Hold conferences. Conduct research. Create new courses and curriculums. Identify problems, and come up with ways to solve them. Inspire. These are the goals of the Institute for Globalization, Gender and Democracy at California State University, Northridge.
The institute does not have its own office, but rather squeezes into the lives and offices of its members, which are a group of about 10 female professors, mostly from the Women’s Studies Department.
The director, Jane Bayes, teaches political science, but her personal focus is on women in politics and the economy. One member teaches anthropology, and there are a few members from Chicana/o studies.
Their CSUN numbers may be small, but they’re certainly not alone. The IGGD is part of a network of various institutes and centers with branches all over the world: Germany, India, Senegal and New Jersey, to name a few.
The IGGD is a component of the International Social Science Council, which itself is part of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
The group has worked hard to deserve its place in a global organization.
“I’ve organized two Central American women’s conferences, one at CSUN, one in Costa Rica,” said profesor Breny Mendoza of the Women’s Studies Department.
“Both were really very fabulous.”
Mendoza’s research has to do with democracy and empire, and she was asked to join the center when she came to CSUN in 2001.
The Costa Rica conference was held in January 2006, and Bayes gave credit to Mendoza for really making it happen. “It was her baby,” Bayes said.
Mendoza is proud because that conference was the first of its kind. “It was a pioneer conference, it had never taken place before,” she said.
“It was the first time that I brought feminists from all over central America [?] It gave central American feminists an opportunity to connect.”
“We opened those gates, that opportunity. It was a transnational feminist conference,” Mendoza added.
Professor Nayereh Tohidi, also of the Women’s Studies Department and one of the IGGD’s founding members, chose an event closer to home as her favorite.
In November 2003, she helped to organize an event co-sponsored by the IGGD and the University of California, Los Angeles Center for Near Eastern Studies.
The key speaker for the event was Dr. Shirin Ebadi, who was not only the first woman to win a Nobel Peace Prize, but also the first Iranian.
“That was one of the most inspirational events. She’s kind of a hero and role model, internationally very well known,” Tohidi said. The capacity for the venue was 1800, she said, and it was completely packed.
These events and others like them are what the IGGD is all about: “Bringing people together from all over the world to do work on this topic.
It’s good for a lot of people in different ways,” Bayes said. Bayes noted that outside formal meetings, say over lunch, people can really learn what’s going on. “We are able to understand what’s going on in the world a lot better by virtue of having personal connections with people.”
Bayes said they hope to involve more women from Asia and Africa. She has worked with people in China, Vietnam, Korea and Japan.
In the last year Bayes attended meetings in Korea and Japan; during those meetings there were many panels on the family.
“The family is a big issue in Asia, and what globalization is doing to the family. We had a lot of interests in that,” she said.
This May, the IGGD will be co-sponsoring another event, this time focusing on human trafficking.
This time they’re working with the Coalition Against Slavery and Trafficking, a partnership that began when Mendoza invited the coordinator of CAST to give talks on campus related to courses she was teaching.
“The idea of the conference is to work on not only what is happening, but what is happening to stop sex trafficking. What are the practitioners doing in the field to counter the real rise in trafficking that has occurred.”
The issue of human trafficking helps to illustrate the global yet local focus of the group.
“It’s occurring not only in Bangladesh and Thailand and places like that, it’s here; it’s right here. It’s big in Atlanta, it’s big in L.A., it’s big in New York,” Bayes said.
We don’t even know the extent of it because it’s so underground,” she said. Attendees are coming from across the country, as well as from Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Canada.
Tohidi, whose personal focus has been on human trafficking, women’s rights and democratization in the Middle East, has been alarmed by the trend.
“The problem with sex trafficking has become intensified; it’s one thing that has deteriorated rather than improving.”
Labor and sexual exploitation, Tohidi says, are a part of globalization. She noted the connection between poverty, immigration, and ensuing manipulation.
Women in particular are tricked by networks of sex traffickers – promising help but then dumping their victims into servitude.
How does all of this affect CSUN?
“The Institute has strengthened the global and international dimension of the Woman’s Studies Department,” Tohidi said. She commented that it has provided a forum for any faculty members interested in gender studies to participate.
“In line with this growing trend of globalization, we are also trying to globalize our courses, curriculums, and broaden the views of our students,” Tohidi said.
In an attempt to do so, in past years the IGGD presented a series of films and speakers on campus.
Bayes looks to the future. “Hopefully, we are inspiring young women to be concerned about their place in the world, their identity as women.”
She said the members are not confined to working within the group, but rather can use the IGGD as a sort of springboard to pursue their individual research areas.
That idea of many threads working together is how the IGGD got its start. At a meeting of the International Political Science Association in Korea, Bayes and others decided that they wanted to set up a research committee focusing on gender issues relating to globalization.
At that same meeting, they met members of the ISSC, and were encouraged to put in an application for funding.
They did, and the IGGD was officially born at an international conference in Paris in November 1998.
The first book, Gender, Globalization, and Democratization was written by Bayes and colleagues from the University of Texas, Rutgers University in New Jersey, and a professor from a university in Berlin, Germany.
Several books have since been published, both in direct relation to the IGGD and its activities, as well as by individual members drawing on work they did involving the Institute.
Bayes, Tohidi, and Mendoza each have similar goals for the IGGD: they want to continue to move beyond research and into solutions. They plan to create more courses, and share their ideas with their global network.
During the next year, the IGGD will be working to move more material onto the Web. Their official charter for the group states:
“The vision is that institutes or centers with different kinds of expertise around the world could share their expertise and information with other centers using the internet and other forms of technology.”
They are also planning more international conferences.
Bayes mentioned Spain and Chili as locations – as well as campus events. They shall continue to work towards their goals, and draw attention to the effects of globalization on women.