CfP: Women’s Rights as Human Rights: Global Contestations over the Longue Durée – Symposium and Forum in Gender & History

Date / time: 6 May - 7 May, All day

CfP: Women's Rights as Human Rights: Global Contestations over the Longue Durée - Symposium and Forum in Gender & History



This event will be a hybrid in-person/virtual event, held at the University of Sheffield.

Women’s Rights as Human Rights: Global Contestations in the Longue Durée.

Co-editors: Dr Celia Donert (Cambridge) and Dr Julia Moses (Sheffield).

Nearly thirty years ago, the phrase ‘women’s rights are human rights’ was popularised at the 1993 UN World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna, and by US First Lady Hillary Clinton’s speech to the 1995 UN World Conference on Women in Beijing. The recognition of women’s human rights at the UN in the 1990s was achieved through a focus on sexual violence and reproductive rights. The success of transnational activist campaigns to recognize ‘women’s rights as human rights’ is conventionally associated with the political spaces that opened up due to the end of the Cold War.

This Forum of Gender and History seeks to reassess these narratives by thinking about the longue durée of the relationship between women’s rights and ‘human rights’, however those ‘rights’ were articulated. It asks how women’s rights were contested globally, whether in the context of humanitarian campaigns during the nineteenth century, interwar discussions about citizenship, movements for decolonization and national self-determination, at the United Nations, or as part of contemporary projects of neoliberalism and neoconservatism. In doing so, it also aims to historicize and critique the liberal genealogies which anchored women’s rights in a post-Cold War moral politics of human rights and humanitarianism. At the same time, it seeks to understand the emergence of gender as a category in human rights discourse and practice, and the gendered visions of human rights that were transformed, pushed aside or even excluded by the post-1989 discourse that focused explicitly on ‘women’s rights as human rights’ as well as its historical antecedents.

We therefore invite proposals for papers that explore the multiple genealogies of the relationship between women’s rights and human rights. In so doing, we seek to investigate different chronologies in the history of universal women’s rights. The aim is less to rehearse the well-known debates within human rights history about ‘breakthrough’ moments, and rather to open up a conversation about the different conceptual, intellectual, and temporal frameworks shaping the global history of women’s rights.

Themes might include, but are not limited to:

  • The emergence of ‘gender’ as a category in human rights discourse and practice.
  • Women’s rights and the politics of asylum, refugees, and migration.
  • Intersections between reproductive rights, population policies, women’s health and women’s rights.
  • Intersections between women’s rights and postcolonial nationalist movements.
  • The relationship between women’s rights and early humanitarian movements.
  • Women’s rights and movements for international legal reform.
  • Women’s rights and the politics of sexual violence and humanitarian intervention.
  • Women’s rights, social rights, and welfare states.
  • Sexuality, sexual rights and women’s rights.
  • Women’s rights, neoliberalism and neoconservatism.
  • Global-local connections: international organisations, experts, social movements.

The Forum will feature a selection of papers from a symposium on this topic that will take place in Sheffield (UK) in May 2022. Accommodation and assistance towards travel expenses will be provided for participants invited to attend the symposium. There will also be the option to attend virtually.


  • 31 July 2021 Deadline to submit paper proposals (200-400-word abstract plus 2-page max CV) to Celia Donert ( and Julia Moses (
  • August 2021 Notification of acceptance to participate in symposium
  • 15 April 2022 Complete draft papers submitted for pre-circulation to symposium participants
  • May 2022 (dates TBC) Symposium to be held in Sheffield, UK (with possibility for hybrid/virtual participation)
  • June 2022 Select number of symposium papers chosen for inclusion in G&H forum
  • 31 August 2022 Revised papers due; begin external peer review process
  • Autumn /Winter 2022-23 Peer review process/revisions/editing
  • Summer 2023 Publication of Forum in Gender & History

Image: Sharon Farmer/White House Photograph Office, ‘Hillary Clinton at the United Nations Conference on Women in Beijing, China’, 5 September 1995. National Archives and Records Administration.