Women’s Worlds: Breaking Ground


The Women’s Worlds congress in Ottawa, Canada was four intense days of discussions on women’s inclusions, exclusions and seclusions in a globalized world. The first three days focused on breaking cycles, breaking ceilings and breaking barriers. The final day of the conference was about the progress that women are making as they break ground by changing rules and seizing opportunities.

On the final day of the conference, the plenary session on Breaking Ground brought together a panel of women who are leaders in their field to talk about the ways in which they have affected change, claimed power and transformed their communities. The panel was chaired by Kate McInturff, who is the Executive Director of the Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action. The session’s panelists, all very well-known and accomplished in their fields, were:

  • Samhita Mukhopadhyay (United States): A prominent third-wave feminist, leading expert and commentator on the intersection of race and gender and the executive editor of the popular feminist website feministing.com.
  • Sebenzile Matsebula (South Africa): An activist for the rights of black and disabled women in South Africa, former Director in the Office on the Status of Disabled People for the President of South Africa and currently active in many organizations in the non-profit and private sector.
  • Kathleen Lahey (Canada): A law professor at Queen’s University in Canada, she has litigated cutting-edge Charter of Rights cases including the BC same-sex marriage claims and publishes and comments widely on equality and sexuality, gender, women’s and racialized persons’ rights.

In this plenary session, Ms. McInturff asked the panelists a range of questions, including what ground they are breaking at the moment, what ground still needs to be broken so that women can have sufficient leisure time and engaging hobbies (instead of having to work three shifts), and what the role of community is in breaking ground.

The whole discussion can be viewed in the following video:

The panel finished with a visionary discussion, in which Ms. McInturff asked the panelists how they imagine a “Women’s World.”

Dr. Lahey kicked off that conversation, saying that it would not be made up of huge populations of men wearing suits (which was a reference back to a time when she felt very uncomfortable and out of place at her first tax law conference). She also noted that in a women’s world, we would not see “women’s bodies used as images and vehicles for every whim that may cross the minds of powerholders.” She also hoped that we would have the opportunity to test the hypothesis that women would take a more caring approach to human existence and that if productive resources, income, decision making authority and other forms of power were put into the hands of women, that they would give it to those who need it first and ensure that women do not starve.

According to Ms. Mukhopadhyay, a women’s world would be very nuanced. She explained that exploitation and abuse are caused by an unequal distribution of wealth and power and that “who you are defines what you have access to and that needs to change.”  For her, a women’s world is “when we push past the way that power is distributed and the way that oppression is constructed socially” and “reconfigure the way that we understand masculinity and femininity”.

Finally, Ms. Matsebula noted that a women’s world would be a world full of live and less instability. “One thing I know for sure is that I would want to be there,” she said, noting that women have the capacity to change the world to be a place of compassion and love and peace.

What do you think? What would a women’s world look like to you?

Related stories:

Women’s Worlds: Ottawa Welcomes International Feminist Conference

Women and Leadership in Politics and Business

Are Women and Girls Groomed to Choose Oppression?

Photo credit: Annie Urban


Tom P.
Tom Parsons6 years ago

I want to live in a human world which is run ethically. Power corrupts & the more power, etc. Do you remember Leona Helmsley, "The Queen of Mean".

K s Goh
KS Goh6 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Annie Urban
Annie Urban6 years ago


I think all of the plenary sessions are available on the Women's World website.

Lilithe Magdalene

Glad to see how many "yes's" to the question "would you like to live in a woman's world"!

Pat Vee
Pat Vee6 years ago

I enjoyed the article,anything helping, to empower the women of the world, safer for children,and equality for all,bring it on.

Martha C.
martha Carlisle6 years ago

Besides everything on Carmen n.s' list: more respect for Mother Nature and all the things she provides for us to heal ourselves with and for the people who choose that way first, and avoid Big Pharma as much as possible. No GMOs (go away, Monsanto). More bees. Where did all the frogs go that used to keep the night chorus in the spring and early summer? I miss them....come back, please. Bats would be good too....fun to watch at sunset and fantastic little skeeter-eaters. Respect for each others spirituality whether it included anything from a bikini to a burka....or neither. Men who don't think they can tell women what they can and cannot do just because they are bigger (most of the time). No stupid advertising that makes women hate their bodies...we are all different shapes, sizes, and colors...we should love ourselves and our differences....the only common denominator we have is we have hips and breasts...again, all different...love yourself despite the naysayers. I could go on for a long time....this is a start though.

Claire M.
Claire M6 years ago

A world where nurturing and care takes a priority over needless slaughter? Sign me up.

Francine P.
Francine P6 years ago

Great article and video.
A woman's world? hum... a world where equality of genders and recognition of the importance of peaceful conflict resolution, so that education and government policies would support these way of thinking , as well as respect for all living beings and our environment.
That is waht I dream of what I believe in fighting for.

Lynne B.
Lynne Buckley6 years ago

Interesting article

Carmen n.
Carmen n6 years ago

What would a women's world be like? Let's see... hmmmm

there would be no porn, though we'd all know and cherish the power of erotica
there would be no rape, rapists, child molesters, wife abusers, child abusers
all children would be trained in defense arts
there would be no bankers, big corporations,
no one would be allowed to claim and hoard such great amounts of resources,
hell, we might even do away with money altogether
childred would not only inherit the land, but own it
no child would be unwanted
no mere man would have a say in a woman's reproductive choices,
men who chose, like some women do, to rear a kid on their own would have access to a child, whether their own or not, to rear, but only after proving, as all women would have to also do, that he is able to do this honorably... parenting would be licensed.
all forms of love would be recognized as valid and beautiful
diversity would be sacred
sexual mores wouldn't be so screwed up
there would be no genital cutting of any sort without need or consent
there would be no hidden stashes of biological weapons and labs all over the world
there would be no pentagon or fbi or cia or any of that crap
there would be no more weapons and ammo manufactured
there would be no sweatshops
there would be no human trafficking
there would be no WAR

I could go on and on, I invite others to add to the list.