What came out of the G8 summit for women?
Saturday June 09th 2007, 12:19 pm
Filed under: 50:50
, Nobel Women's Initiative
, aid and development
, economic empowerment
, human rights
, sexual and reproductive health rights (SHRH)
, women's rights
by Patricia Daniel
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)
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?
Sexual and reproductive rights in South Korea
by Aurelie Placais – journalism student in China
Being a foreign student in China where 70% of the international students are South Korean, I have learnt some very interesting details about South Korea ; especially concerning sexual and reproductive rights in this developed country.
The first questions I asked were really simple to me, but the answers I got were quite surprising. Amongst the topics that come on the table, the conception of the wedding came first.
For the majority of the older generation, the arranged marriage was the norm. No matter if the married couple loved each other, they had to come from the same social background and it was usually chosen when they were only children. “My husband’s mother got married at 18 years old, she didn’t choose her husband and didn’t know if they would like each other; they never did and she has suffered a lot”; told me Jin Ya, a married woman in her 30’s with two children.
For the new generation things have changed, but not incredibly so: tradition is still a very heavy burden where marriage is controlled by the parents. If they don’t agree with their children’s choice, the wedding won’t happen. They also consider that there should be no sexual relation before marriage, let alone unmarried couple living together or having children. When I pop up the question, Han sounded so astonished: “of course your parents won’t agree if you live together before getting married! Maybe some people do so now, but it is a secret, they wouldn’t tell anyone.” She is 22 and has been with her boyfriend for two years now. He came to China with her and they want to get married but even thousand miles away from their parents, they don’t dare living together.
When it comes to sexual relations, things are a bit different. Although their parents would not tolerate it, most young students already had experienced it. Most of them already had several boyfriends and had sex with some of them. According to Han this evolution was made possible by the television that broadcasts series showing examples of young unmarried couple having sex: “it is very easy to know that you can do it and how to do it”.
I then asked for the contraception they usually use and this is where I was surprised: condoms are not easy to ask for in the pharmacy, birth control pills are “dangerous for the health” and they don’t trust them and last but not least they did not know if abortion was legal or not. Of course they cannot ask this kind of questions to their parents: “it’s very difficult to talk about this problem, we can only talk with our closest friends, and the information is so hard to get” told me Kim and Yu. Even at school, they don’t have any any available information.
Officially, abortion is legally permitted but only up to the eighth week of gestation, and only in cases of transmitted or genetically diseases, incest, rape or when the health of the mother is at great risk. However, abortion is routinely used as a form of contraception. Between 1.5 and 2 million abortions are performed annually; it is the second highest number of abortions in the world. That may explains why the women I asked didn’t know if it was legal or not. Legislation is disconnected from reality.
It is true that the other means of contraception are not as well spread as they should be, and some efforts to teach women about safe sex, condoms, pills and other birth control methods have to be made – especially since information on sexually transmitted diseases is lacking.
But more importantly, eighty percent of abortions are done for gender-selection purposes – to abort female fetuses:
Many women in South Korea are torn between demands of age-old social tradition that obligates them to bear sons and growing appreciation of females in Korean Society; approximately one of every 12 fetuses is aborted each year because of its sex (NY Times, reg. req).
South Korea indeed shares the same catastrophe as India and China: according to their tradition, women are better off giving birth to boys, and abortion is a very discrete way to get rid of unwanted female foetus. Currently being the opposite of what it is supposed to be, abortion is not a way to emancipate women and to give them the choice to decide by themselves wether or not they want to give birth; it is a way to perpetuate masculine domination through the control of the child’s sex.
Latina Reproductive Justice Activism, or How I Spent Valentine's Day in a Best Western on the US/Mexico Border
by Miriam Pérez, Advocacy Associate at the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health
Note: As the recent decision by the US Senate to ban the so-called “partial birth abortion” procedure, many start to fear for the reproductive rights of women. Women’s sexual and reproductive health rights (SHRH) are too often used as a battleground for political ideologies. In reality, all governmental decisions regarding sexual health directly affect women, and especially those who cannot afford medical care. We would like to see bodies of governance worldwide making SHRC related decisions with women in mind. In this entry, Miriam Perez tells us why sexual education matters.
This Valentine’s day, instead of celebrating it with my girlfriend throwing a pity party with my single friends or even moping bitterly about not having plans, I spent it with my boss. With a run-down Best Western as our temporary home base, we spent five days with a group of 25 amazing women living on the US/Mexico border who face life with great strength, and taught me the real meaning of reproductive justice.
Our work in the Rio Grande Valley was enabled by an amazing group of promotoras (from Migrant Health Promotion) who work with immigrant women living in colonias on the border—small trailer parks with minimalist houses and little else. The women in these colonias face significant adversity: in addition to the realities of living in serious poverty, the families cannot even get the city to recognize their existence and provide the most basic of services: trash removal, sewage disposal and public transportation.
We began our time in the Valley in one of these colonias, at a weekly community meeting held on a front porch. The meeting included a visit from the head nurse of the Women’s Hospital in the area, who did glucose tests on everyone. These visits by health care workers are extremely important, since most of the women have no access to health insurance (being undocumented and impoverished) on top of their lack of access to transportation. Pregnancy is usually is the only time they do get regular care from a physician and even that care is minimal at best.
The reproductive justice training which began the next day, called Latinas Organizing for Leadership and Advocacy, was one that had been done five times before in five different cities, but we knew this one would be entirely different. We were unsure of the politics of these women—they were not the second generation openly pro-choice Latinas we were used to working with. These women were all mothers, mostly amas de casa, most likely religious and maybe anti-choice. Our training is primarily focused on reproductive health and rights, the history of abortion and contraception in the United States and Latina involvement in the fight for reproductive justice.
Despite the fact that day one ended with the worst nightmare for a pro-choice activist: a really frank and predominantly anti-choice discussion about abortion; those three days of training were probably among the most fulfilling I have had. We worried that we would alienate them by bringing up the topic, and half of us expected to show up to an empty room on day two. Instead, we were pleasantly surprised to see that everyone returned, ready for more, with a continued openness and desire for dialogue. While abortion itself continued to be a point of contention, there were many places where we did find significant common ground: particularly around contraception, sex education and gynecological cancer prevention.
We all agreed on a philosophy of women’s health centered around families making educated and informed decisions collectively. Abstinence-only was not their philosophy—they recognized the inevitability of their daughters’ sexual activity, and wanted to know how to give them the tools to be safe. The terminology of reproductive justice (which translated surprisingly well into Spanish— justicia reproductiva) seemed to make sense to them and they took to it with ease.
It was here, on the border, with these women, that after almost six months of working with reproductive justice, using the framework, speaking about it with colleagues and at trainings, that it really clicked for me. When we talk about intersectionality, we’re talking about these women’s lives—which are intensely impacted by their immigration status, by environmental concerns in their neighborhood without sewers or waste removal, by poverty and lack of education. With the well-being of women and families as our center point, we wove together these issues and it became clear that one could not be separated from another. These women understood this intrinsically, because it is the reality of their lives, and I was able to make sense of it through the short time I spent with them.
Miriam Pérez is the Advocacy Associate at the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health in New York City and blogs at Radical Doula.