| Women's rights and development |
Helen O'Connell, One World Action
The question of political power has been raised frequently today. That is important, because we have a habit, in development circles, of not discussing political power. What has also become clear is that political power no longer lies only in conventional, political structures, but also in other areas, for example, in the hands of public corporations and international financial institutions. This raises the question of to whom we are addressing our demands.
The debate about human rights was very interesting and has produced some clarity. It highlights the fact that we need to work even harder to bring together the agenda of development and the agenda of human rights. As a development practitioner I tend to use the term human rights very broadly, to mean something that affects every aspect of people's lives, rather than as an instrument that people can use.
It is clear that development should be our issue, and that is why we are at this meeting; but we need to redefine development both from the bottom up and from the top down. It has also been remarked today that poverty should be our issue, and that is also a reason why we are here; but we must remember that poverty is not the only issue or the only form of inequality.
An area of strategy which is close to my heart is that of exposing contradictions: contradictions between policy statementsand action and between rhetoric and reality, and also contradictions that are inherent in the dominant economic model. I think this is an urgent task.
This brings us to the question of resources, which is something that also deserves our closer attention. If we are serious about continuing the work we are doing on gender issues, and about being part of an ongoing international women's movement after Beijing and after the excitement of all the UN conferences, then we clearly need resources. And by resources I do not mean merely money. We also need time to think and room to act. Money is not our only problem although clearly it is a huge one
For me the most important aspect of taking our work forward is our alliance-building and the international connections which have grown very dramatically over the last 15 years. I sincerely hope these will continue to grow.
Maitrayee Mukhopadhyay, Oxfam UK/1 We have talked today about the new developments in the world, the new challenges and the new strategies we should be using to meet those. I want to end in a slightly celebratory manner by recalling to you what has been tried, what has been achieved, and what were the constraints (and they are still with us).
I do not think there is anything that the women's movement has not tried, in the last one and a half decades, to reverse the imbalance of power between men and women, between social groups: whether it has been a question of land rights, whether it has been feminist researchers trying to tell the designers of male-dominated paradigms that they were wrong, whether it has been the efforts to bring about a feminist agenda within institutions like Oxfam and the World Bank, the women's movement has tried it all.
There have been lots of successes. The fact that we are sitting here today talking about it shows that there have been many successes. Some things that I consider successes are: the possibility we now have to talk about things that were never talked about openly before, such as the private aspect of women's subordination; the fact that our institutions have political agendas; the fact that we are able to network to try and strategise to meet the imbalances of power. Some of those things have been achieved to some extent.
Then I must mention the constraints. These are very clear. The winning of hearts and minds within institutions, for instance, has not only been difficult, it has not really been achieved.
As for where we should go from here, I have a sense of deja-vu. We need to take stock, we need to think of where the politics has gone out of our agenda, whether gender and development has become appropriated in an institutional manner which has made it 'safe'. We are still thinking how to mobilise, how to raise consciousness, how to win back rights. But this is not just a revisiting of what we did in the 1 980s. It is a question of organising in a new context, because the context has changed.
We have cause to celebrate the fact that it is possible for us to meet and talk as we have done today because we have behind us the last ten to fifteen years of many women's experiences at many levels, be it women fighting for their rights or someone demanding changes at the World Bank. We have those experiences with us and we should now apply ourselves in different fore, in different alliances, to looking at how we organise in the new context.