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Gender @ G20

A woman strolls up to a bus stop on the promenade in Cannes, southern France November 1, 2011. Cannes hosted the two-day G2O summit. Photo credit: REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

By:  Charlotte S., a Young Feminist Wire member

In the proliferation of side-events, press releases and happenings for the pre-G20, are you asking yourself where gender is? Well, me too!

From the francophone world, we don’t find a lot, as usual. The policy brief adopted by French development NGOs which are members of Coordination Sud doesn’t include any recommendation on gender and development. The French G8/G20 coalition thought about girls’ education in its propositions to the G20 : “To enforce girls and women’s right to education everywhere in the world is one of the critical conditions to achieve equality between women and men.”  Nothing revolutionary!

“Investing in women”, or the continuum of the control over women’s bodies?

Those who understood the best the interest of gender are actually those who are pursuing economic growth. Since integration of women in economy encourages economic growth. From now on, the world is interested in women because they represent a profitable investment.  During the 2011 International day for women’s rights, the OECD’s Secretary General asked : “Women : the future of our economies ?”

Today, we don’t ask, we affirm. Why did the World Bank chose to make its World development report on gender ? Because “Gender equality is a core development objective in its own right. It is also smart economics. Greater gender equality can enhance productivity.”

OECD organized this at a side-event on gender, which as far as I know, is the only side-event on gender taking place in Paris before the G20. Its title is: “Growing economies through women’s entrepreneurship”.

As for civil society, same motto: “Women are the great untapped potential of the global economy”, as La Pietra Coalition tells us. They are asking G20 members to facilitate the financial inclusion of women, which means their access to finance, markets and land.

Let’s not let them instrumentalize us !

Speaking about gender would be inevitably playing into globalization? No! I agree with Claudie Vouhé, president of Genre en action, the francophone network on gender in development, who wrote last July : “G20 should finance gender equality, not the opposite.”

Let’s explain that struggling for gender equality is an issue of rights, not economic growth! Let’s not leave the idea of gender to an instrumentalist and individualist vision of gender.

Volatile food prices, land grabbing, and climate change: all things that the G20 members are responsible for and which has a great impact on women, as they are more vulnerable because of the gender inequality they still face. Then, yes, we have to say that women are and will be the first victims of what G20, the club of richest countries, decides to do.

That is all I wanted to say, to show how just how too-faced the discourse to include women in finance and the economy is. Women are nowadays considered the most profitable investment because they are they are the most exploited and least paid workers, and have less control of their working tool. To sprinkle neoliberal policies of women’s education and access to loans for women means profiting off of gender inequality to enhance economic growth.

That’s why my message to the G20 would be: G20 members, let’s have some coherence! Don’t let your policies worsen gender inequalities!

As I don’t believe my message will be heard, I have another one, which is a call to civil society, and above all development NGOs : Civil society should urgently act for gender equality, because the more time passes, the more this issue is instrumentalized by those whose politics worsen women’s conditions around the world. I hope this message will be heard.

For more details on what G20 members could do in favor of gender equality and what development NGOs could advocate for, I fully agree with recommandations written by AWID, WIDE, Wildaf, Femnet and some others, in preparation for the Busan forum on aid effectiveness.

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