Power of the Word I
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Introduction

We are politically committed women writers from around the world, involved in a range of cultural struggles. Because of our gender and our politics, some of us have been the targets of religious or state censorship. Some have known imprisonment or survived death threats. Some live in exile. Some have experienced mainly the free market forms of censorship, such as denial of access to publication, marginalization, ghettoization and stereotyping. Some have resisted such pressures by setting up alternative means of publishing women.

We have been investigating gender-based censorship since 1986, when a few of us first came together within International PEN. We have now formed a separate organization, Women's WORLD (Women's World Organization for Rights, Literature and Development) in order to initiate global feminist work on the right to free expression, as has already been done by activists in the areas of development, the environment, reproductive health, and violence against women.

Women's WORLD is concerned with two issues: 1) the importance of cultural struggle and the role of women writers in it; and 2) gender-based censorship 1 —the historic, worldwide silencing of women's voices—as a major obstacle to women's achievement of equality, sustainable livelihoods and peace. Our pamphlet begins with an analysis of the world crisis, and goes on to examine the role of women writers in the emancipation of women and the construction of civil society. We then look at the many ways gender-based censorship operates, and present some examples of it.

This pamphlet was written by Meredith Tax, President of Women's WORLD, and discussed at international meetings in September, 1994 and March, 1995 by a working group consisting of Marjorie Agosin (Chile/US), Ama Ata Aidoo (Ghana), Ritu Menon (India), Ninotchka Rosca (Philippines) and Mariella Sala (Peru); the September 1994 meeting was also attended by Denisa Comanescu (Romania), and Aïcha Lemsine (Algeria). The draft was then sent to a larger group of writers, who were asked for comments and examples. The administrative and publication costs of this pamphlet and the presentation of these ideas at the Non-Governmental Organizations Forum of the Fourth UN World Conference on Women were generously supported by the Arts and Education program of the Ford Foundation, without whose help our work would have been difficult indeed.

The following writers worked on this pamphlet:

Marjorie Agosin (Chile/USA)
Ama Ata Aidoo (Ghana)
Ifi Amadiume (Nigeria)
Nadezhda Azhgikhina (Russia)
Cristina da Fonseca (Chile)
Paula Giddings (USA)
Merle Hodge (Trinidad)
Eva Hung (Hong Kong)
Rada Ivekovic (Croatia)
Aïcha Lemsine (Algeria)
Ritu Menon (India)
Ninotchka Rosca (Philippines)
Mariella Sala (Peru)
Svetlana Slapsak (Serbia)
Meredith Tax (USA)


1 A term coined by Filipina writer Ninotchka Rosca in 1993.back