tw o to three interns at once without any permanent intermediary. As a result, she was consta ntly functioning at high stress levels due to overwhelming demands of being responsible fo r more than 22 partners and programs. Rita, the Human Rights Advocacy Director, was respo nsible for what she selfdescribed as “providing the advocacy component to t he direct service that we provide to our sister organizations in different countries: li stening to them on the ground in terms of what it is that they want to do, and then [mutually collaborating to create]…a strategy campaign to have their voices and concerns and issu es heard on the international level.” She focused on campaigns in Haiti and Colombia full -time, but was also responsible for supporting advocacy work in the countries of all of MADRE’s partner organizations. Rita was an attorney in her forties who had been with MA DRE less than a year and was in the middle of transitioning from a one-year fellowship program to the Human Rights Advocacy Director. She became involved with MADRE w hile in law school through an international project that overlapped with the orga nization’s work. The position had been empty for several years due to budget cuts, and the responsibilities had been stretched out through international campaigning using media and o nline advocacy programs. The position was vital to MADRE’s advocacy work because as one staff member explained, what was really needed was “cornering delegates out side the women’s bathroom [to read documents pertaining to MADRE’s constituency].”


20 Lena, the Media Coordinator, was in charge of adve rtising, storybanking, the Network of Experts, artist outreach, social media o utlets, such as the MyMADRE blog, twitter, and Myspace, and hiring and managing inter ns. A twenty-something graduate student in International Affairs who had worked in this position at MADRE for three years, she had previously worked on U.S.-Africa pol icy analysis and communications with a NGO in Washington D.C. In this prior positio n, she had also managed interns because it was a much smaller organization, and Adr ian assigned her this responsibility at MADRE when the staff member who had previously mana ged interns at MADRE left. Lena had started MADRE’s blog and had been tasked w ith expanding MADRE’s new media and social media presence, along with Marie a nd Andrea. She worked most closely with the Communications Director, but also communic ated regularly with the Program Director for partner updates and storybanking. MADR E had a private wiki where the Media Coordinator kept individual and personal stor ies from sister organizations that MADRE staff had collected to use for communications campaigns, and fundraising. Lena explained the importance of this task: We work on so many different issues [and because it is so broad and international], I think that it’s really valuable to be able to say…“let’s bring it d own to a really specific concrete level, so we’re not just talking about like international woman’s r ights,” because that can be hard for someone to like grab a hold of in their brains. But if you can say, “here is Yanar Mohammed and she’s our partner in Iraq. She’s the director of the Organiza tion of Women’s Freedom and she’s launched a human rights radio program. Here’s a quote from her [on] why she wants to launch a human rights radio program and here’s a clip from the radio”…mak ing it really immediate and concrete. The Media Coordinator was also responsible for the artist outreach component, a program that sought to engage prominent musicians, actors, directors, and other people involved in the arts with a political mindset in MA DRE’s campaigns, with origins stretching back to the artistic roots of MADRE’s fo unding members in the 1980s. The Network of Experts was a web of women, especially i n MADRE’s partner organizations,


21with expertise in a variety of fields relating to w omen’s human rights that created spaces for such issues in the media. It reflected MADRE’s location across multiple global movements and within a transnational network of wom en organizers, activists, and academics, as the Media Coordinator could call upon any of these experts to provide a woman’s perspective in current events. Emma, the Development Coordinator, was responsible for all of MADRE’s funding initiatives, including writing grants, comp osing proposals for foundations and large donors, finding, tracking, and thanking small and large contributors, and maintaining the donor database. A woman in her thir ties, she had worked in development at her previous job and entered MADRE as a grants a dministrator to do prospect research, adapt funding proposals, and other grant related work, becoming the Development Coordinator when the previous Developme nt Director left. Another graduate student in International Affairs, Emma dec ided to leave MADRE after working in this position for three years to focus on her di ssertation. In August, she was replaced by Lacey, a recent women’s studies college graduate in her early twenties with no prior development experience. Marie, the Helping Hands Coordinator, had at least eight separate categories within her job title: humanitarian aid manager, fro nt door receptionist, office manager, volunteer coordinator, personal assistant to the Ex ecutive Director, campus organizing coordinator, social networking, and event planning. Marie was an anthropology and public health college graduate in her early twentie s. After only a month as a Helping Hands intern coordinating humanitarian aid shipment s, Marie’s boss quit, and she has been the Helping Hands Coordinator ever since. Her initial responsibilities included


22Helping Hands campaigns, front door receptionist, o ffice manager, and volunteer coordinator. They gradually expanded into the other positions as the need arose and in reflection of her individual capabilities. For the Helping Hands campaigns, she was charged with trying to meet the immediate needs of partner organizations and working to locate food, water, supplies, and shelter for partn er constituents, often as a result of natural disasters and/or civil unrest. As front doo r receptionist and office manager, she answered the front door and the phone and kept trac k of all the daily needs of the office, such as office supplies, restocking the water coole r, and informing staff of meetings and upcoming events. As the volunteer coordinator, she recruited, interviewed, trained, and placed all volunteers in the office, in addition to managing her own helping hands interns. She recruited and organized individuals and student groups to raise awareness and create events for MADRE on college campuses, which happene d primarily through social media outreach on MADRE’s facebook page, which she was al so in charge of. At the end of the summer, she was replacing Madison as the Developmen t Assistant, but the job title was being changed to Membership Coordinator because MAD RE was switching Madison’s and Andrea’s positions around. Her position was bei ng filled by another Helping Hands intern, Alana, a woman in her twenties who had been with MADRE for five months. Madison, the Development Assistant, was tasked with direct mail fundraising appeals to donors, overseeing donations and funds a ssociated with individual giving or memberships, processing the checks and mail, writin g thank you notes to individual donors, sending money and wire transfers to partner s, managing the development data base, producing MADRE’s biannual newsletter, and ac ting as the liaison between the direct mail program and MADRE’s professional fundra ising consultant. She worked


23closest with the Development Coordinator, the Onlin e Membership Coordinator, and to a lesser extent with the Media Coordinator. Madison w as in her twenties, attending graduate school part-time, and had worked for MADRE for a year and half. In the beginning, she was essentially a clerical assistant managing the donations and direct mail solicitations. Eventually, Madison was given the di rect mail program. MADRE sent around 12 direct mail appeals a year, or one a mont h, and Madison was in charge of writing the copy, conducting background research, e diting, and finding photos for the mailings. Due to Madison’s prior background in jour nalism, she became more involved in writing, proofing, and editing public education pieces. She left MADRE at the end of the summer to pursue school full-time, and was repl aced by Marie. Andrea, the Online Membership Coordinator, maintain ed the website, managed online donations and MADRE’s webstore, distributed online appeals, wrote the enewsletter, maintained the membership database, and was responsible for MADRE’s presence on a few social networking sites change. org,, and Myspace. She worked most closely with the Media Coordinator and Development Assistant, but received updates and ideas from the Program Directo r and Development Coordinator. A woman in her mid twenties, Andrea had majored in An thropology and German Studies in college and had worked for MADRE for three years as the Internet Technology (IT) and website person. Andrea had started as an IT consult ant for MADRE, but when the prior person in her position left abruptly after she had been there a month and a half, she added Online Membership Coordinator to her IT responsibil ities. MADRE paid a professional company to design the template and manage website c ontent, and Andrea was in charge of all of the website material, such as pictures, i nformation, and updates. She translated


24information from MADRE’s direct mail, projects, and campaigns into website links and reframed it for emails. Another component of her wo rk was overseeing the webstore, which promoted cottage industries of MADRE’s partne rs. The Program Director purchased small items, such as jewelry and clothing directly from partner organizations during visits and brought the items back to MADRE’s office. Items were inventoried and stored on a shelf until they were purchased online and shipped to customers. Andrea was also leaving MADRE in August to pursue other opport unities. Intern Capacity Interns were usually informed of the staff meeting and were welcome to attend, but attendance was rarely mandatory. One of the sta ff members would drop by the intern workspaces and inform us that a meeting would be ha ppening in a few minutes. The Executive Director or Policy and Communications Dir ector ran the staff meeting, asked for agenda items, and tried to keep the meeting as succinct and on track as possible, doling out responsibilities and assigning deadlines however they saw fit. The way the staff meetings were coordinated and run reflected t he way that the Executive Director and Communications Director ran the organization – info rmal and demanding. The second time around, I felt fairly comfortable with MADRE a nd knew what to expect because of my prior experience working with them, However, mos t of the summer interns were new, with the exception of a couple of interns and volun teers who had worked with MADRE before or throughout the year. The interns mostly t alked and hung out with the other interns and volunteers during lunch hour and occasi onally after work. Many of my observations from interns were informed by hanging out with fellow interns exploring the city in our free time or grabbing dinner after work Lunch in the office was usually an


25unofficial social hour, especially among the younge r staff and interns. The length of lunch depended on impending priorities and who was in the office and business often slipped into the conversation. Some of the younger staff went out of their way to befriend us, regaling us with stories about their college ex periences, giving us advice, and answering our endless questions. They really made t he sometimes mundane office tasks much easier to deal with and made us feel welcome. The older staff members occasionally joined us for lunch or chatted with us but kept much more to themselves. I know that myself and many of the interns I talked t o were intimated, scared, and/or awed by the older staff members initially, and I think t his was the result of office dynamics that entailed minimal interaction between older staff an d interns. Although I found some of the staff to be more accessible than others, I was indebted to all of them for assisting me with my research and taking time out of their busy schedules, filled with priorities much bigger than my thesis research, to do interviews. Partnering Capacity As a result my position as the Program and Human Ri ghts Advocacy Intern and working with the Program Director, I received a lot of insight into how MADRE’s programs work, and the immense amount of communicat ion, thought, and coordination that goes into the programs of each partner organiz ation. The Executive Director, Policy and Communications Director, Human Rights Attorney, Program Director, and Media Coordinator traveled at least once a year to visit their partner organizations in person, creating personal face-to-face connections with the leaders and members of their partner organizations. They maintained continuous communica tion with each of their partner organizations, emailing, Skyping, or calling on at least a monthly basis, if not weekly or


26daily, depending on the situation. They also kept i n semi-regular contact with at least five to ten other organizations that they have worked wi th in the past or were considering working with in the future. There were constant requests from other outside or ganizations that wanted to partner with MADRE, but due to their already limite d capacity, the organization was very selective about which partners they could work with Lena clarified that it was important that partners have similarly aligned goals and valu es. “Our sister organizations are organizations that share…a vision of where we want the world to be. So there’s a level of trust that whatever they choose to do, we’re gonna be able to say, ‘Yeah, that also fits with our vision.’” Their decision to add their most recent partner, a women’s organization in Afghanistan, was due to their desire to include another geographic region (Southeast Asia) and respond to the negative impact of U.S. fo reign policy on women in Afghanistan. Carolina explained the role of MADRE’s interest in changing U.S. foreign policy in selecting partners: MADRE is a pretty political organization, so we cho ose our partners in countries that make sense for MADRE to be working [in]…because the U.S. has a responsibility [for how] things turn out in that country, for example in Afghanistan or in Iraq or because of structural trends [in the U.S. and worldwide]. For example, MADRE was very active duri ng the 80’s in Central America because of [U.S] funding. Now, we work in Kenya because of the IMF and World Bank impositions in those countries…In choosing the partners, it’s more like the partners choose us. From partner organizations, they most often receive d requests for monetary assistance to cover the costs of agricultural supplies, transport ation, food, equipment, medical supplies, and occasionally housing from their partner organiz ations. Carolina explained, “There are different levels of partnerships. Because sometimes you partner with an organization at the international level and facilitate their voices to be heard at the UN or in other venues, but sometimes…they need your help in developing the program[s]. For example, we


27support a shelter in Iraq [and] a radio project in Peru. What distinguishes MADRE is basically the…mutual trust that we have between the partners and MADRE.” While consciously choosing to work with women’s org anizations in countries negatively affected by U.S. Foreign Policy provided a focus for MADRE’s work, it also necessitated a way to describe to constituents exac tly how MADRE helped partners resist such hegemonic power. MADRE staff created a compreh ensive tagline to explain their work: “Demanding Rights, Resources, and Results for Women Worldwide,” that was prominently displayed on the organization’s website and published materials. To narrow the organization’s broad focus, the group categoriz ed its efforts into three “Program Areas”: Women’s Health/Combating Violence Against W omen (VAW), Peacebuilding, and Economic/Environmental Justice. MADRE identifie d its strategies for change in four divergent but overlapping ways: Meeting Immediate N eeds, Partnering for Social Change, Advocating for Human Rights, and Educating the Public.” Lena stated that these categories were deliberately broad, “When our sister organization, in any given context, comes to us and says, ‘We wanna move in th is direction,’ we can say, ‘That’s great. That still fits under our category.’ We want the work that we do, and the way that we conceptualize our work to be driven by our siste r organizations… And we’re not wedded to those categories either.” The key to MADR E’s approach to social change was that it did not tell partner organizations what to do, but listened, suggested, and advised. The Objective is Subjective In Roger Sanjek’s essay “On Ethnographic Validity,” (1990), he examines how fieldnotes are used to construct ethnography in ord er to demonstrate that there is an ethnographic method (italics author’s own). He beli eves that ethnographers should


28present in a language that strives for validity: “V alidity-rich ethnography must make explicit as many of both sorts of theoretical decis ions as possible by reporting when and why judgments of significance are made. Readers nee d to know the ‘theory of events’ with which the ethnographer structures the fieldwor k and the larger significant theories this relates to” (396). As part of my ethnographic method, I strive to validate my ethnographic research by being explicit about how m y own biases influenced my conclusions and about my research process. For this thesis, I created two separate sets of notes: one for my fieldnotes and one for my intervi ews. Fifteen of the interviews were coded and transcribed between August until March, b y either myself or students that volunteered or were paid to do so. My annotations w ere very much interview and participant observation-driven: Each set of notes h ad separate subheadings that had been selected because the topic had appeared multiple ti mes or seemed significant based on my interactions and interviews with office staff an d my observations during my internship. I ensured that that key interviews wit h MADRE staff that I interacted with the most – such as my supervisor and the Media Coordina tor, and then the Executive Director, Communications Director, and so on – were transcribed first. As a result, insights from these interviews were featured more p rominently in my thesis chapters because they were the most accessible. While I tried to be as objective as possible in my research, I believe that it is important to acknowledge that my conclusions were s ubjectively influenced by my own lived experiences and those of MADRE staff. As a s elf-identified feminist interning in an office full of many other self-identified femini sts, I was intrigued by the connection between women’s human rights and feminism. As a stu dent of anthropology, I think it is


29important to recognize my own positionality as a wh ite middle class American woman with a high level of education. Throughout high sch ool and college, I became increasingly aware of gender-based discrimination o n a local level and how my experience of sexism differed from other female-bod ied persons’ experiences across lines of race, ethnicity, class, gender-identity, sexual orientation, ability, and geographic location. My interest in social justice expanded in to the global arena and I became interested in organizations working across intersec tions of gender, class, ethnicity, and nationality. As an activist, I became disheartened by the intellectual apathy of many students. Needing an outlet and vocabulary to expla in how social change was possible, I turned to academia for answers, immersing myself in political science, anthropology, sociology, and gender studies. My own personal exp eriences as a feminist involved in social justice activism affected how I chose to con duct my research, what I observed, and the conclusions that I made. Distancing Development In “Beyond Development?” (2005) Katy Gardner, an an thropologist at the University of Sussex, and David Lewis, a professor of Social Policy and Development at the London School of Economics and Political Scienc e, propose that it is the responsibility of anthropology to produce ideas abo ut how to change development and support alternatives to it. They view the role of anthropologists as trained skeptics and mediators, able to navigate the complexities and nu ances of culture and “progress,” while also bridging the gap between the interests of deve lopment institutions and the people they are trying to “develop.” I was fascinated by g ender and development initiatives and the transformation of discourses from local to glob al and vice versa. When I began to


30consider thesis topics, I was intrigued by the pote ntial of non-governmental organizations to create social change, as institutions that did n ot have to be tied down by government or political interests and could address needs unmet b y governments. I had originally intended to study the relationship between praxis a nd theory and how feminist discourses, in this case women’s rights as human rights, were i nterpreted and utilized as tools for change from local to global and global to local in nonprofit work. I knew that I wanted to find a gender-focused organization that was conscio us of its impact and critical of Western development models. From my prior experienc es with social activism and working for Oxfam America, I knew that I needed to work with a small, grassroots-based NGO because larger NGOs would be too complicated to navigate in the short amount of time I had for undergraduate-level ethnographic the sis research. I was also looking for an NGO that did not accept government funding or impos e external neoliberal development interests, actually listened to the voices of its c onstituents and respected their needs and interests, and was investing in sustainable change that provided both longand short-term solutions. When I discovered MADRE through a group internship tutorial in January 2009, the organization seemed like a perfect fit. I believed that I could analyze how MADRE acted as a conduit for social change to provi de insight for alternative models of social change and ways of resisting neoliberal deve lopment discourses. Although MADRE targeted U.S. foreign policy as its nemesis, it never explicitly acknowledged its involvement in development discour ses. In The Anti-Politics Machine: 'Development,' Depoliticization, and Bureaucratic P ower in Lesotho (1990) James Ferguson, a professor of Anthropology at Stanford U niversity, examined how development initiatives were produced and put into practice What Ferguson dubs the


31“antipolitics machine” is the construction of polit ical problems as technical inequalities that can be resolved. Development initiatives need to construct a problem they can fix, producing a problem to fit the solution rather than tailoring a solution to fit the problem. He argues that taking the politics out of developme nt not only removes political power from the people, but gives it to those providing de velopment aid. MADRE actively recognized the failure of development aid initiativ es and was highly critical of institutions such as the World Bank and International Monetary F und (IMF). The organization sought to reinsert local people into the political gears of development processes and have some control over their lives through human rights advocacy work with partner organizations and by applying public pressure again st U.S. foreign policy and other nations. Expanding his critique, Ferguson outlines two contradictory uses of the term “development:” 1) as a progression towards an endpo int of capitalist modernity and 2) as a way to improve the quality of life and/or allevia te of poverty. “The development of capitalism and the elimination of poverty are, if n ot positively antithetic…at any rate not identical. But it seems to be a theoretical necessi ty in ‘development’ discourse…for the two notions of ‘development’ to be co-present and e ven conflated. This is nowhere more apparent than in the definition of countries full o f poor people as ‘less developed countries’” (Ferguson 1990:55). I believe that MAD RE operates under the second definition of development, as it seeks to improve t he quality of women’s lives worldwide and approaches the issue from the point of view tha t since development is already having a negative impact on women, women should have a say in how it affects them. While I believed that NGOs had the potential to aff ect positive social change, I was also aware of the problematic nature of NGOs as mechanisms of development,


32especially North American and European-based instit utions. NGOs, as institutions intricately tied to the politics of funding and fun ding of politics, founded on capitalist, corporate models that reflected Western interests a nd ideals, often fail to reflect the interests or needs of the people they claim to serv e. The Sangtin Writers, an organization that promotes feminist change and rural peoples’ em powerment in the Sitapur District of India, has critiqued the tendency of NGOs to be use d to fill gaps in governmental policies. NGOs have increasingly been called to help manage t he problems produced by neoliberal policies and to pacify those who have been hardest hit by su ch policies. Small movements—made up of people whose livelihoods are the most threatened—of ten find it hard to exist without engaging with donor agencies or professionalized NGOs in som e form or another. The challenge before such movements is to find support for their politic al work while also maintaining their accountability and transparency before the people t hey work with (Sangtin 2010:139, Faust and Nagar 2008). The attempt to meet the needs of peoples that gover nments will or cannot provide, which sometimes creates a dependency on Western NGO s instead of promoting governmental reform within the countries where the NGOs are working. Economic reliance on Western and transnational institutions could breed resentment between NGOs and local women’s groups because the relationships between the two were often reciprocal but not equal. Nongovernmental instituti ons have also been critiqued for implementing one-size-fits-all Western-based develo pment “success” models that fail to acknowledge sociocultural and geographic specificit ies and then hold the “beneficiaries” of the project responsible for its failure. MADRE s truggled to find this balance between preventing and reversing the negative impacts of U. S. foreign policy in the countries where their partner organizations were located whil e also trying to support the needs of partner organizations that were already being devas tated by neoliberal policies. MADRE had varying levels of success in affecting U.S. for eign policies in partner countries


33because partners ranged in capacity from small gras sroots women’s groups to regional NGOs. Thus, affiliated organizations had different levels of institutional legitimacy and dependency on MADRE’s institutional and monetary su pport. Intersections of Praxis and Theory: Feminism and Wo men’s Human Rights This thesis reflects an interdisciplinary approach to ethnographic research discovering intersections among anthropology, inter national studies, and gender studies through participant observation, interviews, and in -depth analyses of related documents. It draws most heavily on anthropological and femini st critiques of development and social movements in order to understand how non-gov ernmental organizations can be conduits for grassroots-based social change. Due to the limitations of time and budgetary constraints in undergraduate research, I was not ab le to visit any of MADRE’s partner organizations to study these issues firsthand, but I was able to focus on the programmatic work that MADRE did with four partner organizations in Peru, Kenya, Colombia, and Sudan through my internship. I chose to focus on tw o of these partners as case studies that I will explore in later chapters because they illustrated how smaller NGOs collaborated with MADRE on local and international levels through the framework of women’s human rights while affecting very different populations of peoples: a rural indigenous women farmers’ union in Sudan and an urb an organization for youth affected by sociopolitical violence in Colombia. MADRE’s aff iliation with these two organizations demonstrated how women’s human rights provided a loose framework for the initiatives that MADRE supported, but did not a ccurately represent the broad scope and impact that MADRE had on peoples with identitie s other than or in addition to the label of “woman.” Transnational networks acted as a conduit for feminist goals that


34acknowledged the similar lived experiences of gende red oppression across the globe while also criticizing the hierarchies of power tha t limited peoples’ agency within such structures. For the purpose of this thesis, these g oals were a way of recognizing the how MADRE staff acknowledged the variation of women’s e xperiences and engaged with women united by their position on the outskirts of decision-making processes. Based on my observations and interviews, I argue that MADRE’ s structural model provides a concrete example of the way in which a women’s huma n rights framework can promote transnational feminist goals and local-to-global so cial transformation.


35CHAPTER ONE FRAMING WOMEN’S HUMAN RIGHTS IN FEMINISM As a small, international NGO that began as a “frie ndship organization,” to quote one of the staff members, the personal relationship s and informal networks within MADRE’s organizational structure permeated its exis tence. MADRE chose to use a women’s human rights framework as the foundation of its approach to social change, but it also maneuvered in and around it, picking and ch oosing which aspects of the framework would most benefit its vision, mission, a nd goals, and those of its partner organizations. There was overlap among staff membe rs’ positions, and individuals within MADRE had a lot of autonomy and say in how M ADRE presented itself because the organization was built from the grassroots up i n a way that emphasized personal relationships and networks. The staff pushed and pu lled the borders of MADRE’s identity as a women’s human rights organization in various directions, while also walking a fine line to make its work accessible to mainstre am audiences. Even though the staff did not openly identify MADRE as a feminist organizatio n, the influences of feminisms could be felt through the organization’s position a mong transnational networks, especially through MADRE’s website and in the conve rsations that I had with MADRE staff. The fact that individuals within MADRE iden tified as feminists or with feminisms illustrated how staff members informally advocated feminist goals through everyday office operations and networks of communication. Th ese personal relationships determined how MADRE viewed and defined women’s hum an rights as cross-culturally


36shared oppressions based on gender that differently affected every aspect of women’s lives. Are Women Human? Human rights originated as discourses focused on po litical and civil rights, known as “first generation human rights,” because those w ere the rights violations most feared by the male majority that vied for power in the int ernational public sphere. According to Merry et al (2010), the concept of human rights is not static but fluid, with the potential to expand in terms of definition and dynamic as peo ple continually reconceive their hopes and relations with one another. Human rights can be values, laws, or strategies of governance used by marginalized peoples to challeng e their subordinate position. In “Law from Below: Women’s Human Rights and Social Mo vements in New York City,” authors Sally Merry, Mihaela Serban Rosen, Peggy Le vitt, and Lena Yoon conclude that values of human rights can facilitate collaboration among a diverse groups of participants (Merry et al 2010). They explain that the values of human rights, “human dignity, equality, nondiscrimination, protection of bodily i ntegrity from state violence as well as other forms of violence, and freedom, however that is defined” emerged from a long history of European Enlightenment ideology of natur al rights to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” (2010:107). These natural rig hts of the individual were extended to the notion of state-based universal rights, and by extension, universal rights for humankind. Zehra F. Kabasakal Arat, a Professor of Political Science and Chair of the Human Rights Research Committee of the Internationa l Political Science Association, defined human rights as “rights claimed against the State and society by virtue of being a human being” (2008:10).


37The Western state, a public sphere of influence in political history, has been ruled primarily by white men in power, who also created t he governance structures, institutions, and initial framework for human right s. The “private” sphere was of little concern for men because it was considered the area over which they had the most control – their wives and families. Thus, economic, social, and cultural rights pertaining to the private sphere, later dubbed “second generation hum an rights,” were not considered necessary in the inception of human rights discours e. The divide of private and public spheres continues to dominate the human rights disc ourses as first generation rights still receive priority in international legislation, whil e second generation rights lack equivalent enforcement mechanisms (Walter 2001). Emma, the Development Coordinator, elaborated that a women’s human rights framework was about recognizing gendered patterns o f structural abuses: The general perspective is just important in terms of recognizing certain patterns of abuses. So if we’re looking at human rights… and looking at the i dea of people as rights bearers, and governments and businesses as duty bearers…making s ure that somebody is [not] malnourished is not doing them a favor, it’s just fulfilling their basic human rights. But then within that having a gender perspective to sort of recognize certain pat terns of violations…that there are more people who are malnourished that are women, or [for exampl e] access to education or access to medical care, that a lot of these things have a gendered pa ttern. So if you leave out a gender perspective, then you’re not really getting an accurate sense of what the violations are and….we wouldn’t even necessarily always call them violations. Human rights strategies, as embodied by NGOs and ot her transnational institutions, focus on monitoring and prevention me chanisms rather than litigation of past violations and have few concrete enforcement mechan isms. “A central aspect of the human rights system is the way its legal apparatus legitimates its core principles by claiming that they represent the consensus of the ‘ international community’” (Merry et al 2010). This becomes especially problematic when int ernational mechanisms of justice use human rights frameworks to hold governments acc ountable for human rights


38violations, using definitions that do not reflect t he reality of gender inequality and women’s marginalization worldwide. Women are assume d to be included in human rights discourses, yet their inclusion and participation i s often limited to a secondary or “special interest” status. Framing Women’s Rights MADRE found it important to identify explicitly as a women’s human rights organization rather than just a human rights organi zation in response to broader academic and activist discussions critiquing the marginaliza tion of women’s experiences in human rights discourse. At the time of MADRE’s founding i n 1984, the omission of women from human rights discourse was beginning to be que stioned by feminists, academics, and activists, as exemplified by Fran Hosken’s 1981 definition of human rights in A Feminist Dictionary as “in reality, men’s rights. Never do we hear inc luded in discussions of human rights the sexual assault and torture of women and girls – rape, forced prostitution, polygamy, genital mutilation, pornography, the beating of girls and women” (cited in Kramarae and Treichler 1985:200). As a result of working closely with its sister organizations as collaborators in larger movements of social change, MADRE began to assert that women were still not being rec ognized as human beings and that women’s rights were still being violated. Lena exp lained that staff chose to identify as a women’s human rights organization because “we reall y do steep a lot of our advocacy work in the human rights framework…having the human rights framework being like a framework embedded in international law, embedded i n the treaties that have come out of the U.N. And obviously the U.N. is not a perfect in stitution, but it is one of the most, one of the few spaces that we have to be doing…this kin d of human rights advocacy work.”


39Yet, women are not universally recognized as having the same rights as men within the human rights framework, and women’s concerns are of ten relegated to a marginalized and separate category (Charlesworth, 1995; Peters a nd Wolper, 1995; Kabasakal Arat 2008). The subordination of women’s rights to a spe cial, “secondary status” has also minimized the level of legal justice women have bee n able to obtain, according to Hilary Charlesworth, Professor and Director of the Centre for International Governance and Justice in the Regulatory Institutions Network at t he Australian National University. “Because men generally are not the victims of sex d iscrimination, domestic violence, or sexual degradation and violence, for example, these matters are often relegated to a specialized and marginalized sphere and are regulat ed, if at all, by weaker methods. Unless the experiences of women contribute directly to the mainstream international legal order….it should be more accurately characterized a s international men’s rights law” (1995:105 emphasis in original). A women’s human rights framework provided a conduit for experiences and perspectives specific to women to be reflected in l egislative mechanisms and international initiatives addressing human rights v iolations. MADRE’s website proclaims that “the international human rights framework is a powerful, but under-utilized tool for creating positive social change” (MADRE: How We Wor k 2010). This framework recognized not only that women were human, but it a lso implied the potential for women to reclaim and transform humanity by holding govern ments, states, and individual perpetrators accountable for abuse against women. This framework equipped women with a way to define, analyze, and articulate their experiences of violence, degradation, and marginality while also providing concrete strat egies for change. It was valuable


40because of its ability to raise consciousness aroun d gender inequality through transnational social movements. The application of such frameworks was useful in mobilizing transnational action and governmental in tervention around issues such as HIV/AIDS, maternal health, and women’s right to fai r pay and equal opportunities. Labeling Constraints By categorizing themselves as a women’s human right s organization, MADRE gained the flexibility to clearly define its goals and organizational direction but sacrificed the capacity to adhere more controversial labels. W hile gender is an important identity around which organizations such as MADRE can mobili ze for social change, it is also a constraint on social change. The Sangtin Writers cr itiqued the tendency of NGOs and feminists to define women’s issues as solely women’ s problems to resolve when in reality women’s issues are everyone’s issues: The definition of women’s issues cannot be limited to the violence that is inflicted upon women’s bodies and emotions. Nor can it be confined to the resources and opportunities that target women while cutting them off from the rest of society. If we are truly interested in bringing about sustainable, long-term sociopolitical and economic change in the lives of those who have been pushed to the margins, it is essential for all the members of our rural communities—women and men; children, young, and old; sawarn and dalit ; peasants, sweepers, workers, and shopkeepers— to constitute the waves of change (2010:125). AnaLouise Keating (2002) discusses how binary ident ity categories falsely assume that difference is the same as deviation. “C ategories distort our perceptions, creating arbitrary divisions among us and an opposi tional ‘us’ against ‘them’ mentality that prevents us from recognizing potential commona lities. Identity categories based on inflexible labels establish and police boundaries—b oundaries that shut us in with those we’ve deemed ‘like’ ‘us’ and boundaries that shut u s out from those whom we assume to be different” (Keating 2002:523). MADRE resisted b eing completely consumed by binary categories of women versus men by recognizin g that all issues were women’s


41issues and by advocating for the rights of all marg inalized peoples, especially those often excluded from mainstream human rights discourse – I ndigenous Peoples, racial and ethnic minorities, people engaged in sex work, and gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. “In all of our work, MADRE prom otes a consistent message: human rights are universal and apply to everyone. We beli eve that human rights extend to the women and men, including transgender people” (My MA DRE: Sex Workers’ Rights: A Feminist Issue 2010). The Political is Personal As an international women’s human rights organizati on, MADRE was intertwined with a multitude of women’s groups worldwide, each with different experiences and perceptions of what it meant to be a woman in diffe rent geographic regions and what the term feminism meant. One of the reasons MADRE intri gued me in the first place was because the organization was unapologetic in demand ing women’s rights and in critiquing the effects of U.S. foreign policy on wo men’s lives. I believed in their approach to social change, which supported women fi ghting for their rights at local grassroots levels while simultaneously targeting la rger national and international forces that were oppressing women. Increasing women’s opp ortunities and rights worldwide while fighting sexist oppression globally seemed su ch an obviously feminist stance to me that I wondered how feminism influenced MADRE’s wor k and why MADRE staff seemed hesitant to acknowledge that connection. I r ecognized the complexity of projecting a United States-based definition of femi nism onto a women’s human rights organization that worked on a global scale. I defin e feminism broadly as the struggle to end sexist oppression, and by extension all forms o f oppression. Two books by bell


42hooks, From Margin to Center (1984; 2000) and Feminism is For Everybody: Passionate Politics (2000) heavily influenced my interpretation of feminism. bell hooks is a black female American feminist, leftist activist, postmod ern political thinker and cultural critic who focused on the interconnectivity of race, class and gender and how they perpetuate systems of oppression. In Global Feminism: Transnational Women’s Activism, Or ganizing, and Human Rights (2006), Myra Marx Ferree, a U.S. sociologist speci alizing in transnational women’s organizations, and Aili Mari Trip, a U.S. a cademic who holds a position in Political Science and Gender and Women’s Studies, d iscussed how feminism could be a global phenomenon. “The historic connotations of t he term ‘feminism’ in specific locales may make some people who are struggling to change women’s subordination unwilling to use this label, but we also believe th at, whether or not individuals or groups choose to call themselves feminists, their goal of empowering women should be considered feminist” (Ferree and Trip 2006: vii) I inferred that the hesitancy to indentify MADRE as a feminist organization was due in large p art to the lack of clarity about what feminism was and the negative associations it still carried. When I raised the topic of feminism in the interviews, most of the staff membe rs identified as feminists or acknowledged the connections between women’s human rights and feminism. They found MADRE’s philosophy appealing because of their personal connection to feminism and commitment to creating social change. Lena refl ected this sentiment in her interview, stating: “I do feel like my own personal, individua l thoughts on women’s human rights and on feminism dovetail very closely with MADRE’s, which is why it makes it very easy to work here because I’m doing what I believe in.”


43Janet acknowledged how her personal identification with feminism intersected with women’s human rights: “I mean, I identify as b eing a feminist, and I define that as having a women’s perspective on sort of broader soc ial justice issues. So, to me, the human rights framework is useful, and I mean [that] in the most utilitarian [sense], that it’s useful as a part of the toolkit of advancing s ocial justice.” I never defined feminism or clarified what kind of feminism I was talking about in the interviews because I wanted to understand how M ADRE staff interpreted the term. When I asked them to define feminism or women’s hum an rights, the two ideas were often connected and sometimes inseparable in their definitions. Lacey stated: “I define feminism as allowing women the same opportunities, access, [and] resources as anybody despite their religion, social class, gender, sexua lity, race, and to me personally it’s just the ability to make the life choices I want, not to be hindered by the fact that I’m a woman.” One of the interns explained both concepts in term s of empowerment: “I see feminism mostly as a very free-floating concept. In general terms I’d see it as empowerment and how you define that empowerment is up to the individual. I very much believe in the fact that women’s rights are human r ights, and the idea that there should be an international standard.” In defining feminism, b oth Andrea and Emma referenced their definitions in relation to the bumper sticker procl aiming that “feminism is the radical notion that women are people.” They also acknowledg ed that people understand feminism differently. Andrea expanded her definitio n to include feminism as “a movement in order to ensure women have the [same] r ights and resources and results as


44everybody else. Around the world, it doesn’t have t o be the same thing everywhere, but it’s a movement to make sure that women are seen as people and treated as such.” Labels such as women’s human rights and feminism re flect culturally specific ideas of what it means to be a woman. Carolina emph asized the importance of recognizing cultural and gender-based oppression an d the existence of feminisms. I call myself a feminist because I believe in women and in the potential of women…I was lucky enough to meet other people that are in the women’s movement and some people [that] are not in the traditional women’s movement that call themselv es feminist….There are other people that, based on their own approach and their own vision…th ink [of] themselves as feminist and I think that’s a very important lesson for the women’s move ment. That they’re [multiple ways that] we could think [of] ourselves as a feminist. The organization sought to avoid the controversies of feminist labels because of the mixed connotations that feminism carried both w ithin the United States and among its diverse array of partner organizations. Lena, the M edia Coordinator, elaborated: In some contexts I have seen us call ourselves a fe minist organization, but officially, we are a women’s human rights organization. That’s what we s ay on our website, that’s what we say on any and everything we put out to the world. And peo ple at the organization have different relationships to the label feminist. I am more ok w ith it, accepting it, and saying, “Yes, I’m a feminist” than some other people…It’s not a term th at is universally used worldwide…The feminist movement itself is not as embracing of the different elements. Andrea confirmed feminism’s ambiguity: “The word fe minism has such a crazy connotation for a lot of people. We don’t put it in our tagline because a tagline is supposed to get more people to be like, ‘oh, I know exactly what that means.’” One of the few interns who did not explicitly ident ify as a feminist explained: Whenever I say to anyone, “Oh, I’m working for a hu man rights organization for women,” I kind of feel like people look at me and go, “Hmm. Are yo u a lesbian?”…I don’t think I would identify myself as a feminist, though…I just think it has a stigma attached and…that’s not my main identification. If anything I’d identify myself mor e by nationality than by gender. I don’t know. Feminism conjures up images of radical bra-burners, to me anyway, and maybe Emmeline Pankhurst and the horse and the suffragettes. Maybe activist is a better word…or supporter.


45Alana countered misperceptions of feminism, stating “I don't know why it's a negative term – it should not be…It means that wome n and men, where they can be equal, should be equal…[American] society is built is very ‘man, white.’ So [feminism is the ability] for women to have the privilege tha t a man automatically has just by fact that he's a man…It doesn't mean that I don't like t o wear make-up, or high heels, or that I can't be married.” Goal: Recognize Women’s Common Humanity Worldwide MADRE’s mission was to both promote sustainable sol utions for women in crisis and to meet women’s immediate needs, and their visi on expanded this concept further. “MADRE works towards a world in which all people en joy the fullest range of individual and collective human rights; in which resources are shared equitably and sustainably; in which women participate effectively in all aspects of society; and in which people have a meaningful say in policies that affect their lives” (MADRE: Mission|Vision 2011). This vision was enacted by working in partnership with w omen who shared MADRE’s goals at local, regional, and international levels. Adria n expounded on the all-encompassing nature of MADRE’s vision: We work with organizations that focus on women’s hu mans rights but more importantly we work with organizations, women’s organizations, that bri ng a woman’s perspective to the full range of human rights so that, for example, the issue of cli mate change, or sustainable agriculture, or peace and security. Those are as much women’s issues as a nybody else’s issues, but people don’t think of them. They think of women’s issues as breast can cer, and reproductive health, and children, child care, but actually everything that happens on the face of the earth that affects anybody also affects women. That is a point of view which is not necessarily shared by every organization in the women’s [movement]. Myra Max Ferree argued in Global Feminisms that “feminism as a goal can be adopted by individuals of any gender, as well as by groups with any degree of institutionalization, from informal, face-to-face, temporary associations to a legally constituted national or


46transnational governing body…nor is it true by defi nition that a person or group that does not call itself feminist does not have feminist goa ls, since the identity can carry other connotations in a local setting (whether of radical ism or exclusivity or cultural difference) that an activist may seek to avoid by choosing anot her label” (Ferree 2006:7). I saw feminist goals reverberate through MADRE’s language actions, mission, and vision, influenced by the individual decisions and dedicati on of MADRE’s staff. Resisting Labels While feminism is not necessarily a goal of women’s human rights, women’s human rights are a goal of feminism. There was/is n o singular feminism, and by extension no singular feminist goal. Rather, there are a multitude of feminisms that originated from varying cultural, historic, and geo graphic contexts. One issue of concern for MADRE staff in identifying as feminist was tryi ng not to assume or impose ethnocentric Western feminist values on the grassro ots women’s organizations they worked with in less developed countries. Even thoug h women suffer patriarchal oppression worldwide, it is different in each conte xt, and the universality of such experiences cannot be assumed. Notions of these sh ared experiences, such as universal sisterhood, do not take into consideration the diff erent ways that women have participated in, resisted, or benefitted from syste ms of power. The critiques of feminism from marginalized groups of women, both nationally and internationally, have expanded Euro-American feminist discourse. However, the asso ciation with the label feminist and the ideologies that prevail within feminist discour ses still carry negative connotations. The feminist divides of class privilege were mentio ned by Emma as being part of the Second Wave generation of feminism. “There were som e real [disconnects] in old


47feminist circles [in acknowledging] white privilege and upper-middle-class privilege…I think that some people who’ve dealt with some of th ose older circles are more attune to that and…that’s what registers as feminist.” According to bell hooks: Exploited and oppressed groups of women are usually encouraged by those in power to feel that their situation is hopeless, that they can do nothi ng to break the pattern of domination. Given such socialization, these women have often felt that our only response to white, bourgeois, hegemonic dominance of feminist movement is to trash, reject, or dismiss feminism. This reaction is in no way threatening to the women who wish to maintain c ontrol over the direction of feminist theory and praxis (hooks 2000:53). Perceptions of feminism also depend on the histori cal relationship of certain regions to systems of power. The feminism that emer ged from U.S. and European movements became politically entwined with local wo men’s movements worldwide that were funded by international development agencies. “The unequal distribution of these economic and conceptual resources among women’s mov ements aggravated previously existing hierarchies among them, granting visibilit y and power to some, while marginalizing others” (Thayer 2010:15). Deep Friendship, Transnational Solidarity Overlaps among feminisms, NGOs, and women’s human r ights involve several larger social movements, including Indigenous Right s movements, environmental movements, and the anti-corporatist and anti-minera l extraction movements. These movements have transcended local and national bound aries, aided and transformed by globalization. In Feminist Genealogies, Jacqui Alexander and Chandra Talpade Mohanty define the transnational as “1) a way of thinking a bout women in similar contexts across the world, in different geographical spaces, rather than as all women across the world; 2) an understanding of a set of unequal relationships among and between peoples, rather


48than as a set of traits embodied in all non-U.S. ci tizens (particularly because U.S. citizenship continues to be premised within a white Eurocentric, masculinist, heterosexist regime); and 3) a consideration of the term international in relation to an analysis of economic, political, and ideological pr ocesses that would therefore require taking critical anti-racist, anti-capitalist positi ons that would make feminist solidarity work possible” (2010:24). The authors describe tran snational feminism as “anchored in our own locations in the global North, and in the c ommitment to work systematically and overtly against racialized, heterosexist, imperial, corporatist projects that characterize North American global adventures” (2010:25). I viewed transnational feminism as applicable to MA DRE’s work from the anchor of its geographic location in North America, and in New York City in particular, coordinating activism across international borders, transcending nations, and working systematically to fight racist, ethnocentric, imper ialist, sexist, and sometimes homophobic forms of oppression. In “Globalization o f the Local/Localization of the Global: Mapping Transitional Women’s Movements” (19 96), Amrita Basu traces how women’s movements have become transnational through continual networking between local (indigenous and regional) movements and globa l (transnational) movements. Historically, feminist influences have been multidi rectional products of transnational mutual learning and sharing (Thayer 2010). “It is inaccurate to depict local women’s movements as being subsumed by global ones or engag ing in sustained overt resistance to global influences” (Basu 1996:69). Local movemen ts, such as the women’s organizations and grassroots groups that MADRE part ners with, have become transnational, relying on issue advocacy networks, campaigns, and coalitions, non-


49governmental and governmental organizations, Indige nous and regional women’s movements, and national and international justice m echanisms to create broad-based social change on local, regional, and global scales MADRE made many alliances with partner organization s, funders, academics, and activists who advocated feminism or had similar feminist goals. The organization’s website revealed how transnational feminism goals h ad influenced its model for social change, a point that did not come up in interviews or conversations I had with MADRE staff. Among the women who built MADRE were artists, teach ers, poets, actors, health workers and life-long political organizers. They came together across differences of culture, class and community, recognizing one another by their shared commitment to linking the struggles against sexism, racism, war, homophobia and economic exploi tation in which they were active. These were the feminists who demanded that the women's mo vement confront racism in society and within its ranks; the Independentistas who had a fe minist critique of nationalism; the socialists who insisted that liberation was more than a functi on of economics. Building on their common commitment to women's rights and leadership, MADRE' s founders pooled the strengths of their diverse political work and life experiences to crea te a women-led, women-run organization that was both a culmination of and an innovation on the movements for social change in which they were active (MADRE: History 2011). Lena explained that this model of transnational net working set MADRE apart from other women’s human rights organizations becau se it was provided space to both universalize women’s experiences and recognize thei r diversity: It’s not a charity model. It’s not a model of…“I’m here to save your life” kind of thing. It’s a model of, as women, we all face discrimination and oppression as a result of our gender… Everyone who is in their own position who is in the ir own context is going to face it in different ways, but people who live in a certain context are going to have ideas and expertise and solutions that they are going to come up with themselves. So if we just sort of come together and brainstorm and strategize and say, “Here’s what I have to brin g. What do you have to bring?” and then we all work together. MADRE staff viewed their relationship with their pa rtner organizations as one of solidarity and deep friendship. They worked hard to actively listen and respond to the needs of their sister organizations. Janet describe d this conscientious alliance: There is a less tangible impact…and that is what pe ople mean when they say the word solidarity…People who are living in places that are really far from centers of power [are] affected


50by decisions that they have no part in making…Those women really feel like someone is listening to them, somebody is hearing their story, somebody understands what they are going through…and is standing with them. I can’t tell you how many times [I have been] really profusely thanked for that because…in some places i t’s even more rare than getting an aid package. According to Lena, transnational networks enabled M ADRE with a way to provide direct support and solidarity for women bey ond its immediate partners: One example is that when the tsunami hit in Asia, C hristmas 2004…we didn’t have any established sister organization right there. Howeve r, we did have this incredible network of women human rights advocates from all over. So we w ere able to activate that network and say, “We need to be able to support women’s organization s which are just going to be completely disoriented, chaotic, and destroyed by this huge na tural disaster. How can we do that?” And when you have those established relationships, it allows you to move…immediately in those kinds of situations. Staff members were very aware of the power dynamics implicit in the relationships between an American NGO that provided monetary and material support and grassroots women’s organizations in less develo ped countries that relied on MADRE’s solidarity. Balancing all of the external a nd internal interests involved in MADRE’s work was no small feat. Staff members often put in long hours beyond a typical nine-to-five cubicle shift, arriving around 9:30 or 10:00 in the morning and leaving anytime between 6:00 and 9:00 at night. The y were paid a fixed salary and received no monetary compensation for working overt ime. Based on conversations I had with the staff, I believe that the long days and ex tended hours they worked reflected their awareness of their privileged, middle-class positio ns living in the United States, the disparities between their own lives and those of th eir partners, and their feelings of personal responsibility to their supervisors and/or individuals within the sister organizations. Occasionally they came in on weekend s, but more often they took their work home with them. Even when they left the office without any official work to do, their personal connections to their partner organiz ations sometimes weighed heavily on


51their minds. One staff member joked about how she h ad to disable her office email account on her phone because she kept checking and responding to work emails at home. Other staff members could recall the exact day and place they were when they heard the news of the December 2008 Gaza War that began in th e middle of their winter holiday vacation, as well as the earthquake in Haiti in 201 0, and how they immediately started thinking about what kind of response was necessary in relation to their jobs. They were also aware of how women would be disproportionately affected by crises or conflicts of any kind, regardless of the situation. For MADRE s taff members working internationally and in humanitarian aid, their personal relationshi ps to individuals and groups changed their perceptions of current events because they we re personally affected, and because they had the power and responsibility to respond to crises. For them, the political became personal. Legitimating and Authenticating Local Knowledge as Expert Knowledge So how can women effect change in the international community? In her interview, Lena provided the insight that “rights a re not inscribed in stone…rights are something that the UN process has…created in a proc ess of discussion and debate. So the people who are there at the table to draw up the dr aft that everyone then signs, are the people that get their voices heard, obviously, righ t? So the rights that women have recourse to…can be made more valuable if women are also at the table sort of formulating what those rights mean.” MADRE acknowle dged the agency of women on the ground and affirmed local knowledge as expert k nowledge. In the ethnography Making Transnational Feminism: Rural Women, NGO act ivists, and Northern Donors in Brazil (2010), Millie Thayer postulated that feminist NGO s and grassroots rural women’s


52groups could have reciprocal, but not equal, relati onships from global to local and local to global. The feminists in Thayer’s study “appropriat e and transform discourses, exchange political currencies of legitimacy and authenticity and negotiate the requirements of international development funding” (2010:5), transf orming meanings and material resources. In MADRE’s case, discourses of women’s human rights opened up new causeways of communication for legitimating and aut henticating women’s groups locally, nationally, and internationally, and for p roviding partner organizations with the tools and resources they need to navigate globalize d structures of legislation and governance. According to MADRE’s website, the organ ization has “worked within human rights processes and in the global women's mo vement to insist that resources — such as translation, per diem stipends and popular versions of legal texts —are allocated to guarantee that the international arena is access ible to community-based women organizers” (MADRE: Advocating for Human Rights 201 0). Local rights-based trainings enabled women to imbue their local struggles for hu man rights with knowledge of international law, while simultaneously holding the ir national governments and the international community accountable for excluding t he perspectives and needs of historically marginalized peoples from legal and so cial processes. Janet pointed out that the close relationships MADRE had with its partner organizations also enabled the organization to respond more quickly and effectivel y than larger NGOs during crises and emergencies: I think there are a lot of different levels of the impact and that they correlate to the different strategies that we have for doing our work. We have definitely seen literally life-saving interventions in places like Nicaragua, Guatemala a nd Haiti after natural disasters …because we are working in really tight partnerships with women who…live in those communities and are there on the ground…we are able to get humanitarian aid i nto communities that the big aid agencies


53can’t. They don’t even know where those places are, much less how to reach them if the bridges are destroyed. Lena addressed the importance of recognizing the wo rk women were already doing at the grassroots level: There is a certain way of thinking about internatio nal women’s rights which I find to be disrespectful to women who are doing concrete…work and don’t get recognized for it. I feel like there are a lot of times when…people talk about int ernational women’s human rights and don’t mention local women’s organizations that are addres sing [these issues]…And they don’t talk about the possibility or the reality that women who live in those communities are aware of what’s going on in their communities. They know what the t hreats are, they know what the challenges are, and so they are already working on it. MADRE’s use of a women’s human rights framework sou ght to bring women on the outskirts of power to actively participate in r egional and international loci of power. It did not provide a charity model of aid, but used th e framework to build solidarity through partnerships that affirmed local women’s knowledge as expert knowledge and recognized the importance of diversity. This is illustrated th rough MADRE’s partner-driven advocacy on behalf of rural Sudanese women farmers in Chapter Two and defense of former child soldiers and marginalized peoples in C olombia in Chapter Three. The shared visions of MADRE and its partners reflected how MADRE’s model of social change was embedded in transnational networks influ enced by feminist goals and ideals. The case of Sudan highlights how feminist goals can be both local and transnational, while the case study of Colombia outlines how trans national networks can reflect feminist values.


54CHAPTER TWO CASE STUDY 1: SUDAN: ZENAB FOR WOMEN IN DEVELOPMENT Zenab, a self-proclaimed indigenous grassroots wome n’s NGO based in eastern Sudan, works to promote the sociopolitical and econ omic rights of rural women across Sudan. This case study illustrates how MADRE engage d in collaborative partnerships with like-minded organizations transnationally to a dvocate on behalf of marginalized women. I contextualize the ability of MADRE to effe ct social change through Zenab by providing a brief overview of Sudan’s socioeconomic and political situation and Sudanese women’s ability to participate in and resi st a patriarchal society that oppresses them. I outline how MADRE situated Zenab’s interest s within an economic/environmental justice program area as a wa y to present its partnership to constituents through a women’s human rights framewo rk. I describe how my internship project informed my conception of how MADRE acted a s a medium for global to local social change through collaborative programming and fundraising efforts. As a result of this experience, I chose to focus on MADRE’s strate gies of partnering for change and ability to meet local women’s immediate needs. Fina lly, I contemplate how Zenab’s foundations were influenced by prior Sudanese women ’s movements and how the organization transmitted feminist goals locally and transnationally through personal connections.


55Zenab for Women in Development My direct knowledge of MADRE’s work with Zenab was limited to the work I was assigned on a microfinance project for rural wo men farmers. After my internship, I continued to research MADRE’s website for news arti cles, press releases, and programmatic information on Zenab, and later discov ered that Zenab had its own website as well. Zenab, in fact, had two versions of a webs ite with essentially the same content but different levels of finished pages and informat ion. The second version was more recently updated and more comprehensively outlined its focus areas, while the first seemed to be a rough draft version but contained so me additional details that the second version lacked. I made use of information from all three websites in combination with research from my internship and interviews with MAD RE staff to inform this case study of MADRE’s work with Zenab. Zenab viewed its role as providing an example for h ow an indigenous Sudanese NGO could promote sustainable, locally-based commun ity development. “We are fundamentally dedicated to the well-being of the pe ople in the region, and highlight the important and comparatively undervalued role that i ndigenous NGOs hold not just in Sudan, but across Africa. We advocate for aid and development that centers on building local capacity, rather than an aid and development model that does not have as a central goal, independent sustainability for the local comm unity” (Zenab: About Zenab, 2010). According to Zenab’s website, its vision was procla imed as working toward: “a World where all women enjoy equality and social justice, have equal chances in education and jobs, [are] well aware of their social/economical a nd political rights and [can] be real partner[s] in peace and development.” The organizat ion planned to enact this through a


56mission dedicated to improving the socioeconomic an d political status of women in Sudan, providing multi-faceted programs, lobbying a nd advocating for women’s rights, providing logistical and legal aid for women, condu cting women’s awareness programs, training women leaders, and establishing direct lin ks with women’s associations and women’s rights defenders. The specificities of Zenab’s organizational goals a nd interests intertwined neatly into the much broader mission and vision of MADRE. Zenab had five main focus areas that clearly fit within MADRE’s program areas and s trategies for change: Education (women’s and children’s rights), Agriculture (envir onmental preservation and sustainable livelihoods), Reproductive Health (HIV/AIDS awarene ss and Female Genital Mutilation prevention), Peacebuilding (leadership development and food security), and Emergency Relief (responding to the drought in Eastern Sudan and armed conflict in Darfur). MADRE’s choice to highlight Zenab’s involvement in the humanitarian crisis in Darfur tapped into preexisting humanitarian concerns broug ht to international consciousness by organizations such as Invisible Children and Darfur NOW that embraced the values of human rights to hold the public and Sudanese govern ment morally accountable. MADRE highlighted on its website how the organization had responded to the crisis in Darfur by distributing surplus staple foods, such as millet a nd sorghum grown by the Women Farmers Union, by providing clothes and shoes, and by building latrines in the refugee camps – small but concrete actions that provided im mediate results in improving the lives of people on the ground. By illustrating how one of MADRE’s programs, Women Farmers Unite, was directly benefitting people in a humanitarian crisis that already had a high media profile, MADRE was able to increase its organizational visibility, as well as


57that of Zenab. The program also put the plight of r ural women farmers in eastern Sudan into public consciousness, and through increased we bsite hits, enhanced exposure to MADRE’s other programs and partner organizations. Partner Context: Sudan To contextualize Zenab’s situation, it is important to note that Sudan is a country over three times the size of Texas located in Sub-S aharan Africa. It is bordered by Egypt, Libya, the Central African Republic, Chad, the Demo cratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Eritrea, neighboring countries with long histories of colonial rule and post-colonial conflict. Arabic, spoken most oft en in the North, is the official language of Sudan, while English is most commonly spoken as the unofficial language in the South. The population of more than 43 million is on average relatively young, rural, agriculturalist (Central Intelligence Agency 2010) with more than 19 major ethnic groups and close to 600 subgroups in Sudan speaking more t han 100 different languages and dialects (Somali Press 2010). According to the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, agriculture constitute s a major portion of the Sudanese economy, accounting for forty-five percent of the G DP and providing a source of livelihood for more than eighty percent of the popu lation (2010). Since its independence from England on June 1, 1956 Sudan has struggled to solidify its national identity through more than fi fty years of internal conflict, with the exception of a ten-year lull of fragile peace betwe en 1972 and 1983 (Deng 2006: 155). At the time this research was conducted, Southern Suda n was still under the auspices of Northern Sudan, but the South’s independence has be en scheduled to take place in July 2011, six years after the Comprehensive Peace Agree ment (CPA) was signed in January


582005 (United Nations 2011), and six months after th e government in Khartoum finally agreed to recognize Southern secession in the Janua ry 2011 referendum. Historical processes of Arabization, Islamization, and slavery have been crucial to shaping the identities involved in the conflict. Religious and cultural tensions have also intensified North-South dissidence as a result of a seventy per cent Muslim majority in the North, and a five percent Christian and a twenty-five percent animist religious minority located mainly in the South (Central Intelligence Agency 20 10). Civil war between the North and the South, and conflict exacerbated by drought and famine in the West, contributed to over six million IDPs in Sudan, mainly women and ch ildren, between 1980 and 1995 (ElSanousi and Ahmed El-Amin 1994). January 2011 estim ates from the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) place IDPs in Sudan at around five million, over half of which are in Darfur, another two mill ion in Khartoum and in the north, half a million in south, and anywhere from 70,000 to 420 ,000 in the Eastern States. The East has been neglected in development processe s, as evident in the lack of recent and reliable statistical data in comparison to the other regions. As of 2007, eastern Sudan had a population of over 3.75 million and was one of the poorest regions of Sudan (Pantuliano 2007). This void of attention has been the result of international media and humanitarian campaigns targeting Darfur and Souther n Sudan and an overextended, corrupt, and weak central government that prioritiz ed quelling the Darfur conflict to the west, maintaining control over oil wells in the sou th, and preventing external foreign interference. One consequence has been long-term fo od insecurity in the area. Sara Pantuliano, Head of Humanitarian Policy Group at th e British Overseas Development Institute and a political scientist specializing in conflict and post-conflict displacement


59and reintegration in Sudan, analyzes the role of th e World Food Programme and food aid in aggravating food insecurity in the article “From food aid to livelihoods support: rethinking the role of WFP in eastern Sudan” (2007) She argues that after more than a generation of continuous food aid, rates of malnutr ition have not improved, there is still extreme economic and social vulnerability, and the destitution in the East necessitates food aid to be used in combination with a re-engine ering of economic and safety net options. “The example of eastern Sudan provides a g ood illustration of a situation where the symptom rather than the cause is blamed for cre ating ‘dependency’… It is not food aid that is creating dependency in eastern Sudan, b ut the failure of the government, the donors and international agencies to promote a sust ained and holistic development process aimed at supporting livelihoods in the long term” (Pantuliano 2007: S83). The root causes of conflict in eastern Sudan have been the product of fierce competition over natural resources, with a primaril y rural population vying for water, land, and grazing (United Nations Development Fund 2010) exacerbating the extreme poverty, food insecurity, and vulnerability of peop les in the region. Historically, regional groups practiced mobile pastoralism as a response t o unpredictable rainfall pattern, low biological soil productivity, and cyclical droughts Land enclosure and seizure of water sources has helped weaken the pastoral system and i ncrease migration, while inadequate policies, services, and infrastructure have undermi ned peoples’ abilities to manage livelihoods, leading to sustained social and econom ic crisis (2007:S78).


60Challenges of Transnational NGO Partnerships Zenab was a self-reliant NGO with resources, networ ks, and alliances already in place before it partnered with MADRE, but the assoc iation provided it with additional legitimacy nationally and internationally. As a reg ional NGO, the partner organization worked with smaller women’s groups and NGOs and on rare occasions through governmental channels, such as Sudan’s Department o f Agriculture. Zenab also had direct connections to the United Nations and its af filiated programs through participation in UN forums and committees, including the UN Commi ssion on the Status of Women (CSW), UN Commission on Sustainable Development, UN Global Impact, and the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (Zenab: United Nations, 2010). As an American NGO that worked for women’s human rights internatio nally, MADRE had NGO consultancy status within the UN Economic and Socia l Council (UN Economic and Social Council 2008) and a direct link to the Perma nent Forum on Indigenous Issues through FIMI. Many of the local Sudanese NGOs, such as Zenab, wer e dependent on larger international NGOs and aid organizations to supply the capacity, infrastructure, resources and support that the Sudanese government was unable or unwilling to administer. It was difficult for Zenab to campaign and prosecute viola tions of women’s rights because Sudan was a weak state with convoluted bureaucracy and pervasive government corruption and Sudanese culture did not give equal weight to women’s participation in the public sphere. The political situation in Sudan had rarely been stable, but the situation had intensified since the fundamentalist al-Bashir government transformed into an Islamic totalitarian single-party state in 1993, in itiating the Second Sudanese Civil War


61with the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, and signin g of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005, which failed to ensure the compl icity of numerous other paramilitary groups. According to Pantuliano (2007), the lack of governm ent stability and response to the rapidly growing humanitarian crises have led in ternational organizations to develop an autonomous system of communication and distribut ion outside of government channels that increased tensions among the Sudanese government, the United Nations, and NGOs, complicating relief efforts (2007:S78). International NGOs that attempted to criticize the Sudanese government were kicked out a nd numerous local NGOs were shut down or co-opted by the government to further its o wn political interests. Thus, to ensure its survival as an NGO operating within Sudan, Zena b was careful in how it responded to political issues and critiqued government policies and programs. This made international legal and political structures more important as a key leveraging system against government repression. MADRE used its transnational networks and knowledge of human rights advocacy to promote the work that Zena b was doing in Sudan and to buttress the partner’s connection to the United Nat ions. MADRE assisted with the travel expenses of Fatima, the President and founder of Ze nab, and other community leaders to attend UN functions, wrote on behalf of Zenab to th e WFP and FAO, and advocated for international legislation that would benefit Sudane se women. MADRE also provided financial support and political solidarity for the workshops, trainings, and educational outreach that Zenab administered, including human r ights trainings on reproductive health, HIV/AIDS prevention, peace building, and wo men’s political participation.


62Program Area: Economic/Environmental Justice (WHRF) Zenab’s work was concentrated mostly in the Eastern States in the North, primarily with impoverished communities around its headquarters in Al Gadaref and with refugee camps to the West in Darfur. Three states, Red Sea, Kassala, and Gedaref, constitute Eastern Sudan. Al Gaderef, the capital o f the state of Gedaref, was one of the most productive agriculture areas for grain in nort heastern Sudan, and Zenab relied heavily on the region’s fertile soil to address foo d insecurity in the Eastern States and in Darfur. MADRE and Zenab’s partnership concentrated on Zenab’s work with rural women farmers under the Program Area of Economic/En vironmental Justice – the right to sustainable agrarian livelihoods land tenure, ac cess to seeds and improved technologies, food security, and credit. The projec t of supporting sustainable local agriculture through the Women Farmers Union was giv en the title Women Farmers Unite, which shares the acronym WFU that was used i nterchangeably by MADRE staff to describe both the program and the Union. MADRE r ecognized the scope of Zenab’s work, but chose to highlight the accomplishments of the Women Farmers Union in cultivating sustainable agriculture as a programmat ic focus for their constituents and donors. WFU also overlapped into Peace Building and Women’s Health. On MADRE’s website, they also outlined three additional issues that Zenab was involved in that coincided with MADRE’s programs and strategies: Res ponding to the Crisis in Darfur (Human Rights Advocacy/Meeting Immediate Needs/Huma n Rights Advocacy), Health Education (Women’s Health/Public Education/Human Ri ghts Advocacy), and Educating Young Women (Peace Building/Public Education/Human Right Advocacy). I highlight


63Meeting Immediate Needs and Partnering for Change b ecause these were the strategies I had the most exposure to during my internship. Engaging in Social Change Strategy 1: Partnering for Change MADRE outlines four key strategies for change on it s website: Meeting Immediate Needs, Partnering for Change, Advocating for Human Rights, and Educating the Public. Chapters Three and Four examine the dif ferent ways in which MADRE engages in partner-specific strategies of change. A lthough MADRE uses all four strategies to varying degrees with each affiliated organization, some partners have stronger focuses on particular components than othe rs. I chose to highlight two different social change strategies for each chapter in order to provide in-depth insight into how they worked. They were selected because MADRE highl ighted particular components of each partner on its website or in campaigns and pro grams, and these focuses were reflected in the work that I was assigned during my internship. Chapter Three provides insight into how one particular partnership in Suda n was formed and how MADRE collaborated with this partner to create projects a nd programs that met the immediate needs of Zenab’s constituents. Chapter Four details the issues of human rights advocacy work in relation to one partner organization in Col ombia and how educating the public was a component of its advocacy work.


64Women Farmers Unite According to MADRE’s website, “the purpose of the W omen Farmers Union is to increase crop production while conserving natural r esources and empowering women farmers to win access to tools, credit, and trainin g opportunities usually reserved for men. The women are committed to farming organically and working together to promote understanding of good nutrition and environmental p reservation in their communities” (MADRE: Sudan: Zenab for Women in Development, 2011 ). The Women Farmers Union supported the empowerment of rural women and diminished food insecurity by increasing women’s access to better farming technol ogy, improved seeds, and through the creation of farmers’ cooperatives and unions. I t strove to increase crop yields by consolidating resources, knowledge, and organizatio nal strength. It served as a knowledge bank for better agricultural practices, f or safe pesticide use and environmental protection, for nutritional education on local food s produced, and for crop preservation and processing. Zenab’s website also mentioned that WFU was created in order to increase women’s access to agricultural assistance from Sudan’s Department of Agriculture. This often meant involving internation al institutions, such as the World Food Programme and Food and Agriculture Organization, in order to receive the attention of national government-sponsored initiatives, which I will discuss later in this chapter in regard to the Community Sustainability Initiative. The majority of the 2,000 women who associated with WFU were from 60 or so villages within close geographical proximity to Al Gedaref. The Union was formed through a series of community-level discussions tha t Zenab initiated in surrounding villages. Zenab invited two to three women from eac h village to participate in a


65workshop in Al-Gadaref to discuss the possible crea tion of a farmer’s union for women and paid for two-thirds of the women’s transportati on, meals, and other expenditures to attend. During the workshop, Zenab disseminated inf ormation about the political situation in Sudan, provided HIV/AIDS education, an d surveyed participants’ agricultural capabilities and needs. The survey responses reveal ed that women lacked access to high quality seeds, new technology, and tools. From this base of information, Zenab invited 60 women from 20 villages to meet and explore the poss ible benefits of forming a union, resulting in the creation of the Women’s Farmer’s U nion in 2007. The pilot program involved 140 female farmers, who were given seeds a nd simple tools by Zenab for donkey-powered plowing. MADRE had already been work ing with Zenab for over a year when MADRE joined on as a partner for WFU in 2007, providing new seeds and tools for the women. Access to new seeds and technology e nabled many women to rent land for themselves instead of working as laborers. MADR E reported that the project successfully provided a more efficient method of pl owing that saved women time and energy and encouraged them to plant more vegetables Culturally appropriate laborsaving technologies could preserve, enhance, or tra nsform women’s workload, with the potential to reduce the double (and sometimes tripl e) burdens on women and improve their quality of life (Quisumbing and Pandolfelli 2 009). One of the union’s most recent projects was the introduction of intermediate techn ologies2, which would allow gradual improvements in crop production without full mechan ization. 2 “Intermediate technology refers to techniques and institutions providing goods and services that are environmentally sustainable and operate on a local level, representing an alternative to prevailing, conventional, large-scale technologies” (Intermedia te Technology Development Group of North America, 2011).


66Strategy 2: Meeting Immediate Needs While MADRE engaged all four strategies for change with Zenab, it primarily focused on Meeting Immediate Needs, the strategy th at would have the biggest direct impact and provide long-term solutions for alleviat ing poverty and food insecurity. In Sudan, especially in the heavily agriculturally-foc used eastern region where Zenab was located, rural women struggled against myriad facto rs that increased their vulnerability and decreased their ability to affect their own des tinies. The lack of sustainable livelihoods has disproportionately affected women i n Sudan, who produce the majority of Sudan’s agricultural harvest, encompassing forty-ni ne percent of farmers in the irrigated sector and fifty-seven percent in the rain-fed trad itional sector (Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations 2010). Women in subsistence agriculture and smallscale production are responsible for over 75 percen t of all agricultural products in Sudan (El-Sanousi and Ahmed El-Ahmin 1994). Rural women have increasingly been recognized as “tools for economic development” beca use they are more susceptible to absolute poverty, malnourishment, famine, disease, and death than their male and/or urban counterparts (1994). Rural women are rarely permitted a say in whether or not they want to be used as “tools for economic develop ment” or how they should be used. Women are more vulnerable to economic marginalizati on as a result of educational gender biases, high illiteracy rates, the discounti ng of unpaid care work, and women’s high rates of participation in the informal economy The multiple economic activities that women often participate in, such as working on fami ly farms or selling wares in local markets, are often ignored on census and other type s of quantitative data collection and the ability of women to participate in the formal e conomic sector is constrained by


67educational accessibility. Women have the lowest ra te of literacy of any group in Sudan (Sudan, UNFPA SUDAN: Background Information 2010) a nd this disparity reflects patriarchal cultural attitudes that prioritize the education of male children over female children, particularly by fathers (El-Sanousi and A hmed El-Ahmin 1994). Women lack access to and control of land, water, seeds, fertil izer, natural resources, technology, labor, credit, and markets, which further distort women’s ability to increase agricultural yields and improve their own socioeconomic positions. Both MADRE and Zenab viewed the inability of rural women to participate in developm ent processes as a violation of women’s human rights. The Internship Experience: Global to Local and Back Again Collaborative Programming: The Community Sustainabi lity Initiative The process of creating the Community Sustainabili ty Initiative illustrated how Western discourses infused local realities and how the experiences of women involved in NGOs in developing countries were interpreted and n egotiated in global development discourses. The Initiative was a proposal I designe d with the intention of bridging the gap between the needs of Zenab’s constituents and the r equirements of international donors. I was permitted access to the electronic communicatio n between my supervisor, Carolina, the Development Coordinator, and Fatima, the Presid ent and Founder of Zenab, concerning the project, as well as background docum ents on Zenab and MADRE’s programs and prior research. My supervisor gave me a folder full of material on microfinance initiatives, and encouraged me to look at past communications and


68programs that MADRE had done with Zenab, as well as information on a WFU’s previous experience with a microloan program. MADRE spent a considerable amount of time research ing backgrounds of countries where its partners were located to inform its organizational focus. Partner Profiles on each of its affiliated organizations fo rmed a basic foundation of knowledge used by the entire staff. These profiles included a brief biography of partner contact persons/coordinators; project summaries of its prog ram(s); a background and description of the partner organization, its objectives, and ac tivities; the economic and sociopolitical context of the country where it was located; the be neficiaries, or constituents, of the partner; outcomes and/or expected results of the pr oject(s); and financial information, such as budgets, previous expenditures, and primary sources of funding. MADRE used this knowledge to inform grants, fundraising, campa igns, and media outreach. I used information from the organization’s Partner Profile s in combination with research on Sudan, women’s organizations, and microfinance comp iled by myself and prior interns, to develop the Community Sustainability Initiative and inform my understanding of how MADRE effected social change in Sudan My supervisor was very clear about what Zenab want ed and about Fatima’s prior negative experiences with microfinance. Carolina an d Fatima had brainstormed extensively through e-mail, Skype, and phone about how MADRE could best assist Zenab’s commitment to increasing rural women’s acce ss to new technology, improved seeds, and land tenure. The goal of the Community S ustainability Initiative was to involve around 250 women from six communities near Al-Gedaref. With these goals in mind, I designed a proposal based on preexisting so cial structures of community


69assemblies, organizing, and solidarity in the regio n. I wrote up an overview of various models of microfinance that other international org anizations had created and allotted concepts that could be taken from prior initiatives and applied to MADRE’s partner organization. Carolina explained that she liked thi s project because “it has a very specific goal and it already has the beneficiaries identifie d…it’s based on a project that comes from the local partner that has already identified what [resources] the women have expressed that they need…to improve their lives.” The Zenab Community Sustainability Initiative would begin with a communal fund of $30,000 in grant money that could be disbur sed through microloans to WFU participants and repaid at the discretion of Zenab and the participants involved. Loans could be taken out according to the needs of indivi duals, groups, or communities to underwrite the expenses needed to rent and prepare the land for agriculture, purchase seeds, and rent tools. Zenab would be able to colla borate with local women to create a microloan process based on its prior experience wit h microcredit and preexisting social structures of organizing and community assemblies. Fatima would also be able to coordinate with WFU leaders from each community to set an interest rate that the participants could actually afford to repay. The re payment of these small loans with very low interest rates would gradually expand Zenab’s c ommunal fund. Small groups or communities that might not be able to afford to pay the microloan interest rates could also have the option of repayment through in-kind c ontributions, such as leading organizational workshops, trainings, building commu nity centers, schools, and funding educational opportunities.


70According to communications between MADRE and Zenab there were close to 2,000 women registered in WFU and 1,000 women activ ely involved in the union. Due to vast distances between communities and a lack of re liable infrastructure, Fatima suggested that a Second Assembly of WFU would be ne cessary to disseminate information about the pilot project and provide a m eeting point for discussion and decision-making processes about the Community Susta inability Initiative. After talking it over with my supervisor, we concluded that it would make sense to encourage two leaders from each of the six communities to attend the assembly for moral and logistical support and to disseminate project information and discussion in their communities. Transnational Fundraising for Partners Abroad The other goal of this initiative was local food ai d distribution within Sudan. MADRE had periodically given Zenab money to purchas e seeds for WFU, and this was by far its biggest project and Zenab’s most continu al immediate need. MADRE gave Zenab $15,000 to purchase seeds so it could expand its harvest in July 2010. Drought and the bad market economy increased women’s relian ce on Zenab because it was sometimes the only organization able to distribute improved seeds when the Sudanese government failed to fill this need. Zenab also bou ght improved seeds from Gedaref with monetary assistance from international partners to distribute to other villages associated with the WFU Zenab hoped to receive further assistance from the FAO for agricultural extension programs that would increase local women’ s awareness of new technology and skills. Zenab and MADRE hoped to partner with the W orld Food Programme (WFP) to sell surplus crop yields to the WFP’s Purchase for Progress program, which would


71redistribute produce from local farmers to refugees in Darfur and other communities in need throughout Sudan. I played only a very minor part in the communicati on process among Zenab, MADRE, WFP, and FAO. My supervisor was out of the o ffice for a month, and during this time another staff member filled in as my temp orary supervisor. We worked together to draft emails to contacts at the FAO and WFP from MADRE on behalf of Zenab. These emails were drafted with Zenab’s consent to try to get the FAO and WFP to pay attention to Zenab, a much smaller grassroots organization, b acked by the legitimacy of MADRE, a larger American international nongovernmental org anization (INGO). Before I drafted the emails, I researched prior correspondence among MADRE, Zenab, and the FAO and WFP. I also debriefed my temporary supervisor on pr ior programmatic work between Zenab and MADRE because she had taken on some the D evelopment Coordinator’s responsibilities, but was not up to date on all of the programs and issues. The Community Sustainability Initiative would work in tandem with Purchase for Progress by enabling women to have access to credit to rent the land and tools and purchase the seeds necessary to expand their harves t. Women involved in the program would also be able to sell their individual surplus es in local markets for additional income that would benefit themselves, their families, and their communities. By repaying initial grant money into a communal fund and repaying inter est either in cash or in knowledgesharing, the radius of Zenab’s impact could be expa nded to incorporate some of the other twelve communities involved in WFU. The Women Farme rs Union had been able to work with the FAO and WFP previously because of the existing structures in place through Zenab. They had partnered previously with t he Food and Agriculture


72Organization (FAO) to distribute improved seeds and tools to seven villages, and future support from the FAO would be determined by the WFU ’s ability to increase its capacity and production level. Carolina elaborated why MADRE was such a strong proponent of collaborating with the FAO and WFP on this particul ar project: It’s an ongoing program and it’s based on the needs [of the women]. It has the capacity to raise [the amount of money loaned] and to be able to prod uce more food and have a surplus. The FAO might be interested in giving more training because now the women have the tools, have the seeds they need, and they have traditional knowledge but they need more effective ways, and resources, and trainings, and teams, to be able to maximize th e production on the ground. After much official communication among MADRE, Zena b, WFP, and FAO, and personal communication between the Director of Zena b and Program Director of MADRE, Zenab was finally able to secure a meeting w ith the WFP. The WFP agreed to work with Zenab through its Purchase for Progress p rogram and, according the Program Director, supported WFU’s initiatives through verba l affirmations in the meeting that were not necessarily captured in written documents. At the time of my research, the FAO had been difficult to keep in contact with and secu re support for WFU; the Director of Zenab had found empathy from an FAO Representative at the national level in Sudan, but had not had as much luck with its representative at the regional level. In the end, Fatima compromised some of her Muslim c ultural values and negotiated with donors to use a more mainstream mic rofinance model that charged low interest on loans. Carolina explained that the deci sion was not predominately driven by donor-interests and the model was not the most prof itable or business-oriented approach that could have been taken. Zenab’s founder had som e agency in determining how the money would be used, how much interest should be ch arged, how much donor development discourse the organization was willing to receive, and how to interpret those interests to her constituents. Despite my best eff orts to design a proposal that I felt


73reflected partner interests, the final decision reg arding whether the initiative would be implemented and how microloans would be distributed and repaid was ultimately Zenab’s. I am uncertain how ideas or information fr om my proposal were used, if at all. One aspect that Carolina broached later that I did not consider in my proposal was how religion might affect perceptions of loans and inte rest. I thought that by incorporating community models of organizing and decision-making I was being both realistic and culturally respectful. Apparently, my upbringing in a Christian, capitalist, profit-driven American culture had influenced my unquestioned acc eptance of loans and credit in general. I had not connected Zenab’s decision to ta ke out a loan with the fact that Northern Sudan has a Muslim majority. Carolina expl ained: [The] Arabic world [has] a different take on what i t means to have access to money…It’s really a cultural position of …[where] you get the loan, and what are the terms and conditions of that loan, how do you see the person that is giving you the lo an. What are…the conditions or obligations of how you are going to return the money? So we haven’ t necessarily explored that but I think…we have to do it…because I think it will strengthen th e program. Considering cultural values and how they influence partners’ perceptions of funding and development discourses was a direction that Carolin a expressed interest in pursuing in the future. Carolina did tell me that Zenab had decided to charge low-interest on the microloans: We decided to go with the low-interest and explain [to the women that]…we have to have some interest because the funder was also interested in having that model…And Fatima is okay [with that]…she realized that [because this is a pilot pr oject] we have to make it fit in this big model of microfinance, and she also specified that the good thing about this is that it puts the money where the people need it the most. According to Thayer, “Women’s movements in the glob al periphery resisted or adapted the discourses and resources sent by Northe rn feminists and development agencies, while professionalized urban feminist ins titutions transmitted and interpreted these resources to grassroots working-class women” through a shared feminist political


74space occupied by second-wave feminist theorists an d activists, development agencies, NGOs, and grassroots membership organizations (2010 :16). They were united by “struggles against different forms of women’s subor dination; shared skills, knowledge, and pedagogies; and channeled funds and political o pportunities to one another” (16). Zenab’s processes of collaboration, negotiation, an d compromise illustrated this resistance and adaption of American feminist discou rses and resources from MADRE and donor organizations through a common framework of women’s human rights. Feminist Goals through Personal Connections Although Zenab did not explicitly identify as femin ist, it used the identity of women as a catalyst for challenging the inferior so cioeconomic and political status of marginalized peoples in Sudan as a way to network w ith other similarly aligned individuals and groups. “Regardless of their goals, organizations that use gender to mobilize women are likely to bring their constituen ts into more explicitly political activities, empower women to challenge limitations on their roles and lives, and create networks among women that enhance their ability to recognize existing gender relations as oppressive and in need of change” (Ferree and Tr ip 2006:7). Since feminism lacks a universally recognized definition, relationships to the term are localized according to historical and cultural understandings of what it m eans to be a feminist. Sudanese women have been active agents of social transformation an d resistance against patriarchal oppression, and Zenab’s creation was a product of t his history. The founder of Zenab, Fatima, was a community leade r, activist, and Ph.D. candidate who held a masters degree in plant physio logy. According to the Zenab for


75Women in Development website, Fatima was a dynamic individual and the oldest daughter of a mother who had been an activist in th e community before her. She created Zenab for Women in Development in 2000 to promote p eacebuilding, women’s rights, women’s reproductive health, and girls’ education, and was named an Ambassador of Peace for her contributions. Fatima actively sought out MADRE as a partner to help strengthen the capacity of Zenab and the Women Farm ers Union. In the words of Lena, MADRE’s Media Coordinator: “Fatima was the one who a few years ago [said] ‘I am creating a union of women farmers in Sudan…I want p artners, I want people who are in line with this and want to support it.’” Both the founder and her mother were well known in the community, and their interpersonal connectio ns contributed to women’s willingness to participate in the formation of the Women Farmers Union. Zenab was named in honor of Fatima’s mother, who viewed educa tion as the basic pillar of women’s empowerment and rights and was the first woman to b e educated in Al Gedaref state in the 1930s. She was nominated for the Nobel Peace Pr ize in 2005 for her commitment to improving gender equality in schools and girls’ acc ess to basic and higher education. During her 47 year career as a teacher, she opened and maintained numerous schools specifically for girls in eastern Sudan, actions th at directly challenged patriarchal cultural values by prioritizing the education of females. Th e feminist goals of the original Zenab reverberated through the stories and experiences of women involved in WFU, many of whom were illiterate and relied heavily on oral com munication to relay information. Some chose to use the earnings supplemented by thei r involvement in the union to fund the education of their daughters or themselves and to build and maintain local schools.


76Zenab claimed that WFU was the first union of women ’s farmers in Sudan, a proclamation made more impressive by the fact that women in Eastern Sudan had few land ownership rights and were frequently prohibite d from organizing into bargaining collectives and unions (MADRE 2010). However, WFU w as not the first Sudanese women’s union, but emerged from a culturally and hi storically specific context of women’s political participation, involvement in org anizations, and resistance to subordination. Sudan is a patriarchal society with a historically gendered division of labor that relied heavily on women for domestic care and agriculture. The first women’s organization in Sudan that sought to raise the nati onal and cultural standard of Sudanese women was the Sudanese Women’s Union (SWU). In 1952 a group of middle-class Sudanese women led the struggle for women’s social, economic, and political rights, and by 1965 women had gained the right to vote. The goa ls of the SWU reflected larger postcolonial struggles for stabilization and democracy and religious tensions within Sudan. The Sudanese Women’s Union was re-established in 19 71 during a time of relative peace for Sudan after 17 years of civil war, and the orga nization was able to establish branches throughout the country and incorporate rural women leaders. Women’s ability to participate politically has vari ed with governmental regime changes and has been drastically limited by fundame ntalist Sharia law. The 1989 coup led by Omar al-Bashir marked an era of increased Is lamicization, the imposition of Sharia law in 1991, and the limitation of women’s politica l participation through religious channels such as the government-sponsored Women’s U nion or General Union for Sudanese Women (El-Sanousi and Ahmed El-Ahmin 1994) Since then, women have made some strides in gaining parliamentary represen tation through nonpartisan political


77caucuses, such as the Sudanese Women Parliamentaria n’s Caucus, to bring women’s political and social issues before the parliament. Policy issues have focused on women’s political participation, the displacement of women, and the role of rural women as a tool for economic development (1994). Wealthy, urban, s ocially elite Sudanese women have constituted the small minority that has played a ma jor role in the women’s movement, while the voices of poor, urban women who have suff ered the most from conflict and famine have been the most underrepresented and marg inalized. The partnership between MADRE and Zenab strove to b ring the voices of the most marginalized – rural women in eastern Sudan – to the table by focusing on the Program Area of Environmental/Economic Justice and using strategies of Meeting Immediate Needs and Partnering for Change. MADRE’s approach was guided by Zenab’s desire to acquire improved seeds and techno logies that would increase the capacity of the Women Farmers Union. The INGO acte d as an intermediary between international and national institutions and local w omen’s groups involved in the Women’s Farmer’s Union through Zenab to connect the m with larger international organizations, such as the World Food Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organization. By partnering with MADRE, Zenab gaine d legitimacy locally, regionally, and nationally and was able to further some of its goals. In return, MADRE authenticated and legitimized its own organizational goals by pro viding rights, results, and resources worldwide to a marginalized local constituency of w omen in Eastern Sudan. The historical context of women’s organizations in Suda n and feminist goals of Zenab provided insight into how local women’s visions for change overlapped with a women’s human rights framework, enabling MADRE’s strategy o f partnering for change to be


78effective. The example of the Community Sustainabil ity Initiative reflected how culturally-specific values were negotiated and comp romised through transnational networks, illustrating points of tension in transna tional networking and in MADRE’s social change model. The next chapter will describe how MADRE uses another Program Area and two different strategies for change and di scuss how feminist values can be transmitted through transnational advocacy networks


79CHAPTER THREE CASE STUDY 2: COLOMBIA: TALLER DE VIDA Taller de Vida, Spanish for “Workshop of Life,” is a Colombia-based nongovernmental organization that develops programs resources, and psychosocial (psychologically and socially rehabilitative) proje cts for children, youth, women, families, and communities affected by sociopolitica l violence. MADRE worked with Taller de Vida to develop alternatives to armed con flict and violence through the arts and advocated on behalf of child soldiers international ly. This case study sheds lights on how MADRE used transnational networks to engage wit h its constituency within the United States to promote social change abroad. The core of my knowledge of MADRE’s work with Taller de Vida came from my translation o f a report entitled “Update to the Colombian Context” (Actualizacin del Contexto Colo mbiano) from Spanish to English. The document was original research done by Taller d e Vida on the causes of child soldier recruitment to determine more effective strategies of prevention and rehabilitation. I contextualize Taller de Vida’s organizational inter ests within its location in Colombia and MADRE’s programmatic focus on peacebuilding as a way to incorporate partner interests into a women’s human rights framework. I reflect on how my internship experience influenced my understanding of how MADRE was able to act as a conduit for social transformation from local to global through collaborative programming and fundraising efforts. The organization engaged in so cial change through a variety of overlapping strategies, but concentrated on public education and human rights advocacy


80in Colombia in its partnership with Taller de Vida. Finally, I explore how MADRE embodied transnational feminist goals by utilizing transnational networks of women to engage in human rights advocacy work. Taller de Vida Taller de Vida utilizes social networks of childre n, youth, activists, artist collectives, educators, professionals, and communit y leaders to protect and promote human rights in Colombia. It was only one of two pa rtner organizations that MADRE worked with in Colombia. The other organization, LI MPAL (La Liga Internacional de Mujeres por la Paz y la Libertad), is a chapter org anization of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) in Colombia th at strives to end causes of war and create a culture of peace through the formation promotion, and defense of Women’s Human Rights by advocating for female ex-combatants (LIMPAL Colombia 2010). I chose to focus on MADRE’s partnership with Taller d e Vida because it was the organization I was the most directly connected to d uring my internship. Taller de Vida emerged in 1992 as an NGO striving to increase publ ic awareness of the affects of violence on women displaced by armed conflict in Co lombia. More specifically, it provides resources to assist with displaced women’s emotional recovery. The organization’s principal concerns are ensuring huma n dignity, self-determination, good citizenship, empowerment, respecting ethnic and cul tural plurality, promoting sustainable local-to-global actions towards peace, and being co nscientious of the impact of theories and institutions on the people with whom they worke d.


81Partner Context: Colombia In Colombia, decades of armed conflict, political c orruption, and economic instability have disrupted the lives of all citizen s. The Coalition of Child Soldiers reports that civilians “were victims of extrajudicial execu tions, enforced disappearance, death threats, anti-personnel mines, indiscriminate attac ks and forcible displacement in large numbers” (Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldie rs 2004). The conflict has most deeply affected the populations located at the marg ins of Colombian society: women, children, Afro-Colombians, and Indigenous Peoples. These categories often overlap, as the most impoverished groups are often displaced an d recruited by paramilitary groups. Many individuals join armed groups as a way to clai m agency over their own lives and because there seem to be few viable alternatives. Indigenous Peoples and Afro-Colombians have their r ights continuously violated in Colombia, as power struggles between armed group s produced not only massive amounts of violence, but also force the migration a nd displacement of entire communities. Indigenous Peoples have collective lan d rights under Colombia’s Constitution, but have been the populations most fo rcibly displaced and denied these land rights as a result of the conflict. The National In digenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC) has reported that Indigenous groups demand t o be treated as neutral in the war. Luis Evelis Andrade, leader of the ONIC, stated in a response to the Inter Press Service (IPS) News Agency that "we have asked that our nati ve languages [embodied in our children, women, and men] not be used to intensify the war in this country" (Vieira 2009). The IPS also reported that the Constitutiona l Court of Colombia stated that 34 of the country’s 102 indigenous groups are facing a hu manitarian emergency and the armed


82conflict has affected Indigenous Peoples so deeply that they are at risk of cultural or physical extermination (Vieira 2009). According to the World Food Program, “Colombia has the highest internally displaced population in the western hemisphere and the second-largest displaced population in the world after the Sudan, with estim ates placing the numbers between 1.8 million and 3.7 million over the last 20 years. On a smaller scale, rural populations are also escaping the violence by crossing into Ecuador Venezuela and Panama” (2008). Taller de Vida’s report illuminates that numerous f actors contribute to the poor quality of life for displaced persons, including external and interfamilial violence, the stigmatization and stereotyping of marginalized peoples, increased dependency on resources obtained by illegal means, high rates of hunger and malnutri tion among children and youth, inadequate social facilities, overcrowding, and a w eak and/or corrupt state presence. Displaced women face further marginalization, with high rates of unemployment, food insecurity, and lack of access to housing, health c are, and education. Indigenous and Afro-Colombian women have lost access to cultural a nd ethnic networks that had previously provided safety nets against racism, soc ial exclusion, and extreme poverty. Taller de Vida’s report revealed that children were the largest percentage of the population affected by violence, mostly due to arme d conflict. The partner stated that every day child soldiers were exposed to violations of their rights, such as torture, abuse, sexual exploitation, prolonged detention, and separ ation from their families. They were denied their right to education and were exposed to health problems, mistreatment, drug addiction, and alcoholism. According to Kimberly Th eidon a medical anthropologist at Harvard University focusing on Latin America, all o f the armed groups in Colombia have


83committed human rights violations against children and utilized child soldiers to further their own political interests (2009:6). High rates of childhood-recruitment in armed conflict have been due in large part to Colombia’s forty year history of violent internal strife and persistent poverty. Colombia’s civil war is the lengthiest armed confli ct in the western hemisphere. What began fortytwo years ago as a war waged by Marxist revolutiona ries against an exclusive political system has devolved into a bloody struggle over resources: mil itary, paramilitary, guerillas, domestic elites, and multinational actors vie for control of this re source-rich country. In the struggle, all groups have committed serious human rights violations; the vast majority of the war casualties are unarmed civilians, and the escalating violence and fear for one’s life have prompted massive internal and cross-border displacement (Theidon 200 9:6). The three main paramilitary groups have been the Fu erzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC), the Ejrcito de Liberacin Naciona l (ELN), and the Auto-Defensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC). All paramilitary groups h ave obtained financial backing through illegal activities such as kidnapping, exto rtion, drug-trafficking, and drug trade protection, in addition to paramilitary use to prot ect the interests of regional elites and suppress social protests (Theidon 2009:7-8). Accord ing to Taller de Vida’s report, the implementation of paramilitary demobilization proce sses, “Democratic Security,” in 2003 worsened the effects of the armed conflict without actually undermining any of the power of paramilitary groups and escalated levels of viol ence in Colombia. The U.S.-based Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers (2009), has noted that the 2005 Justice and Peace Law in Colombia provided the legal framework for the demobilization of paramilitary groups. However, the legislation focus ed on demobilizing the AUC and resulted in the merging of AUC with criminal organi zations and groups not directly involved. Based on statistics from human rights organizations Taller de Vida indicated that the crisis had not disappeared. The assassination o f journalists rose to 49 in 2008, ten


84more than in 2007. Various media sources have accus ed the government-backed military of systematic human rights violations through the u se of torture, unnecessary detainment, forced disappearances, and extrajudicial executions reporting 1,666 cases of execution of unarmed civilians between 18 and 50 years old (Tall er de Vida 2007). Insecurity issues have been magnified by a lack of basic infrastructu re and public transportation in many rural areas and lesser urban areas; frequently, the paramilitary groups provide better security and stability than state-sponsored police forces. The demobilization of the AUC increased rates of childhood recruitment. Taller de Vida’s report discussed how children felt it was much more attractive to use force than peace to resolve their problems, and that this was the same logic they applied to becomi ng involved in illegal activities. The armed groups provide a feeling of power and authori ty that offers back-up support for its members, illuminate the organizational limits of th e law, and provide a strong social network when other familial and social networks beg in to weaken. According to the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, “children formed a high proportion of the victims, in part because fig hting forces at times operated in and near schools and other places where children were l ikely to gather” (Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers 2004). Such places formed a r ich breeding ground for child soldier recruitment and it was especially common in the rur al and marginalized urban areas. One statistic in the report estimated that twenty perce nt of paramilitary strength was from minors under the age of 18, who were being used lik e “cannon fodder and forced to commit atrocious murder.” According to one study on child soldier recruitment on the website of the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child S oldiers “[s]ome enlist as a means of survival in war-torn regions after family, social a nd economic structures collapse or after


85seeing family members tortured or killed by governm ent forces or armed groups. Others join up because of poverty and lack of work or educ ational opportunities (2007). Many girls have reported enlisting to escape domestic se rvitude, violence and sexual abuse.” Female youth have been the population most suscepti ble to recruitment, abduction, sexual violence and abuse, and inadequat e rehabilitation programs. Yvonne E. Keairns, a researcher at the Quaker United Nations Office, led an in-depth, interviewbased study of 22 former female child soldiers from Angola, Colombia, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka, and concluded that the reasons girls became soldiers in Colombia depended on both personal circumstances and local e nvironment (2003). In Colombia, these were often determined to be extreme poverty, especially in rural areas, and lack of familial stability. Through a related study on gir l child soldiers done by the Quaker United Nations Office, Rachel Brett found that girl s volunteer for many of the same reasons boys do, but factors of domestic exploitati on or abuse, the ability to protect themselves, and the desire to prove their own equal ity with boys were stronger factors among girls recruited than boys (2002). Identificat ion with an armed group sometimes replaced family bonds and could break cultural soci alization in ways that increased gender equality, but many female combatants found t hat the egalitarian ideals of many armed groups did not play out in real life. There w ere often gendered divisions of labor in the camps that expected girls/women to cook and cle an and sometimes provide sexual services for the men, although this was by no means true of all women’s experiences. Taller de Vida found that children were conscripted in various ways in addition to toting guns and fighting. They often provided “pers onal support,” which could entail cooking or “ranchera,” buying supplies, intelligen ce work, messengers, sex work for the


86bosses of the groups, managing the recruitment of o ther youth, the manufacture of landmines, and taking care of people who had been k idnapped. The use of children as soldiers and the exposure of civilian children to a rmed conflict has a deep and devastating effect on their lives. Colombian legislation ignore d the fact that children were carrying out adult combatant responsibilities in paramilitar y groups. The government failed to recognize and reinforce the rights of child soldier s, the deep and devastating effect of this experience on their futures, or to include them in rehabilitation and reintegration programs. Program Area: Peacebuilding (WHRF) MADRE’s adapted the women’s human rights framework by focusing on peacebuilding, which reflected Taller de Vida’s mis sion of advocating for the rights and needs of children, Indigenous Peoples, Afro-Colombi ans, internally displaced persons (IDPs), and ex-combatants in Colombia. Taller de Vi da’s approach to working with former child soldiers, displaced persons, and margi nalized communities encompassed a sustainable and holistic community approach. As an institution, it attempted to address not just basic physical needs, but the emotional ne eds of all persons affected by armed conflict in Colombia. Artistic outreach programs pr ovided new skills and livelihoods for displaced women, children, and families as well as a form of therapeutic release. These programs helped to organize personal and collective experiences, build community, and strengthen social networks within poor, marginalize d, and mostly urban areas in Colombia. Networks and resources such as these prov ided a space where displaced peoples could make sense of a social fabric shredde d by political violence and with options for the future that might never have seemed possible before. Taller de Vida’s


87interests also overlapped into economic/environment al justice and women’s health, but its focus on community-based healing and conflict p revention in relation to sustained internal violence aligned it more closely with peac ebuilding than the other areas. Engaging in Social Change Strategy 1: Public Education MADRE helped fund artistic and educational projects for former child soldiers that focused on art and community as alternative vi sions for peace and made it possible for children to break the cycle of violence in whic h they were entrapped. Taller de Vida’s psychosocial prevention projects incorporated vario us elements of artistic expression, such as dance, theater, capoeira, photography, and film, into the “Artistic School for the Formation and Promotion of Human Rights,” formed in 2004. Much of the group’s work was geared towards women, youth, and children’s rig hts, social development, and rehabilitation, but they also constructed projects for displaced urban Afro-Colombian youth that targeted racial discrimination in additi on to emotional recovery and armed force recruitment prevention strategies. Youth prod uced videos, including This war is not ours and we are not losing it, and created political theater groups that received international recognition, such as the Theater Coll ective of Taller de Vida. This group performed original plays in Colombia, Canada, and t hroughout Europe. Taller de Vida youth collaborated with other young people involved in peace organizing to create an audiovisual project entitled “The Displaced School” (“La escuela desplazada”) that provided a methodological toolbox by and for displa ced children and youth. Another project, the “Artist School for the Reconstruction of Dreams,” focused on using


88psychosocial therapy in combination with artistic d evelopment to prevent recruitment by paramilitary groups. One of MADRE’s core programmatic focuses for Taller de Vida was a multimedia production and videography training prog ram for Indigenous and AfroColombian youth affected by war. I chose to focus o n this project because I was assigned the task of writing a blog post on the social art d ocumentaries that Miguel, an independent radio and video producer based in Los A ngeles, was producing with MADRE’s partners in Peru and Colombia. MADRE connec ted Taller de Vida and another of its partner organizations in Peru with M iguel, who was also a native Spanish speaker. MADRE helped pay for his travel expenses, but he essentially volunteered his time and skills to teach youth from Taller de Vida how to use professional digital cameras and video editing systems. He initially wor ked with MADRE’s partner in Peru in 2004 to create a radio documentary on the role of m emory in the 2004 presidential elections. Two years later, Miguel volunteered to t each youth in Taller de Vida how to use professional digital cameras and video editing systems and returned in 2009 to conduct a series of workshops to teach students abo ut multimedia production and journalism. The videos produced from this last work shop ended up being published on the Youth Radio/Youth Media International website. The outcome of their collaboration was evident to me through the professional quality of videos online and the photography taken by Taller de Vida youth exhibited during The Colombia Event, described later in this chapter. Some of the money raised from this fu ndraiser was intended to help pay for Miguel’s travel expenses to conduct a fourth traini ng and begin a project of cross-cultural


89collaboration between Colombian youth and Peruvian elders affected by sociopolitical violence. In documenting the experiences of Colombian youth a ffected by armed conflict, it became apparent to Miguel that what seemed like ver y dramatic experiences to the outside observer were the norm for these youth. In an interview with MADRE staff, he discussed how important it was to capture the memor ies of participants in ways that they wanted them to be presented, not in the ways that h e or any other outside observer preferred. During this interview he also explained, “if you are a sensitive observer, you realize that the stories that the subjects of your studies want to tell are not necessarily the ones you find most interesting.” Many of the youth had entered the FARC paramilitary group when they were between the ages of 12 and 15. In their research on former child soldiers and the process of reintegration, Roger Du thie and Irma Specht conclude that transitional justice has the potential to reinforce the reintegration of children by fostering trust but may also hinder progress by fostering sti gmatization and fear (2009:218). In interviews with girl ex-combatants, they discovered that some of them were afraid to reveal their past involvement with armed groups bec ause of fear of repercussions, such as social stigmatization and marginalization. Duthie a nd Specht emphasized that childspecific reintegration must include rehabilitation of the entire community to be sustainable, as both the children and the communiti es could be considered victims. Taller de Vida’s programs focused on holistic community he aling and artistic collaboration, but youth immersed in the programs were cautious about revealing their identity as excombatants, mostly to ensure the safety of their ow n lives as abduction and recruitment remained real threats.


90A few of the first videos that the former child sol diers produced had some connection to their past, but the majority of the y outh did not want to discuss their experiences and instead portrayed an acquaintance o r another aspect of themselves. Video topics included following a Colombian folk mu sic group, hip hop culture in the outskirts of Bogota, the re-feminization of female ex-combatants, circus artists who perform for cars stopped at red lights, theater gro ups and the role of women in Colombian society, and the psychosocial consequences of life after combat. The program was designed to be self-sustaining so that youth could continue to develop their own projects after Miguel left and pass along their skills to ot her young people. As a result of this program, young people from the partner organization were able to develop videography skills, express themselves artistically, and publis h their work on a prominent media website. Strategy 2: Human Rights Advocacy MADRE targeted national and international legal sta ndards by employing a strategy of human rights advocacy. This strategy re lied heavily on exposure and shaming techniques, which are the core strategies for enfor cing human rights law, reinforced by the media campaigns and the public outreach of NGOs such as MADRE and human rights monitoring agencies. These were strategies c ommon to most transnational actors, especially NGOs, and were both strengths and weakne sses of MADRE’s work. According to Merry et al, “These organizations prov ide information and publicize violations, help victims of human rights violations complain to human rights bodies, and


91provide information to UN special rapporteurs3 and representatives. It is the moral appeals and outrage of NGOs that persuade the publi c to attend to these violations and to support the human rights framework” (2010). Rita, t he Human Rights Director, described MADRE’s strategy for human rights advocacy as being able “to provide expertise and guidance to partner organizations” and to use “publ ic pressure and shame in order to make things happen.” Lena described MADRE’s approac h to exposure and shaming in this way: Here’s an issue [where the] Colombian conflict has been going on for a decade, so we’ll say nobody is covering this as an ongoing and terrible issue. Then we’ll put the extra effort into saying, “You should be.” We’ll put out an opinion p iece. We’ll put out a press release. We’ll have an event and do all these things to just put it bac k into the public conversation, to put it back into the forefront of people’s minds that some issues ar e ongoing even though in the news people aren’t talking about it. As a transnational actor rather than an institution MADRE lacked the ability to exert direct pressure on international legal standa rds that affected women. This meant the success of MADRE’s campaigns was dependent upon pub lic outreach and the initiative of staff to seek out and convince U.N. and E.U. del egates. This strategy relied upon the cosmopolitan legal knowledge of Rita, the Human Rig hts Advocacy Director, to challenge patriarchal structures of oppression embe dded in human rights law. This legal framework of human rights consists of multilateral conventions or treaties that bind the nations that ratify them. Regional human rights bod ies such as the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights, the European Court of Human Rights, or the International Criminal Court hear complaint cases a nd render decisions. Lawyers document and present complaints and cases to the in ternational bodies. Human rights values become codified in multilateral conventions through governmental ratification and “Rapporteur An expert entrusted by the UN with a special human rights mandate, acting in his or her personal capacity” (University of Minnesota Human R ights Center: Study Guide: The Rights of Indigenous Peoples: 2003


92recourse to law, frequently as a result of public i nsistence on increased moral accountability. The conventions are then monitored by committees through periodic reports from rapporteurs to ensure that countries a re adhering to their agreements. Rita described it this way: “In Colombia recommendations and concluding observations that come out of the Human Rights Committee under Colomb ian domestic law [are] binding, so what can happen is lawyers can bring cases, liti gate, and advocates can use it as an advocacy tool, and organizers can use it for public education awareness to make these recommendations implemented under Colombian law, be cause it’s been written into their Constitution that treaties are binding domestically .” Enforcement depends on the pressures of nation-states as well as the reports o f treaty bodies. The public sphere, internationally and nationally, has to be strong an d invested enough in human rights values to shame governments and international bodie s into complying with human rights legislation and prosecuting violations. In July 2010, the Human Rights Committee met to rev iew Colombia’s human rights record, and women’s human rights advocates h ad the opportunity to participate. MADRE collaborated with a coalition of women’s huma n rights organizations to relay the concerns of women and marginalized groups to th e Colombian government through a shadow report to the UN Human Rights Committee in o rder to hold the government accountable to its international human rights treat y obligations. Colombia must regularly defend its record as a member state of the Human Ri ghts Committee, which is the treaty body for the International Covenant on Civil and Po litical Rights (ICCPR) that monitors whether its members are fulfilling their obligation s. The ICCPR, which ensured first generation human rights values, was adopted during a UN General Assembly in 1966


93along with the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) that addressed second generation human rig hts values. However, the first generation rights of the ICCPR were represented in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and it had its own treaty-body commit tee that operated as a monitoring and enforcement mechanism. The ICCPR was not represente d in the Declaration and had no similar treaty body or monitoring and enforcement m echanisms until 17 years later when the United Nations drafted the Optional Protocol to the ICESCR, which was finally adopted in 2008. However, as of 2010 only two of th e thirty-three states who signed had ratified it, resulting in the ICESCR having diminis hed international importance for reinforcing second generation human rights. This me ant that the ICCPR was the treaty body that could most heavily influence Colombia’s n ational human rights policies and thus have the most direct impact for MADRE’s partne rs on the ground. The Colombian judicial system cared about the international commu nity’s opinion of the country and the government wanted to hold onto the power and benefi ts associated with being a member state of the United Nations. These concerns permitt ed a limited amount of leverage for NGOs and political actors in Colombia working again st internal human rights violations, but did not guarantee such policies would be implem ented or enforced even if they were legally ratified. The shadow report documented the persistent threat of forced displacement and sexual violence against women, children, and popula tions of Indigenous Peoples and Afro-Colombians, condemned violations of women’s re productive rights, and decried the threats to lives of women human rights defenders by the Colombian government and other armed actors. It called for the Colombian gov ernment to restore lands to


94communities and respect the collective land ownersh ip of Afro-Colombians and Indigenous Peoples. The government, the report proc laimed, must protect women’s right to safe and legal abortions. It held the state resp onsible for prosecuting perpetrators of sexual violence and for funding special support ser vices for survivors. Human rights defenders, the report stated, must be given physica l protection and permitted a safe space to speak out against abuses in the public sphere, w hile perpetrators of violence against human rights defenders must be held responsible for their actions. Finally, it demanded that the government actually enforce pre-existing l aws that prohibit child soldiers and address risk factors that make children vulnerable to recruitment (MADRE: Using International Law to Affect Change 2010). Adrian, the Executive Director, explained that MADR E believed it was crucial for someone to represent the concerns of women whenever possible: “We think it is very important to be at the table when policy decisions of any sort are discussed, whether it’s where to build a road, or how to build a hospital, where to put a playground, or whether there should be a military training center.” None o f its partner organizations were able to send representatives to speak at the UN out of fear for their lives and their families. MADRE, however, sent its Human Rights Advocacy Dire ctor to advocate on behalf of its partners at the hearing and was the only organizati on that briefed the UN Human Rights Committee on violations of women’s and children’s r ights in Colombia. The concerns of women and marginalized groups that MADRE addressed in the shadow report were included in the observations of the Human Rights Co mmittee presented to the Colombian state; the Committee made a series of recommendatio ns urging the government to take action to stop the continuation of serious human ri ghts violations persisting in Colombia.


95MADRE’s partner organizations reported that they ap preciated the language used in the observations and that the Committee’s recommendatio ns would be useful for the work being done on the ground. MADRE’s partner organizat ions also received positive coverage in the Spanish-language media through onli ne videos, radio, blogs, and articles from Women’s Link Worldwide,, Notimundo2, and Caracol Radio News. The Internship Experience: Local to Global and Back Again Collaborative Programming: Translating into MADRE’s Work During my internship, I was allotted the task of wr iting English summaries of discoveries and conclusions from Taller de Vida’s r eport. These were originally to be used for gathering background information about chi ld soldier recruitment for MADRE’s shadow report, but did not end up being used due to time constraints and lack of communication between staff. My focus in summarizin g the report was to provide a context for the organizational goals and motivation s of Taller de Vida. Some of the information from my research did end up in Taller d e Vida’s Partner Profile, on MADRE’s website, and in some of its media outreach literature. I am sure that some of the statistics and details of armed conflict occurr ing in the regions in which Taller de Vida worked were also useful for grant-writing and donor targeting. Due to MADRE’s roots in Spanish-speaking Central an d Latin America, the organization was in constant need of Spanish-to-Eng lish and English-to-Spanish translations for intra-organizational communication s, relevant news articles and public education pieces, and bilingual research. At the ti me of my internship, my supervisor was


96the only native Spanish-speaker and only three or f our of the other staff members spoke Spanish semi-fluently. Meanwhile, six out of twelve of the partner organizations used Spanish as their primary language of communication. This number did not include a program based in Bolivia that was not officially a partner organization, plus an international bilingual partner, the Foro Internaci onal de Mujeres Indgenas (FIMI), also known as the International Indigenous Women’s Forum (IIWF), based in Nicaragua and partially in MADRE’s New York office. Communicatio n, collaboration, and advocacy work were further complicated by the fact that Span ish was the second or third language for some of the partner organizations. As a result, MADRE needed more Spanishspeaking office staff and interns to handle the hig h volume of Spanish language-based communication. During my internship, five of the twelve interns, i ncluding myself, were semifluent to fluent Spanish speakers. I was located so mewhere in the middle of that spectrum and was much more confident in my reading and writi ng abilities than in speaking. In reflecting upon the process of translating document s, I found it quite challenging, tedious, time-consuming, and sometimes rewarding. I often qu estioned my grammar, word choice, and interpretation of texts, and I frequent ly consulted several more advanced Spanish-speaking interns. My supervisor, a native-S panish speaker, knew I was not fluent and always reviewed and corrected my translations. Although it would have been faster and a more efficient use of her time and mine to ha ve a fluent Spanish speaker translate documents, I think she was probably used to having interns with varying language capabilities because of the sheer volume of materia l requiring bilingual proficiency and the high rate of turnover among staff members and i nterns. By the end of my internship,


97I had translated and summarized two 30-page documen ts in Spanish into about 20 pages in English, one from Taller de Vida in Colombia and another on an Indigenous Radio program from MADRE’s partner program in Peru. I als o finished a Spanish-to-English translation of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples for FIMI to present to the United Nations and composed several letters of solidarity in Spani sh to individuals and partners that MADRE wanted to acknowledge. My Spanish writing sk ills improved immensely and I felt that I had been able to contribute to MADRE’s work in Central and Latin America. Local Fundraising for Partners Abroad MADRE launched a public education and fundraising c ampaign on behalf of child soldiers entitled, “Born Into War: Child Sold iers in Colombia.” This included a presentation, a silent auction, and an exhibit of p hotos taken by youth in Taller de Vida. Monthly newsletters, the MADRE website and MyMADRE blog, Facebook, Twitter, press releases, and other forms of social media wer e all outlets MADRE used to increase public awareness. Most of MADRE’s media outlets wer e directed towards donors or constituents, but the press releases were often use d in online or print news sources. Social media sites – the blog, Facebook, and Twitter – wer e geared towards a more general, techno-savvy, and (MADRE staff hoped) younger audie nce. MADRE used all of these sources to educate the public on pressing issues th at directly affected its partner organizations. Madison explained the intersection b etween the website and finding ways to increase monetary contributions: Fundraising plays a BIG role in the way that [we] p ublicize work on the website…I mean, whenever we think we’ll make money we definitely pu t [that] forward in direct mail. There are some programs… that we definitely want to raise mon ey for…We just can’t because it doesn’t appeal to donors. Things like child soldiers, viole nce against women, clean water, food security, emergencies, humanitarian aid; those are key topics that appeal to people. We don’t let that drive it totally, but it’s definitely a factor in what produ cts we decide to put forward.


98To appeal to its constituents and donors, MADRE pos ted multiple news articles and media publications on its website, sent letters to the editor, and distributed online and print newsletters to its membership base as part of MADRE’s child soldiers campaign. The organization produced talking points that highl ighted the organization’s issue stances and points of view concerning how U.S. foreign poli cy negatively affected the situation of child soldiers in Colombia. Janet, the Communica tions Director, harshly critiqued the Obama Administration in a letter to the editor of t he Washington Post for granting a waiver that permitted U.S. aid to continue to Colom bia and three other countries using child soldiers (Sheridan 2010). The organization al so used the MADRE News section of its website to update constituents on key internati onal news and UN reports that affected partner organizations. It also displayed several of the photos taken by former child soldiers in a rotating photo display on the main pa ge and incorporated personal stories and quotes from the children into online and print publications. These individual narratives were intended to pull on the heartstring s and purses of MADRE’s constituents, while simultaneously educating the public and encou raging them to apply pressure through online petitions and action alerts targetin g legislative and political channels, such as Congress or the Obama Administration. The Colombia Event was MADRE’s first local fundrais er in New York and a massive undertaking. I observed the planning proces s firsthand through MADRE staff meetings, conversations with staff and interns, and participation in planning and setting up the gathering. Madison, the Development Assistan t, and Marie, the Helping Hands Coordinator, planned the majority of the event, and relied heavily on intern assistance. I had never observed or participated in the planning process of such a large-scale event


99coordinated by an NGO. The staff estimated that if they sent out 1,000 invitations, 100 guests might attend. MADRE distributed invitations to donors who had given $50 or more in the past two years and who were also within a 50-mile radius of the event. MADRE had to rent the event space, print the invite s, and pay for other essentials that donations did not cover. The organization also deci ded to hold a silent auction at The Colombia Event. Social networking among MADRE employees and interns played a major role in acquiring food and beverage donations from local bu sinesses, increasing event attendance, and securing monetary contributions for Taller de Vida. With the exception of one employee who was out of town, the entire sta ff of MADRE attended the event. All of the interns helped gather donations and set up t he affair. We spent the entire Wednesday workday of the fundraiser picking up dona ted items, running errands, and several hours after work setting up for the exhibit ion. When guests arrived they were greeted by interns sitting behind tables filled wit h partner merchandise for sale, sign-up sheets for silent auction bids, and brochures that explained MADRE’s mission, partners, and programs. As people walked around the room, the y examined photos taken by Colombian ex-child soldiers and drawings by Ugandan children of war. The images hung at eye level, matted, framed, and numbered for the Silent Auction. Refreshments were served by interns and volunteers standing behind tw o folding tables at opposite ends of the room, one for wine, soda, and water, and anothe r filled with sliced bread, bread crisps, dipping sauces, fruit, cheese, chocolate, a nd other donated food items. A stage with a large drop down screen was located at the ba ck of the room. The Communications Director opened the program at 7:30pm, introducing a woman who had worked with

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100Ugandan children, Rita, the Human Rights Advocacy D irector, a Colombian lawyer MADRE had worked with on the Shadow Report, and Adr ian, the Executive Director. Each spoke a bit about her experiences and MADRE’s impact on the lives of child soldiers. Then we watched a video presentation put together by Rita about the experiences of the former child soldiers from Colom bia, with subtitles in English and Spanish. The video was careful not to show the face s of the children speaking to protect their identities. The program concluded and Janet e ncouraged people to place silent auction bids. The staff extended the Silent Auction for an additional hour because some of the photographs still lacked bidders. During thi s final hour, interns, volunteers, and staff members broke down the refreshment tables and cleaned up the room as much as possible. By the end of the night, MADRE had raised more than $1,000 in cash alone. Madison calculated the next day that after expenses they had raised about $750 to go towards Taller de Vida’s work. Although this seemed like a relatively small sum for the amount of work diverted to the fundraiser, ticket r eservations to attend had vacillated right up until the doors opened, so most of the sta ff was uncertain if MADRE would be able break even. Networking Transnational Feminist Values The priorities of the public sphere and of human ri ghts values have historically been determined by men in power, further complicati ng MADRE’s ambitions to challenge gendered inequalities in human rights law Joyce Gelb, an American political science and women’s studies scholar, has studied th e simultaneous emergence of transnational feminist activism and supranational p olitical systems in Japan, the U.S., and Britain. In “Feminism, NGO’s, and the Impact of the New Transnationalisms” (2002),

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101she discusses how transnational interactions can pu t external pressure on nations to adhere to gender equity policies. Gender equity fem inists invoke European and international legal standards to publically shame a nd expose oppressive national policies and practices “threatening potentially higher costs and liabilities through expanded litigation, public embarrassment and/or loss of fac e” (2002: 3). She claims that this external transnational pressure “may also strengthe n internal political actors advocating the enactment of national policies that implement t hose norms. Nations that feel compelled, either through treaties, participation i n international conferences or other transnational interactions, to seek acceptance in o r to join a larger global community will tend to ‘race toward the top’ in enacting policies that conform to emerging norms of gender equality” (2002:1).This was the legal mechan ism through which MADRE was able to apply strategies of shame and exposure thro ugh the shadow report and child soldier campaign in Colombia. Gelb identifies three different types of instituti ons with varying levels of impact that feminists have used to advocate for internatio nal gender equity and to pressure nation states to adopt them. MADRE engaged the most with t he first two institutional levels outlined by Gelb, and to a limited degree with the last and most direct level. The first and most indirect level of authority and influence is t he creation of international forums and venues, such as world women’s conferences. MADRE wa s able to play a crucial role in translating women’s rights issues in Colombia into the international sphere because it used transnational women’s networks and the experie nces of its partner organization to produce the shadow report. Janet explained that the se networks and collaborations were a

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102natural extension of MADRE’s broad goals and the wa y it used a women’s human rights framework: I think that we have an increasingly important role to play as an organization that straddles a couple of different big social movements because we are very much a part of the global women’s movement but we are [also] part of the internationa l human rights movement, the environmental justice movement…All too often…people are working o n their [specific] issue and they…are not making points of connections to other places. So th e work is very truncated and ultimately undermined. And one of the things that we are in a strong position to do is to bridge those kinds of gaps. MADRE supported transnational women’s networks by s ending leaders in partner organizations or its staff members to represent wom en’s rights at national and global conferences, venues, and forums. At the second level, institutional attempts to “cap ture” the machinery of the United Nations to sponsor gender equity norms and t o produce “binding” treaties (2002:2) carried slightly more direct authority and a bigger potential impact. As a larger transnational NGO, MADRE had the legal expertise to navigate grassroots partner organizations through complex and convoluted intern ational legal processes while simultaneously supporting local training so that pa rtners could cultivate their own knowledge of cosmopolitan legal knowledge at the gr assroots level. The Colombia shadow report that the group produced was perhaps t he most relevant example of this. At the third and most direct institutional level, t ransnational actors persuaded transnational institutions with more political powe r over nation states, such as the EU or European Court of Justice, to promote gender equity (2002:2). While MADRE did not have direct power to influence the political and ec onomic decisions of the EU, it was able to work with FIMI and partner organizations and app ly public pressure through its constituents for the ratification and enforcement o f documents, including the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Chi ld on the Involvement of Children in

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103Armed Conflict (2000) and the Declaration on the Ri ghts of Indigenous Peoples (2007). Rita emphasized the importance of MADRE having the capacity, in this case her expertise as a staff member, to conduct public educ ation and follow-up by applying pressure to ensure that governments adhere to inter national agreements. The organization used arguments of public moral accountability to sw ay its constituents toward signing petitions that condemned oppressive national polici es and to demand action from transnational institutions such as the EU. This was exemplified through its solidarity and petitions directed at transnational actors on behal f of women’s human rights defenders Lubna Ahmed Al Hussein, a journalist and political activist arrested for wearing pants that supposedly caused “public uneasiness” under Sh aria Law in Sudan (Bloy 2009; Associated Press 2009), and Aida Quilque, an Indige nous leader whose life was threatened and husband was murdered because of her political outspokenness in Colombia (Cauca Regional Indigenous Council 2008; A hni 2009). Thus, MADRE was able to engage in social change wit h Taller de Vida because of its broad organizational goals, ability to adapt a women’s human rights framework to fit partner needs, and use of transnational network s to challenge patriarchal structures of oppression. The organization provided solidarity a nd financial assistance for sustainable forms of peacebuilding through Taller de Vida’s com munity-based art therapy projects. Although local fundraising initiatives were new to MADRE, the Colombia Event provided a conduit for MADRE to increase national p ublic awareness of the rights of child soldiers, acted as a launching pad for MADRE to increase its local membership base, and slightly increased funding for Taller de Vida.

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104CONCLUSION MADRE’s approach to social change exemplified the w ays in which a Western NGO could support pre-existing movements and facili tate local women’s ability to engage with international issues that affect them o n local, regional, and national levels. One crucial question I was concerned with in my res earch was the divide between feminism and women’s human rights. MADRE argued tha t any issue that affected human beings also affected women, and this formed the cor e of its logic for using a womancentric framework. While women’s rights were MADRE’ s primary target, the organization did not exclusively focus on women. It also acknowledged the importance of recognizing intersecting identities and of commu nal and collective rights. The organization diverged from more mainstream human ri ghts organizations by advocating on behalf of people who were socially marginalized due to ethnicity, sexual orientation, and/or occupation. I sought to understand why an o rganization that targeted sexist and oppressive national and international legal and soc ial standards, and supported grassroots groups struggling to improve the quality of all peo ples’ lives, did not consider itself feminist. Feminism as a political identity and as a goal can be adopted by individuals regardless of gender because sexism negatively affe cts people of all genders. Women’s human rights and transnational networks tha t advocate feminist goals are both “toolkits” or “blueprints” that can be use d for improving the quality of women’s lives. Transnational feminist movement is a way of moving beyond a single issue or identity focal point to promote women’s agency thro ugh global alliances. This type of feminism envisions a foundation of grassroots activ ism connected to larger institutions that enabled individuals and small groups to affect large-scale social change through transnational networks of solidarity and action. I n this way, the relationships between

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105individuals and small groups could transform both t heir local communities and global perceptions of women. I contend that since the majo rity of staff identified as feminists and connected feminism to women’s human rights, fem inist goals were reverberated through the organization and across transnational n etworks. MADRE’s partners were selected based on MADRE’s goals of targeting U.S. f oreign policy and with the understanding that both parties shared a similar vi sion of a world in which all people, not just women, had access to individual and collective human rights. Feminist goals were thus transmitted from local to global and global to local through transnational networks of women’s organizations that upheld this common vi sion. Women’s human rights, as rights claimed against the state and society by women, provide a concrete focus and framework for MADRE’s approach to social change, and were a natural extension of its origins as a friend ship organization between women. In considering this framework, it is important to note that who is recognized as human and what rights humans should receive is not universal, but culturally specific. Thus as a framework, human rights are only as effective as ho w they choose to represent which rights are being violated. A women’s human rights f ramework was constrained both by culturally specific understandings of women and hum an rights and its focus on first and second generation rights of women, which omitted di scussions of gender variance and communal and collective rights. However, this frame work was more useful for promoting large-scale social transformation than transnationa l feminism because feminism lacked a universal definition and positive recognition acros s cultures. In addition, MADRE already had a political identity as a progressive w omen’s human rights organization, and tacking on another political identity as a feminist organization presented the possibility of

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106marginalizing their membership base and partner and program constituents, and further limiting resources and funding. Theoretical discour ses carry lived realities, especially in places such as Sudan and Colombia, where radical ch ange and outspoken political dissent could produce violent repercussions. Both concepts are constrained by pre-existing ideological norms of what appropriate social transf ormation and development should entail. Transnational or non-governmental “helping” institu tions, such as humanitarian aid, emergency relief, and human rights organizatio ns, are often presumed by the public to be neutral, safe, and outside the sway of govern ment influence and, therefore, better able to represent and respond to the needs of under served peoples as “citizens of the world.” Anthropology provides crucial insight into the ways development discourses have permeated through the seams of even the instit utions that challenge and actively try to prevent the negative effects of neoliberalism an d development models. NGOs, as transnational institutions situated between ideolog ies of nationhood and the international, and the citizens who live within such imagined comm unities, can only function within the frameworks that brought them into existence. The di scipline of anthropology reveals that such institutions are products of their environment and cannot escape the ethnocentric notions embedded in their places of origin. This pr ocess of “studying up” (Nader 1969) exposes values that seem so implicit in the organiz ational structure that they appear invisible. Sylvia Chant, a Professor of Development Geography at the University of London, and Matthew C. Gutmann, a Professor of Anth ropology at Brown University questioned the omission of men from Gender and Deve lopment (GAD) policies and other

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107gender mainstreaming approaches. “It has become inc reasingly clear that a ‘women-only’ approach to gender planning is insufficient to over turn the patriarchal structures embedded in development institutions, and to redres s gender imbalances at the grassroots in any fundamental way” (2005:17). MADRE’s approach to social change was located primarily within the gender binary. It emphasized t he positive effects of its programs and campaigns on women and girls to place it within a w omen’s human rights framework, acknowledging intersectionality when the identity o f woman overlapped with ethnicity, race, class, and occasionally sexual orientation. M ADRE believed that supporting even minor improvements in women’s lives would have the most direct impact because women historically have shouldered the burden of ca ring for family and community. However, targeting women as the sole focus of socia l transformation does not hold men accountable for familial and social change and may actually double, triple, or even quadruple women’s workload as they are expected to work one or two jobs, take care of children, ill or elderly family members, attend to household needs, and be engaged in their communities (2005:244). It would be beneficia l for further research to study how men and communities in different cultural contexts were affected by a women’s human rights framework and how it was translated by MADRE ’s partners. When NGOs such as MADRE work outside the frameworks within which they are expected to operate, their authenticity and leg itimacy are often questioned by the larger powers, such as the UN and national governme nts. This has the potential to limit or collapse their sources of funding, goals, and advoc acy work. The case study of Sudan revealed some of the problems that MADRE, as a smal l, informal NGO, struggles with to secure funding. MADRE’s adherence to retrieving qua litative data, such as partner

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108success stories and pictures, over quantitative dat a complicated the jobs of its Development staff members and it more difficult for the organization to work with large contributors and foundations. The organization’s de cision to transform from a “friendship organization” into a publically recognized NGO prov ided it with the legitimacy and authenticity to enter into the network of the nonpr ofit world and enabled the organization to better assist people and partners on the ground. As a “real” NGO, it could acquire monetary donations and grants from individuals and other organizations that supported its work, which was to translate the interests of its p artners in a way that its U.S. constituents could identify with. MADRE’s use of familial langua ge, referring to partners as “sisters,” was meant to imply the non-hierarchical and persona l relationships between the organization and its affiliates. However, as an NGO based in the United States that provided funding and legal and material resources t o partners, the relationship between MADRE and its affiliates was reciprocal but not ega litarian. The stories from partner organizations of women’s l ived experiences legitimate and authenticate MADRE’s position as a women’s huma n rights NGO. Such organizations also have to balance between using st ories of their constituents lived experiences, a key resource that partner constituen ts possess and NGOs need to legitimate and authenticate their work, and accurat ely representing the interests of the people whose lives they claim to advocate for, whil e also providing adequate monetary and material assistance to meet the needs of their beneficiaries. In both case studies in Sudan and Colombia, MADRE was conscious of how it w as representing partners to constituents and funders in media campaigns and fun ding initiatives. The staff tried to ensure that all quotes, photos, and stories accurat ely reflected the specific voices of its

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109beneficiaries while simultaneously being vague enou gh to protect the identities and lives of participants. Born into War, the exhibit of photographs taken by former child s oldiers in Colombia, illustrated how MADRE used the experie nces of its partners to raise local and national awareness of the human affects of U.S. foreign policy. The Community Sustainability Initiative in Sudan highlighted how partners sometimes had to compromise and negotiate cultural values in order to fit into Western development discourses for funding. These case studies illustrated the diffic ulties of balancing multiple interests and how resources that are not necessarily material goo ds may be valued in development. In “Beyond Development” (2005) Katy Gardner and Dav id Lewis propose that it is the responsibility of anthropology to produce id eas on how to change development and support alternatives to it. They believe that anth ropology has much to contribute to the reimagining of development through its potential to reveal the social and economic complexity of life beyond what it appears. When ref lecting upon MADRE’s work and my research interests, I considered the critiques of G ardener and Lewis, and strove to expose the limitations of development work: ‘its ethnocent ric assumptions, its expression of the imbalance of power, its self-delusion, its economic biases” (2005: 358), and to be constructively critical and provide alternatives fo r future work. When I began my research, I thought I would be less likely to make ethnocentric assumptions about an organization located within the United States whose values I aligned with because we shared the same culture. In retrospect, I believe t his was true to a certain degree, but because it was so easy to integrate myself as a par ticipant within MADRE and observe its internal workings, I often found myself assimilatin g to the organization’s perspective rather than remaining externally critical.

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110 My understanding of MADRE’s approach to social cha nge was based almost entirely on my experience as an intern conducting e thnographic research inside of MADRE’s office over a two-month period. In order t o understand how a women’s human rights framework and feminist goals were tran smitted across a transnational network of partnerships, it would have been useful to visit at least one of MADRE’s partner organizations. This would have enabled me t o study how some of the values of Western NGOs, feminisms, and development discourses are interpreted, resisted, and negotiated by grassroots women’s groups in developi ng nations. In reflecting upon my ethnographic method, I believ e that if I had been able to interview the board members and the staff for consi stent amounts of time, perhaps 20 minutes each once a month, it would have added brea dth and a congruency to my thesis in regards to how I represented staff perspectives and understood internal office dynamics. The staff who seemed to have the deepest grasp on MADRE’s methodology had either been there for at least three years, had worked for the organization in capacities outside of their current position, or had numerous responsibilities that overlapped with other employees. I found some of the interns’ inter views extremely insightful and valuable for my research purposes, but if I were to conduct future research, think it would have been more helpful to choose a few of the inter ns to interview and ask the rest to fill out a questionnaire or write down their thoughts. M ost of them were only at the organization a few weeks to a few months, and thus had partial understandings of MADRE’s approach to social change and how their tas ks fit within MADRE’s framework.

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111The informal structure of MADRE was a result of its roots as a friendship organization that focused on interpersonal relation ships, enabling deep friendship and solidarity between MADRE staff and leaders of partn er organizations. The NGO’s key strengths were its focus on supporting microproject s that were partner-driven, locallybased, and culturally specific and providing intern ational legal expertise for human rights advocacy initiatives. Its major weaknesses were int ernal limited organizational capacity that was exacerbated by a hierarchical staff struct ure and a high rate of employee turnover. These weaknesses were in many ways mutual ly reinforcing, as MADRE, like many other small, grassroots-based NGOs, struggled with capacity issues of overworked personnel and dependency on interns, finite office space, and multiple funding constraints. In my thesis, I chose to concentrate o n the structure, program areas, and strategies of MADRE’s model because I believed it c ould have positive implications for how non-profits conduct transnational social change As a result, there is not an extensive discussion of interpersonal relations among staff i nside of MADRE. This is definitely an area I would have expanded upon if I had more time to conduct research. I believe that well-developed relationships between employees and interns are critical to MADRE’s ability to function more efficiently as an organiza tion, and thus its competence to influence social transformation on a global scale. In the future, I think MADRE would benefit from a more frequent presence of upper-leve l staff, which would allow the organization to be more conscious of how the worklo ad is distributed among staff members and internal interactions among staff and a mong interns. Providing payment or a larger stipend for critically needed long-term in tern positions, such as Human Rights Advocacy and Programming, and for intern or volunte er skills, such as linguistic

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112competency and translation, would also help MADRE a ttract the personnel needed to realize its goals. Overall, I believe that MADRE’s model provides an a dmirable example of how NGOs can serve as channels for effective, progressi ve, long-term global social change: by supporting preexisting small-scale local initiat ives and by refusing to measure peoples’ quality of life in quantitative statistics or through narrow categorizations. MADRE listened to the voices and demanded rights on behalf of locally-based women’s groups, while also trying to ensure that their voic es were heard by the governments in their countries of origin as well as by internation al bodies such as the United Nations. One of MADRE’s core tenants was that the people in its partner organizations had the knowledge and capability to improve their own lives but lacked the resources and rights to do so. It highlights the fact that people have t he knowledge, they just need the tools, but not necessarily the same tools. The case studie s of Zenab and Taller de Vida illustrated how MADRE acted as an intermediary betw een discourses of development and women’s human rights. By providing partner-spec ific resources and improving women’s rights, MADRE was able to produce results o n a very small-scale that genuinely improved the quality of women’s lives whe n magnified on a global scale. This is part of an approach that strives to create susta inable social change by focusing on the needs of the most marginalized groups and communiti es, not just women. Effective approaches to social change must treat n ot just the symptoms, but begin to shake the structures that oppress women and othe r marginalized groups. Although MADRE adheres to a women’s human rights framework a nd highlights a gendered perspective, its actions reflect a more inclusive a nd feminist vision for the future that

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113prioritizes the needs of all peoples. While such a goal seems like an idealistic dream at best, impossibility at worst, MADRE’s strategies ha ve been able to improve the lives of people within its partner organizations through con crete, if minute, actions, inch-by-inch, worldwide.

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