Globalisation: The new battleground for women’s rights

Globalisation: The new battleground for women’s rights

States increasingly rely on standardised political and economic regulation to attract new trading and investment streams. Optimists believe that this contact between developed and developing economies will help challenge any social inequalities that exist in the latter. Here, Michael Marsh explores whether or not globalisation has been a force for good in international efforts to achieve gender equality.

Although antiquated definitions of globalisation were restricted to the economic integration of geographies, contemporary interpretations encompass a much broader understanding of the phenomenon. Sociologists now argue that globalisation influences global political governance and social dependency; the debate surrounding its effect on gender equality has intensified.

Lars Plougmann/Creative commons license
Lars Plougmann/Creative commons license

Globalisation certainly has its merits – one could argue that merely by increasing opportunities for trade and economic growth, more jobs are made available for the disadvantaged. This is generally accepted as a key way for developed countries to positively influence elements of gender discrimination in less developed ones. Contrarily, some argue that these opportunities are not distributed evenly and could potentially disadvantage previously protected segments of society; in some instances, even marginalising entire regions of the world economy. There are those who take this argument further: Globalisation not only leads to aggravating pre-existing inequalities, but encourages new forms of discrimination.

 

Breaking through traditional barriers

In the 1980s, data from the United States indicated that where the country had improved opportunities for international trade, the creation of more diverse, fierce markets led to a general increase in female wages. Further data from that period also evidenced that the net effect of globalisation encouraged the notion of equal pay for equal work.

To the casual observer, this is a convincing argument; globalisation is an important emancipatory vehicle for women. The logic follows that open trade agreements lead to increased market competition and, as a result, employers have to consider adopting more liberal employment practices in order to keep up with global rivals – after all, it’s costly to maintain discriminatory barriers.

More broadly, increased contact between developed and less developed economies is seen as another way to challenge traditional patriarchal systems. Over the past decades, combatting entrenched sexism has been high on the agenda for numerous international organisations. The ratification of many international treaties and conventions, and the incorporation of nondiscriminatory clauses in some more general economic agreements, have united over 187 countries in efforts to combat a variety of barriers to women. These include concerns surrounding equal pay and employment discrimination. An example of this is the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which led to increased employment, a rise in literacy rates and parliamentary participation, contributing to a reduction in absolute gender inequalities.

Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung/Creative commons license
Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung/Creative commons license

Entrenching the status quo

Whilst these are convincing arguments for some, there is always another side of the coin, and some would say the relationship between the developing world and more developed countries is defined by exploitation.

In developing economies, women’s rights are often the first casualties of trade liberalisation. Attempting to improve their economic and social rights can be an expensive policy decision – and for businesses, investing in countries that strictly enforce ridged regulations to alleviate inequality becomes a less appealing venture when other opportunities in a globalised market are available. In an attempt to attract investment, countries may then find themselves placing costly ideas, such as women’s rights, on the back burner.

Dr. Christa Wichterich, a leading anthropologist, agrees. She argues that the “globalised women is burnt up as a natural fuel: she is the piece-rate work in export industries”. She explains further that women are regarded as voluntary workers who are forced to absorb the shocks of social cutbacks and structural adjustment which naturally stem from globalisation.

Although this viewpoint may be perceived as somewhat radical, it is difficult to ignore empirical studies which lend support to it. For example, research into the impact of globalisation on the role of women in India found that women were not benefiting from advancements in the economy as the opportunities afforded conflicted with the social expectations of the area. Instead, women were being forced out of their traditional    occupations: agriculture, livestock and animal husbandry, which had become more mechanised. Once removed, women found themselves thrown into more exploitative roles which demanded unsociable working hours – all the while, still expected to fulfil the expected position of wife and mother.

The battle lines are drawn

The debate surrounding gender equality and globalisation is far from over. Whilst it can encourage legislative changes which champion women’s rights, its efficacy relies on the extent to which less developed economies are open to international influences.

Although positive changes can certainly take effect, it’s difficult to extrapolate from these that women are better off in absolute terms. In countries such as Iran, for example, international efforts to realise gender equality have led to more traditional gender norms being legislated for.

Even where countries have shown an openness to engage, some women have been forced into exploitative employment as companies compete to lower production costs. Ideally then, as globalisation continues, policy makers should be mindful of the ways discrimination can occur; in this way, they can create an enhanced form of globalisation which strives to inhibit discriminatory practice.


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.

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The European Union & Development

The European Union & Development

Jonathan Purcell looks at the relationship between the European Union and developing countries, as well as how the EU helps and hinders increased globalisation and development.

The mainstream media has been carefully and diligently analysing all of the effects of the EU (European Union). Of course, this is to be expected as these are the areas where the effects will be felt most by readers, but the effects of Brexit will be felt worldwide, as is the way in an increasingly globalised world.

I have always been confident of the positive impacts that the EU has on Britain. However, one issue regarding the European project is the Common External Tariff (often known simply as the

PROmachiavelliBE/Creative Commons License
PROmachiavelliBE/Creative Commons License

CET). In simple terms, this means that any good made outside of Europe has a charge imposed on it if anyone living in the EU wants to buy it. This means that developing countries have often been hampered by the EU because the tariff makes goods outside of the common marketmore expensive than goods made within the union.

Therefore, if the European Union were to be dissolved, it is likely that the world would become more equal. (Having said that, I’m not sure if this was the main thought at the forefront of the minds of 17 million Brexit voters last Thursday!)

Also, even though the breakup of the European Union may be beneficial for developing countries, Britain leaving the European Union is not necessarily the same as the European Union being abolished. Indeed, one of the biggest questions of Brexit is whether or not it is the catalyst for other countries to leave the EU. I think that the United Kingdom is not the centrepiece of the European project, and the EU will survive Britain’s departure. Assuming this, then developing countries would see very little increase in trade as 27 countries in Europe will still be imposing tariffs against them. This means that Brexit will not drastically increase development in less developed countries.

Indeed, there is also the question of whether or not the European Union increases or decreases globalisation. The EU was not set up specifically to promote globalisation. This would be difficult considering the Treaty of Rome predated the concept of globalisation by at least 15 years. Having said this, there is very much the sense that the EU has come to represent more than an economic agreement. The EU has evolved into a celebration of European culture and unity shared by European nations. Indeed this evolution of the EU is part of the reason why many Britons became more and more wary of the EU over time. Regardless, what does all this mean for globalisation?

Bill Bedzrah/Creative Commons License
Bill Bedzrah/Creative Commons License

Certainly, the EU has strived to promote cohesion between European nations. Whether or not it has succeeded is certainly put in doubt by Thursday’s vote but the intention was certainly there. However, even if the EU was successful in promoting European unity, this could actually hamper a globalised world. If globalisation strives to remove national barriers, then where does the EU fit in if it plans to break down national barriers but strengthen continental barriers? It seems that this is a matter of opinion.

The UK may benefit most from globalisation within the EU. Instead of pursuing trade deals with the EU and the rest of the world, it should promote expansion of the EH itself.

The European Union has dabbled with expansion beyond European borders in the past. Indeed, Greenland was an EU member until 1985, when fishing disagreements led to Greenland’s departure. More recently, Turkey had attempted to join the EU which was so infamously used by Vote Leave. Greenland is in North America (just) and Turkey is in both Europe and Asia. The proposed TTIP trade agreement between the USA and the EU is perhaps a further sign of EU ambition.

Perhaps the solution to promoting globalisation and promoting development is the same. The continued expansion of the European Union into the world union involving all nations could solve both of these issues.

However, this would take global coordination to rectify all geopolitical issues, conflicts and tensions worldwide.

It would also require British cooperation with the EU.


I’m not sure if either seem likely.

 


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.

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Civil Rights: A Retrospective

Civil Rights: A Retrospective

Injustice plagues the world and is one of, if not the biggest issues of our time. How can different societies create inclusivity and offer equal opportunity to its entire people. Fairness, equality and good standards of living drive the successful development of communities and entire nations – Raphael Kiyani takes a look back on the successes of the US Civil Rights movement and how it can provide a template with which other marginalised groups can mobilise.

What we must make integral to the growth and development of nations is their ability to be fair and inclusive to all. However, the nature of power structures across the planet, economically and politically, have largely not facilitated this in any real way. Throughout history it is the many, the people that have had to force change and liberate themselves rather than the economic and political power-brokers gifting it. Waiting for the crumbs to fall from the top table is a strategy that has led to starvation and destruction. We have a wide spectrum of groups and peoples searching for greater freedoms. From the poor and destitute in developing markets, LGBT groups across Eastern Europe, democracy protestors in the Far East, the Kurdish, Palestinians,  indigenous people everywhere – etc.

Can these growing demands of people around the world to have their lives, communities and cultures be treated equally benefit from that which has gone before? Can they, if you like, stand on the shoulders of giants?

One of the most successful movements to eradicate injustice was, of course, the Civil Rights movement in the US and what they achieved is a shining example of what other oppressed people can replicate (and have done). Whilst it is an American example, the international ramifications are essential to our understanding of oppression and how to overcome it.

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U.S. Embassy The Hague/Creative Commons License

The Civil Rights movement put sustained and popular pressure on the political establishment in order to achieve wide reaching change secured through legislation. Through mass political campaigning they achieved just that with a series of legislative measures that were passed through Congress. I would contend that these were incredible achievements as not only did they change popular opinion and the mind-set of people generally but they also changed the very law itself. From the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which tackled various forms of discrimination, through to the Voting Rights Act  of 1965 which outlawed the use of literacy tests to stop Black voters. As a result of the Voting Rights Act thousands of minority citizens were added to the electoral register and as a result of this more minority citizens were elected into positions of power.

The successful organisation of an important civil rights group – the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) – was a monumentally huge success for the civil rights movement with a whole host of positive factors. Firstly, it proved just how effective launching a social campaign could be on the establishment – on a simple level it demonstrated that oppressed groups could generate real social change. Secondly, it provided a further catalyst for the civil rights movement to expand its operation with many people joining the cause after historic court decisions.

The Civil Rights movement is reflected in, for example, the movements of indigenous people around the world as they campaign for their lives and cultures to be treated equally. Globalisation has been a double-edged sword; it has allowed legislative bodies such as the United Nations to issue protective declarations. However, it has led to negative impacts on their natural environments – a more globalised economy has allowed trans-national corporations the freedom to exploit due to increasing demand for national resources. Governments too, have relied on extraction of natural resources for export to generate foreign exchange to pay for foreign debt.

U.S. Embassy The Hague/Creative Commons License
U.S. Embassy The Hague/Creative Commons License

The Civil Rights movement has had many and various achievements throughout its many years and is still bearing the fruits of it actions today with the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement. Its biggest achievements have shaped society fundamentally, have shaped the law and the political process and have paved the way for other social causes to follow in their path. The history of the Civil Rights movement can be seen as an inspiring message for all – that an oppressed people can succeed against the status quo.

The United Nations Declaration on Indigenous Peoples should act as a beacon for all marginalised groups, when they say that:

“Affirming that indigenous peoples are equal to all other peoples, while recognizing the right of all peoples to be different, to consider themselves different, and to be respected as such”

Globalisation has always been referred to as a largely destructive forces. Companies ravaging across borders. Tax avoidance, the exploitation of emerging markets. But, perhaps, when people organise to take back their power, backed up by global technology such as social media,etc, and global bodies designed to raise awareness, then globalisation can become what it needs to be.

A tool of the people for the people.

 


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.

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Every child in school: how Westernised education is shrinking knowledge in the 21st century

Every child in school: how Westernised education is shrinking knowledge in the 21st century

The globalisation of education is underway, on a scale unprecedented in human history. While its promises are many, Blog Editor Louisa Jones reveals the negative consequences of teaching every child to think alike, and explores an alternative approach in Listuguj First Nation, Quebec, Canada.

 

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© Julie Lafrance/Creative Commons license

A ‘modern education’ is the most highly coveted accomplishment in the world today. It spells social mobility, riches and acceptance on the international stage. Free elementary education was enshrined in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and currently forms a crucial part of the United Nations’ poverty reduction strategy through the Millennium Development Goals.

With the weight of the world’s decision-makers behind it, few have questioned why the educational model reproduced from Chile to China continues to follow the rational mindset of nineteenth-century Europe. Book-based, compartmentalised and obsessed with testing, the Western-biased syllabus that once moulded youth into ideal colonial citizens today encourages them to abandon their own cultures, languages and environments in favour of an unsustainable urban consumer culture, according to Helena Norberg-Hodge, Director of the International Society for Ecology and Culture.

Keep reading →


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.

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Nearby, far away: reflections on globalisation in the Spiti Valley

The Spiti Valley in the Indian Himalayas. By Louisa Jones

After returning from the Spiti Valley in the Indian Himalayas, DiA volunteer Louisa Jones reflects on the effect that globalisation is having on the area

We’d been introduced to the inimitable Indian head-wobble during our orientation. At first this fluid, non-committal response to almost every conceivable communication was difficult to decipher, not least to replicate ourselves. But just a week later, wedged astride the hard middle seat of a run-down 4×4, arms braced for impact and with the constant thud of metal on rock chipping away at my nervous system, I was its involuntary master. Since 3am we’d been rattling along the narrow track from Manali to Kaza as the driver wrestled against the loose rubble of hairraising switchbacks and triumphant passes. This journey of just 132 miles would take us a tortuous 12 hours. Blocking our path, ridge after ridge of megalithic desolation. The sheer gravity of rock seemed to press in on us from every angle. Our crude trail was dwarfed within this colossal landscape, barely leaving a scratch on the brilliant diamond of the Transhimalaya. Yet it is a lifeline for the 10,000 inhabitants of Spiti, a desert valley cradled amongst these foreboding mountains, and our final destination.

Keep reading →


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.

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