Select Committee on International Development Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


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 globalisation.

  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 inequality.

  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 from them[41]

  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 human development.

  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 advancement.

  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 labour.

  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.[42] Without rights, globalisation is unlikely to lead to equitable development.

  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.[43] 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.[44]

  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 exacerbate it.

  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 level.

  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 policy-making.


  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 face—from 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.

Human Rights

    —  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" in globalisation.

Combating child labour and promoting core labour standards

    —  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.[45]

    —  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 rates.

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.[46]

    —  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 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.[47]


    —  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 concerns; and

    —  generating political will to implement equitable change.

Womankind Worldwide

January 2001

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

42   For example DFID (2000) "Poverty elimination and the empowerment of women" Target Strategy Paper. Back

43   OXFAM (2000) "Globalisation: Submission to the Government's White Paper on Globalisation" p. 12. Back

44   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

45   Doyal Lesley (1995)What Makes Women Sick: gender and the political economy of health. Basingstoke: Macmillan Press, 1995. Back

46   Shiva, Vandna "Poverty and Globalisation", 23 May 2000 available on 2000/lecture5.stm. Back

47   Romero, Simon (2000) "Weavers go Dot-com and Elders Move In" New York Times, 28 March 2000. Back

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