Memorandum submitted by Womankind Worldwide
WOMANKIND questions the blanket view that
globalisation is a tool for women's development and empowerment.
It has ambiguous consequences, and policy is necessary to
secure women's human rights to mitigate the negative impacts.
The White Paper's analysis of globalisation and its overall tone
is simplistic, taking a linear, positivist approach to processes
of social change.
WOMANKIND believes that women are particularly
vulnerable in the new global economy. They have less job security
and fewer experiences in organising and collective bargaining.
Although women have new employment opportunities, they are continuing
to do the bulk of household and community work, thus creating
a triple burden. This pattern is even more acute as states roll
back the provision of social services. As the majority of the
world's women in paid employment work in the informal sector,
it can be difficult for them to capture the gains from trade-led
WOMANKIND believes that globalisation and equitable
development are parallel processes. In some cases, trade liberalisation
and globalisation can lead to equitable development, whereas in
others, it can lead to increasing inequality. There is not
a simple cause and effect relationship between globalisation and
equality because globalisation is built on foundations of social
The problem with trade liberalisation, foreign
investment, and macro-economic policies that are meant to secure
the gains of globalisation is that gender inequality is a cornerstone
of these policies. While it may be true that women have access
to jobs in factories, and this creates opportunities for empowerment
within their families and communities (68), these jobs do not
change the reason that women are being hired in the first-place.
Women get these jobs because they are seen as second-rate labour
only good for low-paid, dirty, unsafe jobs. As a UN report states,
"As jobs and wages improve in quality, women tend to be excluded
Globalisation will not be an equalising force
for human development if it is built on these foundations of social
inequality. We need to challenge this inequality in order to secure
The experiences of our partners in South Africa
illustrates the tensions in creating equitable globalisation:
WOMANKIND works with Women on Farms, a women's
organisation in Stellenbosch that supports women involved in wine
production. The experience of men and women working in the Stellenbosch
vineyards sheds light on the conflicting impact of globalisation
and its reliance on social inequality.
Historically, white owners of the vineyards
employed coloured people as tied labour. The white farmers hired
men, and women and children were employed as part of the family
unit, rather than as individuals. Black men and women were not
involved in wine production. This system has advantages and disadvantages
for coloured people. On the plus side, people were hired on long-term
contracts. On the negative side, their jobs and housing were tied,
so they could not easily leave abusive employment conditions.
This system was particularly difficult for coloured women. They
worked on the vineyeards, but they were hired as part of the family
and so had no individual employment rights. The system functioned
on a male-breadwinner model which gave few opportunities for women's
In recent years, employment patterns in the
vineyards have changed. Farm owners, in an attempt to compete
on the global market place, have cut production costs. They have
stopped hiring on tied labour, partly because of the costs of
meeting the increasing demands in the context of increasing power
and judicial support to workers' rights. Instead, they have moved
to hiring individuals on short-term contracts with little job
security. Black migrant labourers tend to be the most willing
to accept these work conditions.
Like the old model, this has advantages and
disadvantages for men and women. On the plus side, black men and
women, historically the poorest group, have greater employment
opportunities. Labourers are being hired as individuals, thus
giving them individual labour rights. Black women, now hired as
individuals are less oppressed than coloured women were in the
tied labour system, as black women have individual employment
rights. On the negative side, coloured men and women have lost
their jobs, thus increasing tensions between the black and coloured
communities. Black men and women endure poor working conditions
in the vineyards. Furthermore, the only reason that black men
and women are getting these jobs in the first place is because
they are seen as lower down the social and economic ladder due
to their race, and therefore forced to accept poor working conditions.
Black men and women are being hired because they are seen as second-rate
The case study shows how globalisation in its
current form is built on a myriad of economic and social inequalities.
Attaining equitable development thus requires more than opening
up to the benefits of globalisation. It requires critical interrogation
of social inequality.
Three considerations are necessary to move closer
to the goal of equitable globalisation:
1. The White Paper does not take a rights-based
approach, as in other UK policy statements.
Without rights, globalisation is unlikely to lead to equitable
2. The effects of globalisation need
to be disaggregated among groups. To shape effective policy,
there needs to be a deeper analysis that disaggregates "the
poor", since their experiences are shaped by various lines
of social exclusions, such as race, gender, age and ability.
3. The Paper makes little mention of
civil society as an agent for change in globalisation process
(most evident in the table of contents and recommendations).
Given recent demonstrations of civil society strength, through
the Jubilee 2000 campaign, protests at Seattle, the fair trade
movement, the impact of the global women's movement, the Paper
overlooks a key stakeholder in securing the benefits of globalisation.
"Managed wisely, the new wealth being
created by globalisation creates the opportunity to lift millions
of the world's poorest people out of their poverty. Managed badly
and it could lead to their further marginalisation and impoverishment.
Neither outcome is predetermined; it depends on the policy choices
adopted by governments, international institutions, the private
sector and civil society".
Relationship between Growth and Inequality
It is just as important to consider inequality
within countries, and within households. Globalisation will
help to lift people out of poverty if accompanied by a process
of wealth redistribution on a national and household level. The
most comprehensive review of national income inequality trends
(the WIDER database) has shown that in 45 of 77 countries analysed,
inequality is increasing.
National income distribution trends profoundly affect poverty
reduction and human development, and minimise the impact of globalisation
as a force for human development.
Some analysts have also suggested that globalisation
has had a positive impact on women because it has helped to reduce
the pay gap between men and women, thus signalling women's greater
empowerment. However, since women's employment as a consequence
of globalisation has tended to be in low-paid, low-status jobs,
the decreasing wage gap has more to do with the downward pressures
on men's wages.
Above all, it is important to see economic growth,
and the use of trade liberalisation to achieve growth, not as
an end in itself, but as a means to human development. Trade liberalisation
and human development are parallel objectives, but we need to
keep them both in view. Taking on board that argument means being
honest to ourselves when macro-economic recipes for growth do
not produce human development. As the White Paper states, "The
reality is that all profound economic and social change produces
winners and losers." We cannot afford to be resigned to the
fate of losers, on the knife's edge of survival. WOMANKIND urges
policy-makers to allow room in the free market orthodoxy for critical
reflection about its costs.
The experience of our partners in West Africa
illustrates this point:
WOMANKIND supports the Aysha! Initiative, a
money literacy programme in West Africa. The programme, which
began in Ghana and now includes Togo and Burkina Faso, is built
around small women's credit and savings schemes. Women in these
organisations are all trying to use micro-credit as a means to
escape the cycle of poverty. WOMANKIND has co-ordinated networking
opportunities amongst these organisations to share experiences
and build a basis for future collaboration. In creating opportunities
for women from Ghana and Togo to talk about micro-credit, poverty
reduction, and women's empowerment, WOMANKIND has learned about
the ambiguous effects of globalisation.
Women in Ghana have found it very difficult
to use micro-credit as a tool for poverty eradication. Recently,
high inflation rates and devaluation has resulted from falling
prices of cocoa, one of the prime export goods. As a result of
high inflation, interest repayment rates are very high. For women
trading in services and processing it is very difficult to make
successful use of small loans. In fact, women can become indebted,
and the credit facility geared at reducing poverty can significantly
By contrast, women in Togo are better able to
plan financially, can repay the low repayment rates, and find
it easier to make credit work to their advantage. Because the
economy in Togo is linked the French franc, the economy is shielded
from some of the price fluctuations of the global market and,
relatively speaking, inflation is not felt to be a problem in
credit schemes. As a result, women are more able to use credit
as a tool for human development.
This case study highlights the fact that free
trade and greater linkages to the global market do not necessarily
lead to poverty eradication. Ghana, according to the free market
orthodoxy, is doing the "right" thing, but women operating
in the informal sector in that country are having a harder time.
Togo, on the other hand, is protecting its economy and missing
out on some of the gains of the trade liberalisation, yet women
in that country are better able to use micro-credit to escape
poverty. Without a nuanced and detailed analysis, we risk overlooking
the differing impacts of globalisation.
As noted in the overall critique, globalisation
has deeply ambiguous repercussions depending on your position
within society. It is impossible to talk about global social
justice without also looking at personal justice. Policy makers
need to look beyond the community level to the family and individual
The Paper simplifies the issues and stakeholders
involved and glosses over the conflicting positions. For example,
a line is drawn between the democrats and internationalists and
the narrow nationalists and xenophobes (15). The reality is much
more complex, as some internationalist proponents of globalisation,
like trans-national corporations, may argue for the dismantling
of multilateral institutions like the World Trade Organisation.
Black and white analyses of globalisation can hamper effective
Overall, WOMANKIND endorses the view that good,
effective, and accountable government are essential to achieving
development and human rights. We are concerned, however, that
this chapter underplays the pressures Southern governments facefrom
Northern countries imposing protectionist trade policies, multilateral
institutions imposing structural adjustment policies, and trans-national
corporations threatening to pull out investment. The weakness
of government in many developing countries has been well-documented.
Strengthening Southern governments means being realistic about
the pressures they face.
Civil society, a key pressure point, has been
downplayed in this analysis. We argue that strong, effective governments
must come from the people. Civil literacy initiatives are needed
to ensure that the disenfranchised gain the skills to demand accountability
from their governments.
We agree that poor people attach
great importance to security. Violence against women tends to
be forgotten in conversations about state responsibility for security
and justice. We urge all governments to take steps to end violence
against women, as an essential part of achieving the international
development targets, promoting human rights and challenging the
social inequality preventing equitable globalisation.
We are pleased to see support for
human rights as a critical component of effective government,
and we endorse the idea that "The voices of the poor can
be strengthened by supporting those parts of civil society that
help poor people organise to influence decision-makers" (27).
Yet, overall, this statement seems like an afterthought, rather
than being at the centre of policy-making.
The paper suffers from a lack
of political will on addressing gender dimension of poverty
and inequality, despite the statement that two-thirds of the poor
people in the world are women (12).
In particular (paragraph 76), the
UK Government needs to do more than encourage other governments
around the world to ratify human rights instruments and monitoring
their implementation. The UK could afford to be reflective about
its own human rights instruments, such as the CEDAW Optional Protocol
which has not been signed. With George W. Bush as the President
of the United States threatening a roll-back in women's human
rights (such as in reproductive rights), the UK could also afford
to punch above its weight in Northern policy fora on women's issues.
Civil society groups both in the UK and internationally would
like to see the UK acting as an advocate of the "losers"
Combating child labour and promoting core labour
WOMANKIND is pleased to see the emphasis
on the rights of workers in the informal sector (29). Given that
the majority of the world's women in paid employment work in the
informal sector, awareness-raising about workers' rights has particular
importance for women. However, rights require remedies. In
many countries, women know about their rights, but have little
recourse to justice if their rights are violated, and have little
access to communication channels to ensure that the global community
hears about it. Part of making rights real and empowering poor
people is ensuring that they have real choices.
Promoting health for poor people
We agree that better health is crucial
to development, and would like to highlight the impact of poor
health on the lives of women in particular. Of the four international
development targets listed on page 22 we have made least progress
in reducing maternal mortality rates, a key barrier in women's
health. Many diseases, such as HIV/AIDS, cervical cancer, and
respiratory problems, thrive in an environment of gender inequality.
Guaranteeing women's reproductive
rights, their access to information, and their power to make decisions
about their reproductive health are critical to advance towards
the target. Progress requires not just good national policy,
as the White Paper suggests, but also a willingness to analyse
gender roles in society.
Women, seen as the carers in the
family and community, bear a disproportionate burden in caring
for the sick and aged, especially as state social services are
cut back. It is imperative that women are supported by the
state, the market, and civil society in caring for the sick.
Spreading educational opportunity
Education, particularly of young
girls, is frequently seen as a magic bullet in development. The
White Paper's assertion that we need to spread educational opportunity
glosses over the pressures families and children face. Low enrolment
rates in developing countries stem from more than lack of technology,
lack of trained teachers, and high fees to attend school. The
Paper does not focus enough attention on the reasons children
and families choose not to attend school. When basic survival
is the price, it makes economic sense to leave school for paid
employment. Policy needs to address the economic pressures
that cause children to leave school in order to increase enrolment
Bridging the Digital Divide
Throughout the 1990s, women have
used the Internet to build a global women's movement. The Internet
can be a powerful tool for change, as the White Paper suggests.
Women in poor communities struggle to gain access to the Internet,
but they struggle even more to have power over the information
they gather and its uses. This power struggle ranges from the
state monitoring the web pages that can be accessed in a country
(as in China) to individual family members forbidding certain
areas of research. To mobilise the power of the Internet, we
need to analyse how power and control are allocated within society.
Promoting corporate social responsibility
WOMANKIND endorses the view that
corporate social responsibility is essential to promoting development
and human rights. Given the pressures that governments face in
making their investor-friendly policies, we are concerned that
Southern governments may lack the political leverage to require
triple bottom-line reporting. Legal requirements are particularly
important in making corporations report to a triple bottom line.
WOMANKIND remains sceptical about the simplistic
relationship made between trade and poverty reduction, under the
current international trading system.
Realising export potential
While it may be true that subsidies
to farmers distort the market and deter private investment in
agriculture (67), these subsidies are often the difference
between life and death in communities only managing at a subsistence
level. Economists would call this reality a temporary distortion,
but we need to ask what people are expected to eat in the meantime.
The environmental impact of agricultural
modernisation need to be carefully considered, as modern methods
involving pesticides, monoculture, and non-sustainable industrial
agriculture negatively impact the environment. As Vandana Shiva
has argued, "It is women and small farmers working with biodiversity
who are the primary food providers in the Third World, and contrary
to the dominant assumption, their biodiversity based small farms
are more productive than industrial moncultures.
This section also overlooks organic
farming as a route to sustainable development and greater integration
into the global market. Small farmers in some developing countries,
for example, have switched to organic farming to capture a niche
market where their goods command a higher price and fluctuate
less due to international market changes.
The White Paper takes the tunnel-vision
view that greater links to the global economy are the only path
to development. In some cases, it may provide opportunities for
poverty reduction, whereas in others, it may exacerbate inequality.
Policy-makers need to be open to multiple interpretations of
the impact of trade liberalisation.
Helping poor people to trade
Other barriers to trade exist on
top of policy, transport, and infrastructural problems. Gender
stereotypes are barriers to women's economic activity in many
countries. Social norms about control over resources also
impede women's trading activities. The dot.com weavers from Guyana
are an example of women who captured the gains from trade offered
by globalisation, only to have them have seized by male elders
in the community who wanted to re-assert their control.
We welcome the UK Government's recognition
of its own responsibilities in curbing environmental degradation.
Given that many developed countries are trying to step back from
the Rio commitments, we urge the UK Government to use its leverage
with OECD countries to adhere to the internationally agreed targets.
Northern countries like the US should be preventing from trading
environmental health for economic profit.
WOMANKIND welcomes the proposed International
Development Bill, and asks the Government to include civil
society consultation in its drafting.
We urge the UK Government to make
real its commitment to a rights-based approach to development,
as the only way of achieving equitable globalisation. We are
concerned that by over-emphasising poverty reduction and the international
development targets, rights will be side-lined.
We also urge policy-makers to take
a two-pronged approach to gender, both mainstreaming gender
and including gender-specific priorities.
WOMANKIND supports measures to strengthen
the international system if it ensures that voices of the poor,
in all their diversity, are heard.
Access to information about decision-making
and the power to affect decisions are crucial. We need to make
the international system more user-friendly (for example by
putting information on the Internet in many languages).
The UK Government should also strengthen
the participation of civil society in advocacy work at the
international level, through stronger consultative machineries
(ie in the PRSP process), capacity-building for advocacy work,
and direct support to civil society organisations.
WOMANKIND welcomes the UK Government's commitment
to policy-making on development and poverty eradication. However,
we question the assertion of a simple casual relationship between
globalisation and poverty eradication. We urge policy-makers to
make room for critical reflection on the positive and negative
impacts of globalisation, and to pay particular attention to the
experience of "the losers".
In WOMANKIND's view, the following concepts
are key to progress towards equitable globalisation:
challenging social inequality proactively,
rather than assuming that market forces will produce equality;
disaggregating "the poor"
to analyse their diverse experiences;
positioning civil society in policy-making
as a key agent of change;
underpinning all policy with a rights-based
approach that both mainstreams gender and addresses gender-specific
generating political will to implement
41 United Nations (1999) 1999 World Survey on the
Role of Women in Development: Globalisation, Gender and Work
New York: United Nations. p 10. Back
For example DFID (2000) "Poverty elimination and the empowerment
of women" Target Strategy Paper. Back
OXFAM (2000) "Globalisation: Submission to the Government's
White Paper on Globalisation" p. 12. Back
United Nations (1000) 1999 World Survey on the Role of Women
in Development: Globalisation, Gender and Work New York, New
York: United Nations, p 56. Back
Doyal Lesley (1995)What Makes Women Sick: gender and the
political economy of health. Basingstoke: Macmillan Press, 1995. Back
Shiva, Vandna "Poverty and Globalisation", 23 May 2000
available on http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/static/events/reith
Romero, Simon (2000) "Weavers go Dot-com and Elders Move
In" New York Times, 28 March 2000. Back