Daily Themes

Dear WW 2011 Participants,

At each of the four major plenary sessions of Women's Worlds 2011, a diverse panel of fascinating women - some you know, others you might not - will share their analysis and perspectives on the theme of the day. These sessions are intended to do more than simply open each morning - they will set the tone and framework within which the conversations and activities of the day are situated.

In keeping with the principles and objectives of WW 2011, a key aim will be for the plenary sessions to survey the ways in which both academia and activism are working to break cycles, ceilings, barriers, and ground; as well, what each can offer the other in terms of knowledge development and solutions.

In countless ways in communities all over the world, women are courageously railing against obstacles - including those exacerbated by globalization - and in doing so, paving the way for new generations to enjoy true and sustainable equality. The content and conversations of WW 2011 should name and celebrate that action in its academic and activist forms.

How better to characterize the struggle for social justice and women's rights than through the concept and language of 'breaking'?

The very notion of feminism suggests a breaking free of the patriarchal ideals and behaviours so entrenched in our societies. The very idea of academia is to break through conventional wisdom by probing deeper. The very essence of activism is to break out of step from the masses to demand change. How can we combine these strengths in order to: a) mount a more effective challenge to the dominant attitudes that perpetuate inequality, and b) break through the noise with our common messages?

WW 2011 will be a powerful opportunity to reflect on these questions, indeed. But more importantly, it is a chance to move beyond discussion, to connect and reconnect around our common goals to truly advance women's equality and human rights.

WW 2011 - DAY ONE
Breaking Cycles

As globalization becomes more and more entrenched as the new world order, women around the world continue to mount opposition to colonialism, capitalism, imperialism, and inequality. Why? Because geo-political, organizational, and financial structures play key roles in the perpetuation of women's inequality, the feminization of poverty, gendered and racialized violence, and other forms of women's subjugation.

Women are using new tactics to break cycles of oppression - in ways we can see, and so many we can't.

Plenary: "Breaking Cycles"

Panelists will address the various systems of oppression that persist around the world today. From neo-colonialism to old-fashioned capitalism, forms of oppression that are allowed to thrive within the current context of globalization will be named, unpacked, and challenged. And the global economy - as it has declined recently and wreaked further havoc on women's lives (food and financial crises, for example) - goes unchallenged by the mainstream and people in power.

We will hear examples of the creative and courageous ways in which women around the world are standing up to the systemic forces that support cycles of oppression.

WW 2011 - DAY TWO
Breaking Ceilings

There is the western concept of 'the glass ceiling' which refers to the point beyond which women cannot advance in a career. If we extend this 'glass' metaphor to beyond the mainstream professionalized workforce, women bump ceilings at every turn when trying to achieve what men can automatically claim. From classrooms to board rooms, political parties to electoral politics, union halls to the United Nations - the 'old boys club' remains alive and well in workplaces, institutions, and systems the world over. Accordingly, so is women's exclusion.

Whether economic oppression, limited access to positions of power or to power itself, or limited opportunities for educational and labour force advancement, women across the planet are working to dismantle the ceilings - glass or otherwise - that serve to maintain women's inequality.

And in addition to the limits we face 'out there', we also find within our own movements and communities some ceilings that serve to benefit a few and keep the rest from being in leadership, in charge, or even from being heard. Our strength and credibility depends heavily on our willingness to acknowledge the existence of those limits and smash them.

Plenary: "Breaking Ceilings"

The ceilings that prevent women from advancing beyond a certain point - in the workforce and beyond: how are they being shattered? With what tools? With what consequences?

We will hear from academics, workers, executives, activists, and leaders who are shattering ceilings so that women may enjoy equal access to power in all its forms, in all its instances.

Breaking Barriers

Barriers. Borders. Boundaries. So many lines continue to divide us, which is ironic considering how globalization is intended to bring us closer together. Even while modern economic and governance structures imply an increasingly interconnected world, modern wars (on terror, on drugs, on fundamentalisms) continue to re-affirm, even exacerbate, the desire for gates and borders and deep lines in the sand.

Our so-called global village is full of fences. As ideas, goods, and capital circulates freely around the world, what about people? How are women particularly restricted, excluded, or secluded from any possible benefits of globalization?

At the same time, divides between us as women working for social justice persist. We need to have the courage to name and dismantle them.

Plenary: "Breaking Barriers"

Globalization has done a great deal to transform both the notion and practical realities of borders. Leading thinkers and advocates will share insights and analysis on what the modern era of transnationalism means for women.

How are women leading the charge for the redefining of boundaries - political, geo-political, economic, academic - in a way that promotes women's equality, leadership, and security? We will meet women who are challenging barriers in innovative and impressive ways - around the world, in various fields.

WW 2011 - DAY FOUR
Breaking Ground

Across the planet - in urban centres and rural communities - women are changing rules, seizing opportunities, and breaking ground. What better occasion than Women's Worlds 2011 to celebrate the leadership and innovation that is moving global women's movements to new heights?

We will recognize the women who are breaking ground on campuses and in the grassroots. We will examine how women's groups and feminist academics can stay resilient in the face of those aspects of globalization which oppose women's equality, and how new fundraising strategies, new research, new methods of organizing, and new communications tools are helping create the change women want.

This conversation is a powerful opportunity for intergenerational exchange - for women to take notice of innovation that works. It will encourage critical exchanges across distinctions such as North and South, East and West, academic and grassroots, and resourced and marginalized.

Plenary: "Breaking Ground"

In spite of how it can promote the exclusion and seclusion of women, globalization has also helped to diversify and strengthen the global women's movement. Hundreds of international networks are able to survive and thrive thanks to new technology and modern approaches to collaboration.

We will meet leaders in their field, women who are achieving victories by not asking permission. We will hear first-hand the inspiring ways in which women working for social justice are affecting change, claiming power, and transforming communities.