What came out of the G8 summit for women?

by Patricia Daniel

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You can access all the summit declarations on the official website and download them as pdf documents. But I advise you not to bother. They mainly contain bland statements which commit the G8 to nothing. In general they say: “we note that this is an important issue and we agree to talk about it again at a later date.” And as far as women specifically are concerned, I have already been through the documents with my gender lens and pulled the relevant paragraphs out for you. There aren’t many and they’re all from the declaration on Africa.

So, here’s my immediate review of what came out of the G8 summit for women, based on the five key concerns we identified in the open letter. We invite our bloggers to comment in more detail.

Combat structural economic exclusion

More of the same on the global economy – in fact possibly a lot more if the emerging economies go into G8 partnership agreements. One very bland reference to women:

“The G8 emphasize the importance of the political and economic empowerment of women as a contribution to sustainable growth and responsible government. We are promoting the World Bank’s Gender Action Plan and welcome this and further initiatives supporting our African partners’ efforts to foster the economic empowerment of women such as those taken by the United Nations.”
Paragraph 29, Growth and Responsibility for Africa

Reverse the marginalisation of women

This is really all I could find:

Education is a fundamental driver for national development and economic growth, providing a skilled labour force, and promoting equity, enterprise, and prosperity. Education also promotes good health, empowers girls and women, and leads to healthier families. We are committed to working with partner governments and the private sector to expand opportunities for disadvantaged girls and boys, including beyond the classrooms, to learn 21st century skills and increase their participation in society. We reaffirm that no country seriously committed to “Education for All” will be thwarted in their achievement of this goal by lack of resources.”

Paragraph 37, Growth and Responsibility for Africa

Climate change – sustainable development

A lot of hot air and no reference to women – or any new approach to grassroots development.

Health, HIV/AIDS and women’s rights

I’m surprised. There’s some detailed analysis here, a shift in discourse and a concrete pledge to provide more funding. But $60 billion over four years is to be shared between the whole African continent and Eastern European countries, so it’s not terribly generous. And we still need to see if the money materialises. Nevertheless I see this as a real success for women’s campaigning and a personal success for Bundesministerin Heidemarie Wiezcorek-Zeul who has championed these issues in Germany these past six months.

“50. Recognizing the growing feminization of the AIDS epidemic, the G8 in cooperation with partner governments support a gender-sensitive response by the Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM) with the goal of ensuring that greater attention and appropriate resources are allocated by the Fund to HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, and care that addresses the needs of women and girls. Coverage of prevention of mother to child transmission programs (PMTCT) currently stands at only 11%. In the overall context of scaling up towards the goal of universal access and strengthening of health systems we will contribute substantially with other donors to work towards the goal of providing universal coverage of PMTCT programs by 2010. The cost to reach this target, as estimated by UNICEF, is US$ 1,5 billion. The G8 together with other donors will work towards meeting the needed re-sources for paediatric treatments in the context of universal access, at a cost of US$ 1,8 billion till 2010, estimated by UNICEF. We will also scale up efforts to reduce the gaps, in the area of maternal and child health care and voluntary family planning, an estimated US$ 1,5 billion.51. By achieving the MDG on education, 700,000 new HIV-infections could be pre-vented every year. Education not only improves the understanding for infectious dis-eases but also improves women’s and girls’ economic prospects and empowers them. The G8 will take concrete steps to support education programs especially for girls, to promote knowledge about sexuality and reproductive health and the prevention of sexually transmitted infections. The G8 will support the nationwide inclusion of appropriate HIV/AIDS-related information and life-skills information in school curricula, in the context of nationally owned sector plans as well as prevention information with regard to malaria and other relevant health topics.

52. The G8 will emphasize the importance of programs to promote and protect human rights of women and girls as well as the prevention of sexual violence and coercion especially in the context of preventing HIV/AIDS infections. We welcome the commitment expressed by African partners aiming at promoting the rights and role of women and girls. We will also work to support additional concerted efforts to stop sexual exploitation and gender-based violence. 53. The G8 will take concrete steps to work toward improving the link between HIV/AIDS activities and sexual and reproductive health and voluntary family planning programs, to improve access to health care, including preventing mother-to-child transmission, and to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by adopting a multi-sectoral approach and by fostering community involvement and participation.”

From Growth and Responsibility in Africa

Education for gender equality and women’s rights

See above. As regards our suggestion that men take responsibility for the every day challenges faced by women: I’m tempted to say that the seven male G8 leaders showed some quaint old-fashioned gallantry vis-à-vis Angela Merkel’s tough presidency role and came to unexpectedly amicable agreements in order to see her attractively perky smile when she gets her own way reflected in all the summit photographs. After all, why not? They don’t really have any intention of following through anyway.

Peace and security

We didn’t include this in our open letter, but subsequent bloggers have raised a number of issues. Absolutely no reference to women or the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 in any of the relevant documents (for example, on Darfur). No, wait, I’m wrong, here it is:

“At the 8th African Partnership Forum in Berlin, we have jointly with our African partners discussed important recommendations regarding climate change, investment, peace and security as well as gender equality.”

Final paragraph, G8 Africa Partnership, Summary of G8 Africa Personal Representatives’ Joint Progress Report (Annex to Growth and Responsibility in Africa)

Conclusion

The most interesting and constructive discussions about the future took place outside the fence round Heiligendamm, at the alternative summit in Rostock, at the Nobel Women’s Initiative gathering in Galway, in women’s social movements on different continents, at the World Social Forum in Nairobi – and here in the women’s openSummit blog.

Who needs the G8 anyway to tell us how to run the world?




We're not obliged to accept the world's definitions
Tuesday May 15th 2007, 12:36 pm
Filed under: Africa, HIV/AIDS, civil society, human rights, leadership

by Bev Clark, manager of Zimbabwe’s civic and human rights website kubatana.net

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Without access to information women from all walks of life experience an impoverished existence fraught with a variety of serious challenges and risks. One way or another, for the last 20 years much of my energy has been spent addressing this problem.

For a long time I produced a newsletter for the gay and lesbian community in Zimbabwe. Back in the late 80s we were considered daring and provocative as well as improper for including explicit information on the subject of HIV/AIDS. The fact that an isolated and marginalized community could access information materials developed specifically for them was very important especially because we live in a country where the authoritarian government either denies the existence of homosexuality, or criminalizes it.

During the time that I edited the gay and lesbian newsletter my offices were raided by the police. About 8 of them arrived with their search warrant, swaggering in and claiming that I was housing pornographic material. This was simply because the material was homosexual in content. After rifling through every drawer and cupboard they eventually left with their “evidence” – a booklet listing worldwide gay, lesbian and bisexual support groups.

Since then, as both a gay and political activist, I’ve spent many nights making my own bonfires. Burning materials which are informative, useful and inspiring, yet which the authorities would seek to harass me for. I’m angry about this. I’m angry because gay and lesbian people shouldn’t be made to feel ashamed, or be made to hide who they are and what they read.

In an old copy of one of our newsletters there’s a piece of writing by Maya Angelou that I’d manipulated in attempt to contextualize her writing for our Zimbabwean environment:

She heard the names,
swirling ribbons in the wind of history:
dyke, queer, pig, homo, poofter, lesbo, faggot,
lezzie, bumboy.
She said,
But my description cannot fit your tongue, for
I have a certain way of being in this world,
and I shall not, I shall not be moved.

I wonder if the G8 has made any attempt to include sexual orientation in their policies? Even if they did, it would have very little effect in reducing the intolerance and hate of Robert Mugabe who has clearly stated that he believes that homosexuals don’t have any rights at all. When I think of the G8 I think of a bunch of men, self-satisfied in their suits and their power-giving statesmen-like speeches which sound really good but couldn’t be more empty.

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