Seeking Gender Justice in a Globalizing Age

Katja Svensson, "Review Essay: A Year of Reflection: Gender and Women's Rights in International Development Cooperation," Global Policy 1, Issue 2, pp. 230-231 (Published Online: 7 May 2010)


"Niamh Reilly attempts and succeeds in tracing the evolution of the women's human rights movement while simultaneously accounting for how transnational female advocacy has influenced and transformed the body of international human rights. Of particular interest and value is the author's elaboration on how women's human rights do not constitute a western phenomenon but rather how the most recent developments in this area have their roots in advocacy from women activists in the south. Reilly makes a point of highlighting the intersectionality of different forms of oppression, thereby responding to postcolonial feminist criticism of western feminism and its focus on the middle-class white woman's experience of patriarchal oppression.

This book provides a thought-provoking and at times inspirational account of how transnational female advocacy movements have helped to shape the context in which many of us work on a daily basis. I particularly welcome the well-balanced and nuanced elaboration on the dichotomy between a universalist account of human rights and the cultural relativism that has proven so treacherous for the advancement of women's human rights. The most poignant argument of this book is that human rights are not a static set of legal norms, but rather a consensus that is continuously debated, developed and elaborated. In my previous career as a university lecturer, I would certainly have put this text on my undergraduate reading lists for International Relations courses."

Katja Svensson is an independent consultant on gender and human
security, and also works as an Advocacy Officer with Amnesty International.

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