In many parts of the world, cows are given more rights than women. (Huffington Post)

We cannot let anybody forget the-female-face-of-poverty

1. Women are subjected to multiple and intersecting discrimination and negative gender stereotypes that continue to subjugate them and impede efforts to achieve equality between men and women. Not only do discrimination and stereotypes prevent women from escaping poverty, but they inhibit women’s political participation and, therefore, among other, their ability to influence the distribution of resources.

2. While both men and women suffer in poverty, gender discrimination means that women have far fewer resources to cope. Women rendered poor and living in poverty face extra marginalization. Measures targeted to reduce women’s poverty are thus critical. Therefore, starting by collecting better information to track how poverty affects women differently, is essential for solving the problem. Let us be categorical: Ending extreme poverty will come within reach only by fully involving women and respecting their rights –at every step along the way. (http://beijing20.unwomen.org/en/in-focus/poverty#sthash.NoITORtY.dpuf)

Humankind cannot accept macho attitudes (Hans Dembowski)

Our anthropocentric culture is, in reality, androcentric (Julio Monsalvo)

3. A fundamentalist backlash against women’s claims to equality, and especially to sexual and reproductive rights, is badly affecting national sovereignty in many countries. Culture and religion are used as excuses for perpetuating patriarchal discrimination and violence (including the control of women’s fertility). This is clearly no longer tenable. (C. Bunch)

4. To a certain degree, the SDGs recognize women’s economic empowerment as a prerequisite for sustainable development*, for greater equality and for the achievement of SDG 5 (Gender Equality) and SDG 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth). But ‘realizing’ women’s rights is not as important as securing their right to livelihood plus their ability to realize all human rights. The right to livelihood is linked to other human rights such as the right to food, the right to health, the right to work, the right to education and the right to social security and protection.
*: As per the UN CEDAW Committee, one of ten UN Treaty Bodies, advancing the economic equality of women is one of the key human rights standards. [The other nine human rights Treaty Bodies that monitor implementation of the core international human rights treaties are: the Human Rights Committee on Civil and Political Rights (CCPR), the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural rights (CESCR), the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), the Committee against Torture (CAT), the Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture (SPT), the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the Committee on Migrant Workers (CMW), the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), and the Committee on Enforced Disappearances (CED)].

5. In this context, there are 18 human-rights-linked-musts to secure women’s rights

• States must not, in the name of development, displace people, especially women, from resources that support livelihoods and adequate standards of living.
• Women’s access, ownership, control and management (including decision-making power) of productive resources and their outputs –land, water, forests, livestock, credit, energy, technology, knowledge, education, skills– must be ensured with deeds, not promises.
• Most women work, be it paid or unpaid must be recognized; therefore, states must recognize women as workers, as growers and as producers.
• States must further recognize, reduce and redistribute women’s multiple burden of work including those in domestic chores.
• States must provide better infrastructure facilities to meet rural women’s needs to reduce their day-to-day drudgery in providing for themselves and their families.
• Women must be given individual rights over productive resources (including natural resources) to secure sustainable livelihoods, irrespective of who they are and where they come from.
• Land and property must be either in the woman’s name or under joint ownership. Single women including widows must have individual land ownership.
• Gender-differentiated statistics and indicators must be collected nationally and regionally in order to measure gender gaps and consequently adjust development programs to rectify inequalities.
• States must ensure universal, but not uniform, social security for all, and make all state welfare schemes applicable to all working people (old-age pension, health benefits, pension, gratuity, and maternity benefits).
• States must also set up a recurring welfare fund by setting aside three per cent of the total revenue of the government and women must be part of the system.
• All countries must strive towards universal respect for human rights and dignity, rule of law, justice, gender equality and non-discrimination, respect for all ethnicity, race and diverse culture for the realization of human rights and shared prosperity.
• Notwithstanding the fact that women have a miniscule role in the events of war and terrorism, they however suffer most owing to large-scale killings, injuries and instances of displacement. States must recognize women as the primary claim holders in matters of security and peace and be given the major role in re-building and reconstruction in post-conflict regions.
• The adverse impacts of natural and man-made disasters on women’s livelihood must get due policy recognition and women’s voices must be heard in decision-making on issues related to them.
• Women lack control over their bodies including their sexuality, decision making in choice of their partner and marriage, and when and whether to have children. Social and cultural norms prescribed by patriarchal control over women’s bodies and sexuality result in limited mobility, brutal violence including honor killing, sex-selective abortion, marital rape, domestic violence, child marriage and limit access to sexual and reproductive healthcare services and information. Similarly, sexual minorities and sex workers are subjected to violence from different sections of society. They also face extreme social rejection and exclusion. State governments must protect and ensure women’s bodily integrity and autonomy.
• Sexual and reproductive health and rights must be protected and freedom from violence must be ensured.
• States must also include universal comprehensive sexuality education and information for young people and adolescent girls.
• Violence against women is one of the most pervasive universal violations of human rights, a public health crisis, and one of the greatest obstacles to development and peace. Women are facing sexual harassment, abuse, misconduct, verbal and psychological degradation, as well as non-acceptance in higher positions. They are subordinate at their work places and institutions including market places, public transports, bus stands and in the electronic media which limit the mobility of women and their hoes to live a life with self-esteem. States must ensure women-friendly and speedy grievances redressal mechanisms and procedures, as well as a reinforced culture of accountability.
• Women lack access to justice due to the existence of informal justice systems and the unavailability and inefficiency of judicial protection and legal aid. So, last, but not least, this aspect must also be addressed. (SAFA)

6. Because states are being called to comply on all these musts does not mean these actions will, by divine grace, be taken. A global push on women’s organization and mobilization is needed so that, as organized claim-holders, they coalesce into movements to increasingly demand these musts become reality — one-by-one.

Looking ahead

7. All big change starts with small groups meeting regularly –take the women’s movement, the civil rights movement, the Chinese revolution. You cannot do it by yourself to create a different set of possibilities. The need is to have an alternative regular space to discover that you are not crazy: the system is crazy. And this needs to be a regular part of your life. My wish for the women’s movement is the following: the ideal structure will resemble a whole lacework of regular women’s meetings and drop-in meetings, i.e., a whole lacework of little groups meeting in schools, churches, around village wells, where any woman can drop in, leaderless, free, with the goal of supporting each other’s self authority. This is what we need to start a revolution. (Gloria Steinem)

Bottom line

8. By mainly attributing value to gender equality in relation to economic development, the issue of power is thrown out of the window completely –and if gender is about anything, it is about power relations. Issues of gender inequality produce and reproduce power relations around the world, and while power relations are not a zero-sum game, achieving gender equality cannot be reached without some redistribution of power. We need to understand that gender issues are always relational. Talking about gender while excluding half of the global population from the discussion does not make sense, neither will it get us anywhere if we want to improve the situation for ‘the other half’. We cannot remain stuck in our safe discourse in which empowering women is only seen as valuable in economic terms and in which, for political reasons, many women around the world are excluded. We must dare to speak up, and dare to disagree. This is the only way we can make the Sustainable Development Goals global and inclusive so that they secure human rights for all people, regardless of their sex, gender or age. (Jannemiek Evelo)

Claudio Schuftan, Ho Chi Minh City

All 400+ Readers are now available in my website http://www.claudioschuftan.com

Women’s human rights are affected not only by poverty, food insecurity, lack of political participation, etc., but also by religion, especially when the State and other groups misuse religion, a deeply personal experience for many people, for political power and to exert control over people –and over women. While patriarchal interpretations, as well as religious fundamentalisms and extremisms, can disempower women and girls, women and girls can also use religion as a source of emancipation, empowerment and agency.

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