Defending Our Dreams

Defending Our Dreams: Global Feminist Voices for a New Generation

Shamillah Wilson, Anasuya Sengupta and Kristy Evans

20160903_180853London & New York: Zed Books & AWID,
2005, ISBN: 1 84277 727 0, 254 pp.

This pioneering collection – arguably the first international anthology of its kind – presents the original experiences, perspectives and visions of young feminists seeking to understand the current world order and shape a better future. Engaged as advocates, organisers, protesters, researchers and strategists, their energies, creativity and passion help to define social movements globally. The book brings together analyses by feminists of diverse identities on themes including women’s rights and economic change, new technologies, sexualities, feminist organisations and movements. It presents key issues arising out of the experiences of young women living in both North and South, the challenges confronting young feminists, and the agenda for a new era of feminist leadership and activism.

My chapter in the book, www.coming? imaginings on a world of wealth and well-being, is a speculative story-essay on how feminism might contribute to a future world without poverty.

Critical praise

Is ‘young feminist’ an oxymoron in a time that some people like to call post-feminist? This book challenges ‘in the box’ thinking while addressing a range of issues old and new. Its energy, thoughtfulness and honesty invigorate, even if they discomfort. Highly recommended for feminists, old and young, female and male, of whatever stripe, hue, shape or identity!
Gita Sen, Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, India and DAWN

Leading the way to the future, this multi-cultural collection of the voices of young feminists illuminates the issues that are or will be in the crucible of feminist struggles to come. It also shows us both how the lives of women have and have not changed in the past few decades. A lively and thought provoking read — a must for anyone concerned with the future as seen through the wisdom of young women activists today’
Charlotte Bunch, Center for Women’s Global Leadership

This book represents the most powerful, eloquent and thought-provoking collection I’ve seen in a long time. It brings together a poetic, jarring, often painful chorus of voices together. These are not naïve, headstrong young women with blinders on; they are experienced, committed and thoughtful activists whose challenges are complex. Each of the writers in this book brings a rare and sparkling truth to the table – what we, who read, choose to do with this truth is our choice; these young women have done their job.
Sisonke Msimang, Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa and AIDS activist

This is an exciting book that brings together voices speaking with different accents, but in a common language, about the past, the present and the dreams and struggles to be waged by a new generation of international feminists, standing firmly in the new global order.
Marysa Navarro, Dartmouth College


This book would definitely serve as a resource for a number of groups including young and older feminists, and those working on social justice and development issues more broadly. The compilation is vibrant, with fresh and accessible language, making it suitable for both experts and nonexperts alike. The discussions and arguments presented could be particularly useful for practitioners, as some authors present lessons learned during their activism, including creative ways to connect theoretical and legal frameworks to improve strategies for achieving social justice… Th[e] connection between dreaming and planning is the most arresting element the book offers to its readers. The dreams of its young contributors, are demonstrating new visions, new skills, and new approaches to development and feminism, which present a potential breakthrough in strategies for promoting social justice and women’s rights.
Yessica Alvarez-Manzano, Development in Practice, 16:2, 227 – 232

The nineteen essayists plus one poet included in the anthology Defending Our Dreams […] write about opening new spaces in feminist thought; about ensuring intergenerational dialogues with second wave feminists and with men and women outside the feminist community; and about the personal epiphanies that caused them to question their cultural traditions or reassess their values and to venture forth into activism… [M]any of the essays here explore new territory… Collectively, these writers are like a chorus — no one overstates her case or disrupts the analytic harmony, yet some essays “solo” as particularly keen readings of class and gender politics.
Michelle Humphrey, Women’s Review of Books, 23:4, 20 – 21

This is a powerful book written by young feminists about their dreams… I found the book inspirational, muttering to myself, ‘Yes, this is terrific, yes, yes!’, and I wanted to join in the conversation… Not all new-generation feminists are inspirational or young and not all older feminists are jaded or reluctant to engage with young women. We can be hopeful. As Wilson and Sengupta write, ‘Young women today do face different realities from those faced by previous generations, while at the same time benefiting from the gains of earlier feminist struggles’ (p. 6). And Marìa Alejandra Scampini talks of ‘a dialogue of respect and ongoing explanation of our difference’ (p. 131). This is healthy. Feminism must be inclusive to be true to itself. Like lovers, wine and antiques, sometimes age matters and sometimes it does not matter so much.
Elisabeth Porter, Democratiya

What does it mean to call yourself, or in this case, your book, the voice of a new feminist generation? What does it mean to attempt to do this on a global scale? Who is included? Who remains on the margins? One thing it means is you have your work cut out for you. In a world where most college sophomores have the tools to deconstruct one’s work and offer their own post-structuralist critique of who is and isn’t being spoken for, what one has and hasn’t accomplished, a book like Defending Our Dreams: Global Feminist Voices for a New Generation is a daring feat. Wilson, Sengupta and Evans live up to the challenge… The range of vision and voices is both impressive and inspiring, and readers are able to weave a web of women’s experiences from essays that remain accessible while not sacrificing academic merit. Defending our Dreams far surpasses both the pop-culture feminist writing that hopes to sell itself as a new, more stylish version of feminism with a muted call to arms, and the dry, historical accounts of women’s movements that read like an eighth grade text book. This is a book for us, that truly feels as though it is by us, and that we have a community of conscience in which we can thrive.
Terri Bennett, Feminist Review/Elevate Difference