Women's WORLD is a network of women writers who believe absolutely in the transformational power of the word and the need for women's voices to become stronger, louder, and more influential. We came together in 1994, at a time when the great worldwide contradiction between globalization and anti-modern backlash movements was first becoming clear. As feminist writers, we felt this contradiction very sharply—in fact, we felt caught in the crossfire. We feel that way more than ever since September 11th, as a war discourse takes over more and more of the world and the voices of global feminism become more muted every day. How can we make our voices heard? How can we keep our ideas alive?

Many of us are not only writers and activists but also historians who spent years searching through archives or doing oral histories, on the track of long-forgotten feminists. We know how quickly women's achievements and books can disappear from the public record, be swept away by a new historical tide and lost for generations.

In 1994, when we first came together, we could see that some of our sister writers were coming under sharper threats than before. We identified with them, knowing that we could be in their shoes one day, that the political climate in any of our countries could shift overnight and we too become pariahs. In this age of globalization, we wanted to build a network that could work across borders to defend women writers against those who would silence them, and could cherish and preserve their ideas and their work.

To some degree this vision was inspired by Bessie Head, the South African writer who died in 1986. Bessie Head was born in a mental hospital, the child of a black man and a white woman in a time and place where such liaisons were unthinkable. Raised in an orphanage, she became a writer against very great odds. Her writing was so strong that she got published abroad—she could hardly get published in apartheid South Africa—and her works were studied in universities, yet she died in poverty before the age of fifty.

We wanted to build a network that could help writers like Bessie Head overcome their isolation, connect with their audience, and find a community that would help sustain them. We had a vision of an international mutual aid network through which we could help one another move around when necessary and keep one another alive.

Some will ask, why Women's WORLD, when men are censored too? We certainly don't want a world only for women; nor is our interest in justice restricted to one sex. But men already have strong public voices. They have "old boy" networks that help them move around. And human rights organizations have categories for the kind of censorship that happens to men. The kind of censorship that happens to women writers often takes place under the radar screen because of the subordinate position of women. In most societies, the state doesn't have to silence women; there are plenty of other people who will get there first. Though Bessie Head's voice was effectively silenced, few human rights lawyers would see what happened to her as censorship. They would say, "She was poor, black, a woman, living in exile, socially isolated, driven crazy by all that had happened to her. That may be misfortune, but it isn't censorship."

We think it is As far as we are concerned, whatever disrupts the ability of a woman writer to reach her audience is censorship, whether it is racist governments, conservative clerics, systemic mechanisms of social control, family pressures, discriminatory publishers, customs, prejudices, poverty, illiteracy, or the lopsided system of global media distribution. As an advocacy organization trying to help women have a stronger public voice, we are against all such censorship and want to find ways to fight it.

This website is one of our main weapons, because it can help us overcome isolation. Isolation is the woman writer's worst enemy. Isolation in a hostile environment can kill the soul. But we can fight it by connecting with one another. We can make this website a place of conversation about and mutual support against the pressures we face as women, as writers, and as political beings. It can be a place where we speak up in the face of terrorism and the war on terrorism, and link up with one another regionally and locally. It includes:

  • a moderated discussion group where you can write us about your own work in terms of censorship or other issues;

  • a questionnaire for women writers that will enable us to collect data on gender and censorship as part of an ongoing international survey;

  • "The Crisis," a moderated forum on the way the world crisis is coming down where each of you are. In some places, the crisis has nothing to do with September 11; it is a subsistence crisis, or an AIDS crisis, or an ongoing civil war. In others, the war against terrorism is totally changing the ground rules for daily life. We want to know about all these situations. We have posted some articles, mainly reflecting on September 11, and including responses by some of our board members to questions about the world crisis. Now we want to hear your thoughts.

We also have sections to broadcast the voices of women in crisis regions. These will change as the world situation does; at this time, we have two special sections. The first is "African Women's Voices." This section grows out of our African networking program, and will give readers all over the world exposure to some voices that need to be heard. The second is "Voices for Peace in Israel and Palestine." At least in the US media, voices of war are almost all we can hear from that part of the world, but there are other voices we can learn from and should support.

This website is a work in progress. We hope to improve it as we go and will welcome your feedback and suggestions.

CREDITS: The website was edited by Deborah Drier. Otherwise unsigned material was written by Meredith Tax. Programming and design were done by Just Peace Technologies. The website owes its existence to the generous support of the Ford Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation.