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Meridians: feminism, race, transnationalism 6.2 (2006) 22-32

The Seventh International AWSA Conference
Rationale and the Way Forward
Nawal El Saadawi

Why the Conference?

In May 2005 approximately two hundred men and women from four continents participated in a conference called "Women, Creativity, and Dissidence" that I convened in Cairo, Egypt, under the aegis of the Arab Women Solidarity Association (AWSA).1 One would not need to look far to find reasons for the necessity of such a global gathering at this juncture in transnational and global relations. Grave concerns about the deepening inequalities within, between, and among nations and the dissatisfaction, disaffection, and conflicts they provoke give pertinence and urgency to gatherings such as the Cairo conference.

In this age of rapid information access and unprecedented global plunder and greed, women, men, and children all over the world are suffering from the effects of increasing economic exploitation; erosion of social and democratic rights; discrimination based on class, race, gender, color, and religion; and efforts by the media to misinform the public by mystifying and distorting current realities and future possibilities.

The Cairo conference reflected the growing solidarity among women and between women and men by bringing together female and male activists, academicians, creative artists, researchers, cultural workers, and theorists. It highlighted the need to break down the barriers among women, between men and women, between academicians and activists, and between groups [End Page 22] working for peace, human rights, civil liberties, and the protection of the environment if we wish to be part of the growing world movement against global violence and a global market that undermines human potential and saps material and spiritual resources.

Peoples of the Arab world, Africa, Asia, and Latin America are overburdened by conflicts, violence, and famine; increasing poverty generated by the greed and lack of corporate responsibility among Western multinationals; and the unbridled militarism and neocolonial assault launched by the current neoconservative United States administration and the right-wing apparatus of the European Union in the name of democracy, human rights, and women's rights—particularly in the so-called war on terror waged in Iraq and Afghanistan and the continued Israeli occupation of Palestine.

To forcefully confront and successfully defeat this global assault on humanity, it has become necessary now more than ever before to build a united superpower of men, women, and children of the world. In the midst of our rich diversity we need unity to discover and reinforce what is common to us all—our basic humanity and our longing for justice, democracy, and peace despite differences of nationality, class, race, color, ethnicity, gender, or religion. We need to believe in our creativity in order to cherish and nurture this longing in all fields of human endeavor—the sciences, arts and humanities, politics, economics, culture, and social change. We need to encourage dissidence and rebellion against injustice, oppression, and all forms of discrimination.

Linking Women, Creativity, and Dissidence

Creativity and dissidence will continue to be linked as long as we live in a world built not on justice and real freedom but on force, false democracy, coercion, obedience and submission to the oppressor, false consciousness and fragmented knowledge, and the utilization of religion to play politics and reinforce a "free" market. Creativity flourishes when the mind and the imagination are freed from the chains of taboos and traditions, from the false consciousness and knowledge generated by the media and educational systems, and from the commercialization of values and morals.

The three words "creativity," "dissidence," and "women," especially when linked, are bound to cause fear and anxiety among most men, and some women, not only in our countries but also in other parts of the world; [End Page 23] fear and anxiety have become more pervasive and intense since the 1980s with the emergence of corporate capitalist globalization accompanied by religious fundamentalist crusades sweeping through many parts of the world, thanks to Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, and Buddhism.

Ever since the days of the slave system and the birth of patriarchy...


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