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.
One collective voice for a greater impact
Tuesday May 29th 2007, 3:20 pm
Filed under: 50:50
by Dr. Daisy Naomono, UWONET (Uganda)
Uganda Women’s Network (UWONET) is an advocacy and lobbying Network of national women’s NGO’s and individuals, operating in coalition with other NGOs, networks, institutions, and individuals in Uganda. The network was galvanised into formation by activities at National and International level.
At national level, Uganda was undertaking a constitution making process and women groups mobilised women to submit memoranda to the Constitutional Commission. It was deemed necessary to have large representation of women in the Constituent Assembly which was going to discuss the Constitution to ensure the capturing of women’s needs and aspirations. Concurrently, many women’s organisations were providing very key services to women such as credit, bursaries for girl children, legal aid, legal education, Aids counseling, etc. Several women NGOs were individually challenging prevailing structures and scrutinizing laws and policies for gender responsiveness. In all this activity, one crucial factor lacked - the need to bring together individual organizational voices into one collective voice for greater impact.
Internationally, women from all continents and countries were gearing up for the 1995 World Conference. The women of Uganda came together to deliberate and research the issues and country’s progress on women in fields of economics and politics. The need for a collective voice before, during and after Beijing was stressed. UWONET was thus created to provide women a democratic space through which their voice would be heard and through which policies at different levels would take into consideration their needs and aspirations.
We have grown from an 8 member organization with one person to 8 full time staff with 17 members. The organisation that was meant to promote networking and information exchange among its members, donors, government and other stakeholders has undergone metamorphosis to cater for the existing gap in policy advocacy. UWONET concretised on building the lobbying and advocacy capacity of its members, thus becoming the major champion for women rights in Uganda. Together with its member organisations, we have realised commendable success in shaping the attitudes of people at grassroots, national, regional and international levels. Some notable successes have included; increased numbers of women in decision making positions, inclusion of women’s concerns in the economic discussions which has translated into increased budgetary allocations to gender concerns.
We demand for commitment from the bodies of governance to actual budget disbursements and accountability to ensure that set goals in the improvement of women’s status is achieved.
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.
GOOGLING FOR WOMEN TALKING TO THE G8
by Patricia Daniel
As we did for our coverage of the United Nations Commission for the Status of Women we googled to see who else was talking to – or about – the G8 from a women’s perspective this year.
In fact what we picked up were a number of links to initiatives that happened around the Gleneagles (Scotland) G8 summit in 2005. These included wimmin vs G8 and Action Aid’s travelling exhibition – portraits and statements from 8 women worldwide to the G8 – which was carried in the protests in Scotland. The international human rights organisation MADRE held a meeting with Maasai women in Kenya about what they demanded from G8 while worldpulse magazine covered women’s experiences of the anti-G8 Gleneagles events.
We found much less on the 2006 summit in St Petersburg, notably AWID’s coverage of global economic justice and women – and a BBC report on flametree about the ‘poor G8 summit’ held in northern Mali at the same time.
This year so far there are a number of calls from different organisations to women to raise their voice on specific issues in relation to the G8, some of which we have highlighted in our blog. For example, genanet’s call on climate change and the declaration ‘women won’t wait’ from the international community of women living with HIV/Aids (ICW) who also made 8 requests back in 2005.
The US-based health and equality organisation CHANGE have recently been successful in lobbying the World Bank on women’s sexual and reproductive rights – proving that online campaigning does work.
Also of interest are the German site WDEV (World Economy and Development) blogging G8 (it’s in English) and a post on the World Bank private sector blog about women on the G8 agenda.
So, please continue to send us your own links and updates along with your comments and blog entries.
TALKIN' 'BOUT A REVOLUTION – A FEMINIST LOOK AT CLIMATE CHANGE
by Mona Bricke - G8 NGO Platform Coordinator - who works with the German NGO Forum on Environment and Development and is member of Genanet (Gender, Environment, Sustainability)
Everybody is talking about Climate Change. Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, is no exception with her decision to make it the number one priority at this year’s G8 Summit in Heiligendamm, Germany. Since the Stern Report has made it clear that there is a slim margin of only a few years to address a host of pressing issues such as global warming and the ensuing increasingly catastrophic weather conditions, melting of the polar caps and rising sea levels, even tabloids such as the German „Bildzeitung“, not formerly known to be the avant guard of progressive thinking, are painting alarming pictures of a world-wide climate catastrophe in their headlines.
Heads of state and of business have suddenly awoken to a threat that has been building up for decades. It is not as if climate change were a new problem: the scientific community has been making dire predictions about climate change for a long time, with only a few environmentalists heeding them. What seems to have awoken the powers that be is the threat climate change poses to the world economy. Suddenly, insurance companies are siding with environmentalists and UN-commissions in a bid to limit the global increase in temperature to two degrees Celsius through binding emmissions reductions on the part of industrialised countries.
This can, of course, be seen as a good thing. One might argue that only if the outcry about climate change reaches the highest national and international levels, will true changes happen. But as a feminist I am keeping a wary eye on these new-formed coalitions. Are they truly going to address what is needed: a crucial turning around of the political agenda instead of the adjustments we are witnessing at the moment, such as emmissions reductions and efforts towards „adaptation to climate change“, which, not to put too fine a point on it, is a sop offered to developing countries, as they and their poorest inhabitants (still overwhelmingly women and children), are the ones who will bear the brunt of climate change. I don’t want to be misunderstood here: adaptation is important, in order to keep millions of people from dying in floods and droughts during the difficult decades we are facing. But it is not enough by far!
We need to start thinking outside the box, if we really want to change the world in a way that will make it livable for all, not only for those who can buy themselves protection from the consequences of climate change. If we muddle on like we have been doing, adjusting one thing here, tweaking another there, there will be no systemic change towards a sustainable lifestyle for all. And here is where I see a feminist agenda as crucial: feminists throughout the centuries and especially since the eighties of the 20th century have fought for a sustainable lifestyle and for an economic and political system based on solidarity instead of what it is based on at the moment: the neoliberal dogma of economic growth and privatisation at whatever costs to humanity and future generations.
The political and economic system we are living in and working with now is blind: blind to injustice, blind to the welfare of the underprivileged and, most esentially, there is no place in it for taking the future into account – it cannot, because putting economic gain before all other considerations is innate in the system. The whole world, even up to the air we are breathing (emmission certificates) and the information we are sharing (intellectual property rights) is being turned into commodities. Some, like the German Ministry for the Environment, present this as a step forward, because only what has a price can be protected within a market economy (or capitalism, to use the oldfashioned term).
Why do we accept this? Why is there so little talk of a true revolution, an energy revolution and a social revolution in the best sense – a turning of the tide, another world? Because we have been suckered into believing that there is no alternative to the neoliberal dogma of the supremacy of market forces. Most nongovernmental organisations no longer dare to think outside the box. Many think that, as Communism and Socialism are dead, there is no use in thinking about alternatives as we are seemingly living in the best of all possible worlds, as imperfect as it may be.
So what to do, if we decide not to accept this? Where can we go from here? We are facing a crisis of immense dimensions and we have to begin at the beginning: What social movements, radical environmentalists and feminists all over the world are trying to do is to rethink the relationship between human beings and nature and amongst each other. How do we change our consumer patterns in order to reach a just worldwide distribution of energy, power, money and goods? Raw materials and energy have always come at a high price to the producing countries and the poor in developing countries. They have payed for the extremely energy intensive lifestyle in industrialised countries with wages that were not enough to live on, ecological devastation of their countries and now, with the consequences of climate change, they are paying double.
It may be that a radical shift away from centralised sources of energy such as oil, gas, coal and nuclear energy towards sustainable and decentralised sources such as renewables (wind, solar energy, water) will lead to the paradigmatic shift I am hoping for. Incidentally, this shift would also favour women in developing countries, as energy sources such as windmills and solar panels strengthen their participation in decision making and ownership. Our world economy is heavily dependent on fossil fuels, so much so that wars like the one in Iraq are being fought in order to gain or maintain control of certain areas with a wealth of fossil fuels.
But even this shift away from fossil fuels may not be enough to assure the necessary structural changes. Maybe, just as I am sure that we have to decentralise energy production, we also need to decentralise our thinking: the kind of revolution I am talking about may have to be a gradual revolution, which begins at many points at once, be it a the protests against this year’s meeting of the G8 in Heiligendamm, be it with the budding women’s movements in Africa I witnessed at the World Social Forum in Nairobi in January of this year.
I want to close with the adage of the Mexican Zapatistas: „We learn while we are walking“. What we need, is the courage to make this true – to never stop believing that another, a just and equitable world is possible and that we have to go on striving for it, even though we may not yet know exactly when we are going to arrive there and what this new world is going to look like. After all, what have we got to lose? If we do nothing, we are truly doomed, so the only way out is forward.
For information on G8-activities and protests click here
GLOBALISATION'S BROKEN PROMISE
There is a new article on openDemocracy this week by Roselynn Musa Advocacy Officer at the African Women’s Development and Communications Network (FEMNET) in Nairobi, Kenya.
As politicians, police and protestors make ready for the G8 summit in Germany, she challenges those directing the globalisation process to address how it affects African women’s lives, and entrenches inequality.
In Africa, globalisation builds on a history of slavery, colonialism and exploitation – a fact many recognize to have a continuing impact on the continent’s experiences of the global economy. But globalisation also interacts with a history of gender inequality, casting a long shadow over the present and the futures of Africa’s women. This combination harshly limits the lives and hopes of the female half of the population, while holding back a whole continent’s people.
Far from being a disembodied force, globalisation takes place through people, organizations and institutions, who together determine its direction. Equality and fundamental human rights are now enshrined in the basic instruments of today’s international community and are central to our vision of a democratic society. But the fine words of these documents stand in sharp contrast to the daily reality of millions of women.
Of the 1.3 billion people living in poverty today, 70 percent are women; the majority of the world’s refugees are women; female illiteracy is invariably higher than male illiteracy. Women and girl children are treated as commodities in cross border prostitution rackets and the pornography industry. Millions of girls are still subject to genital mutilation, while women in every country are regular victims of domestic violence…
To read the rest of this article click here
FEMNET's men to men campaign
by Jessica Reed
In between posts from our women bloggers I will take the quick opportunity to blog about an aspiring project: FEMNET -the African Women’s Development and Communication Network- has built an original and impressive campaign titled “Men to Men project“. The aim is to create a core of male supporters for the long-term campaign to eliminate gender based violence (GBV) and raise awareness concerning the spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa.
In their own words:
[Men to Men] is a strategy in which gender-sensitized men reach out to other men through organised outreach activities such as sensitization seminars, creating awareness on issues of gender equality, GBV and HIV/AIDS. This strategy also promotes inter-gender dialogues at the community level.
This strikes me as a great initiative to underline that gender based violence cannot end thanks to the efforts of women alone. Men reaching out to other men to raise awareness, and men realising the challenges faced by women on an everyday basis is one of the key to gender equality.
Stop India’s Gender Cleansing
by Anindita Sengupta, freelance journalist and writer, India
There are plenty of murmurs but not enough people are talking about it. Something deeply horrifying is happening in India: Gender Cleansing. India is systematically wiping out her female population. This is not an exaggeration. This is not a joke. I am not being clever. According to a 2006 UNICEF report, 80% of India’s districts have recorded declining child sex ratios since 1991. Thousands of girl-children are killed before or at birth. The all-India sex ratio is 927 girls for 1,000 boys, which puts the country right at the bottom of the global charts, worse off than countries like Nigeria (965) and neighbour
Gita Aravamudan whose book Disappearing Daughters: The Tragedy of Female Foeticide has just been published talks in her book about how our hugely skewed sex ratio is due to advanced pre-natal diagnostic techniques. But the real revelation is that educated people are more likely to kill their female fetuses, not less. According to Aravamudan, two generations of girls in India have already been murdered in the womb. This is not “family planning”. This is organized genocide, aided and abetted by sophisticated medical technology.
“The only women likely to keep their daughters are the truly independent-minded women, not just the financially independent”, she told me over coffee when we met to discuss the book. “Often women have abortion after abortion, even when they don’t want to” she said, recounting her meetings with women in different parts of the country. Mostly, this is because of pressure from the husband and in-laws. Women are scared of facing anger at home. They are scared of being thrown out of their houses. They are tired, defeated and trapped by the need to retain a modicum of peace in their domestic lives. It is tragic that in a country where God is often female, there is no place for girls in the home. Dowry is a large part of the problem, but so are issues of lineage, family name, inheritance, social attitudes towards women and the deeply ingrained belief that women are inferior.
“This is genocide. This is gender cleansing. There is no doubt about it,” said Donna Fernandez of Vimochana, an organization that works against violence against women, and a stalwart of the women’s rights movement in India. Fernandez believes that we need to begin by referring to it truthfully instead of euphemizing the problem. This does seem a necessary first step—to accept the magnitude of the problem and find the words that will adequately express the tragedy, evoke the horror and the devastation. This is as bad, or worse, than any holocaust that humankind has known. Why aren’t more people talking about it? Why aren’t world leaders declaiming it? Why isn’t there visible the shock, the fury, the sadness that usually accompanies any mass murder? Why is it important only to a handful of academics and development workers?
India needs to be taught, encouraged, cajoled, coaxed and, if necessary, compelled to value its women. It is imperative that we the Indian woman’s self esteem, her strength, her ability to feel safe, to live, to thrive is built. Every tool we have at our disposal—art, entertainment, popular television, media, religion, spirituality, law, policy and education must be marshaled to say just this: the woman is important. She is necessary. Value her.
India must be stopped from killing her women.
Anindita Sengupta is a freelance journalist and writer in Bangalore, India, and blogs at Noah’s Ark Broken.
Is Micro-Credit the Answer?
by Sundra Flansburg and Natalie Elwell, World Neighbors
With the award last December of a Nobel Peace Prize to Mohammed Yunis, founder of the Grameen Bank, micro-credit has received another round of accolades and promotions as an answer to widespread poverty around the world. Give poor women access to small bank loans, so the thinking goes, and they can start micro-businesses and improve their livelihoods by competing better in free markets.
Admittedly, this is an oversimplification of Yunis’s and other micro-credit advocates’ efforts. Another version of this thinking comes recently as microfinance, and is promoted by a new group of “social entrepreneurs” who tend to rephrase goals of ending poverty with ones promoting economic empowerment. While we think that there is a place for micro-credit and micro-finance in efforts to end poverty, we believe that there are some fundamental flaws in thinking of this approach as a key one in ending poverty and improving the lives of poor women.
We urge the G8 to recognize the complexity, and especially the social aspects, of poverty in addition to the dollar aspects, and support a web of strategies that combine to build skills and capacity, reduce vulnerability and benefit women and their communities in a sustainable way.
Why Micro-Credit Isn’t the Answer
Part of the problem with micro-credit rests not with the real benefits it provides to a certain segment of the population, but rather with the expectation by some that it is the answer to rural poverty. This belief shows a lack of understanding of the complex nature of poverty. Capitalizing micro-businesses is one piece of the solution, but without a wider, holistic effort, this kind of credit will mainly benefit the entrepreneurs and slightly less poor who are able to develop business plans and make them work.
Another significant issue with micro-credit is the fact that in the vast majority of cases, control of capital stays outside the community and the money itself reverts to an outside institution. Therefore, micro-credit tends to focus on individual successes and neglects the possibilities and power of collective action and work. When control rests outside the community, it is easy to lose sight of the welfare of the borrowers and focus only on better “returns on investment.”
Additionally, micro-credit models often fail to build borrowers’ capacity to do anything but develop a market analysis and basic business plan. A large number of the world’s poor women are marginalized within their communities and even their families, and lack confidence and experience in trying something new. They have responsibility not only for contributing to family income but to caring for children and the ill, collecting water and fuel wood, preparing their family’s meals, maintaining the home and any number of assorted family responsibilities. If the bigger picture of workload and marginalization is not addressed in a significant way throughout the process, women will continue to struggle with an impossible burden.
Finally, micro-credit, but especially microfinance, rest on an unexamined assumption that free markets are the answer to social problems like poverty. They leave unchallenged the idea that the poor only need a hand up at the start and will then be able to compete with large businesses in producing and selling their wares. Susan Feiner and Drucilla Barker point out that micro-credit on its own ignores the structural reasons that women are poor and neglects the social and political work needed to ensure that women business owners and workers improve their lot and enjoy basic human rights.
(more after the jump)
Women and Access to Technology
by Veena Hassan, Human Institutional Development Forum (HIDF) in Bangalore, India
It is rather a coincidence that I have been thinking about women and technology from past few days. Actually, the process began with filter paper for making coffee. Here in India, we were using a piece of cotton cloth specially kept for filtering coffee. Later came the percolator and the most popular metal filters. The metal filters, manual or electrical are a kind of permanent(or at least for a decade!) investment. After the use it is cleaned and kept ready for the next use.
Recently, I discovered that there are filter papers available for the same purpose. In this filtering is faster and washing is much much less. But every time I make coffee, I shall be throwing away a piece of paper without being able to contribute towards growing trees in any way.
This led me to thinking how do we arrive at technology for women? (Coffee making is not an exclusive technology for women!). I believe that how do we percieve physical action and mental activites guides our invention or for a lay person, selection of particular tecnology. The attempt here is to arrive at a balance. Balance between the body and the mind.
From times immemorial, housework has been mostly a women’s domain. A spere where most of the “reproductive” activites are carried out. First of all these reproductive activities were called “drudgery.” This definition, according to me has largely misled our approach to technology that is so-called related to women.
Reproduction as in procreation has been the essence of human existence on this earth. So are other reproductive activities. The question here is that how can an essential activity be termed as drudgery? As I have to use more and more of electrical appliances in the kitchen like mixer grinder, I am getting more and more nostalgic about how much I enjoyed grinding in the stone! Use of electrical appliances especially in the kitchen in the beginning used to be a matter of choice. With increased demand for physical space, increased importance for the activities that bring returns in financial terms, and the lifestyle resulting from it, there is no choice, it is inevitable!
As I am I writing the above lines, another thought crosses my mind. Haven’t women moved out of the kitchen long ago? Does technology for women essentially mean kitchen appliances? The anwer is ‘yes’ to the first question with a slight correction. Women who have moved out of the kitchen are very few. But most women if not all have moved out along with/despite kitchen. So how do we consider the entire topic of “women and technology” matters most.