Women in the programme

January 21, 2007 at 12:18 pm Leave a comment

One of the criticisms raised in FEMNET’s report on the WSF was that women’s voices were marginalized within ‘women’s issues’.

This year, on the basis of wide-scale consultation, the programme has been divided into nine ‘thematic terrains’. In brief these are:
1. Peace and justice
2. Anti-globalisation
3. Natural Resources
4. Knowledge and Information
5. Diversity and Equality
6. Human Rights
7. Self-determination
8. Sustainable economy
9. Real democracy

In a quick trawl of the 1,000+ activities I’ve noted a few points. Firstly, and not surprisingly, categorisation of events is a little ad hoc – and that’s because, of course, they tend to overlap.

There are many events addressing recognised gender-specific issues – such as violence against women (VAW), HIV/AIDS, sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR), female genital mutilation (FGM), gay and lesbian rights; and women’s rights at the grassroots in Africa – which are included under category 5:

‘Ensuring dignity, defending diversity, guaranteeing gender equality and eliminating all forms of discrimination.’

In addition, it’s also good to see that under category 5 there are events like the African Women’s Millennium Initiative debate on macro-economic policies.

Conversely, it’s encouraging that organisations are addressing gender issues in the other thematic areas. For example, the African Labour Research Network’s session on Gender and Labour Market Liberalisation in Africa (coded under Anti-globalisation).

And that women’s organisations are active in other categories, particularly in looking at women’s use of media and the internet as advocacy tools for women’s rights (Knowledge and Information).

But what’s most interesting is the dominance of the Human Dignity and Human Rights Caucus (category 6) in the whole programme. The WSF encourages and facilitates organisations to form coalitions of interest, in order to plan their involvement more strategically. This is done through the online Open Space facility, which can be accessed by all registered organisations.

A great many of the activities I would like to attend are coded under Human Rights. These cover the range of issues from:

  • Peace Women Across the Globe talking about how to address the continued marginalisation of women in peace processes
  • Friedrich Ebert Stiftung looking at gender, food, agriculture and trade: an alternative agenda
  • A film on human (women) trafficking organised by the Gender Equality Coalition
  • The Grandmothers’ Dialogues set up by the Sahiba Sisters to look at ‘the multiple facets of citizenship’
  • The World Court of Women on Poverty
  • The African Women’s Economic Policy Convention
  • The coordination and mobilisation of anti-G8 activities, ensuring African participation.
  • It’s not clear – and it may or may not be important – whether this broad compass of the HDHR Caucus heralds a change in discourse as regards women’s rights and gender relations; whether it’s a change in strategy; or simply due to the energy and vision of individuals who drew all these organisations and activities together.

    I’ve only just arrived and things started slowly this morning. But what does seem clear is that women’s groups are here to network, build alliances and to strategise – and they’ve already started. There are many organisations already working in partnership to reach a wider audience, both at the forum and in the outside world.

    It’s going to be interesting to see how women’s involvement here influences the planning of future alternative action on day four of the forum.

    I’ll blog in more detail later on the events I’ve attended today.

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    Entry filed under: Diversity and equality, Human rights and dignity.

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