Women’s World Organization for Rights, Literature, and Development, or Women’s WORLD, campaigns to have women’s voices heard with the same respect as men’s, campaigning in particular against gender-based censorship.
Women’s WORLD will undertake work in the following areas:
- research, explore, and educate the public about the scope and prevalence of gender-based censorship, and work to have this problem redefined as a human rights abuse that violates the right to free expression of more than half the world’s population.
- defend writers who are attacked because of their views on gender or because they are women who dare to write.
- mount international press campaigns about particular cases and extreme abuses
- encourage the development of women’s presses and journals, the first line of defense against gender-based censorship, and strive to link them internationally, so they can share views and resources and create a social space for women’s independent political thought.
The idea for Women’s WORLD grew out of protest at the organisation of the 48th Congress of International PEN in New York in 1986 where only 16 out of 117 speakers were women. Norman Mailer, then President of PEN American Center, explained that this was because 1) the speakers at this Congress had to be writers of real distinction; 2) other women writers had been invited but didn’t come; 3) the theme of the Congress was intellectual and, while plenty of women were writers, Susan Sontag was the only woman intellectual. Two hundred women responded in an impromptu protest meeting, called by Grace Paley and chaired by Meredith Tax, which took over the ballroom of the Essex House Hotel, drafted a petition, and demanded speakers at the plenary.
Following the Congress, women active in the protest then organized a Women’s Committee within PEN American Center, with Paley and Tax as co-chairs. In subsequent years, the committee produced a number of excellent public events, saw many of its members elected to the board, and become acknowledged as a force for democracy and new ideas within PEN American Center. Between 1989 and 1994, different committees and conferences met in different cities around the world to discuss the role of gender, literature and free expression. In 1994, Paula Giddings, Ninotchka Rosca, and Meredith Tax incorporated the Women’s World Organization for Rights, Literature, and Development, or Women’ WORLD.