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?
What have Chernobyl children got to do with the sex trade?
by Patricia Daniel at the G8
This is one of those depressing stories that the G8 leaders ought to be considering, especially, in this case, Germany and Russia. This is where trade liberalisation intersects with man-made environmental damage at the crossroads of woman as the ultimate commodity.
I attended a workshop organised by Terre des Femmes on the links between free trade and the so-called sex trade (I think the term sanitises the activity). I learned a few statistics: 400,000 prostitutes in Germany, 35% of them trafficked. More than one million German men go to prostitutes daily. Migrant women are more popular. For German prostitutes, the stigma means they can’t talk about their work and so can’t get support and get out of it. For migrant women, the choices are even more limited. Terre des Femmes campaigns on their behalf and also runs an awareness campaign for men (the clients).
But what have Chernobyl children got to do with the sex trade? An inspiring woman from the University of Minsk in Belarus, Dr Irina Gruschewaja, explained. The eastern part of Belarus, which borders on Russia, was contaminated 21 years ago by the Chernobyl disaster. 250,000 children were sent away to be cared for in seven different countries, including Germany, in order to provide a safe environment where they could grow up until the area at home was considered clear.
That benevolence has been turned around. From the end of the 1990s, a lot of those children, now beautiful young women, are being trafficked to Germany as prostitutes. Why does it happen? There’s no work at home. Even if young women get work, they’re earning only 55% of what men earn – and that’s not a lot. Prices of basic food like bread and milk are high in a ratio to wages. In the countryside you’d be lucky to earn 100 euros, compared to 3500 euros in Germany.
Then come nice smart German men with a smile and an offer you can’t refuse.
“How should these girls be suspicious?” asks Irina. “They’ve lived in Germany as children. They were treated with affection and care. Everyone was friendly to them. They still expect the same – and this expectation is being abused.”
Coercion is defined by European law as “abuse of a position of vulnerability; abuse of authority; labour bondage; theft, isolation, deception; illegal holding of money or documents.” It doesn’t have to be use of direct force.
“We don’t want to tell our girls, don’t go to the west,” says Irina. “We know the work – and the money – is there. There’s no chance for them here, even to get work in the city. But we still haven’t developed a situation where a woman is free to make her own decisions and to seek out real prospects for herself.”
Since the Belarus government tightened up controls two years ago, young people have not been able to travel to the west, even to a conference or on holiday. But the border is open with Russia – so that’s where Belarus girls are being trafficked to now.
Irina, who has been running the Malinowka Advice Centre outside Minsk for eight years, still has a good word for some aspects of globalisation:
“If it wasn’t for globalisation we wouldn’t have the network with Terre des Femmes that raises money to help with education and awareness-raising for our girls and young women. In addition, I’ve had the chance to come to the alternative summit! And it’s great to be here with other women. I need their moral support in order to continue our work.”
Women's rights in Romania
by Liliana Pagu, president of the Women’s Association of Romania, and the National coordinator of the Network of organisations by/for women in Romania.
I am the promoter of the Democratic Movement of the Romanian Women, and organized the Women’s Democratic Front (temporary post-revolutionary organization) in December 28th, 1989. Through a TV broadcast message, I mobilized women in the entire country to change the old communist forms of women organizations and to unite our efforts to a new, historical stage in Romania’s history.
This year celebrates 17 years of involvement in the civil society’s life and of struggle to achieve a proper status for women in Romania. The first democratic organisation for women was founded in the days of the Romanian Revolution in December 1989, as a result of the need to organize, represent and protect the rights of women in Romania.
The Women’s Association in Romania purpose is to group all women in Romania together, regardless of their residence, age, nationality, religion, political conviction, profession, putting forward the awareness-raising of women when it comes to:
- their responsibilities when participating in the economic, socio-political and cultural activities
- specific problems influenced by Romanian society
- specific rights which women can benefit from
In Romania women represent 51% of the entire population of the country. But, even after twelve years of democracy, they still are a “minority majority” waiting for its proper place in society. Since gender equality is a basic criterion for the adherence of Romania to the European Union, the women’s movement can play an active role in this process.
The transition period in Romania, as well as in the other former socialist countries, has generated multiple problems for women:
- low purchasing power means
- high rate of unemployment and poverty
- deepening of the social inequality
- increased involvement of women in pornography, traffic and prostitution
The costs of the prolonged transition are growing permanently and have a negative impact on social and economic development. All the consequences of a chaotic transition affect the equality of opportunities of all citizens to take part at the economic life.
Women in Europe, especially in East Central European countries, are still poorly represented in politics and in the economical decision making process, and still earn less money than men for the same job. Parity participation in decision making depends on the equal representation of women and men in decision-making bodies at all levels in political, economic, social and cultural life and requires, in particular, their equal representation in positions of responsibility and positions where decisions are made – in Romania it is a nice dream!
What can women do to change this situation?
Women can act to hold their governments accountable. Until governments don’t understand that women want social changes to happen not only for their benefit, but also in the benefit of their families and children, all well-meaning declarations are worth little more than the paper they are printed on.
We, women, have to be aware of the power that we represent.
We have to organize ourselves because we are able to guarantee the unity and integrity of the society in the crisis periods or during catastrophes. Women in Romania want to intensify the co-operation between the government and non-governmental sector in our country, in the region and with the international organizations, in order to develop recommendations for systematic policy in this area, so that European integration will succeed.
In 17 years of existence, we have developed national and international programs and projects; held training courses and activities; organized advocacy seminars and campaigns in the areas of: civic education, gender equality, health, promotion of tolerance and non-violation, elimination of poverty and discrimination and adult education and development of international partnerships.
In general, the projects of our association deal with different themes, all which lead to the consolidation of women’s role, especially with regard to their rights to be involved in the community and to be implicated in the process of decision-making in all aspects of life: civil, political, economical, social and cultural.
We are fighting to influence the authorities, mass-media and the public opinion in regard to women’s rights and gender equality in order to eliminate poverty and all other forms of discrimination and violence towards women. Societies that wish to advance to a higher level of stability have to assure women the feeling of integrity and dignity within their own countries.
What we would like politicians to do and work on to help gender equality? They have to put in practice the concept of gender equality and to respect our contribution to the development of the Romanian society.
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.
Women handloom workers facing the brunt of economic reforms in India
by D. Narasimha Reddy, Centre for Handloom Information and Policy Advocacy
Note: One of the points high up on Angela Merkel’s agenda is the development of three-way economic partnerships between G8 countries, African countries and ‘emerging economies’ like Brazil, China and India. Is this a good idea? Here, Narasimha Reddy from the pioneering Centre for Handloom Information and Policy Advocacy in India describes how this unique woman-dominated industry is affected by globalisation, liberalisation and economic reforms, adverse government policies and discriminatory competition…
The handloom sector is unique in India. It has been the most popular manufacturing sector in the previous centuries, and has been the mainstay of rural industrialisation in India. Handloom sector has been catering to the clothing needs of India, and various other countries for centuries altogether. Modern textile industry has grown on this sector, through mechanization and modernization. However, the most modern industry follows the principles of weaving set by the traditional handloom weaver. Unlike any other industrial endeavour, handloom sector still continues alongside the most modern textile machinery.
There are number of factors that have contributed to such resilience. Principal among them is that the weaving is household profession, passed on through generations. In these households, women play an important role. Women weavers have been the principal stabilisation force through years of crises and problems for the handloom sector.
The handloom sector is only the manufacturing sector wherein one finds large number of women producing products which are worn by large number of women. Women producing for women is a unique feature of the handloom sector.
Despite such features, which are outwardly unique, women weavers were never given the primacy they require. Their role in production was never acknowledged beyond the confines of the home. Their work most often went unpaid. Governments never recognised formally as a target group. Even the private initiatives of NGOs, or fashion boutiques, tend to ignore their contribution and role. The most radical to rightist political mobilization structures in handloom sector are devoid of any issues and participation of women. Women participation in political mobilization is completely nil.
Women constitute a major workforce in the handloom sector. Also, most of the handloom products are meant for women. Thus, handloom sector is the unique sector, wherein 60 percent of the women produce almost 70 percent of women products. However, their working, living and wage conditions need to be improved. They need to be empowered in various ways. Almost all the government schemes, projects and programmes on handloom sector have been and continue to bypass this major workforce through various means. They do not have identity cards, which are the principal means through which government welfare measures are sought to be implemented. There is no scheme, or project, or programme which addresses their needs.
Women weavers have been subject to domestic violence and victims of violence in many places. They have also been at the receiving end of discrimination of all types. Whenever handloom sector is in crisis, the burden of carrying through the crisis is the most on women weavers, through increase in physical, psychological and social pressures. Their health condition is a major concern, as also their role in relations of production and also the future of girl children. While performing critical functions in production, their role in decision-making is rather poor.
Violence against women: a global problem
by Sarah Jackson, EVAW campaign media advisor, UK
A grim thought struck me earlier today: one of the few things that binds women together across the world is their experience of violence. Whereas many forms of gender inequality – and such violence is about inequality, believe me – are rife in some countries, areas, and social groups and all but wiped out in others, violence against women is endemic across the world. It tramples over boundaries of culture, ethnicity, age, wealth and geography, affecting women of all ages and all backgrounds in every corner of the globe, and every walk of life.
Violence against women is commonly confused with domestic violence, but it incorporates much, much more. It includes rape and sexual violence, female genital mutilation, forced marriage, stalking, sexual exploitation, crimes in the name of ‘honour’, and sexual harassment. Read the UN definition of gender-based abuse.
The sheer scale of the problem is dizzying. At least one in every three women on the planet have been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime. That’s around 1 billion human beings. Or the population of Latin America, twice over. With odds like this, it could be you. Or your mother, your sister, your daughter, or your friend.
Former UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan described violence against women as “the most atrocious manifestation of the systemic discrimination and inequality women continue to face, in law and in their everyday lives, around the world”. And this is the crucial thing I would like the participants of G8 to recognise: violence against women is discrimination. It is caused and perpetuated by the inequality between the sexes, and prevents women from participating in society as equal citizens.
End Violence Against Women is a coalition of organisations and individuals campaigning for the UK Government to take action on all forms of violence against women by developing an integrated strategy that includes measures for prevention as well as cure. The first step, for the UK and for the rest of the world, is to see violence against women for what it is: a form of sex discrimination and a gross violation of fundamental human rights.
Welcome to the openSummit blog!
by Jessica Reed
Welcome to openDemocracy’s openSummit blog. This page will gather entries from a great diversity of women who want to same thing: improve womens’ and girls’ lives worldwide.
Grassroots activists, NGO representatives, teachers, practitioners and bloggers around the world will tell us about their expectations surrounding the G8 meeting which will take place this June in Germany: based on their experiences and first-hand accounts, readers of this blog will get to read about what works, and what doesn’t. They will share their struggles and victories, as well as giving us practical recommendations on policies which could be changed to truly make an impact on the lives of millions of women, from Zimbabwe to India.
This blog will run from the 15th of May to the 8th of June. We hope to publish an open letter to the G8 which will summarise what we will learn in this blog.
Let’s hope the G8 will listen.
You can read about our 50:50 initiative here. If you want to participate in this blog or suggest a link, please visit the contact page. We encourage comments from women and men alike – however please note that they will be moderated, and therefore might not appear right away.