By Mia MacDonald
Sunday, 10 May 2009
“Oh, no,” I realize as the after-dinner stroll on the cobblestoned streets of historic Antigua, Guatemala extends longer than I’d anticipated. We reach the town square, the front of the cathedral illuminated by graceful lights, eucalyptus trees in full flower, and locals—little kids and adults, couples, small groups of young women and young men—enjoying the fountains and the slightly cool, clear air. We decide to circumnavigate the perimeter. Uh oh, I’m walking… not blogging! But the conversation that began earlier on Sunday, the first day of the Nobel Women’s Initiative’s conference here in Antigua, continued, within my small group of walkers. Of course, I should have known. That’s almost always the way with women. Are there fewer feminists today, even as there are more women in politics, in public life, in positions of authority? We discuss. Yes, we agree, there’s something to that.
Is it the case, an observation several women made raised earlier in the day, that more rights-based legislation may pass in parliaments that have fewer women members, but those women MPs are more committed to feminist values—rights-based values? The intensity of their commitment to social change helps persuade their male colleagues to come on board, more so than in legislatures with more women, but fewer feminist women. One of the walkers, an academic and political activist, confirms that this has been the case in the Israeli Knesset. We stop at the corner of the square to discuss Pakistan and Afghanistan and the U.S.’ expanding role, whether important history has been forgotten.
Then, still on the corner, we ranged over the actions of Palestinian women in the 1990s, and how many views them today. This topic had generated much discussion earlier after Lena Maeri’s powerful presentation on the topic. Her thesis was that Palestinian feminists, espousing the values of western feminists, had abandoned the Palestinian nationalist struggle to focus on issues of human rights—and in so doing separating themselves from the Palestinian people (women, too).
Are there western feminist values or feminist values? How can those values best be transmitted to younger women, and to men? Our walk ends. But the discussion, in and outside of the conference hall, continues, in multiple languages and voices. Last night in Antigua, the moon, bright and slightly orange-y, hovered over the proceedings.