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Affinity Groups on Gender

Welcome to the website of the ISTR-Affinity Group on Gender (AGG).
For more information, contact Rosemary Leonard, Group Coordinator.

Interested in being the convener for the AGG?  Rosemary Leonard is now working only part time and would like to hand over to a new convener. This is a great opportunity for someone with enthusiasm and commitment to gender issues and a desire to get more involved at an international level. But it doesn’t have to be too onerous, especially as an early stage researcher has offered to provide a supportive role.  Anyone who might be interested is strongly encouraged to contact Rosemary!

News from the 13th International Conference in Amsterdam:

Rosemary Leonard, Western Sydney University, chaired the gender affinity group meeting of about 25 people. The group discussed the state of gender research in ISTR, possible future keynote speakers, and the need for a new convener for the group.


The state of gender research in ISTR: there were fewer organized gender panels this time compared to Stockholm, but many more individual papers.  This suggests gender issues are being more mainstreamed throughout the conference. The group noted the that this conference featured two women keynote speakers, an indicator of the efforts of this group to bring attention to gender imbalances by convening panels, lobbying for plenary speakers, and producing research, including an anthology work on research into gender issues in the third sector called Women’s Emancipation and Civil Society Organisations: Challenging or maintaining the status quo?  Consideration was given to producing a Volume 2 of this anthology, a special issue of Voluntas on gender, the possible the development of a small grant fund for early career researchers, and ideas for future panels and research topics.



News from the 12th International Conference in Stockholm:

Round Table Discussion to Launch the Affinity Group on Gender Anthology


Christina Schwabenland and Chris Lange held a round table discussion in Stockholm as a pre-launch event to publicise the forthcoming anthology Women's Emancipation and Civil Society Organizations: Maintaining or Challenging the Status Quo? to be published by Policy Press in September. This anthology has been four years in the writing, and is an initiative of the ISTR Affinity Group on Gender (AGG). Women's Emancipation brings together current research from all over the world and including chapters on highly contemporary confers such as the increasing influence of religion, the use of social media as a form of organisation and activism and links between feminism and environmental activism. Taking a critical as well as a celebratory approach, several chapters also highlight significant challenges; CSOs are not always woman friendly employers nor are they immune from the dangers of co-option by the state and elites. Several chapter authors attended the discussion including Ruth Phillips, Eva Maria Hinterhuber, Ines Pousadela, Masako Tanaka, and Annie Dusseut, as well as Annette Zimmer, who contributed a preface and also gave the AGG the impetus to embark on this long, but very rewarding project. And we even had a cake to celebrate. The formal launch will be held in October at the ASFARI Institute for Civil Society and Citizenship at the American University of Beirut.

News from the 11th International Conference in Muenster:

Affinity Group on Gender (AGG) Report

In Muenster, the Affinity Group on Gender (AGG) held three events: two panels and the AGG meeting.

The AGG was very pleased that three of our proposed panels had been accepted, however, only two were presented. One of the panels was entitled “Religion: Barring or Enabling Women’s Emancipation”. It was coordinated by Christina Schwabenland (UK) and was composed of four highly interesting presentations on 1) the status of women in Muslim personal law by BC Manjula (India), 2) gender-based violence in the Solomon Islands by Patrick Kilby and Joyce Wu (Australia), 3) migrant women in India by Rekha Gaonkar (India) and 4) iconography of subversion by Christina Schwabenland (UK). A lively discussion evolved about this difficult issue.

The second panel was entitled “The Role of CSOs in Women’s Emancipation: Challenging or Maintaining the Status Quo?” In this panel, the volume on Gender and Third Sector was introduced, which the editorial team consisting of Christina Schwabenland (UK), Chris Lange (Lebanon/Germany), Sachiko Nakagawa (Japan) and Jenny Onyx (Australia) have worked on since the ISTR-conference in Siena two years ago. Also three of the 15 contributions of the volume were presented: a global study on the influence of feminism in women’s NGOs by Ruth Phillips (Australia), feminist protest in Russia with a specific focus on Pussy Riot by Eva Maria Hinterhuber (Germany), and the role of women’s NGO of Nepal by Masako Tanaka (Japan).  A fruitful discussion with useful comments followed the presentations. The editors have a contract with Policy Press and hope that the volume will be published by ISTR 2016 international conference in Stockholm.

In the AGG meeting, we discussed three issues: topics and contributors of possible panels as well as suggestions for a female keynote speaker at the next ISTR international conference. More than 20 people attended the meeting, suggesting various proposals for panels like “Gender and the Rising State,” “Women Entrepreneurs from a Third Sector Perspective” and “Civil Society Gender in Security, Conflict, Post Conflict, and Peace Situation.” The meeting concluded with a presentation by Professor Gabriele Wilde (Germany), one of the founders of ZEUGS (Centre for European Gender Studies). Following the meeting, ZEUGS hosted a reception.

Although 150 sessions were held at this conference, only about ten were specifically on gender or women. In order to achieve our key objective, “Making women visible within ISTR,” we need to not only continue to hold panels on gender and third sector but also to encourage ISTR to work on this issue, e.g. by regularly ensure one female and one male keynote speaker at the ISTR conferences.

If you are interested in our group, no matter if you are female or male, please contact Sachiko Nakagawa ( She will include your e-mail address in the AGG mailing list, our main communication tool.


Invitation to contribution for the book on civil society and emancipation/empowerment of women


The role of civil society in the emancipation of women: challenging or supporting the status quo?


The Affinity Group for Gender, a working group established by the International Society for Third Sector Research (ISTR) has been approached by Springer Publishing House to edit a book exploring the connections between civil society organisations (CSOs) and women’s emancipation. This is a really exciting opportunity and we invite you to submit a proposal describing your research, for consideration.

Our overall aim is to present and analyze current fieldwork from different parts of the globe where CSOs are working to promote women’s emancipation. Specifically, we want:

·    To analyze some of the factors that contribute or hinder the emancipation of women, taking into    account the socioeconomic and political conditions and the possibilities for CSOs,

·     To make visible the roles and achievements of women in CSOs,

·     To investigate and critique the experiences of women working within CSOs,

·     And, through these activities, to contribute to theory building.

We know that through CSOs women have challenged oppression locally and nationally, achieved many successes, and have developed outstanding entrepreneurial activities.  But we also know that sometimes organisations may find themselves drawn into colluding and reproducing the structures that maintain women in positions of marginality and systemic disadvantage. That is why we have put a question mark in the working title of the book – we are interested in critiques of CSOs as well as success stories.

We have identified four distinct ways in which CSOs and women’s interests intersect: 1) CSOs whose main purpose is women‘s emancipation; 2) CSOs run by, and for women; 3) women’s experiences working within CSOs, and 4) contributions by CSOs and their researchers to our theoretical understanding of the causes of women’s oppression and emancipation. These four strands overlap but can also conflict.

We expect that all of the chapters will, to some extent, be engaging in exploring whether there are distinctive methodologies developed by women’s organisations and whether distinctive research strategies are needed to investigate and analyse these areas of interest. And finally, have CSOs made a distinctive contribution to theorising women’s emancipation? 

We expect contributions to report on case studies from the field (successful or not-so sucessful) as well as more theoretical discussions. We welcome contributions for scholars who are applying a variety of methodologies such as surveys, case studies, action research, and theoretical perspectives such as policy analysis, sociological and historical approaches, critical approaches such as poststructuralist, postcolonial, feminist, critical race and social constructionist perspectives and more to developing our understanding of the intersection between CSOs and women’s emancipation.

All proposals will be peer reviewed. We will be looking for contributions that address the above themes but also provide a representative balance of theoretical and empirical work as well as studies from different parts of the world (developed/developing; urban/rural) and focusing on a range of organisations including those working in areas of advocacy, community building and service provision.


News from the 10th International Conference in Siena:

In Siena, the Affinity Group on Gender (AGG) held three events: a pre-conference workshop, a panel and the AGG-meeting. In the pre-conference workshop "Gender and leadership models: Exploring women’s contribution in the challenging times from civil society perspective”, we learned about three cases concerning women leaders and community development in small towns and villages in Australia, Sweden as well as in Uruguay and exchanged opinions about how women leaders initiate social and political movements, what kind of challenges they face as leaders and how they deal with them. In the course of the workshop we learned about the new feminist movement in Italy and the situation in Japan. 

Both of our proposed panels had been accepted. However, we could only hold one because all contributors of the other panel were not able to come to Siena due to lack of funding. The panel which took place was entitled: "NGOs and gender integration: The focus on gender in development work” and was coordinated by Christina Schwabenland (UK). After the presentations on the history of NGOs and gender in Australia by Patrick Kilby (Australia) and on the findings from specific case studies by Joanne Crawford (Australia), the discussions evolved around the challenges related to gender in international NGOs in the field of development.  

In the AGG-meeting we discussed three issues: topics and contributors of possible panels as well as a proposal for a female keynote speaker at the next ISTR international conference in Germany 2014 and the question of potential partners of the AGG to develop gender research in Third-Sector especially concerning the financial aspect. As a result of the lively exchange among the participants from various countries such as Australia, Belgium, Chile, Italy, Lebanon, UK and Sweden, we came up with two potential panels: 1st) "Religions: Enabling or baring women‘s emancipation?” and 2nd) "Third-Sector organizations as gendered spaces?”. Some participants already expressed their intention to contribute to the panels. Concerning the female keynote speaker we decided to submit a proposal to the ISTR board. However, we postponed the question of who we will suggest as keynote speaker as well as the issue of potential partners to online discussion because the time for the meeting was very limited. 

In an extra meeting, members of AGG discussed a new project, i.e. to publish a volume on civil society and gender at the Springer Publishing House. As AGG we had been asked if we were interested in doing such a project and we think it is a great opportunity. In order to realize fruitful discussion in Siena, Christina Schwabenland (UK), Chris Lange (Germany/Lebanon) and Sachiko Nakagawa (Japan) had prepared a draft for a proposal. There is still a lot to discuss and to work on in order to accomplish this project, but we started out well in Siena and will continue via email. 

If you are interested in our group, no matter if you are female or male, please contact Sachiko Nakagawa ( She will include your e-mail address in the AGG mailing list, our main communication tool.


News from the Istanbul Conference:

At the ISTR international conference in Istanbul, Turkey, the Affinity Group on Gender (AGG) took large steps towards spreading the circles to think about what we can/should do in order to tackle social exclusion of women in terms of research and activities on the Third Sector.

One of the achievements we are proud of was the fact that on the initiative of the AGG the ISTR Board invited Dr. Thoraya Obaid, the executive director of UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund), as the keynote speaker of the Opening Plenary Session. In her speech "Culture as a Force for Change,” Dr. Obaid described the Third Sector as a crucial factor for the protection of girls’ and women’s lives and for giving them the right to take choices of their own for their lives. She has encouraged building partnerships among the UN, NGOs and govern­ments, as well as networks of NGOs at every opportunity.

Our activities at the conference included a pre-conference workshop, four panels and the AGG meeting. In the pre-conference workshop "Exploring Diverse Interpretations of Gender Issues,” coordinated by Priya Anand (UK/India) and Latika Mangrulkar (US/India), we discussed the following topics in three groups: "Gender and Grassroots Organizations,” "Gender and Conflict Management,” and "Gender and Economic Conflict.”  Then the 40 participants collected ideas on what we can/should do to deal with problems related to each topic. The pre-conference workshop also gave us the opportunity to learn about efforts and achievements of the Sabanci Foundation, a Turkish Third-Sector organization. Inanc Misriglou, a representative of the Foundation, introduced the Foundation’s programs on gender equality in Turkey and explained how they have achieved to take teachers and decision-makers "on board,” whose role they consider crucial in the combat of social exclusion of women.

All four panels, which the AGG had submitted to ISTR, had been accepted. In the first panel entitled "Gender, Leadership, and Entrepreneurship,” moderated by Parick Kilby (Australia), Sachiko Nakagawa (Japan) presented her paper on the "Influence of ‘Gendered NPOs’ on the lives of female mentally challenged,” Triparna Vasavada (US/India) presented on "Feminist Values in Nonprofit Leadership: A Comparative Analysis,” Carmen Marcuello Servos (Spain) on "Participation in Spanish Civil Society: Differences Across Gender Contributors,” and Jason Ketter (US) on "Women Leaders and Management of Public Relations in Nonprofit Organizations.”

The second panel moderated by Triparna Vasavada dealt with "NGOs and the Focus on Gender: Does it really have an Impact?”  Glòria Estapé-Dubreuil (Spain) talked about "Microcredit and Women Empowerment: An Empirical case-study based in Catalonia,” Patrick Kilby about "Gender in Civil Society: a driver or an afterthought in the discourse – some reflections from India,” and Joyce Wu (Australia) on "‘Democracy is a Club and Women are Not Invited: The Sexual Politics of Legitimacy, Civil Society and Women’sCollective Agency in Afghanistan.”  Thus we approached the critical questions on what kind of impact the Third Sector could have for women in the social and political sphere and how women’s participation could impact the Third Sector.

The third panel moderated by Christina Schwabenland (UK) was dedicated to the issue "Looking After Each Other: The Role of (Invisible) Care Work in the Commu­nity.”  Two contributors had not able to come to the conference, so there were two presentations: Rosemary Leonard (Australia): "Mapping the role of gender in caring networks of older people receiving services from Third Sector organizations” and Stina Johansson (Sweden): "Elderly people’s voluntary participation in care work.”

The fourth panel moderated by Patrick Kilby focused on "Gender and Migration.”  Latika Mangrulkar’s (US/India) input was on "Moving Beyond the Model Minority: the reali­ties of gender issues in Asian immigrant populations in America,” Sisay Gebre-Egziab­her’s (Ethiopia) on "Ethiopian Women Migrating to the Middle East,” and Rekha Gaonkar’s (India) on "A Study of Migrant Women in Goa.”  The discussion centered on how the Third Sector may be essential to release women from traditi­onal gender expecta­tions as mere care takers and to enable women’s participation in society as well as how the Third Sector may contribute to protecting human rights of female migrants.

In the AGG meeting we briefly evaluated our activities in Istanbul and then raised ideas on topics for the next ISTR international conference under the general headline "Gender and Third Sector.” As a result of the very lively discussions, we have several ideas for a pre-conference workshop and for panels such as "How to do Gender Research in the Third-Sector?”, "Social Media,” "Head Scarf / Gender, Religion and Identity / Gender as Contested Ground in Different Cultural Settings,” "Micro Finance,” "Men as Agents of Chance in Gender Relations.”  In addition, we have several "volunteers” to take on the role of moderators of the pre-conference workshop and panels respectively.

We face many challenges in gender issues because many women suffer from social and economic isolation as well as violence and they are exposed to dangers of life due to the increase of food prices, global financial crises, continuous wars, and the expansion of the income gap. However, through ISTR we have a wonderful opportunity to share ideas, opinions and experiences of different countries. By utilizing this great opportunity, we will continue to make an effort to build an "inclusive society” in terms of research and activities on Gender and the Third Sector.


News from the Bangkok Conference

At the ISTR-conference in Bangkok, the Affinity Group on Gender (AGG)was present in several ways–a pre-conference workshop, two panels and a meeting of the AGG.

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