Women do not want to be mainstreamed into a polluted stream. We want to clean the stream and transform it into a fresh and flowing body of water.
-Bella Abzug, 1998
This presentation will analyze the 'corruption' of the contemporary global economic system and demonstrate its disproportionately adverse affects on women's rights in all spheres-- livelihoods, health, education, housing, etc. This corporate global system, embedded in patriarchy and militarism, structurally disadvantages women in hierarchical power relations and contributes to continued violence against women. Patriarchy and poverty are in fact two interconnected inequalities that directly impact on women’s rights. Achieving equitable relationships between men and women – what we might call “gender justice”—requires a fundamental transformation of our societies and its organizing structures.
How to build such inclusive development and human security worldwide in this challenging situation will be the focus of this presentation.
BRIEF RESUME: Rosalind Boyd is an independent researcher and special advisor on international research at McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada. She was formerly the Director (1996-2004) of the Centre for Developing-Area Studies at McGill, the only woman to hold that position since the graduate research institute was founded in 1963. She is the founding Editor (1979) of the international journal Labour, Capital and Society and is the author/editor of numerous articles, monographs and books with a critical analysis of mainstream development, including International Labour and the Third World: The Making of a New Working Class (1987), Are We At the Table? Women’s Involvement in the Resolution of Violent Political Conflict –Uganda and El Salvador (1994), “Empowerment of Women in Contemporary Uganda: Real or Symbolic?” in Women, Feminism and Development (1994) and Gender Perspectives on Human Security (forthcoming). For over three decades, she has been engaged with women’s organizations locally in Montreal, Quebec and Canada as well as globally throughout Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America. She has recently focused her research on issues related to women and human security, lecturing in Berlin, Washington and Montreal. She holds a doctorate of philosophy (thesis entitled “Emergent Intellectual Challenges to Western Cultural Hegemony in Post-Colonial Societies”) from Concordia University, Montreal and is the mother of two children, Tariq and Jameela.
Further information is available on her website www.rosalindboyd.ca
“Core Challenges to Women’s Rights in our Contemporary Global System”
Rosalind Boyd, Ph.D., McGill University, Montreal
Women do not want to be mainstreamed into a polluted stream. We want to clean the stream and transform it into a fresh and flowing body of water.
-Bella Abzug, 1998 (cited in Moghadam)
This presentation analyzes the ‘corruption’ of the contemporary global economic system and demonstrates its disproportionately adverse affects on women's rights in all spheres-- livelihoods, health, education, housing, etc. This corporate global system, embedded in patriarchy and militarism, structurally disadvantages women in hierarchical power relations and contributes to continued violence against women. Patriarchy and poverty are in fact two interconnected inequalities that directly impact on women’s rights. Achieving equitable relationships between men and women – what we might call “gender justice”—requires a fundamental transformation of our societies and its organizing structures.
How to build such inclusive development and human security worldwide in this challenging situation will be the primary focus of this presentation.
Poor women have no reason to defend a model centred exclusively on the market, which in actual experience serves to deepen their poverty.
Joan French in Sparr: 180
Over the past three decades or more, we have been witness to increased poverty worldwide. There have been widening gaps in incomes and growing inequalities between the rich and poor whether measured within nation-states or taken globally, and clearly the effects in the countries of the South are more alarming. Even the statistics, which don’t often tell the full story, are alarming. Reportedly, more than eight million people around the world die each year because they are too poor to stay alive. The damage done by over three decades of structural adjustment, neo-liberalism and debt servicing has created a global social class of at least one billion urban-dwellers, radically and permanently disconnected from the formal world economy, creating what Mike Davis has so aptly called a “planet of slums” (Davis, 2004).
In so many countries of the world that continue to favour a capitalist free market economy -- which as you know are most countries of the world -- working people are poorer now even if they have a job, and likely that job will be precarious, because of currency devaluation, removal of subsidies for housing and less locally-grown food as well as the introduction of user fees for health care and education (see Boyd 2006). All of these resulted from “cookie-cutter” policies and prescriptions of neo-liberalism or structural adjustment programs imposed, especially during the 1980s and 1990s, by the international capitalist institutions (the IMF and World Bank) combined with debt servicing, and all, as you know, with more profound negative effects on women and our environment (Boyd 2000: 6-7 and Sparr). “Capitalism is now producing destructive effects unimaginable a century and a half ago.” (Amin: 10).
The impact on peoples’ living conditions, their livelihoods and their environment is devastating. No part of the world is untouched; certainly not even my own, Canada, where we struggle to retain our social programs, our universal health care system, respect for the environment, and civil liberties of all our inhabitants. In Canada, we have seen an increase in poverty among women, especially Aboriginal women, over the past decade at the same time that our economy posted record economic growth indicators. Of course, there is a vibrant popular struggle confronting this situation, with alternative political parties, anti-capitalist movements, organized feminist groups, etc., with links to international social movements and transnational networks.
In the face of such overwhelming evidence in every region of the world where capitalist free market reforms have been implemented – with evidence of these failed policies and prescriptions worsening more peoples’ day-to-day living —how is it that market reforms continue and institutions speak of corruption as though the system to which most of us are tied is not the greatest source of “corruption”?
To destroy the conquests of the working classes, to dismantle the systems of social
security and employment protection, to return to poverty wages, to bring certain of the peripheral countries back to their outmoded status as providers of raw materials while limiting the opportunities of those who have become relatively industrialized by imposing the status of subcontractor on their productive systems, and to speed up the squandering of the resources of the planet: such is the program of the currently dominant forces (Amin: 8-9).
Fortunately, around the world, people are rising up, protesting and organizing to create another reality, one of sharing, of cooperation and of peace. But this entrenched dominant capitalist-patriarchal global system with its corporate-military agenda is not going to be easy to dislodge.
As many of us in our different locations around the world struggle to create a different path towards another reality, to what may be termed “humane development” or “human development within a socialist framework” as an inclusive development, understanding the legacy of structural adjustment programs or neo-liberalism of the last three decades within a global capitalist world is important as it relates directly to women’s rights. We have to understand where we are, what is our entry-point, and then where we want to go. Of course, any transformation will not be a linear process nor will it occur through edicts: the struggle will be bumpy and full of mistakes but that should not deter us from the goal. How we as women transform our place in society, often invisible, secondary or not even counted (Waring, 1988), directly connects with intimate issues about male-female relationships of power, whether in the household, in the workplace or society at large.
This global economic context is the constant backdrop in our struggles to address patriarchy and poverty, these two interconnected inequalities that directly impact on women’s subordination and rights. The challenge is to avoid any blurring of the central focus on establishing a people-centred inclusive development where men and women walk together side by side. Social and political change is a complex process that often belies the intended outcomes.
Patriarchy and poverty: interconnected inequalities
We are struggling against a global economic system, a capitalist-patriarchal system that is based on exploitation and oppression, yet one that uses cheap labour and the destruction of the environment in order to sustain its profits and benefits for the corporate rich, all in the name of modern development. It has adverse effects disproportionately on women because of the way capitalism is embedded in patriarchy, defined as not simply male preference or male dominance but structurally disadvantaging women in hierarchical institutionalized power relations in every sphere of our societies, whether the university, the hospital, the community or the state.
Achieving equitable relationships between men and women -- what we might call “gender justice”(Molyneux 2005)-- does not seem to come with economic growth, better education or even women being visible “at the table” (Boyd, 1994; metaphor for decision-making, decoration, serving, fulfilling a quota, etc.). Evidence from my own country, Canada, can attest to these gender inequities: its annual economic growth rate has been quite remarkable over the past decade and yet the depth of poverty for women, especially Aboriginal women, has increased. And that situation has not improved since the Conservative government came to power in January 2006; in fact, it has worsened.
Women and Poverty in Canada
Let me just comment briefly on the situation of women and poverty in Canada (see CRIAW website). I use this example in order to reinforce one of my main points that narrow interpretations of economic growth under capitalism obscure the realities of increased disparities, increased poverty and do not guarantee women’s rights or justice. In the past, I have cited the example of Uganda to emphasize this point because of my extensive research with women there . Well, everyone expects that Uganda’s economic growth would not address its poverty. However, the case of Canada makes the point more explicit and to some extent more shocking (see also Klein). As you will know, Canada has the eighth largest economy in the world with a small diverse population of 33 million living on the second largest land mass in the world with ample natural resources. As I have stated, its annual economic growth rate has been quite remarkable over the past decade.
Over that same decade, Canada had been cutting social services and moving away from its traditional social democratic economy where universal health care, social programs and respect for civil liberties of all citizens, have been some defining features. Despite years of budgetary surpluses, funds were not being channelled into social services and the depth of poverty has worsened. About 20% of adult women are poor in Canada; rates for single women and older women are even higher. In 2005, the United Nations commented publicly on the high percentage of Canadian women living in poverty at the annual March meetings to review adherence to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). Canada has signed a host of international rights agreements such as the CEDAW, but there still aren’t adequate guarantees to protect women’s rights in the country. In fact, Canada has often been the initiator of these rights accords and convention. However, implementation on the part of the government is lacking. This situation for women worsened after the election of the current Conservative government in January 2006 but was on this decline earlier under the Liberals in power from 1993 to 2006.
In their first year, the Conservative government cut numerous social programs designed to assist women and children in Canada: For example, they cancelled the provincial/federal child care agreement which would have provided needed quality child care ($12m); refused to introduce proactive pay equity; cancelled the Court Challenges Program, used to fight discrimination; and cut the Status of Women’s budget by 40% ($5m), while eliminating funding to various women’s groups advocating numerous social equity issues. In addition, they have cut 80% of the funding to Environ Canada programs which were used to curb climate change and other environmental problems. It also cancelled the EnerGuide for Houses program, a popular energy-efficiency program to help homeowners renovate. Some programs have been replaced but with more modest funds, favouring the private sector, and with unnecessary insecurity and hardship for many involved in these programs.
This is the same government that introduced an aggressive military agenda in Afghanistan. The Liberal government, in power for 13 years prior to the election of the minority Conservatives in 2006, opposed the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003 and managed to keep a “rehabilitation role for Canada in Afghanistan”. The Conservatives have dramatically shifted our involvement in Afghanistan to an active combat counter-insurgency role for the Canadian military, the first time since the Korean War that Canada is in an active combat role. The shift in the mission in Afghanistan to an active combat role was not initially debated in Parliament and is opposed by the majority of Canadians. In January 2008, there was a national poll of opinion on Canada’s military involvement in Afghanistan where 47% of Canadians favoured pulling our troops out completely. In an earlier survey in May 2007, 70% of the Quebecers polled opposed our military involvement in Afghanistan, citing it as simply falling in line with the U.S. corporate-military agenda and not in the interest of world peace. Knowing this public opposition to the combat role of the mission and lack of Parliamentary consultation, the Conservative government set up a supposed “neutral” panel to review the Canadian mission in Afghanistan earlier in the year. Its report simply reinforced our combat mission there, now extended until 2011.
Concrete evidence that military expenditures are undercutting funds for social programs was reported at a women-centred conference in Ottawa in December 2006. There they focused their discussion and provided evidence on how the so-called “national security” approach (rather than “human security”, Boyd 2004) gives priority to financial support for the army and police forces over concern for domestic social programs. This increased expenditure on militarization contributes to increased violence and insecurity which has had devastating effects on women worldwide (see Boyd 2001 and 2005). They found that “(a)s a result of changes in the funding priorities of many OECD countries, from poverty reduction and economically-based development, to an increased emphasis on national security, many major bilateral donors are shifting large amounts of money into countries that are considered to be important players in international security.”
For example, before 2001, Canada’s assistance to Afghanistan was typically $10 million per year, for humanitarian assistance and basic human needs. The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) now spends about $100 million per year in Afghanistan or more and Canada expects to spend over $1 billion between 2001 and 2011. Almost 25 % of Canadian aid increases in 2001-03 was spent on Iraq and Afghanistan. Canada has also joined some other donors in the OECD that are calling for the expansion of what is considered official development assistance to include military and security aspects of peace operations. Canadian aid is moving away from a focus on poverty reduction and as such, women’s concerns and rights are being sidelined (see feminist critiques both of Canada’s foreign policy and its military peace operations by Whitworth and Turenne Sjolander et al.).
In 2005, a Statistics Canada study found that there still exists a significant wage gap between men and women in Canada. The major factor in the wage gap is reportedly the presence of children, rather than age, marriage or education. Wage disparities in Canada between men and women are not reduced by education; women earn approximate 71% of men’s wage, if they earn at all. Women are still expected to perform the majority of household chores and child care. In 52% of families in which both partners had full-time paid employment, the female partner was responsible for all the daily housework, in 28% the woman was mainly responsible, in 10% the chores were shared equally and in another 10% the man was primarily responsible. Women are expected to cut down on their paid work, quit their jobs, take emergency leave from work, or refuse promotions, in order to care for children, elderly parents or in-laws, or disabled relatives. Men are not. This has a lifelong impact on a woman’s wages, accumulation of pension benefits, and experience in her chosen occupation. Largely because of the lack of balance and fairness in terms of women’s and men’s family responsibilities, the vast majority of part-time workers (70%) are women.
Women are paid low wages for “women’s work”, if they are paid at all. “Women’s work” involves work that women are expected to do (and often do) for free as unwaged labour, such as caring for and teaching children, nursing the sick, preparing food, cleaning, serving others, managing a household, and is not seen as skilled or valuable. In Canada, 70% of women with paid employment are concentrated in a few female-dominated sectors: health, teaching, clerical, sales and service.
Alliance des femmes de la francophonie canadienne (AFFC) has been working to define priority concerns for the women in its network in their fight against poverty. The elements of social policy that concern them are: pay equity, the reformulation and improvement of employment insurance and Canada pension plan programs, maternity leave, daycare and support for "natural" caregivers or family caregivers.
The struggle for women in Canada is faced by many women in many countries around the world, often with more devastating consequences, as we are all more or less integrated into the dominant capitalist-patriarchy global economy. In each location, women are resisting with the resources we have and linking with other networks, learning of strategies for our common struggle, which I hope will be one of the outcomes of this important Conference.
Linking Patriarchy and Poverty
The culture of capitalism encourages competition, advocates exploitation of working people, disrespects the environment and places value on military power within a warrior ideology. Its motive is profits for the few. “An estimated 2.7m people, almost half of the world, are officially struggling to survive on less than two dollars a day, whilst the number of billionaires has increased more than 80-fold since the 1980s.” (UNDP, 2006) The same Human Development Report states that only nine countries (4% of the world’s population) have reduced the wealth gap between the rich and the poor, whilst 80% of the world’s population have recorded an increase in wealth inequality. Additionally, “the richest 50 individuals in the world have a combined income greater than that of the poorest 416 million.”
Paradoxically, “the ‘mere’ overthrow of capitalism will not, in and of itself, resolve the issues of oppressive sexism and gender emancipation” (to quote Saul: 67). Patriarchal practices like rape, domestic violence and other forms of sexual violence as well as neglect of girls, preference for boys in the family are not simply bound to capitalism, though they worsen under that system.
My research in both El Salvador and the Great Lakes region of Africa has shown that there is increased domestic violence and continued lack of security especially for women after the cessation of hostilities, due also in part to untreated trauma in men, particularly demobilized soldiers, and their socialization in the military (see Boyd 1994, 2005). Gender-based violence has received increasing attention over the past decade; however crimes against women during hostilities are continuing to this day and are still going unpunished (see Bastick et al. which profiles sexual violence in 53 countries around the world experiencing armed hostilities).
Although these issues are beyond the scope of this presentation, let me just state that there is a complexity linked to ideologies of masculinity and socialization processes that culturally define what is male. We know that “cultural norms force men to endure trauma and master fear, in order to claim that status of manhood. Cultures develop concepts of masculinity that motivate men to fight”. Such values fit very well with capitalism and the corporate-military agenda. There is also an undeniable link between poverty and violence against women.
In my view, we do not really have a ‘culture of the West and then the rest.’ I think we are faced globally with a dominant patriarchal-capitalist culture, a culture of greed, competition, aggression, a warrior culture that in its worst manifestation is militaristic in its practice and discourse. While globally this is what is dominant, within each of our societies there are various other tendencies, at times explicit and at other times emerging which counter this dominant discourse and practice. Nation-states are integrated to this dominant global capitalist world, not just in exploitative economic terms but also culturally. There is an overall dominant mindset that we are resisting through a host of alternative initiatives, such as the World Social Forums, the Bolivarian Alternative for the Peoples of the Americas (ALBA) or on-the-ground protests, as well as anti-globalization and anti-capitalist movements which abound in most of the countries that I know, with various direct actions such as Citizen’s Agenda or Participatory Budget schemes. How far these initiatives integrate “gender justice” concerns is often hotly contested. However, in the case of ALBA, for example, its attempt at regional economic integration is not based primarily on trade liberalization or neo-liberal polices but on a vision of social welfare and mutual economic aid.
Patriarchy and poverty are connected for many reasons. Various structural factors in this global patriarchal-capitalist system work towards making women more vulnerable to poverty, or to keeping them in poverty, disadvantaging women in every sphere. As is well known, and illustrated in the example of Canada, women are responsible for daily household chores, childcare and have a greater responsibility for health care, all areas that were under attack with the economic policies of neo-liberalism especially during the last three decades. Women are usually at the lowest levels of employment, often in precarious less secure positions, and the first to be fired during so-called “downsizing”. At times, this view is contested, citing dramatic increases in women’s access to paid work in most countries over the last two decades. While this may be true, their growth in the labour force is increasingly in jobs that are unprotected and without benefits which has resulted in the “feminization of labour” (Boyd, 2006) whereby they face economic insecurity along with the insecurity that patriarchy brings to their daily lives. Ironically, men too are increasingly in insecure positions, losing their full-time benefits and positions, adding to insecurity all round as they struggle to feed their families. My research on South Korea illustrates that women’s wages relative to men’s were at 50% less and contributed significantly to the so-called success of the “tiger”; in addition, women were the first to be “informalized”, with a loss of benefits and security (Boyd, 2006 and Seguino, 2000).
What is to be done? How are we to transform this situation? What kind of society do we want to live in? What kind of world do we want to leave for our children?
When we have some overall grasp of the “corrupt” capitalist-patriarchal system structurally embedded in our societies that keeps women poor and disadvantaged, then I believe we can try to address the struggle for an inclusive human development where women take their rightful place as full citizens alongside men. Women are not some homogenous group; we too are divided by a host of factors – be it class, race, sexual orientation or cultural differences. But having said that, I do believe that the overall consequence of our experiences as women within capitalist-patriarchy unites us more than divides us. There is some coherence in its effects on women wherever they are situated which is also why we must caution ourselves not to blur or obscure the core focus of our “one-world” struggle enhanced by solidarity and cooperation for a common agenda. The 1985 United Nations International Women’s Conference in Nairobi is often cited as a turning point in women’s concerns worldwide where our collective sense of the injustices in this corporate global system became more explicit, more overt (Moghadam).
How do we organize as women and what would be some of the specific features required that must be transformed in order to keep us on the path towards gender justice? Let me just address three areas of concern, mainly in the form of questions: 1. organizational, 2. immediate concrete demands or needs, and 3. possible alliances. These questions are raised as points of reflection.
1. Some central questions revolve around how we as women organize to transform our societies.
Are separate institutions needed for addressing women’s demands? What have been the experiences of women’s autonomous organizations versus those connected to the state? Does it matter? What have been the experiences regarding use of affirmative action or quotas as preferential to offset systemic discrimination or patriarchy?
How does one make the systemic transformation towards gender justice (women’s liberation from poverty, subordination, patriarchy, etc) from a capitalist societal base? How important is it that women enter formal politics, i.e., be “at the table” involved in decision-making and meaningful leadership? Can elite women in politics effectively represent the interests of less advantaged women? What would a revolutionary socialist society of the 21st century require to ensure women’s equal access and full participation? How important is it to have a mass women’s movement? What should/would be its relationship with the transforming state or society (moving from capitalist society to democratic socialist society)? How does this movement serve as the base for articulating concrete or basic demands?
In many societies, women have struggled with the issue of connecting with the state, particularly when the character of the state changes and opens up to be more inclusive of their concerns; when the state becomes what I would call “pro-women”, as for example I have observed in Uganda after the guerrilla movement came to power under the leadership of the National Resistance Movement (NRM) and Yoweri Museveni in 1986. During the first decade, there were a host of responses by the state that were favourable to women through quotas and affirmative action, demands that were in response to a women’s agenda and their agitation. Today, Uganda has one of the most gender-sensitive constitutions in the world, passed in 1995 after a four-year struggle that engaged countless groups of women and men. Certainly, there has been some loosening of patriarchy in this situation though there is still along way to go. However, the economic choices of the NRM government have left women poorer, more vulnerable to domestic violence and often unable to feed their families. Day-to-day praxis seems at odds with these hard-fought declarations for women’s legal rights.
I do not think that women’s organizational connection to the state is easily resolved. A well-know Canadian human rights feminist, Shelagh Day has stated that “Women need a state that is prepared to intervene on their behalf to ensure patriarchal forces within the marketplace and the family do not simply perpetuate the subordination of women.” (Turenne Sjolander: 127). Power relations within political parties have to change. In the early 1990s, when the ANC Women’s League attempted to obtain 30% representation within the ANC, they failed. Years of recognition of their invaluable sacrifices in the anti-apartheid struggle did not result in equal status in the post-apartheid state. Now, both of these countries (Uganda and South Africa) have a strong women’s movement but both continue to follow a neo-liberal capitalist market economy, which is at odds with women’s search for “gender justice”. Of course, there are numerous examples where women are well represented in political positions of the state. But how often has it changed the day-to-day practice that ordinary women face on the ground?
There is a tactical difference between leadership that is “pro-women” and one that is truly “feminist” that women have to address. Always we are up against the same contradiction or paradox within a capitalist system. Will it be any different within a democratic socialist state of the 21st century?
The nation-state is where the resources are, where the power resides and ideally for redistribution for the common public good. Working outside of that can often result in increased marginalization or take us away from making changes in the overall system. Yet by working within, through political parties, often results in women being co-opted or having a false sense of “having arrived” in the seats of power. Yes, access to power and resources strengthen when one works inside the system yet we know how easy it is to be co-opted or more importantly how our struggle can be neutralized. My own experience suggests we must keep the struggle continuous, linking with the state to transform it organizationally, never thinking that we have arrived until no one goes to bed hungry or dies from lack of health care.
2. Another important area of concern is the immediate concrete demands, particularly by poor women. What are the basic necessities immediately needed to offset women’s poverty? Is it equal pay for work of equal value; day-care facilities run by those who use them and financed by the state; recognition of non-wage work (through establishing a basic income and counting women’s work in the household) and so on? How do these concrete demands get defined and instituted? How do we ensure that these are not just treated as technical “fix-its” rather than political demands rooted in continuous struggle for systemic change to patriarchal-capitalism, hierarchies of power that feed off each other? Are programs of micro-credit really assisting poor women or are they simply limited survival strategies that keep women marginalized?
With the increased move to urban centres and urban poverty that I mentioned at the outset (Davis), a central demand for households affecting women is affordable access to food and food security as well as housing, health care and education. In most countries, especially in the South, higher and higher percentages of food are imported which unless subsidized clearly places a disproportionate burden on women, as pricing will not be fully within local control. A response obviously is to encourage more locally grown food where controls over pricing and monitoring for its safety can be more readily respected. Urban agriculture for domestic food needs has been a feature of many societies and is increasing worldwide as the countryside is abandoned, export crops dominate and food production is neglected. Land in the countryside is often taken over for “development”, meaning export crops or foreign firms, under neo-liberal policies. Also under these policies, land has been privatized to the disadvantage of rural women, particularly in countries where customary practice has allowed women access to land without titles (most of sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Asia).
3. And finally let me return to another important area of questions concerning alliances, networks and issues of solidarity. .
What have been the experiences of alliances between elite women and poor working class women (or even women peasants as is the experience in most African countries)? How does one give “voice to the voiceless”? What are the roots of the divisions in the women’s movement that we must get passed? What work needs to be done with men to get beyond J.S. Mills’ idea that “male liberalism” was to be the source of women’s emancipation? Does gender training assist us with this transformation? If the unrecognized burden for women that keeps them poor relates to child care and household activities, then is it enough to have these recognized as unpaid labour that needs to be compensated? Surely we need to go one step further which is to focus on educating men differently, to truly share in these family responsibilities; we must find ways to transform the household as much as to transform the society.
Over the past two decades, in addition to local and national feminist activities, there has been a growing number of what are called “transnational feminist networks”(see Moghadam) which build international solidarity among women worldwide. At a practical level, women nationally have been able to use international conventions and codes, of which there are many, starting with the important Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) passed in 1979 up to UN Security Council Resolution on women, peace and security passed in October 2000, to strengthen their demands locally for women’s rights. However, as is repeated over and over, the implementation of these laudable conventions and accords requires not only political will by individual nation-states but a fundamental shift in the economic policies that go hand and hand to disadvantage women. Paradoxically, the very existence of these conventions signed by so many countries at times often leads one to think that all is well and they neutralizes the continuous struggle that is required to arrive at “gender justice”.
The challenges before us are numerous and complex. Many of the questions that I have raised have answers in the experiences of women in various contexts around the world. However, in my view, the core challenge relates to implementing an anti-capitalist feminism which results in a major redistribution of resources, validating different forms of knowledge for governance and redefining power in terms of cooperation, not hierarchy. Only then will we see a transformation in women’s rights and the destruction of the fundamental “corruption”, which is the deeply embedded patriarchal-capitalist system.
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Ponencia presentada en el marco del I Foro Interamericano de Mujeres contra la Corrupción organizado por la Fundación Mujeres en Igualdad, que se llevó a cabo entre el 29 de septiembre y el 1 de octubre de 2008 en la Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires.