Unite and Fight for Jobs, Wages and Land

A call to grassroots women 20 years after the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action

By GABRIELA Philippines
Supported by GABRIELA-USA, Migrante International
Kilusang Mayo Uno, Kadamay

Twenty years since the Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action was adapted by the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995 and the UN General Assembly in 1996, governments, international community, and civil society have responded and taken action in 12 critical areas to empower women and girls at varying levels.

There have been three reviews, to date in 2000, 2005 and 2010 and each review came up with reinforced commitment to empower women and girls in the next five years. While these efforts have provided reforms and opportunities for individuals and some groups of women to participate in various development areas, these however failed to address the full advancement of poor and working class women.

Furthermore, actions on the 12 critical areas have dissipated focus on the vital issues confronting poor and working class women.Although UN mentions economic, political, and social factors that contribute to the gender gap, it is silent on the impact of neoliberal policies that have created the 1% who controls the global wealth. It fails to articulate that the unregulated hoarding of resources by powerful nations, individuals, and multinational corporations have produced the impoverished condition of women and their families.

In the past 20 years, more and more women have gone jobless, are in contractual work with wages and family incomes continuously eroding.  In the Philippines, seven in every ten (69.7%) persons who are not in the labor force are women. Almost three million are in contractual work with an average rise of 9.73% in the last five years. A large number are in the informal sector barely earning a dollar a day to feed their families. An increasing number are forced to work overseas, comprising half of the 12 million migrant workers. 

In 20 years, maternal deaths have barely been reduced, with a persistent high rate of maternal mortality ratio at 221 per 100,000 live births. This is still far from the 2015 MDG target of 52 per 100,000 live births. Children mortality remains high. Girls and boys are unable to finish their elementary education and have to work to be able to contribute to the family income. Although records show a higher number of girls going to school, only 20.56% of those who enroll are unable to complete their elementary schooling while 17.04% are not able to finish secondary level. 

Homes and lands are appropriated by big corporations and landowners. Multinational corporations have assaulted farmlands, forests and ancestral lands that displaced hundreds of thousands of families. Environmental destruction caused by massive exploration of corporations has resulted to disasters that destroy lives, homes and livelihoods.

US military intervention has exacerbated local armed conflicts and creates further displacement of women and their families. As of June 2014, 39,800 individuals in the Philippines have been forcibly displaced. Presence of military troops in schools and communities has distressed 141,490 residents, aggravating violations of human rights.State mechanisms breed corruption and impunity, worsening violence and crimes against women. Every 53 minutes, a woman or girl is sexually abused and 72.8% of those abused are minors. Alarmingly, only 59% are filed in court and very few cases have been resolved. Rape and other sexual violence committed by men in uniform and persons in authority are also on the rise.Government actions and mechanisms have failed because of the free market framework.

Neoliberal policies have been prescribed to get out of the great financial crisis that persists to this day. IMF and WB impositions have continued to take toll on the people’s jobs, wages and social services. As long as the policy framework of free market and imperialist globalization is in place, empowerment and participation of women and girls in the productive life of society will always be restricted. Although governments have attempted to mainstream gender, the marginalization of grassroots women persists because neoliberal policies remain in place.

But it is precisely in the poor and working class women that real empowerment lies.  Their political will and courage would in the end push governments, the international community, and civil society to challenge the long standing blocks to advancement. 

Twenty years since the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, women from the grassroots have persisted in their movement to resist imperialist globalization. They have continuously fought for jobs, wages, land and rights for as long as the state and civil society subscribe to imperialist globalization. 

True empowerment for women can only be achieved if there is real development, if the overwhelming majority of the world’s women cease to live burdened and battered by a global economic order that breeds poverty, injustice and inequity. Until a new development model—one that puts a premium on people over profit, real empowerment rather than development only for a few — is created and realized, only then can women be truly empowered.

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