Tuesday, November 17, 2009

IAWAWSA: International Association for Women Archaeologists Working in South Asia

In September, on a whim, I decided to start a new organization. The International Association for Women Archaeologists Working in South Asia -- or IAWAWSA for short. It wasn't an idea that I spent a very long time thinking about explicitly before I decided to try to make it a reality.

I came up with the idea, when, after a series of scares relating to my permissions and visa to do research in India, I found myself contacting and relying on a knowledge and support network of my fellow women archaeologists working in South Asia. I also realized, that in addition to my advisor and faculty at my own university, I had in some capacity for many years relied on my own network of friends and adviser-ly figures, who were, either by accident or design, primarily women. The thought suddenly occurred to me that maybe we should have a formal association.

Once the thought struck, it also stuck in my brain. I couldn't stop thinking about what an organization might be like, and what it could do. It was such an exciting idea, I couldn't stop thinking about it, so I decided to just start it up, first with a Facebook group (an easy way to get a bunch of people to belong), and then by creating a website.

As for what the organization can do, and what I hope it will do, the goals are as follows:

  1. To be a support and information network of women scholars at all stages of their career. To help encourage women to pursue archaeology in South Asia, and to empower them do so, by creating mentoring relationships, and giving support.
  2. To provide a forum for discussing the issues that women face in conducting archaeological research in South Asia.
  3. To promote research (especially by women) in archaeology in South Asia by:

a) Providing forums to discuss research, such as meetings, workshops, conferences, and publications.

b) To foster international collaboration between scholars from around the world with interests in the archeology of South Asia, especially to bridge the divide between the countries of South Asia, and foreigners who come from countries outside South Asia.

c) Offering grants and fellowships to scholars, to support research, travel, and writing, which we hope will also have the effect of empowering women to continue to pursue archaeology and archaeological research.

It turns out, that creating an organization such as the one I outlined above, with goals as grand in scale, as the ones outlined above, takes a LOT of work.

I am just now beginning the process of filing for non-profit/tax exempt status for IAWAWSA under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue code. This is an unbelievable amount of work, and I'm just beginning to realize how much it's going to take to get to the point where I can even *begin* to raise the funds that I want, in order to do the things I want to do.

It's incredibly daunting, but perhaps that's the point the IRS is trying to make. They don't want to make it easy for organizations that may have a lot of money at some point in the future, do anything to evade taxes, if they don't have to.

Forms galore to be filled in, in addition to a lot of "supporting documents". To name a few, we need "articles of incorporation", by-laws, statements regarding our policies for non-discrimination, a "narrative description of the activities, past, present, and future" of the organization, policies for employment, policies for nominating officers, board members, trustees. We need policies for how we will obtain funding, and for what we will do with it. We need policies stating what criteria we will use in giving out grants and funding. The list goes on and on. And the truth is, I'm a) not a lawyer, b) have no clue how to write most of this stuff, and c) have no idea how to lay out clearly and effectively such things as what criteria we should use to select to whom we should award grants and fellowships.

In addition, I need to fund-raise the $400 filing fee to become a non-profit, and yet, seem somehow prohibited from fund-raising without yet being a non-profit organization. And all this immense amount of work that goes into the filing, is just the beginning. Once we have the letter granting exemption under the 510(c)(3) code, then the REAL work will begin, to write grant proposals and solicit donations, to raise funds for the organization DO all the things I hope it will some day do.

As much as this organization is becoming a method of sometimes procrastinating the other "real" work I have to do, which is my own research and writing towards the completion of my Ph.D., working on developing IAWAWSA is always simultaneously a source of motivation to do my own work. I can hardly be the spearhead/founder/director of an organization for women archaeologists, if I can't successfully become one myself. So each time I sit down and work on the organization, I also end up feeling more motivated to get my own work done. So that in the future, not only can I continue to pursue my own research interests, but I can help others pursue their goals as well.

(Note: In a future post I will discuss some of the reasons why this organization is needed. Why, especially, in a period in which the status of women seems better than it's ever been, this organization still has something to contribute. I will present some of my anthropological/sociological observations on gender in academia, especially in academia in Indian institutions, and the prospects of women in India and other countries in South Asia who aspire to do archaeology.)

1 comment:

Sleep late... dream more. said...

holy cow paperwork ug. paperwork (specifically the FDA-related stuff) is currently my biggest apprehension about potential hurdles/red-tape for my whole "Bed&Breakfast" idea...... but then again, i haven't really READ any of it yet :) just talked to other small-business owners here and there. good to hear there's progress fo ryou on this front, though!