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Women's WORLD Program in Russia

Women WORLD began its activities in Russia in 1997 with the Russian publication of The Power of the Word I. This began a process of applying the concept of gender-based censorship to the situation of Russian women in the transition period. After a number of small meetings and conference panels, we organized the first Russian conference on the subject in Spring 2000.

This conference, entitled "Women: Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Creativity," was held in the writers' colony Peredelkino, near Moscow. It was the first meeting of women writers and journalists from Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus since the collapse of the USSR, and brought together more than 30 people, with good media coverage. Three days of heated discussion resulted in the formation of an energetic regional women's writer's network, whose members will support one another and share information. Such a network is particularly vital for women writers and journalists in rural areas, where they face real patriarchal pressure. Communication remains a significant problem for many of these women, only a few of whom have access to the Internet or even to a fax machine, and many of whom have no jobs and live in extreme poverty. We hope to find a way to develop Internet resources for the whole network.

In November 2000, the Women's WORLD book The Power of the Word II was published in Russian. The 3,000 copies were distributed in more than 20 Russian regions to writers' and women's organizations, human rights groups, university professors, and journalists. The publication was discussed at a special round table organized by the Association of Russian Women Journalists, and was also presented at the National Media Festival in St. Petersburg, in May 2001.

Also in 2001, a collection of materials from the conference on gender and censorship was published and distributed among writers, journalists, and women's groups in Russia and abroad, and has been used for university gender courses. Several literary events, including a meeting on gender and censorship in Tarusa, also took place, as well as a discussion of women's creative activities and several screenings and presentations of books by women writers in our network. The network is especially concerned to draw attention to the work of women writers from rural areas and smaller cities.

As a result of all these efforts, a prestigious publishing house has decided to publish a collection of Russian women's writing. This collection, which should appear in 2002, will be the first of its kind published in Russian.

Women's WORLD's work in Russia has been coordinated by Nadezhda Azhgikhina, co-founder of the Association of Russian Women Journalists, and Svetlana Vasilenko, Director of the Union of Democratic Writers. In the next few years, they hope to establish a Moscow office for Women's WORLD, to help women writers to overcome the many difficulties of this transition period and to realize all their potential and talents.