Sumi Colligan


From the Article:

In this chapter, I intend to expand on the theme of developing “our listening capacity, to be sure that we hear everything” in an attempt to avoid perpetuating the stereotype of the passive, victimized Third World woman whose only hope of liberation is through the consciousness raising and activist efforts of Western feminists. Much of the current writing on human rights and women’s rights in North Africa and the Middle East suggests that world-wide endorsement of such principles and platforms is most likely to be successful if the people to whom they apply feel a sense of ownership in their creation. The experience of colonialism and neo-colonialism in this region has been a powerful shaper of a social memory that serves as a critical, interpretive lens for assessing the value and applicability of recent international human rights and feminist agendas. While it is true that Africans themselves (as well as members of other Third World constituencies) have engaged in theorizing and executing policies concerning women’s human rights, their voices have not been given equal weight in international forums that address these issues (Gathii and Nyamu 1996: 295; Oloka-Onyango and Tamale 1995: 701). The consequence of such an imbalance has been a perpetuation of international hierarchies of power that contribute to the on-going polarization of the West and the Third World and a limiting of the definition and scope of struggles perceived to fall within the purview of women’s human rights (Gathii and Nyamu 1996: 294).