World leaders gathered on July 13th at the United Nations Third International Conference on Financing for Development in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The launch by the Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon, renewed and strengthened a global partnership for financing people-centred sustainable development. Decisions made were aimed at setting the world on a course of action through promoting inclusive economic growth, protecting the environment and promoting social inclusion amongst other humanitarian issues centred on mobilizing the means to make a difference in people’s lives.
As this was a global conference, many issues were up for discussion. Much deliberation about issues of gender, women and girls took place. The first resolution on the global framework for financing development post-2015 read, “We the Heads of State and Government and High Representatives, gathered in Addis Ababa … commit to respecting all human rights, including the right to development. We will ensure gender equality and women’s and girls’ empowerment.”
While most of the issues discussed were aimed at bettering the lives of people, reading through the resolutions makes you wonder whether you are living in the same world. This is because such beautifully laid out policies are mere window dressing from the Zimbabwean perspective as it would take a stable economic environment to effect them.
It is important to note with concern that Zimbabwe did not manage to attain most of its eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015 and as we move on to these seventeen new proposed sustainable goals, one has to wonder if achieving these too is a pipe dream. As much as one would like to be optimistic about the betterment of the lives of women and girls through implementation of the Addis Ababa action plan, much work is needed to make this a reality. In short it is a mammoth task.
While Zimbabwe managed to fulfil MDG two -the attainment of universal primary education- MDG three of achieving gender equality and empowering women is still far-fetched as women still struggle to benefit from occupying space in most spheres, be it at home or at work.
Commenting on the successes and failures of the MDG’s Senior Economic Development Consultant Dr Jesimen Chipika said although literacy rates have remained high in the age 15-24 year age group at 98.5% for both males and females, enrollment gender disparities still exist at tertiary level, but are gradually improving. For example, in 2010 the percentage of women in University was 42% and at Technical Colleges, 40.7%. She further said there were still low instances of women in high offices as they are just a few women in decision-making positions. “Zimbabwe has achieved gender parity at primary school level, but the proportion of women in decision-making positions is still very low, except in the Upper House of Parliament,” said Chipika.
Despite us being a signatory to gender-sensitive instruments such as the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the famous Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (which people like quoting but know very little about), the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development, our road to equality is still a long way ahead.
Cases of gender-based violence continue to soar unabated suggesting that all these instruments exist only on paper and do not practically apply to an everyday woman’s life, let alone to those who are in ignorance of them. There is need to re-align existing laws with the constitution. Therefore, we welcome the recent institution of the Gender commission which seeks to ensure the full implementation of these laws.
In the Addis Ababa Action Agenda (AAAA) (a document produced after the Third International Conference on Financing for Development) it was noted that on an international level, women still lack access to financial services as well as financial literacy – which is key for social inclusion .The private sector was called upon to contribute to the advancement of gender equality by ensuring: women’s full and productive employment, equal pay for equal work of equal value, equal opportunities, as well as protecting women against discrimination and abuse in the workplace. Presenting on the draft resolution of the outcome document, the President of the conference and the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Hailemariam Desalegn highlighted the action plan’s commitment to invest in women.
“We are committed to women’s and girls’ equal rights and opportunities in political and economic decision-making and resource allocation and to removing any barriers that prevent women from being full participants in the economy. We resolve to undertake legislation and administrative reforms to give women equal rights with men to economic resources, including access to ownership and control over land and other forms of property, credit, inheritance, natural resources and appropriate new technology.”
Civil society organisations present however responded negatively to the outcome document saying it represented far-fetched resolutions which were unlikely to be achieved, especially in the case of developing countries with limited resources.“We express disappointment that the Addis Agenda is almost entirely devoid of actionable deliverables. While not a pledging conference, it is deplorable that a conference on financing has so far failed to scale-up existing sources and commit new financial resources.”
Presenting their declaration, the civil society forum highlighted the various discrepancies in the document, especially in regards to gender. In particular reference to Declaration Six of the outcome document it noted, “The additional steps we see in terms of addressing gender equality and women’s empowerment seem to speak more to ‘Gender Equality as Smart Economics’ than to women and girls’ entitlement to social and economic rights. The Addis Agenda “reiterates the need for gender mainstreaming, including targeted actions and investments in the formulation and implementation of all financial, economic, environmental and social policies.” Yet, the document shows a strong tendency towards the instrumentalisation of women when it states that women’s empowerment, and women and girls’ full and equal participation and leadership in the economy, are vital to significantly enhance economic growth and productivity.”
It further spoke on the misplaced emphasis of helping women have a stand in the economic or financial field while ignoring the day-to-day domestic duties women engage in as part of social inclusion. Controversial initiatives in micro-fields such as financial inclusion or women’s entrepreneurship should not displace attention from structural barriers for women´s economic rights and full and equal access to and control over economic resources that are not included in the Addis Agenda. These include the unequal distribution of unpaid care work, the lack of access to care services, persistent gender discrimination in the labour market, more women in precarious and low-paid jobs and inadequate and insufficient social protection.
“Women living in poverty are increasingly affected because of their socially-constructed roles as primary care givers. Thus, domestic resource mobilization policies need to be reviewed to take into account their impact on women’s income and work, including unpaid labour and unpaid care and property and assets ownership’’.
The decisions agreed at this conference shall serve in guiding international efforts on sustainable development for the next decade and a half till 2030. Part of the Zimbabwean delegation included Minister of Finance and Economic Development of Zimbabwe, Patrick Chinamasa, Yvonne Shapeta and Mcleo Mapfumo of the Zimbabwe United Nations Association (ZUNA), as well as Itai Rusike from Community Working Group on Health (CWGH) among others. Yvonne Shapeta from the ZUNA office shared her views on the whole experience saying much work is needed to be done on the ground in Zimbabwe to ensure we achieve any of these resolutions.
Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNPF) Dr. Babatunde Osotimehi commended the final resolutions of the conference, saying it was of great benefit to women all over the world as it spoke of ending cases of preventable maternal death and promoted maternal health. Dr Osotimehi went on to say,
“By this action, world leaders have told today’s 10-year-old girl that, by the time she is 25, they would have catalyzed additional investments in her education, health and rights so she can fulfill her potential and hold up half the sky in pursuit of development.”
This conference will be followed by the Summit on Sustainable Development in New York in September where countries will adopt a new sustainable development agenda.
Main image from thefbomb.org