Power of the Word II > next story

by Nadezhda Azhgikhina and Meredith Tax

In February 1999, a remarkable group of women writers, publishers, and journalists met at the Rockefeller Foundation's conference facility in Bellagio, Italy. We came together to discuss Women's WORLD, an international network of feminist writers that addresses issues of gender-based censorship, to analyze conditions in our various countries, and to begin to develop a strategy for work on these issues in Europe. We shared our discontent over recent events on our continent—the growing political and social tension, the information war, and the dramatic worsening of the position of women in general and women writers in particular. We brainstormed about how we could improve the situation.

The ten participants in our meeting were Nadezda Azhgikhina, Editor of the Women's Page at the Moscow Independent and co-founder of the Association of Russian Women Journalists; Sazana Caprici, translator and Editor of Sfinga, a Kosovo women's literary magazine and the publisher of a pioneering anthology of Albanian women's writing; Diana Çuli, novelist, and Director of the Independent Forum for Albanian Women in Tirana; Monica Nagler Wittgenstein, cultural journalist and President of Swedish PEN; Luisa Passerini, oral historian, essayist, and Professor of History at the European University in Florence and the University of Turin; Svetlana Slapsak, novelist, essayist, and Professor of Classics and Coordinator of Gender Studies at ISH (Institum Studiorum Humanitas) in Ljubljana; Annamaria Tagliavini, Director of the library and documentation center at the Centro di Documentazione delle Donne, a feminist organization in Bologna; Tatiana Turina, journalist and co-founder of Women Writers in Transition in Belarus; Hilary Wainwright, journalist, researcher, and Editor of Red Pepper, a London monthly journal of opinion; and Meredith Tax, the only non-European present, novelist, essayist, and President of Women's WORLD.

This pamphlet is one of the outcomes of our intense, productive work at Bellagio. We had planned to publish it in the fall of 1999. But the outbreak of the war in Kosovo, just a few weeks after our meeting, made it impossible for our group to remain in touch. Because of her dissident history and long support for Albanian civil rights, Svetlana Slapsak was already persona non grata in Belgrade; when the NATO bombing began, the police confiscated everything in the office of her magazine ProFemina. Diana Çuli, like most activists in the Albanian women's movement, had to put her other work on hold because the refugee crisis. And Sazana Caprici was one of the tide of refugees that fled Kosovo for Montenegro; we could not locate her for many months, and, though she is now back home, communications still suffer from infrastructural problems.

For this reason, and others, the essays in this volume vary in length. Some are extended analytical pieces. Others are short papers prepared for oral presentations at our meeting, which could not be expanded in written form because of the pressures of historical circumstances. In addition, though she could not attend our meeting, we have also included two essays by Dubravka Ugresic, feeling we needed her voice. Dubravka was involved in one of the major European censorship cases of the last decade, and has been a friend of Women's WORLD since its pre-natal days.

In the original conception of the Bellagio meeting, we had hoped to bring together not only women writers from Eastern and Western Europe, but also to include writers from the immigrant populations of Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean, who have become such an essential part of the European mix in the post-colonial period. Because of scheduling constraints and the incompleteness of our own networks, we were unable to fulfill this part of our plan, but we are determined to broaden our scope before we meet again. Diversity and inclusion—bridging ethnic, linguistic, and cultural boundaries—are at the heart of our agenda for the New Europe.

While the ideas expressed in these essays reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily positions taken by Women's WORLD as a whole, this book is meant as a call. We hope that the discussions in this little book will interest many of you, and we are looking forward to your feedback, as we believe that it is only through the joint efforts of women in many countries that we can improve the situation.

You can reach us at any of these contact points:

Nadezhda Azhgikhina
63/43 Lesnaya Street, Apt. 151
Moscow, 103055 Russia
Tel/Fax 7095-252-4647

Annamaria Tagliavini
Centro di Documentazione delle Donne
via Galliera 8 Centro
40121 Bologna, Italy
Tel +39-51-239-788
Fax +39-51-263-460

Meredith Tax
Women's WORLD
208 W. 30th St., #901
New York, NY 10001
Tel +1-212-947-2915
Fax +1-212-947-2973