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International Women’s Day

The global women’s rights movement: What others can learn, a progress stocktake and some great videos for IWD

Duncan Green's picture

Duncan Green reviews the balance of achievements on gender equality as summarized in a new paper from Gender and Development Network and shares some videos in honor of International Women's Day.

Egyptian woman celebrates International Women's DayIt was International Women’s Day on Sunday, which is swiftly followed by celebrations around the 20th anniversary of the 1995 Beijing conference (I still remember the buzz from women returning from that) and the start of the 59th  Commission on the Status of Women at the UN – an annual spotlight on progress (or otherwise) on women’s rights.

Gender is a big deal in Oxfam, and I’ve often been struck by what the rest of the development business can learn from progress on gender rights, and the activism that underpins it. For starters:

Power begins with ‘power within’, when previously marginalized people kindle their sense of rights, dignity and voice. Far more of our work should start there.

Norms really matter. Gender activism shows just how shallow a lot of advocacy can be, when it concentrates on the ephemera of policy, and ignores the social norms that underpin identity and injustice. And international movements can have real impact on those norms.

Stamina: any struggle worth its salt takes decades – you don’t just look for a quick win and move on.

The world beyond money – work on areas such as the ‘care economy’ highlights just how much of what really matters lies outside the monetary economy that dominates thinking on development. We should be talking about shame and joy as much as about income and assets.

(I also happen to think the gender activists could learn useful lessons from others, but that’s another post.)

As for IWD, first some heavy policy, then some fun videos.

Quote of the Week: Zainab Salbi

Sina Odugbemi's picture

"I’m no different from anybody else. I like clothes, I like shoes, I like to go have nice dinners, I like to dance. Just because I’ve dedicated myself to serving women, why do you think I need to sacrifice myself?”

Zainab Salbi, an Iraqi-American humanitarian, entrepreneur, author, and media commentator who has dedicated herself to women’s rights and freedom. She founded Women for Women International, a humanitarian and development organization dedicated to serving women survivors of war, at the age of 23.
 

Weekly Wire: The Global Forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Behind a Pattern of Global Unrest, a Middle Class in Revolt
Bloomberg BusinessWeek
For months now, protestors have gathered in the capitals of many developing nations—Turkey, Ukraine, Thailand, Venezuela, Malaysia, and Cambodia, among others—in demonstrations united by some key features. In nearly all these places, protestors are pushing to oust presidents or prime ministers they claim are venal, authoritarian, and unresponsive to popular opinion. Nearly all these governments, no matter how corrupt, brutal, and autocratic, actually won election in relatively free polls. And in nearly all these countries the vast majority of demonstrators hail from cosmopolitan areas: Kiev, Bangkok, Caracas, Istanbul, and other cities. The streets seem to be filled with the very people one might expect to support democracy rather than put more nails in its coffin.

Where Did Press Freedom Suffer Most in 2013? Online.
PBS Media Shift
This month the Committee to Protect Journalists released its annual analysis of Attacks on the Press, including a “Risk List” of the places where press freedom suffered most in 2013. As you might expect, conflict areas filled much of the list — Syria, Egypt, Turkey — but the place on the top of the list was not a country. It was cyberspace. In the past, the list has focused on highlighting nations where freedom of the press are under attack, but this year CPJ wrote, “We chose to add the supranational platform of cyberspace to the list because of the profound erosion of freedom on the Internet a critical sphere for journalists worldwide.” Including cyberspace is a recognition that, at least in terms of press freedom and freedom of expression, the web is not virtual reality, it is reality.

How Do You Look At Women?

Maya Brahmam's picture

In honor of International Women’s Day, March 8, I wanted to mention an interesting film, which debuted at the Sundance Film Festival last year, called Miss Representation. This documentary challenges the media’s limited and often disparaging portrayal of women and girls, and it focuses on the US media. I found it sobering because it says that, “In a society where media is the most persuasive force shaping cultural norms, the collective message that young women and men overwhelmingly receive is that a woman’s value and power lie in her youth, beauty, and sexuality, and not in her capacity as a leader.” And unfortunately, the statistics it shows are powerful. Yes, in 2012, it looks like we still have a long way to go.

This past Monday, I had the pleasure of hearing Sima Samar speak at the World Bank. Dr. Samar is the Chairperson of Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission and Former Minister of Women’s Affairs for Afghanistan, and she shared a somber view. She said, “Women’s rights are human rights, yet they are often trampled...”