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?
Bilateral trade spells the end of sovreignty for Africa
by Mohau Pheko
All nations have intellectual property rights essential for protecting innovation, knowledge and creativity. This is essential in the area of medicines, inventions and new technologies. In order to deliver essential services such as healthcare, education, water and other essential services, the state buys services and goods to fulfill their obligations to citizens through a government procurement system. There are key sectors of industry where a government needs to seek investment to either establish or strengthen its industrial development strategy.
If a state trades away its intellectual property rights, allowing more industrialized countries to have more rights in the ownership of a nation’s knowledge, invention and new technologies can we still call it a sovereign state? If it allows foreign corporations to compete with local small companies for tenders in supplying government with goods on an equal footing, what one should pose will happen to efforts to empower women and affirmative action programmes put in place to bridge the inequalities of the past in the economy?
The G8 through many of it’s trade agreements such as the Singapore issues and Economic Partnership Agreements is weakening the African state. If the state allows foreign investors a status equal to that of citizens in the ownership of key sector of the economy, can we still call such a nation economically viable and sovereign?
In reviewing some of the G8’s existing free trade agreement one notes that the architecture can go far beyond trade. Some of them are long on foreign policy objectives and short on substantive trade liberalisation. Kwame Nkrumah in Neo-Colonialism, the Last State of Imperialism, reminds are that the “essence of neo-colonialism is that the State which is subject to it is, in theory, independent and has all the outward trapping of international sovereignty. In reality its economic system and thus its political policy is directed from outside.”
How sovereign is a nation that has no control or ownership over the key sectors of its economy? How sovereign is a nation that can no longer be a social provider because it has traded away the right to educate, provide healthcare, and affirm potential entrepreneurs in its economy?
The covert action, and hard-nosed attitude of the G8 countries in their trade talks Africa symbolize the neo-colonial or economic colonial era Africa as a whole is faced with. Under the old pretense that if Africa gives the G8 countries concessions in the areas of intellectual property, government procurement and investment, which is important for G8 companies doing business on the African continent, African countries in turn, will enjoy new levels of economic growth. Judging the over 2,300 bilateral free trade agreements that exist in the world today, nothing could be further from the truth.
THAT HISTORIC PHOTO OPPORTUNITY
by Patricia Daniel
Last week there was a historic photo opportunity at the opening of the Africa Partnership Forum in Berlin, when Germany’s first woman chancellor Angela Merkel shook hands with Africa’s only female head of state, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. There’s a long way to go before we see 50% women in governments around the world. And there’s also a big question over whether economic decisions at the G8 summit will actually benefit Africa (and women) rather than the G8. So the photograph may be all we get. But in my image search I came across Ellen having a chat with George W Bush, possibly when last in the US lobbying him for debt cancellation. And several of her on the day she was inaugurated President of Liberia, which, of all of them, has been the best opportunity for change so far.
Climate Change and Women’s Work
by WOW! Work of Women’s coordinator Sundra Flansburg and World Neighbours‘ associate vice president Natalie Elwell
Recently released reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) leave little doubt to rational minded people that climate change is happening, and that there is more to come. As we read reports and responses, government statements and reactions, however, the voices of the people who will most feel the effects seem to be lost.
What would we like G8 leaders to hear and support? We agree that many of the topics being debated are important ones for the world to consider and act on. But among the calls for alternative fuels, reduced consumption, carbon sequestering programs and so on, the G8 and others need to understand the urgency of supporting good, effective development work.
For the effects of climate change will hit the people who are already the poorest and most vulnerable. As many have noted, including Benito Müller here on OpenDemocracy, the effects of climate change are likely to exacerbate the world’s already vast inequities. In some cases it will be because those communities will be most impacted by climate disasters. In other cases it will be because those communities will be least able to withstand tragedy and bounce back.
Poor women in these communities will be heavily impacted in a wide range of ways. The women in rural, marginalized villages already work more hours than men, receive fewer benefits and have less decision making power. When water becomes harder to find, it is the women and children who put in the additional hours walking to find it and carry it back to the household. It is a similar situation with fuel wood. When children or spouses fall ill from malaria or other vector-born diseases that will increase in occurrence when water quality goes downhill, it is women who will care for them. It is women who will do without or with less when food is scarce.
Not only do women suffer the brunt of scarcity, they are often blamed for it. As trees and grasses available on family farms are overtaxed and degraded, women charged with providing fuel wood for cooking and fodder for animals are forced to tap into protected sources, which further erodes the land. Many of the people living precariously on these fragile lands are unable to effectively deal with the stress of their changing environment because they are caught in a vicious cycle of marginalization and dependency.
The IPCC report from Working Group II highlights the importance in coming decades of societies’ abilities to adapt to the changes anticipated, as well as those yet to be identified. It also notes the extent to which the ability to adapt is linked to sustainable development.
We – including the G8 – have a choice about where and how we invest in prevention work and responding to climate change. Increasingly, our efforts to address global warming must be internationally focused, pressuring governments and other entities to do their part even when they are reluctant. No doubt international relief work will be increasingly taxed as the anticipated droughts and flooding increase in intensity and number—imagine a Banda Aceh or Katrina every year. But the other side of the equation – development – must continue to be at the top of our agenda.
Basic work like local water sources, improved community health, women’s literacy, a diversity of income-earning possibilities and so on are what may make the difference between a community’s devastation or its being able to pull together to survive, and eventually thrive. There is no magic key or quick solution – whatever Thomas Friedman (1) and Jeffrey Sachsmay believe. Self-sufficiency must be the ultimate outcome and that means that the way development work is carried out is vital.
Over five decades of direct partnering with poor, rural communities around the world, World Neighbors knows that women will not, and cannot, become seriously involved in community development until their workload issues are addressed. And to be effective and sustainable, community development work must be done in partnership with communities and have significant levels of participation from women. So while it may be faster and “easier” for an international development agency to introduce and implement a water project in a village, the odds are that in five years it will be in disrepair. Work must be at the grassroots, build a village’s ability to define both the problems and the solutions, and require investment of something—time, money, skills, labor—from all parties. Additionally, women need to be actively engaged in defining the problem and deciding how to address it, or the “solution” is unlikely to be a real one for the entire community.
When poor women are able to have time for something besides daily survival, it is usually then that they have the possibility of building their skills and moving their families from precarious survival to stability. Attention to women’s involvement improves the sustainability of development efforts, and also more equitably spreads the benefits of development through families and communities. Skills like basic literacy and access to resources for diversifying income earning activities will provide essential adaptation skills, and ones to which both men and women should have equal access.
Sustainable development work can reduce the vulnerability of people and their communities to the harshest consequences of climate change. It is both a moral and financial imperative that the G8 understand the urgency of increased support of sustainable development work that integrates gender equity. As we feel the effects of climate change more and more, women are likely to be both the hardest hit, but also the keys to community resilience.
Sundra Flansburg currently coordinates the Work of Women (WOW!) initiative, a membership organization of World Neighbors that mobilizes support for improving the lives of poor women and their families who live in rural communities throughout the world. She previously developed and directed gender programs at Education Development Center, Inc., in areas including information technology, education and violence prevention.
Natalie Elwell is associate vice president for action learning, communication and gender at World Neighbors. In this role she provides leadership and support to field staff around the world in integrating gender into program work. She has just completed project to synthesize the successful gender work in our diverse program areas into a coherent approach for achieving gender equity and is currently preparing field guide for dissemination.
We're not obliged to accept the world's definitions
by Bev Clark, manager of Zimbabwe’s civic and human rights website kubatana.net
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,
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.