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Taiwan Research Programme
London School of Economics and Political Science
Houghton Street
London, WC2A 2AE


Professor Stephan Feuchtwang

Dr Fang-Long Shih

Women's Organizations and the State in Taiwan: resistance, co-option, or partnership?

With Dr Fang-Mei Lin (National Taiwan Normal University)

Series: Seminar on Taiwan in Comparative Perspective 

Date: Thursday 31 January 2008, 6pm-8pm

Venue:  Seligman Library (Room A607), Old Building, London School of Economics (LSE)

Chair: Professor Stephan Feuchtwang (Taiwan Culture Research Programme)


The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is the UN mechanism for coordinating gender issues and policies, holding an annual official meeting as well as parallel events organized by international NGOs. Beginning in the late 1990s, Taiwanese women's organizations began to take part in these events, although there were fewer than five participants at first. This presentation will use this participation as a starting point to illustrate the ambivalent relationship between NGOs and the state.

During the 1980s and 1990s, women's movement activists conceived of their existence as a social movement protesting against patriarchal values and practices, while in the late 1990s, the concept of partnership between the state and civil society emerged and attracted attention. Since 2000,  members of the Commission on Women's Rights Promotion (CWRP) in Taiwan have advocated and lobbied for official allocation of funds to help more women to participate in CSW events. The number of participants has now increased, with 45 people in the year 2006. Gender mainstreaming, which is the UN's policy on gender issues, has also been adopted officially by the Taiwan government, and by attending UN/CSW events the state and NGOs seem to have made an ideal of partnership. However, some feminist critics have raised some questions: did the state "steal" the issues and agenda from women's organizations? And have the UN and gender mainstreaming become tokens and slogans appropriated by the state?

As the government of Taiwan has for many years been attempting to join the UN, women's participation in the CSW and requests for extra funding have been well received by the government. Consequently, official involvement in the project has increased, in terms of funding and personnel. I will address the following issues in the presentation: (1) How do NGO members perceive the increasing role of the state in their affairs?  (2) How do these women perceive their role and identity when they are actually in the UN building? How do they manage and negotiate the possible tension between their gender identity and national identity?

I will deal with the above-mentioned questions, and situate these questions in the context of the historical changes in the relationship between the state and society.

About the speaker

Dr Fang-Mei Lin has a PhD in sociology from the University of Pennsylvania, and was formerly a professor in the Department of Journalism at National Chengchi University. She is currently a professor in the Graduate Institute of Taiwan Culture, Languages and Literature at National Taiwan Normal University. During the 1990s, she was active in the women's movement in Taiwan and was a columnist for several newspapers, working on issues such as women's rights, public policies, ethnic relations and identity. From 2000 to 2004, she was chairperson of the National Youth Commission, and from May 2004 to July 2006 she was chairperson of the Coordination Council for North American Affairs. During these years of civil services, she was awarded twice by the Central Personnel Administration for promoting female civil servants into management position. Dr. Lin has participated APEC and OECD conferences several times to speak on issues related to women's entrepreneurship and micro-enterprises, and from 2002 to 2004 she served as Chinese Taipei's (Taiwan's) Head of Delegation of Women's Leaders' Network of APEC. She has published seven books and many articles, most of them regarding issues of gender mainstreaming policies and media representation of women and gender relations.