Sixth, accounts of women’s organising need to take on board the increasingly global set of players engaging with national and local civil societies. In particular there is room for further research into the role of international donor agencies, global networks and international women’s coalitions on the development of women’s organisations in different contexts. To what extent do international donor agencies reproduce ‘Western’ understandings of the public-private divide, of civil society and of gender relations in their support to women’s groups in aid-recipient contexts? What is the impact of major international events such as UN Conferences on Women on discourses, agendas, frameworks and practices in different contexts? In what ways do global women’s coalitions and organisations set gender agendas, contribute to processes of change at global and national levels, and frame debates on issues such as domestic violence and genital mutilation?
In Saudi Arabia, in 1991, a large group of educated women drove their cars into the centre of Riyadh. They were harassed, threatened and publicly denounced. Subsequently the government announced travel restrictions on women. Women have become more outspoken in the last few years. The broadcaster Rania al-Baz allowed her face to be photographed after her husband beat her. A businesswoman addressed the Jeddah Economic Forum with her face uncovered. In 2004, a petition signed by 300 people demanded greater rights for women, and women protested their exclusion from the municipal elections. The government’s defence was based on logistics, the difficulty of registering women, rather than on principle, and it has been agreed that women would be allowed to vote in future elections.