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Translating the Global:
Effects of Transnational Organizing on Local Feminist Discourses and Practices in Latin America

Sonia E. Alvarez

soniaa@cats.ucsc.edu

lima@cce.ufsc.br


 
Introduction

International activism has been a defining feature of both first- and second-wave feminisms in Latin America and most other world regions. From the onset of the contemporary wave, periodic Latin American and Caribbean Feminist Encuentros (region-wide feminist meetings, literally "encounters") helped forge a self-consciously regional feminist political identity, affirming a feminism distinct from its putatively bourgeois, imperialist North American and European variants. By the early 1990s, the bonds of solidarity created and strategic issues debated at these periodic gatherings had facilitated the emergence of dozens of region-wide issue- or identity-based feminist networks—such as the Latin American and Caribbean Network against Violence against Women and the Afro-Latin American and Afro-Caribbean Women’s Network. 

The 1990s witnessed the ascendance of a new form of international activism among growing numbers of feminists in the region—one targeting inter-governmental organizations (IGOs) and international policy arenas and thereby hoping to gain global leverage in pressuring for changes in gender policy on the home front. The UN Summits held during the first half of the 1990s—culminating with the Fourth World Conference on Women (FWCW) in Beijing in 1995—prompted thousands of women’s rights advocates in Latin America and around the globe to intensify their transnational organizing efforts and catapulted feminism onto the regional and world policy stages. Seeking to influence the international norms and accords forged at these inter-governmental meetings, feminist activists fashioned new transnational advocacy networks and fortified pre-existing linkages with their counterparts across national borders.

Women’s rights advocates’ heightened participation in international policy arenas is now fairly well documented and global feminisms’ efficacy in promoting changes in gender-related policy at the international and national levels has been subjected to considerable scrutiny. But the literature has largely ignored the flip side of the much-celebrated "globalization of feminism"—the impact "back home" of local activists’ involvement in international networks and policy arenas, which Elisabeth Friedman (1999) has dubbed the effects of "transnationalism reversed." 

We now have considerable evidence that feminist networking and advocacy on a global scale has enabled local women’s rights advocates to "‘leap frog’ past the boundaries of state sovereignty to propose visions of women’s liberation that national governments might not countenance" (Baden and Goetz 1997, 45). It also arguably has sometimes enhanced their leverage vis-à-vis recalcitrant local policy-makers (Keck and Sikkink 1998a; Htun 1998). But few studies have explored the critical question of how feminist activists’ engagement with policy advocacy on a supra-national plane translates locally in terms of movement dynamics, discourses and practices. By analyzing some of the local impacts of a wide array of transborder activities undertaken by Latin American feminists over the past two decades, I want to draw attention to three oft-neglected dimensions of the transnationalization of local feminist discourses and practices

The local and transnational forces shaping feminist movement dynamics are, of course, mutually constitutive and therefore difficult to disentangle analytically. In the sense used here, transnationalization refers to local movement actors’ deployment of discursive frames and organizational and political practices that are inspired, (re)affirmed or reinforced—though not necessarily caused—by their engagement with other actors beyond national borders through a wide range of transnational contacts, discussions, transactions, and networks, both virtual and "real." 

First, whereas many recent studies suggest that contemporary international feminist activism largely has been propelled by a top-down process or is the outgrowth of the UN Women’s Decade (1976-1985) and the World Summits of the 1990s, I want to stress that, in the case of Latin America, the particularities of the regional and national political contexts in which feminisms unfolded also impelled local movement actors to build transborder connections from the bottom-up. Feminists throughout the region have been involved in a variety of dense "transnational civil society exchanges" (Fox 1999)—such as the periodic Latin American and Caribbean Feminist Encuentros and the vast array of region-wide redes or networks—since at least the early 1980s. 

Second, I will suggest that the logic informing such transnational exchanges differed significantly from that driving an increasing number of international and intra-regional feminist advocacy efforts in Latin America in the 1990s. Among Latin American feminisms, I will argue, an internationalist identity-solidarity logic prevailed in the "encuentro-like" intra-regional feminist activism of the 1980s and 1990s, whereas a transnational IGO-advocacy logic came to predominate in region-wide feminist organizing around the Rio, Vienna, Cairo and Beijing Summits of the 1990s. 

My conception of transnational activist logics is akin to what Sidney Tarrow (1998) has called social movement "repertoires." For Tarrow, a "repertoire is at once a structural and a cultural concept, involving not only what people do when they are engaged in conflict with others but what they know how to do and what others expect them to do" (1998, 30, emphasis in the original). Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) engaged in transnational advocacy around the UN Summits of the 1990s, for instance, also developed repertoires or "specific ways … to insert themselves into the conference process" (Clark, Friedman, and Hochstetler 1998, 4). Transnational activist logics, similarly, inform why and how local movement actors pursue international linkages and what they expect to achieve or gain locally as a consequence of their involvement with supra-national official and alternative public spaces.

I will suggest that local movement actors pursue transnational linkages with their counterparts beyond the boundaries of the nation-state for (at least) two distinct reasons. First, local movement actors have sought out transnational contacts as a means to (re)construct or reaffirm subaltern or politically marginalized identities and to establish personal and strategic bonds of solidarity with others who share locally stigmatized values (e.g. feminist ideals) or identities (e.g. Afro-Latin Americans or lesbians). Second, activists also have organized across borders in an effort to expand formal rights or affect public policy, seeking to enhance their local political leverage via what Margaret Keck and Kathryn Sikkink (1998a, 12-13) call the "boomerang pattern" of influence—whereby transnational coalitions of non-governmental, governmental and inter-governmental actors put pressure on more powerful states and IGOs to bring pressure to bear in turn on a particular government which violates rights or resists the desired policy change. 

These two transnational activist logics, of course, are seldom entirely separable in actual movement practices. In fact, they often operate within the same governmental, inter-governmental or movement spaces and can be mutually reinforcing. For example, as Ann Clark, Elisabeth Friedman and Kathryn Hochstetler rightly note, "[b]eyond efforts to influence official positions [at UN World Conferences], a separate and often complimentary NGO strategy is networking" or engaging in informal NGO-to-NGO strategic discussions (1998, 19). Similarly, as I will explore below, the Latin American advocacy coalition established in the early 1990s to influence the regional preparatory process for Beijing was built upon many years of previous intra-regional identity-solidarity exchanges among feminists—especially among those who increasingly became involved in national gender policy matters over the course of the 1980s. 

Finally, I will maintain that these distinctive transnational activist logics nonetheless can have different effects on local movement organizational dynamics and power relations and can sometimes clash in local movement arenas. Whereas the existing literature typically lumps all cross-border organizing efforts under a single analytical rubric (e.g. "global civil society" or transnational social movements), I want to suggest that different modalities of transborder activism not only can have differential impacts on promoting desired policy changes, but also can have distinct political consequences for activist discourses and practices and intra-movement power relations on the home front. In conclusion, I will argue that while the interplay of these two transnational activist logics has brought numerous benefits to local movements, the predominance of IGO-advocacy activities among growing sectors of Latin American feminist movements in recent years has had more ambiguous and sometimes contradictory local consequences. 

Encountering’ Feminism: Intra-Regional Solidarity and the Configuration of Latin American Feminist Identities 

In November of 1999, over 1,200 women from virtually every country in the Latin America and the Caribbean region gathered in the coastal city of Juan Dolio, Dominican Republic, to participate in the eighth regional feminist Encuentro. As with the previous seven such region-wide meetings, activists flocked to Juan Dolio because the Encuentros have come to be regarded by many as "the place and the moment in which, as feminists, we come together to revitalize and reinforce our diverse practices. [They are an] instance in which we give expression to all our different forms of doing politics—with debates, with workshops, by thematic areas, by ideological currents, with our bodies, with art, with discussion, with dancing, with whatever we can and we want" (Abrancinskas 1998, 54). 

Billed as the "last feminist Encuentro of the millennium," the Juan Dolio meeting’s declared aim was to take stock of where the second wave of Latin American feminism came from, where it has been, and where it is or should be headed. Similar debates about the state and fate of the movement were staged at earlier Encuentros, which have served as alternative international public spaces or critical transnational sites in which distinctively Latin American and Caribbean feminist identities, discourses and practices have been constantly (re)invented by local activists over the past two decades.

In a region where the Left initially saw feminism as a "bourgeois, imperialist import" that divided the class struggle and the Right and the Church continue to denounce it as an affront to national customs and Christian family values, the Encuentros have been crucial supra-national arenas in which local activists—often politically marginalized or ridiculed in their own countries—could "find themselves" in "feminist others" who practiced their politics in analogous political, cultural and economic conditions, shaped by shared colonial and neocolonial legacies. It was precisely such a quest for affirmation, identity and solidarity, coupled with "the feeling of political isolation in their own country" that compelled Colombian feminists to organize the first region-wide feminist meeting in 1981 (Sternbach et al. 1992, 214; Navarro 1982). 

Early second-wave feminism’s origins in and continuing ties to the Left also help explain this impulse to forge ties of solidarity with like-minded others in the region. As Peter Waterman suggests, "[i]n so far as [Latin American feminists] came from the socialist tradition, they also shared its internationalist ethic" (1998, 166). The "logic" driving such transborder exchanges, then, was guided not only by a "striving for human identity, but also reciprocity (mutual advantage), affinity (shared feelings), complimentarity (differential contribution) and substitutionism (taking the part or place of the other)" (Waterman 1998, 50, 52, emphasis in the original).

Building on internationalist solidarities, the regional Encuentros helped fashion an "imagined" Latin American feminist community whose proper boundaries have been continually renegotiated and redrawn. Who rightfully "belongs" to that community has been a subject of considerable contention locally and those contests often have been re-enacted and redefined in critical transnational sites such as the periodic regional meetings. Whether or not women who continued to identify primarily with the Left and to privilege the "general" struggle for revolutionary transformation should be included in that imagined feminist community, for instance, has been a key axis of regional and local debate since the First Encuentro. 

The geographical as well as ideological boundaries of the Latin American feminist community also have been continually remapped in these transnational spaces. Whereas a handful of Latinas from the US and Europe have participated since the First Encuentro and were still counted as "foreign participants" by the organizers of the Fourth in Mexico in 1987, for example, we attended the Juan Dolio meeting by the hundreds and the Eighth Encuentro’s program included, for the first time, numerous sessions devoted to issues confronting women in the Latin American "diaspora."

The sense of "group-ness" and the transnational feminist community imagined at the Encuentros, of course, sometimes drew less-than-inclusive boundaries that were actively contested by those excluded. At the Mexico meeting, for instance, hundreds of poor and working-class women active in community struggles, human rights organizations, and other sectors of the grassroots women’s movement in the region, who had come to identify as "popular feminists," insisted that they too "belonged." Black women and lesbians—whose needs and concerns were often excluded as a consequence of the racism and heterosexism prevalent among many feminists locally—also sought out transnational linkages as a means to reaffirm their distinctive identities, exchange strategies for advancing their race- and sexuality-specific claims, and imagine alternative feminist communities of their own. Indeed, the transactions made possible by the periodic Encuentros and other regional or sub-regional workshops, meetings, and events facilitated the configuration of a number of "identity-based" transborder networks. A network of Latin American lesbian feminists was established in 1987, at a region-wide meeting held in Mexico in tandem with the Fourth Encuentro. The Afro-Latin American and Afro-Caribbean Women’s Network was founded during the Fifth Encuentro in Argentina and has held two regional meetings (1993 and 1996) of its own since then. Young women organized a number of workshops during the Juan Dolio Encuentro—claiming a distinctive identity as a new generation of feminists whose political and personal experiences and agendas differ significantly from those of "veteran" organizers—and discussed forming a regional network of their own.

The diverse women who today form part of the increasingly expansive, polycentric, heterogeneous Latin American feminist field (Alvarez 1998, 295) continue to view the Encuentros and other alternative transnational arenas such as the regional networks as crucial sites in which to re-view and refine their feminist discourses and practices, in dialogue with those of others in the region. The Encuentros have brought together thousands of women active in a broad range of public spaces—from lesbian-feminist collectives, to rural and urban trade unions, Black and indigenous movements, landless movements, research NGOs and university women’s studies programs, guerrilla organizations and mainstream political parties. Whether or not participants self-identified as feminists, the Encuentros provided a unique space for activists to debate collectively the always-contested meanings and goals of feminism and its relationship to other struggles for rights and social justice in the region. They therefore have played a critical role in fashioning common discourses, fostering a shared (though polysemic) Latin American feminist political grammar, and providing activists in individual countries with key theoretical and strategic insights and symbolic resources which they subsequently "translated" and redeployed locally. 

The kinds of internationalist identity-solidarity exchanges of which the Encuentros are emblematic, as Peruvian feminist Virginia Vargas suggests, were "fundamentally oriented toward recreating collective practices, deploying new categories of analysis, new visibilities and even new languages which feminisms at the national level were outlining, to name that which heretofore had no name: sexuality, domestic violence, sexual harassment, marital rape, the feminization of poverty [and so on]. These were some of the new signifiers that feminism placed at the center of democratic debates" (1998, 3). A Latin American feminist cultural politics—understood as a process "enacted when sets of actors shaped by, and embodying, different cultural meanings and practices come into conflict with one another" (Alvarez, Dagnino and Escobar 1998, 7)— thus was fostered in such transnational spaces, in interaction with local movement arenas. These transborder exchanges furnished local feminist activists with new discursive repertoires, reinforcing the "symbolic, ludic-cultural dimension" of feminism which accompanied the practices of the movement, "creating dates, recovering leaders, histories, symbols . . ." (Vargas 1998, 3). 

Region-wide "days of protest" or feminist action proposed by participants in the Encuentros, for example, not only helped draw public attention to particular feminist issues, they also contributed to a sense that activists—who most often are a relatively small minority in their own national context—were not "not alone" in their local struggles for gender(ed) justice. At the First Encuentro, for instance, participants decided to proclaim November 25 the "Day against Violence against Women," in honor of three sisters from the Dominican Republic who were murdered by security forces of the Trujillo dictatorship on that day in 1960. Since the Bogotá meeting, feminists throughout the region have commemorated that occasion simultaneously but by whatever means appeared most appropriate to local conditions—mounting demonstrations and other protest actions, holding workshops, lobbying legislators, staging dramatic performances, or launching public education campaigns on sexual and domestic violence (Keck and Sikkink 1998a, 178). Many other dates have come to mark the feminist calendar region-wide, such as September 28, the Day of Struggle for the Decriminalization of Abortion, and October 11, Indigenous Women’s Day.
 
 

These simultaneous commemorative occasions, along with the many theoretical and strategic exchanges facilitated by the Encuentros and other innumerable intra-regional meetings, publications, electronic communications and websites, moreover, often have fueled deeper feminist reflection among local activists and introduced new ways of discursively framing local feminist struggles. Mujeres por la Dignidad y la Vida’s (Women for Dignity and Life or DIGNAS) is a case in point. Today one of El Salvador’s leading feminist organizations, the group originally was created as an arm of the National Resistance (RN), one of the political-military organizations that made up to the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front. The question of movement autonomy or feminisms’ proper relationship to the Left, to the larger women’s movement or movimiento de mujeres, and to the State has long been a key axis of debate at the Encuentros (see especially Beckman 1998). And those "transnationalized" movement debates clearly influenced the DIGNAS’ evolving understanding of feminism and autonomy. 

In her richly detailed account of the organization’s political trajectory, Lynn Stephen suggests that DIGNAS members’ participation in the Fifth Encuentro in Argentina in 1990 stimulated "a period of intense self-reflection on the causes of female subordination" within the group, a process furthered by their increased contacts with Mexican and Central American feminist NGOs who helped them organize workshops on issues such as sexuality and violence against women, issues around which local activists had little prior organizing experience. The DIGNAS’ growing commitment to feminist ideals was further reinforced by their participation in gatherings of Central American feminists in preparation for a sub-regional Encuentro held in Nicaragua in 1992. As one DIGNAS member explained to Stephen, "All of these experiences gave us a whole new set of elements to work with . . . the meeting in Argentina, the meetings in Nicaragua, a workshop in Guatemala, all the workshops we did here. It brought us to another level of identification that was very important. We knew that we had to focus on what was important to women and not take on other people’s platforms, like that of labor. We had our own work to do" (Stephen 1997, 73-74). By 1992, the DIGNAS publicly had declared their organizational autonomy from the RN. Though it was, of course, primarily the DIGNAS’ own contradictory experience with the local Left that led them to challenge its sexist ideology and practices, their involvement in transnational feminist exchanges gave them access to new ways to frame that critique. As with the DIGNAS, thousands of local activists in other countries in the region have gained access to new theoretical frameworks and strategic insights through their participation in cross-border feminist exchanges of the identity-solidarity variety. 

The structure and organizational dynamics of the Encuentros themselves also contributed to the development of local feminist practices distinct from those prevailing on the Left. Whereas early movement practices in many countries often mirrored the organizational hierarchies inherited from Leftist organizations—for example, organizing women’s congresses and centralized coordinations in which different sectors of the women’s movement would be "represented," "manifestos" would be drafted, and "palabras de orden" (slogans or marching orders) would be "consensually" agreed upon—the regional Encuentros both reflected and reinforced the more fluid, less hierarchical practices that came to typify "feminist ways of doing politics" in the late 1970s and 1980s. From the first Encuentro on, organizers emphatically distinguished the regional "encounters" from more formal party- or trade union-like congresses and feminist academic conferences or meetings of experts. The majority of participants rejected formal leadership roles, claims to specialized knowledge or expertise, and representational schemes of any sort. Emphasis was placed on each woman "speaking for herself" and not in the name of her feminist group, political party or class organization (Alvarez 1998, 297; see also Heilborn and Arruda 1995). The national feminist encounters now regularly held in virtually every country in the region and many of the local and translocal meetings and events sponsored by the region-wide identity-focused redes typically adhere to a similar organizational model.

The Encuentros also have had particularly important consequences for local movement dynamics in each of the countries or sub-regions that hosted them. Since the Bogotá meeting, movement coordinations or coalitions of local volunteers have been responsible for organizing the region-wide gatherings. One of their important local effects thus has been to foster debate and promote networking, (re)mobilization and greater articulation among feminists in the country or sub-region in which they are held—even when organizing and fundraising for the regional meetings sometimes has triggered acerbic conflicts among local organizers. The process of networking among Central American feminists, initiated in the preparations for a 1992 sub-regional feminist meeting in Nicaragua, for instance, was intensified greatly by the cross-border organizing necessitated by the hosting the Sixth Encuentro (Aguilar et al. 1997). In the Dominican Republic, organizers similarly promoted numerous local workshops, engaged in many new transnational exchanges with Dominican women from the diaspora, and organized both a national and a Caribbean-wide feminist encounter in preparation for the Eighth. 

The Encuentros also have enhanced the public visibility of feminisms in the host country and "brought women’s issues into the news media—though not always with desirable publicity" (Stephen 1997, 17). In El Salvador, for instance, feminist organizing for the Sixth Encuentro led local conservative forces to try to cancel the meeting, alleging "that all of the women who have come together every two or three years since 1980 from different countries are linked to the FMLN and are trying to create forums for the expression of lesbianism and homosexuality" and claiming that the Encuentro would "degrade Salvadoran morality and culture and bring on an AIDS epidemic" (Stephen 1997, 17-18, 82). Still, as Stephen notes, the "effort to shut down the encuentro backfired, and the DIGNAS and others involved in the regional organizing committee gained far more legitimation and publicity than they would have if the Salvadoran government had simply allowed the encuentro to take place unimpeded" (1997, 82).

In sum, the effects of intra-regional activist exchanges informed by this internationalist identity-solidarity logic arguably have been largely salutary for local movements. The Encuentros have enhanced the public visibility of feminist claims and movements in the host country, provided local activists with a shared, though continually resignified, Latin American feminist political language that helped shield them from domestic opponents’ charges that feminism is a "foreign import," and enhanced activist access to contextually appropriate discursive frameworks and organizational practices. 

Local cultural and political resistance to feminism in general, along with the marginalization of subaltern voices within local feminist movements, impelled diverse movement actors to construct a variety of transnational linkages from the bottom-up. Feminists engaged in the wide range of intra-regional movement activities described above pursued transborder connections in search of affinities and complimentarities with non-local feminist others. They sought to forge bonds of solidarity that enabled them to feel they were "not alone" in their feminist values and commitments, even if they were still relatively politically marginalized or culturally stigmatized "back home." Such exchanges, then, are driven less by pragmatic objectives or instrumental rationales and more by politicized identities, principled goals and ideological affinities.

The repercussions of such internationalist identity-solidarity exchanges for local intra-movement power relations, moreover, have been relatively benign. Participation in alternative international movement publics does not require that actors possess any particular kinds of specialized skills or material, political or cultural resources—beyond, perhaps, scrounging up the money for the plane ticket to get to an Encuentro. Participation is nominally open to any woman who wishes to identify with or simply explore feminist ideas and principles. Beyond building international ties of solidarity that might on occasion be mobilized in the interest of some local cause and gaining new theoretical and strategic insights that might enhance their particular feminist practices at home, individual activists participating in supra-national alternative public spaces stand little to gain in terms of national or international power or political clout from doing so. Though power certainly also circulates in alternative transnational spaces such as the Encuentros, the kind of capital that accrues to participants is principally of the "social" variety and does not necessarily translate into greater access to national or international policy elites or material resources. 

Finally, the impact of such exchanges on securing more progressive local or international gender policies is, at best, indirect. In that respect, their principal effects have been to reinforce local activists’ resolve to promote policy change locally, provide them with strategic information about how gender policy struggles have been waged in other country contexts with analogous political conditions, and furnished them with theoretical insights and symbolic resources that they can deploy in their local policy battles. And as I shall discuss below, internationalist-solidarity exchanges also fostered the dense transnational social networks which were sometimes transformed into more formalized transborder activist coalitions purposefully designed to advocate for gender policy change. 

The UN’s Knocking at Your Door: The "Globalization" of Local Latin American Feminist Policy Advocacy in the 1990s

In the early 1990s, a very different activist logic began propelling increasing numbers of Latin American feminist NGOs to pursue transnational linkages with their counterparts throughout the region and across the globe. Largely inspired by the UN’s declared intention to promote greater NGO participation in the "megaconferences" or World Summits it sponsored during the first half of that decade (Clark, Friedman and Hochstetler 1998, 6; Otto 1996; Weiss and Gordenker 1996), many feminists in Latin America for the first time came to view IGOs and the inter-governmental arena as potential venues for advancing women’s rights locally. 

The organized, regionally coordinated participation of Latin American feminists in "official" international publics such as the UN or ECLAC (the Economic Commission on Latin America and the Caribbean)—as compared to the many "alternative" transnational arenas discussed above—was a novelty. As Marysa Navarro recounts, "[f]or Latin American and Caribbean feminists, the first World Conferences on Women did not have great relevance (with the exception of the Brazilians and Mexicans who did see themselves affected by the beginning of the Women’s Decade). [At the World Conference of the International Women’s Year] in Mexico, the presence of Latin American feminism was minimal since, though groups had emerged in some countries, there still were no movements [as such]" (1998, 108). 

By the time of the Beijing conference, in contrast, "the [regional] women’s movement (and its feminist expression) took part in the official conference process, with its many currents, issues, and forces" in expressive numbers, whereas "[a]t previous conferences on women . . . it participated only in the World [NGO] Forum and barely managed to establish relations with official circles" (Vargas and Olea 1998a, 16). Though most were inexperienced in "global policy advocacy," a specialized skill perfected by feminist international NGOs (INGOs) based mostly in the North, many local activists were by then persuaded that influencing their government’s reports to the UN and lobbying for changes in international legal norms might provide them with additional political leverage on the home front. 

The difference between Latin American feminists’ scant presence in Mexico and their significant participation in the Beijing process was not just due to the impressive expansion or feminist movements in the region in the two intervening decades, however. It is also attributable to changes in the national political contexts in which the movements unfolded. With the return of electoral democracy (however flawed and still restricted) and liberal rights discourses (however hollow and "neo") to much of the region by the end of the 1980s, many governments in the mid-1990s claimed to be more receptive to select feminist claims. Whereas during the 1970s and much of the 1980s, feminists mostly turned their backs on the State and eschewed the conventional political arena—then (rightly) viewed as exclusionary, oppressive and self-evidently inimical to any and all claims for social justice, let alone gender justice—by the 1990s growing numbers of feminists were directing their organizing efforts at influencing gender policies (Alvarez 1998, 1999). The possibility of pursuing local policy changes through inter-governmental venues such as the UN conferences, then, appealed particularly to that sizable subset of Latin American feminist activists who had become most directly involved in local gender policy matters during the previous decade. 

Intensified contacts and involvement with international policy forums reinforced this growing local interest in "transnationalized" policy advocacy. Beginning with the United Nations Conference on Envirnoment and Development, held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, many local NGOs and several of the regional networks became more directly involved with the UN process and with the Northern-based feminist INGOs and transnational rights advocacy networks which have dominated the "global women’s lobby." At the Rio Summit, a Brazilian national feminist network, the Coalition of Women’s NGOs for the Environment, Population and Development, hosted the women’s caucus space, dubbed Planeta Fêmea or Female Planet, at the NGO Forum. Other issue-focused regional networks subsequently played an important role in global feminist coalitions set up to incorporate women’s rights into the Platforms for Action of the Vienna Human Rights Summit in 1993 and the UN Population and Development Conference in Cairo in 1994. As Navarro points out, "At Río de Janeiro, Vienna, Cairo and Copenhagen Latin American feminists learned that they belonged to international networks on how to lobby, that is, how to influence the content of documents discussed by government representatives" (1998, 106-107).

But two additional, "top-down" factors fueled the unprecedented involvement of Latin American feminist activists in the Beijing process: the deliberate efforts of feminist allies working within UN agencies such at UNIFEM (United Nations Development Fund for Women) and the Women’s Unit of ECLAC to encourage feminist NGOs to participate more fully in the official preparatory process; and the considerable amounts of targeted bilateral and multilateral agency and foundation funding that enabled some local NGOs to do so. UNIFEM and other UN agencies, according feminist activists involved early on in the process, "took the initiative to rally NGOs . . . and assumed the challenge of pressuring governments to be receptive to NGOs proposals" (Vargas and Olea 1998a, 21; Gúzman and Guerrero 1998, 192-193). The Beijing "initiative groups" set up in many countries, moreover, were a direct response to the proposal put forth by the Subregional Coordinator of UNIFEM in Brazil, who was herself a "veteran" feminist activist from the 1970s (Gúzman and Guerrero 1998, 197). Both UNIFEM and the ECLAC Women’s Unit played a key role in explaining byzantine UN procedures and the vagaries of political negotiation in inter-governmental arenas to the Latin American NGOs who opted to participate in the UN process. And substantial funding provided a further incentive for participation: In the two years prior to the Beijing Summit, the Regional Coordination received at total of $1,007,403 to develop region-wide lobbying strategies and support sub-regional organizing in relation to the conference (Vargas and Olea 1998b, 55, 13n).

The Complimentarity of Transnational Activist Logics in Latin America 

The new transnational activist logic spurred particularly by the Beijing preparatory process built upon and sometimes reinforced the internationalist solidarity exchanges of the 1980s and early 1990s. That is, the two transnational activist logics outlined in the introduction, though sometimes running on parallel, seldom-intersecting tracks, at times proved to be mutually complimentary, with largely positive consequences for local movement dynamics, discourses and practices. 

The NGO Forums at the Mexico, Copenhagen and Nairobi UN women’s conferences, for instance, had been "important for the development of a regional feminist movement. They played a significant role in fostering bonds of solidarity . . . [and] provided the foundations for an intense and informal network of relationships and exchange . . ." (Vargas and Olea 1998a, 16, 2n). Indeed, it was at the mid-Decade Conference in Copenhagen (1980) that some Venezuelan feminists decided to promote the first regional Encuentro, which Colombian feminists organized the following year (Navarro 1998, 108; Navarro 1982). 

The Encuentros and other intra-regional feminist gatherings and exchanges, in turn, facilitated the formation of transnational social networks and fomented intense personal and political bonds and affinities among feminists in far-flung reaches of the sub-continent which provided a crucial backdrop for the creation of policy-focused networks and regional advocacy coalitions. The variety of internationalist identity-solidarity exchanges discussed in the preceding section gave impetus to the more formalized, policy-centered feminist networks, such as the Network of Women in Politics (established at the Argentine Encuentro) and others which combined an identity-solidarity logic with an emphasis on promoting policy change, such as the Latin American and Caribbean Network against Violence against Women and the regional women’s health and reproductive rights network. And movement debates about the possible political benefits and pitfalls of setting up a regional advocacy coalition to participate in the preparatory processes for the Beijing Summit can be traced to the 1993 Encuentro in El Salvador (Navarro 1998, 108).

Given its origins in earlier identity-solidarity exchanges, it is not surprising that the Latin American and Caribbean NGO Coordination for the FWCW—headquartered in Lima and charged with articulating six sub-regional "focal points" in the region—declared in its core organizing slogan that Beijing would serve as both "Texto y Pretexto" (Text and Pretext) for feminist movements in the region. That is, while feminists involved hoped to influence the actual texts of national reports and regional and global Platforms for Action, Virginia Vargas—nominated by some participants at the 1993 Encuentro to be NGO Forum Coordinator for Latin America and the Caribbean—explained that Beijing also provided a pretext for remobilizing and revitalizing feminist movements and fomenting public debate about gender inequality and its remedies. The dynamic interplay of the two transantional activist logics, then, guided much of Latin American NGOs’ involvement in the UN process and had a number of positive consequences for local movement discourses and practices.

The transnational IGO-advocacy logic of the 1990s sometimes built on, reinforced or extended the affinities and complimentarities fostered by earlier identity-solidarity exchanges. This was particularly evident in the case of Black and indigenous women, lesbians, and others whose voices were often muted in local movement arenas despite their considerable prior local and cross-border organizing efforts. Those efforts contributed to the "globalization" of feminist discourses about difference and diversity among women and pressures from the global women’s lobby led to the incorporation of elements of those discourses by IGOs and the Northern States that are hegemonic in international policy arenas. As a consequence, UN agencies and Northern-based private foundations and INGOs often conditioned funding for participation in international forums on local movements’ ability to "incorporate diversity." The Beijing process thus furnished a new "top-down" incentive for Afro-Latin American women, lesbians, disabled women, young women and indigenous women to engage in "transnationalized" rights advocacy around their specific needs and concerns. This participation, in turn, emboldened them to assert a more vocal presence in local, national and regional women’s movement arenas. 

Afro-Latin American women in some countries, for instance, were able to translate IGO’s and agencies’ declared interest in "promoting diversity" into expressive participation in the Beijing preparatory process and organized national and regional networks to guarantee "the active participation of diverse ethnic and racial sectors of women" in both government and movement Beijing-related fora. With targeted funds from several liberal US foundations such as Ford, one of Brazil’s foremost Black feminist NGOs, Geledés, coordinated a national network of Afro-Brazilian women’s organizations to participate in the national Beijing preparatory process. Black women’s organizations in Brazil already had been engaged in identity-solidarity exchanges on a national scale since the First National Encounter of Black Women in 1988 (Ribeiro 1995, 450). They subsequently transformed the contacts established at this and several other Black women’s events into coordinated nationwide efforts to advance race-specific political claims via the "boomerang pattern of influence"—such as the National Seminar on Public Policy and Black Women’s Reproductive Rights held in 1993, organized explicitly to influence the national preparatory process for the Cairo Summit. 

The Beijing "logic" reinforced this trend, further propelling Black women’s demands into the center of national and regional movement and government debates about women’s rights and gender policy. At the national level, targeted agency and IGO funding enabled some Afro-Brazilian women activists to participate as "experts" in government seminars held to prepare the government’s report to the UN and to play a leadership role in the national movement coalition aimed at influencing the Beijing process—the Articulation of Brazilian Women for Beijing ’95. 

At the regional level, Afro-Brazilians took the lead in organizing a three-day session at the Mar del Plata NGO Forum, held in tandem with the official ECLAC conference to formulate a regional platform for Beijing, which brought together Black activists from eight countries and called on governments to "implement development policies to repay the debt incurred with our populations and that Black women be the priority beneficiaries [of such policies]" (Ribeiro 1995, 455). The ECLAC Platform for Action incorporated several of the demands advanced by the "Proposal of Latin American and Caribbean Black Women for Beijing." 

In other national contexts where Black women’s voices had been largely absent from local feminist movement debates, UN and funding agencies’ exigencies concerning the participation of "diverse women" in the Beijing process lent Black women activists newfound local visibility and legitimacy. Emboldened by IGO’s discursive sanctioning of diversity and by their involvement with regional and global Afro-Latin American women’s organizing coalitions surrounding Beijing, for instance, Afro-Colombian women’s organizations rapidly gained a new foothold within the historically predominantly white and mestiza local feminist movement. Until the early 1990s, most Afro-Colombian women activists had had limited contact with local feminist organizations. And many had been reluctant to proclaim themselves feminists—partly due to the racism and elitism they perceived to be rampant among Colombia’s "historic" feminist groups. The transnational contacts with Black feminists from throughout Latin America and other regions of the world facilitated by their participation in the Beijing process, however, heightened their exposure to alternative Afro-centric and anti-racist feminist discourses and appear to have triggered new debates about the relevance of feminism within the local Black women’s movement. As one Afro-Colombian activist who today adamantly identifies as a feminist proclaimed, "There’s feminism and then there’s the feminists. That is, we have learned that there is much to feminism that speaks to our experience as Black women and we need to separate that out from the discriminatory attitudes and practices that have prevailed among feminist groups here." The transnational IGO-advocacy logic thus sometimes can foster new processes identity-solidarity formation. 

The heightened visibility of Latin American feminist NGOs in official international policy arenas also appears to have helped legitimate feminist claims vis-à-vis (non-feminist) parallel sectors of national and international civil society, prompting both INGOs such as Human Rights Watch as well as local human rights groups to be more attentive to women’s rights and to seek out alliances with local and transnational feminist NGOs. As Peruvian activist and former regional coordinator of the Comité Latinoamericano de Defensa de los Derechos de las Mujeres (the Latin American Committee for the Defense of Women’s Rights or CLADEM), Roxana Vasquez told me, "Vienna forced the National Coordination of Human Rights Organizations to seat us at the table. Vienna legitimated the topic of women’s human rights and obliged them to pay attention to violence against women," a rights violation until then seldom addressed by national and regional mainstream human rights organizations. 

In some contexts, local activists’ engagement in exchanges driven by an IGO-advocacy logic also spurred the geographical, intra-national decentering of feminism—that is, its diffusion beyond an original, usually small, "hegemonic core" of activists, organizations and issues (Stein 1995). The sanctioning and even encouragement of "civil society participation" in UN conference processes by local, national and international public authorities confers "official" legitimacy on related movement activities—providing an additional "top down" incentive for participation by activists who might not otherwise have been involved and sometimes granting participants increased access to local and national policy microphones. 

In Brazil, for instance, more than 800 local groups became involved in the national Articulation of Brazilian Women for Beijing ’95 and the Beijing process fostered the creation or reactivation women's movement forums or local advocacy coalitions in 25 of Brazil's 26 states and the Federal District. These forums played a crucial role promoting dialogue and collaboration among diverse groups of women activists from all corners of Brazil. Whereas funding for national feminist "encounters" and other translocal identity-solidarity activities has always been hard to come by, IGO and foundation resources targeted for UN conference-related activities made this unprecedented nationwide movement mobilizational effort possible. 

Significantly, the most active of these forums were found in the Central, North and Northeast regions of Brazil—areas where the feminist movement historically has been weakest. Whereas Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo dominated the national coalition during the preparatory process for Beijing, activists from the North and Northeast were most invested in sustaining it after the "pretext" provided by the Summit had passed. As one of the members of the steering committee of the national "post-Beijing" coalition told me in 1998, 

In smaller towns and more remote regions, where there may be but a handful of women’s movement activists, the Articulation has become an important referent. Knowing there are other women ‘out there’ in Brazil and around the world organizing around similar issues makes them feel less isolated, part of a larger cause. And local Articulation members often summon to the Beijing platform when making demands on municipal or state political authorities. NGOs from Rio and São Paulo have been less active in the Articulation since Beijing because they are already connected to numerous other national and international networks. Engagement with "transnationalized" gender policy advocacy thus also has provided advocates with new, internationally sanctioned political scripts they can deploy locally, which, unlike the shared feminist movement signifiers diffused through inward-oriented identity-solidarity exchanges, have greater potential political "resonance" vis-à-vis local policy makers. Latin American rights advocates now more regularly invoke international human rights law to pressure for local compliance with new global gender equity norms and appeal to UN and OAS (Organization of American States) conventions in promoting women’s rights locally. In late 1996, for instance, Brazilian members of CLADEM brought two local cases of violence against women before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Invoking the Inter-American Convention on Violence against Women—ratified by Brazil in 1995 and promulgated by Decree 149 in 1996—local feminists argued that the Brazilian government had failed to investigate and prosecute those responsible for the death by strangulation and gunshot of two São Paulo women by their male lovers, thereby violating the fundamental rights assured to women by the Convention. "The simple fact of bringing these women’s rights violations to the attention of the international community," local CLADEM members argued, "imposes a political and moral condemnation on the Brazilian State."

Regionally, CLADEM, in collaboration with the US-based Center for Women’s Global Leadership, spearheaded a global effort to rethink universal human rights from a feminist perspective and launched an international petition drive and public education campaign to question of the false universalism prevailing in androcentric, classist, Western, and racialized post-war interpretations of human rights. The campaign’s slogan, "Without Women, Rights are not Human," (Sin las Mujeres, los Derechos no son Humanos) aptly summarized CLADEM’s endeavor to rewrite women into human rights law at home and abroad.

CLADEM argued that by separating out "the specificities of different human conditions: [such as] women, children, older people, the disabled, among others," from "general" human rights law, instruments such as the UN Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) construct "differentiated social subjects and, thereby, subjects with specific [rather than ‘human’] rights." As an alternative, CLADEM proposed that: "We must return to the whole, but in a way that it dialectically encompasses, in the abstract, each and every concrete being, and in generality, each and every singular being." They argued that "[s]pecific feminine experiences must be taken into account not only through supplementing existing [human rights] instruments and mechanisms, but by seeking, through a radical critique, to reconstruct those very instruments and mechanisms."

A feminist cultural politics—in this case, a confrontation between feminist and mainstream-IGO understandings of human rights—is clearly implicated in many of the transnational IGO-advocacy efforts undertaken by local and regional feminist coalitions in recent years. Beyond sometimes reinforcing the identity-solidarity exchanges facilitated by "encuentro-like" transborder transactions, then, participation in cross-border exchanges aimed at influencing "official" international publics in some cases has provided activists with access to new discursive framings and legal instruments that, at least potentially, bolster their local political leverage. 

Those local activists most centrally involved in IGO-related advocacy in recent years also have felt compelled to develop new lobbying skills and organizing practices. The very notion of policy advocacy, long considered a highly specialized skill among the Northern-based liberal NGO and INGO feminist lobbyists who perfected it, was foreign to most Latin American activists who became involved at the outset of the Beijing preparatory process. 

Excerting influence in inter-governmental forums, according to those Northern feminist activists who have been most involved in "global women’s rights advocacy," requires developing specific organizing "repertoires": compiling "expert" information to support one’s political claims or desired policy changes; "framing [one’s] points of view and formulating them so they can be comprehended" by policy makers (Kyte 1998, 54); forging alliances with sympathetic national and IGO public officials; and developing a pragmatic willingness to "work within the system" because "to influence the current political decision-making system, one must understand and accept to work with the establishment in order to change it" (Beyond Cairo and Beijing 1999, 8). "Systems analysis" and strategic planning, according to "advocacy specialists," are at the core of "success": Advocacy "is a way of ordering work . . . [It] implies knowing how to argue your case, and this requires substantial concrete information and elements to make your case a strong one. Advocacy is thus both a strategy and a skill . . ." (Beyond Cairo and Beijing 1999, 7).

In a region historically governed by military regimes or exclusionary elite democracies, it should not be surprising that this kind of "advocacy repertoire" was not familiar to local feminist activists confronting hostile and often repressive public officials and less-than-receptive, anti-, when not pseudo-, liberal policy arenas. Moreover, with the exception of the relatively few activists and NGOs involved in the issue-focused regional networks’ efforts to influence the Rio, Vienna and Cairo processes, most of the core organizers of the regional and sub-regional movement coalitions established in relation to Beijing had little prior experience in inter-governmental arenas. 

The September 1994 NGO Forum in Mar del Plata, Argentina, for instance, was still viewed by most participants as a "pretext" for fomenting intra-regional networking of the identity-solidarity variety. In fact, some have suggested in retrospect that the regional Forum "was more like a feminist encuentro than a forum in preparation for an international conference" (Olea and Vargas 1998, 153). Most of the over 1,200 women in attendance principally engaged in heated debates about women’s inequality in the region rather than in strategizing about how to "frame" women’s issues in ways that might "resonate" with government representatives at the ECLAC conference. But at later stages of the preparatory process, the regional Coordination and the sub-regional "focal points," along with a relatively small subset of Mar del Plata participants, attuned their "repertoires" to better suit the UN conference "logic." By the time of the November 1994 ECLAC meeting to draft the final version of the Latin American and Caribbean Platform for Action, for instance, the Regional NGO Coordination had "prepared a ‘negotiating instrument’ to facilitate lobbying with governments and to explicitly outline NGO proposals on each of the points to be addressed at the meeting" (Vargas and Olea 1998a, 30). Strategic planning meetings among an increasingly reduced number of "specialized" activists focused on influencing Beijing-related "texts" gradually came to prevail over more inclusive events or activities that had served as "pretexts" for revitalizing local movements and influencing public opinion.

In the aftermath of the Beijing conference, some of the core local organizers of the Cairo and Beijing NGO processes identified feminists’ relative inexperience in lobbying as a key obstacle to securing the local implementation of international agreements on women’s rights. They gained substantial funding from the Ford Foundation to mount a region-wide "advocacy training" project. One of the basic premises of that project was that "the vast majority of Latin American NGO activists still don’t handle themselves well in undertaking ‘advocacy’ or trying to promote and defend . . . rights before local, national, and regional political institutions" (Beyond Cairo and Beijing 1999, 4). The project thus set out to select a group of younger, "middle-level" movement leaders or cadres who were "working to promote sexual and reproductive rights and gender equity" in eight countries in the region to train them in developing "long-term strategic plans based on sound analyses of political contexts and to develop their skills in communication and coalition-building" (Beyond Cairo and Beijing 1999, 5). An important further consequence of the transnational IGO-advocacy logic on local movement dynamics, then, has been to reinforce the formation of a relatively small cadre of activists who would devote their energies to policy-focused advocacy on both the national and international planes.

In sum, the IGO-advocacy logic informing many transnational organizing efforts among Latin American feminists as of the early 1990s was guided largely by pragmatic, policy-driven objectives that arguably were more "instrumental" than principled—even when it sometimes built upon and reinforced shared ideals and processes of identity (re)affirmation among some sectors of local movements. Participating in transnationalized policy advocacy requires nurturing contacts and alliances with State and IGO officials; "framing" feminist issues in ways that are palatable to such official circles; developing movement "cadres" with specific kinds of (advocacy) skills and (policy) specializations (which in turn necessitates access to particular kinds of cultural capital); and securing the sizable material resources that make on-site and "virtual" transnational strategizing and lobbying possible. 

Contradictory Consequences of "Transnationalized" Feminist Policy Advocacy for Local Movement Discourses, Practices and Power Dynamics

The new transnationalized advocacy repertoires developed by those sectors of the Latin American women’s movements most centrally involved in the UN conference processes of the 1990s did not always translate smoothly in local policy and movement arenas. First, though analysts of transnational advocacy networks and local social movements alike have stressed the centrality of "frame resonance"—"the relationship between a movement organization’s interpretive work and its ability to influence broader public understanding" (Keck and Sikkink 1998, 17)—to advocates’ success in promoting desired policy changes (see also Tarrow 1998; McAdam, McCarthy and Zald 1996), I want to suggest that the "framing processes" appropriate when persuading State or IGO public officials are sometimes more problematic when what is desired is also broad cultural change. This is a particularly tricky issue for feminist rights advocates, since framing their claims in ways that will have "cultural resonance" in local policy arenas may clash with their principled quest to transform larger publics’ cultural understandings of gender power relations. Though such "framing dilemmas" arise mostly from local political conditions, I will further maintain, they can be exacerbated when local feminists’ "interpretive struggles" (Franco 1989) become transnationalized. 

Several local feminist interpretive contests were "globalized" during preparations for the Beijing conference. Local and transnational conservative and fundamentalist movements, often commandeered by the Vatican, for instance, sought to undermine feminism "by staging an apparently trivial sideshow—namely an attack on the use of the word ‘gender’" (Franco 1998, 279). 

For several months preceding the Beijing conference, the Chilean Church, the Right, and sectors of the Christian Democratic Party—in cohoots with the Vatican and Opus Dei—went to war with feminists working in the ruling Concertación government over the inclusion of the term "gender," plural conceptions of the family, and reproductive rights in the government’s report to the UN on the status of Chilean women.To the leaders of this assault on "gender rights," like Renovación Nacional (National Renovation) Congresswoman María Angélica Cristi, "the preparations for the Summit were controlled by feminists . . . the rights of woman as mother were left out of the deliberations." Allusions to the need to fashion public policy in ways that acknowledged multiple forms of family, according to Cristi, "opened the way for lesbian and gay families" in a manner inimical to Chilean cultural values. Some Christian Democratic women leaders in the ruling coalition echoed the Right-wing congresswoman’s arguments, suggesting that the adoption of the term gender in government policy documents portended the "legalization of a third sex." 

Such proclamations reflected the Chilean Right’s own transnational organizing activities in tandem with the recent string of UN Summits and in response to local and global feminisms’ challenge to traditional gender power arrangements. Indeed, anti-feminist forces are also increasingly articulated on a global scale (see Basu, this issue). As Sally Baden and Anne Marie Goetz suggest, 

conservative opposition to the concept [of gender during the Beijing process] expressed a second-wind reaction after the failure to prevent agreement at the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo in 1994 on a broad definition of women’s reproductive health rights. Other factors explaining the conservative fixation on gender may include the perceived greater influence and presence of feminist NGOs, the greater visibility of lesbians in NGOs, and the inclusion, for the first time in the U. N. series of Conferences on Women, of very openlanguage on sexual and reproductive rights (1997, 45). On both the global and local levels, the Right’s counter-discourses on gender have become more consistent, more mature, its arguments more elaborate (Grau, Olea, and Pérez 1997, 97). According to several feminists I interviewed in Santiago in 1997, however, Chilean feminist NGO activists involved in the local Beijing "initiative group" did not intervene as effectively as they might have in the heated public debate that ensued from the conservative attack on "gender rights." Most Chilean feminists I interviewed were quick to point out that the Right-wing-controlled mass media deliberately silenced feminist voices in civil society. However, several attributed feminism’s relative quiescence in that debate to what Chilean feminist cultural critics Grau, Olea, and Pérez (1997) have dubbed a tendency toward "discursive accommodation" among those sectors of the feminist movement who had riveted their organizing efforts on influencing the text of their government’s report to the United Nations. 

According to these authors, discursive accommodation consists of "[adapting] one’s own discursive profile to the explicit or implicit requirements of the interlocutor involved in the conflict" (1997, 91). They argue that this can lead to "self-determined frame of ‘what it is possible to say’ that operates as self-imposed censorship, making it difficult to articulate an autonomous line of argument that makes explicit and sustains the most problematic [discursive] nodes: sexuality, the family, the concept of gender" (1997, 74). As Raquel Olea succinctly put it, "there is a dominant discourse and too often one speaks from inside that discourse". This is particularly evident in what Chileans refer to as the prevailing political culture of "consenso prévio" (prior consensus), wherein, as several interviewees remarked, one pre-assumes the adversary’s limits and strives for a minimalist consensus before one even takes a seat at the policy-making table.

Beyond seeking "frame resonance" in policy circles, then, as Chilean Federal Deputy and long-time women’s and human rights movement activist Fanny Pollarolo suggested, feminist activists sometimes fail to see policy arenas as forums in which they can do more than advocate for gender policy change: "the initiatives of parliamentarians can open up the debate . . . we’re much more agents of the public debate rather than mere law-makers". The Congress and the UN, in other words, are simultaneously cultural and political forums. Though political give-and-take, cautious language and a willingness to make discursive concessions may well be essential to effective policy advocacy, public policies, of course, have cultural effects. That is, policies help (re)shape cultural understandings of particular social problems. Thus, if the feminist "framing process" is reduced to "discursive accommodation" and spills over the negotiating table and onto the streets, into the larger public debate about women’s rights or gender justice, it can have troubling implications. 

In Chile, as in several other Latin American nations, for example, the Congress—at the urging of local feminist policy advocates and under pressure from new international women’s rights norms—enacted legislation on "intra-familial violence" (violencia intra-familiar). Local feminist rights advocates engaged in protracted negotiations to persuade policy-makers of the urgency of legislating on this issue and the law unquestionably represents an important step in combating violence against women. However, the watered-down law that ultimately prevailed centered on "strengthening the family," prescribed efforts at "family reconciliation," recommended "couples’ therapy" and largely ignored the gendered power relations so central to feminist understandings of the causes and remedies for this dramatic and systematic violation of women’s human rights. 

Though such "semantic operations" (Franco 1991, in Barrig 1996, 65) or discursive maneuvers on the part of the masculinist State are hardly surprising in themselves, what is remarkable is that the majority of Chilean feminists I interviewed in 1997 appeared to have adopted the term "intra-familial violence" in their own quotidian discourse and seemed to be deploying it in the larger public debate about gender inequality. Yet the concrete policy remedies implied in these distinct representations of this pressing social problem are quite different. Framed as "violence against women," solutions would necessitate both policy- and culturally-centered strategies to empower women to resist and transform (when not leave) violent personal relationships, e.g. providing employment and educational opportunities for abused women or sheltered temporary housing for them and their children. An "intra-familial violence" framing, conversely, might well find greater "resonance" among local policy makers but might also easily be construed by public authorities and the courts (as has apparently been the case in Chile) as consonant with local conservative efforts to bolster the family, to mediate abusive situations so that "loving parents" can stay together in the interests of "the" family (Gúzman et al. 1999; El Agua Consultores 1997). 

While so-called "framing processes" aimed at influencing policy may well require advocates to "translate" their points of view and (re)formulate them so they can be comprehended by policy makers (Kyte 1998), then, it would seem crucial that feminists also "re-translate" the often-problematic cultural representations of gender power relations embedded in public policies when "re-framing" and re-deploying their claims in the larger public debate. Chilean feminist rights advocates apparent failure to do so in the case of violence against women, I want to suggest, was not only shaped by local political culture but also may have been reinforced by the activist "logic" guiding IGO-policy advocacy. 

As Vargas herself argues in one of several incisive retrospective analyses, while "text" and "pretext" were articulated explicitly in regional organizing for the Beijing preparatory process, 

Part of the [local] feminist logic has somehow gotten ‘stuck’ (enganchada) in the forms of relationship, negotiation, and alliance building that took place around Beijing. But the relationship between civil societies and States at the national level are not the same as at the transnational level . . . In Beijing, the prevailing dynamics revolved around the search for alliances to ensure that [the Platform for Action] included what had been advanced [at previous UN conferences] and left the door open on those issues that were most resisted. To this end, conciliation, negotiation, and alliances with [government officials] was key (1998, 13).  But when such practices of conciliation and mutual accommodation are transferred to the local level, Vargas contends, "they run up against the [Latin America’s] ‘actually existing democracies’ (or almost non-existent ones, as in the case of Peru)" (1998, 14). Peruvian feminist Giulia Tamayo similarly argues that the global women’s lobby’s relative success in Vienna, Cairo and Beijing seems to have convinced some local feminists that "[w]e should celebrate the efficacy of negotiating on the terrain of ‘the possible,’ even if what we achieved were essentially rhetorical gains (una puja argumental.) . . . . It was incumbent upon women’s movements on a local level to act upon (with? within? from?) political institutions, while holding in hand the texts of international accords and commitments" (Tamayo 1998, 210). As a consequence, Vargas further insists "[t]he equilibrium between ‘text’ and ‘pretext’ did not resist the confrontation of the global with the local. [Locally,] the emphasis on the text has prevailed, while strategies aimed at cultural, symbolic and political transformations have been relegated to a secondary plane . . ." (1998, 14). Increased involvement in transnationalized rights advocacy, then, appears to have reinforced a growing tendency among some local activists to focus almost exclusively on policy-centered activism, to the actual or potential neglect of the "symbolic," "ludic-cultural" dimensions of feminism that are bolstered by internationalist identity-solidarity exchanges. 

To counter this tendency, some local feminists have begun to promote broader and more "contextually appropriate" conceptions and practices of advocacy which seek to recover those cultural-symbolic dimensions. At the conclusion of the above-described region-wide advocacy training project, for instance, the three NGOs coordinating the project, as well as the majority of "trainees," had decided they needed to "translate" the narrowly policy-centered conception of advocacy prevailing among Northern-based "specialists" who operate in liberal national and international policy arenas. In one of the final project reports, the coordinators redefined feminist advocacy in ways that emphasized both its policy-focused and wider "cultural" dimensions: 

We define advocacy as a strategy for strengthening leaderships—in this case feminist ones—oriented toward the capacity to argue for and influence political-institutional transformations, in both the public-social (civil society) and the public-political (the State), on the basis of specifically feminist contents and proposals. This implies developing the capacity to broaden both the movement’s social base of support (strengthening the ‘critical mass’) as well as to generate alliances with other spaces, movements, and agendas for transformation. Influencing actors and social, cultural and political institutions is sustained by the mobilization and consequent amplification of the meanings of democracy and citizenship in our societies. This strategy, to be effective, requires a long-term vision, strategic planning, a command of political contexts from a feminist perspective, and the use and development of specific technical skills (Beyond Cairo and Beijing 1999, 7-8). Most of the close to 200 young feminist "cadres" trained by the project similarly endorsed this resignification of the practices of advocacy that have prevailed in the Northern-dominated global women’s lobby. As one put it, "though the definition that they’ve given us—in some instances—that advocacy refers fundamentally to changes in public policies, I believe that the feminist proposal concerning advocacy places more emphasis on changes in social relations, establishing an interconnection between both levels." (Beyond Cairo and Beijing 1999, 94). Another declared that though she initially found the concept abstract and foreign, "it has been mixing with my Latin American mestizaje (mestiza identity), and I have appropriated it and ascribed it new meaning from Latin America and from my own experience" (Beyond Cairo and Beijing 1999, 95). These kinds of translations or local appropriations arguably reflect deliberate efforts to reconcile the sometimes-contradictory consequences of the two transnational activist logics for movement practices in the region. 

Still, given that the revised Latin American understanding continued to view advocacy as a highly specialized skill that only a few activists need master, only a small subset of the region’s "young feminist leaders" were selected to participate in this training program—with explicit preference given to those who had played a significant role in the Cairo and Beijing preparatory and follow-up processes. Participation in transnationalized feminist advocacy circles, such as the sub-regional Beijing "initiative groups" or the advocacy training initiative that grew out of the Cairo and Beijing experiences, then, confers a relatively few actors in local movement arenas with greater access to political, cultural, and "actual" capital. The transnational IGO-advocacy logic can therefore "translate" locally in ways that exacerbate existing power imbalances among activists and organizations. 

In terms of political capital, for instance, local activists who have learned to navigate in IGO-advocacy circles, by virtue of their international experience or recognition, often have gained greater access to national microphones and become the privileged interlocutors of domestic policy-makers and international donors. With regards to cultural capital, moreover, those activists with greater formal education and foreign (particularly English) language skills—typically, then, from locally dominant racial groups and social classes—have found it easier to transit in official international public spaces and thereby often have accrued greater political capital locally. 

International funding agencies and private foundations, moreover, tend to favor larger, already well-resourced, more professionalized feminist NGOs whose work has measurable "policy relevance" over smaller, less formalized, typically more grassroots- or identity-solidarity-oriented movement organizations (Alvarez 1999). Foundation funding not only "introduces significant asymmetries into [transnational advocacy networks]," as Keck and Sikkink rightly note (1998a, 182), but also exacerbates power and resource imbalances among activist organizations on the home front. "Criteria for funding, such as ‘absorptive capacity’ or ‘financial accountability’," not only "may preclude the participation of many NGOs based in the developing world" (Keck and Sikkink 1998a, 182), it also typically favors local groups who meet those criteria over those who don’t. As Vargas and Olea suggest, funding for participation in the Beijing process, for instance, 

caused friction when distributed and was more available to some groups than others . . . [it] created problems with the relationship between money and decision-making power, with defining strategies and assigning priority to certain issues or aspects of the agenda as opposed to others. The difference in power that accompanies inequitable access to resources also threatens to undermine proposed autonomy, to lessen the visibility of feminist organizations without financing, to heighten competition for access to increased funding, and to weaken feminine solidarity as a result (1998b, 56). Finally, some of the less-than-inclusive organizing practices reinforced by the transnational IGO-advocacy logic can lead activists to sacrifice the anti-hierarchical radical democratic principles, historically so dear to feminism, at the altar of efficiency and expediency. When "expert information" needs to be compiled or "negotiating instruments" drafted in time to lobby for a particular policy change at the local or international levels, for instance, the "logic" guiding the timing and extent of broader involvement of or consultations with larger movement constituencies is determined by the rules or procedures of the UN or local policy-making arenas—rather than by "principled ideals." Strategic planning meetings, typically involving only a few movement "representatives" and gender "experts"—so summarily condemned in the context of internationalist identity-solidarity exchanges such as the regional Encuentros—prevailed in local activists’ efforts to influence the Beijing process region-wide, for instance. Operating within the IGO-advocacy logic can make it difficult for transnational advocates to involve local movement or larger civil society constituencies meaningfully in their local and international advocacy campaigns and thereby make it less likely that they will serve as genuine intermediaries between such constituencies and State and IGO policy arenas. 

Though sometimes complimentary or mutually reinforcing, then, the two transnational activist logics can also clash in local movement arenas—as when the power conferred upon and capital gained by transnational IGO advocates is seen by other actors in local movements to threaten the solidarity and radical democratic ideals held dear by most of the region’s feminists (including by most of those engaged in transnational IGO advocacy). The clash between the two transnational logics, moreover, seems to have further fueled the growing local schism between the so-called "institucionalizadas" or "institutionalized feminists"—as their critics have dubbed those activists who in recent years have gone to work in government institutions or focus their activism on lobbying those official arenas—and the self-proclaimed "pure" and radical "autónomas" or "autonomous" feminists who view any involvement with local or international policy arenas as an automatic capitulation to the forces of "global, neoliberal patriarchy." 

This clash, appropriately enough, came to a head precisely in one of those "alternative international public spaces" so central to fomenting the bonds of solidarity which made the formation of transnational advocacy coalitions possible—the VII Latin American and Caribbean Feminist Encuentro, held in Cartagena, Chile, in November of 1996. During the often-acrimonious debates at that Encuentro, the autónomas—a recent, relatively small, but highly vocal political current within the Latin American feminist field—accused transnationalized, policy-centered NGOs of having "sold out" the women’s movement to IGOs and local States. Though the ideal of "identity" among feminists now engaged in very different kinds of local and transnational practices was shattered once and for all at the Cartagena Encuentro, the logic of "solidarity" and "complimentarity" appeared to have kicked back in by the time the Eighth was held in the Dominican Republic. There, the continual reassessment and re-visioning of feminisms in the region, historically fostered and reinforced in such "alternative" transnational spaces, was again in evidence. The Cartagena debates had by then been re-enacted in a number of other transnational and local movement arenas. While most participants revealed a newfound appreciation of some of the pitfalls and contradictions triggered by the logic of transnationalized policy advocacy, the discussions at Juan Dolio suggested that the majority of local activists present believed the apparent clash of organizing logics need not lead to permanent political schisms and seemed determined to work toward strengthening their mutually complimentary features in re-imagining Latin American and Caribbean feminisms for the 21st century. 
 
 

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