Gender Equality, Women’s Empowerment & Money – What Formula Works

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By Catherine Nyambura*

Gender equality is discussed as part of our lunch time banter, as a crucial component for development at national, regional and global levels. Across the world, no country has achieved gender equality even though various interventions, legislations and actions have been put forward to close the gap in education, economy and politics between men and women, boys and girls.

One of the areas where deliberate efforts to address gender inequality are required is the global economic governance architecture. We have witnessed women and girls take hits, lose livelihoods and become disenfranchised because of a global economy that perpetuates patriarchy, the worst form that continuously puts money in the hands of governments and men to the detriment of women who serve as foot soldiers, carrying out the back-breaking work (both literally and figuratively).

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During the Third International Conference on Financing for Development (the outcome documents can be found here), global access of factors of production by countries and individuals alike was put to the table discussing the global resources;who controls them and how this ownership has defined the global economic governance as we know it today.

Even though at the preamble of the outcome document governments committed to invest and advance gender equality and women’s empowerment, this commitment was watered down in the rest of the document as the articulation seemed to favour investments in women and girls as smart economics. For governments to honour commitments on investing in women and girls, priorities should also be placed in the financing of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the Programme of Action of the ICPD Beyond 2014 which have and continue to progressively advance the rights of women and girls over the last 20 years since their adoption and review conferences. The two frameworks have recently undergone their +20 year reviews in which a broader articulation of women’s rights and gender equality is clearer and more progressive, building upon the initial conversations in Cairo and Beijing in 1994 and 1995 respectively.

The contribution of women and girls to the economy goes beyond productivity and growth. Governments must value  unpaid care work which, even though recognised as a target in the post 2015 development agenda is not strongly articulated in the final outcome of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda. The under regulated global economy that led to the global financial crisis in 2008 continues to disenfranchise women and girls. Women and girls have continued to act as shock absorbers in times of financial crisis,who as a majority of the informal sector are further taxed to close resource gaps. During the food crisis they directly bore the brunt of high food prices. During the energy crises, they were forced to further trek long distances for firewood. This is in addition to suffering from the high prices of essential commodities.

The concerted efforts by governments to welcome private sector as a primary key player in development poses risks escalating further human rights violations. This, if done through foreign direct investments, is further worsened when women are marginalised from accessing factors of production such as land, capital and technology. This is aside from being disenfranchised when big corporations are allocated land by governments leading to forced evictions, loss of livelihoods and worsened poverty. This is a burden added onto the already existing cultural systemic issues that make access to these factors a highly contentious discussion.

The Addis Action Agenda takes us a few steps back from where we got with the Doha and Monterrey consensus. This is a shame especially given the global call for a transformative post 2015 development agenda. More so is when the world having committed to the post 2015 development agenda where world leaders commit to;- end poverty, eliminate inequalities and tackle climate change. To be realised, these commitments would require an ambitious financing architecture that addresses systemic issues in a fundamental and revolutionary manner — which the Addis Action Agenda unfortunately fails to do.

The progress made on issues such as youth engagement is commendable, as well as an attempt to make steps towards regulating global taxes.

The Addis Action Agenda is out, but the fight and struggle towards social justice is not over.
Aluta continua is all we can say for now.

Catherine Nyambura is the Deputy Director of Dandelion Kenya. She is a feminist passionate about sexual and reproductive health and rights and works hard to ensure the issues of young women and girls gain visibility. Connect with her on Twitter @catherinenyamb1 and on cathynyamb@gmail.com.

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About FEMNET

FEMNET (The African Women's Development and Communication Network) is a pan African, feminist organisation working to advance the rights of women and girls in Africa. FEMNET has carved a niche in Informing and mobilizing African women in order for them to participate and influence policies and processes that affect their lives. FEMNET has hundreds of members in over 40 countries in Africa as well as in the diaspora. It has played a critical role in building the women's movement in Africa since inception in 1988.

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