Friday, 8 May 2009

According to Rebecca Tiessen, ‘gender mainstreaming’ is pinko-speak for ‘integrating gender concerns into the mainstream. GM was initiatied in response to criticisms that women and men do not enjoy equal … rights. GM is … understood … as a process for transforming institutions and organizations in order to promote gender equality.’ (According to Wikipedia, it’s also ‘an example of Eurospeak, in this case a coarse, Germanic juxtaposition of nouns not properly encountered among Anglophone peoples.’ I’m pretty sure the Wiki-writer wanted to use ‘pinko-speak’ there but was thwarted by the pitiless jackboot of political correctness.) GM aims to achieve gender equality; along the way it would quite probably also achieve world peace and an end to poverty. As a priority, it probably ranks somewhere above Post Office privatisation.

Global poverty and inequality are gendered issues. (I don’t know of anyone who disputes this, but if you have special sources of advanced eccentricity, please let me know.) First, women and girls bear the brunt of poverty. They have higher mortality rates and fewer resources (money, land, power, food). Second, when the lot of a woman or girl is improved, the ripples spread throughout her community. A woman who is educated will pass her learning on to her children and neighbours; a woman who has money will use it to improve her children’s diets and education; a woman who has good care during pregnancy and childbirth will raise children who are healthier and more resilient.

This much is orthodoxy. The Millennium Development Goals are lousy with female-dominated aims: gender parity in education (2), female empowerment (3), child mortality (4), maternal mortality (5), HIV and malaria (largely diseases of the young and the female in Africa) (6). Although some progress has been made, very few of the targets associated with the MDGs are on course to be met by 2015, and MDG5 (maternal mortality) has seen the least progress of all.

There is some cheerful news. According to ActionAid’s excellent piece on women and MDGs, Bangladesh and Nepal have dramatically improved female health and education access using targeted policies and political commitment. Burkina Faso, India, Mozambique and Tanzania have all made great strides in girls’ education. In Rwanda, more than half of parliamentary representatives are women.

But the overall picture is less comfortable, and is only made more urgent by the effect of the global recession on women; when you’re already living on the edge, you suffer disproportionately from even small economic shocks. So what, as some bearded fella once asked, is to be done? And how appropriate is it for Westerners to lecture other countries about gender equality? As a sop to those who have complained that my posts are too long, I’ll get on to this next time.

No comments:

Post a Comment