Feminist and Social Alternatives to the Development Agenda

By Rosabel Agirregomezkorta

The workshop ‘Women’s Rights in Development: Feminist and Social Alternatives to the Development Agenda’ was held during the XXII Latin-American Prime Minister’s and Government’s Summit, in Cádiz, Spain. The workshop, which was held on 17 November 2012, was organized by the Spanish WIDE Platform (WIDE-E), the NGO for Development Network (CONGDE), the regional and national gender group’s network (GGEA network) and the feminist network Marea Violeta-Málaga.

Why did we meet in Cádiz?

We publicly wanted to express our voices to the Heads of Governments from Latin America who were celebrating a Summit that centred exclusively on strengthening economic growth and productivity based on a model that does not support democracy or civil participation, weakens the rights of its citizens and nullifies women’s rights.

What are our objectives?

We brought together a variety of organizations, collectives and networks. We were with participants from international cooperations, feminist organizations, migrant worker organizations, etc. as well as independently organized activists from Spain and Latin America so that we could meet each other, debate our ideas and propose alternatives and feminist resistances to the crises.

What conclusions and key points we reached?

The debate was focus on the following 3 issues/axis:

1)       Developmental models;

2)       Patriarchal Offensive: Sexual and Reproductive Rights; and

3)       Patriarchal Offensive: VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN.

Axis 1: Developmental models

  • Many concepts and paradigms are now questioned, such as Development, Democracy, and the Welfare State.
  • We face the return of the idea that development means economic growth. This comes with the push to consolidate the private sector as a key participant in development.
  • It is unacceptable that gender has a small role in the development agendas: women’s rights are an essential element when we are considering development.
  • We cannot return to revise our feminist agendas and start again from zero. We must fight for the minimums that we agreed upon and continue forward: without Women’s Rights there are no Human Rights.
  • We continue to believe in cooperation based on women’s empowerment and the transformation of gender roles.
  • We must decolonize our imaginations and begin to create strategic alternatives such as political action among different collectives.
  • There are alternatives to this development model, like the “Buen Vivir” model which puts people and their relationship with the environment at the centre of politics. From a feminist perspective, we defend those alternative models.
  • There are financial alternatives such as the Women’s Funds that allow us to have less involvement with bureaucracy and national politics.

Axis 2: Patriarchal Offensive: Sexual and Reproductive Rights

  • The patriarchal offensive is again focused on the control of women’s bodies through restrictions on sexual and reproductive rights.
  • The advance made by the Sexual and Reproductive Law in Spain is being threatened by a reform in the law that is lead by government who wants to reduce the scope of the law, thus going against women’s rights to access and their decision rights over abortion. It is also under threat from social changes in which maternity is idealized as being the greatest goal for women. This is a worldwide phenomena favoured mostly by conservative governments, but also a trend seen in progressive governments such as in Nicaragua.
  • The interference of religious fundamentalists threatens the impartiality of government in terms of secularism and the very meaning of democracy.
  • In the majority of Latin American countries, women are still controlled through the control of their bodies.
  • Women are more or less affected by attacks on their sexual and reproductive rights depending their on social status, class, ethnicity, and nationality.
  • The debate is being focused on the rights of non-born children and the idea of maternity as ideal state for women (so they are going to protect it), and forget other aspects of the law such as using it as instrument to legitimatize the freedom of sexual choice and the state’s duty to protect sexually pleasurable and independent lives for women (gays, lesbians, trans….). The political debate on sexual rights narrows it to just maternity.

Axis 3: Patriarchal Offensive: VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN

  • Violence is a manifestation of patriarchal offensives and has a multitude of cultural forms, from the use of sexist language to a multitude of sexist narratives including images, cultural values, etc.
  • The lack of government commitment in its supposed role of protecting Women’s Rights is also a manifestation of violence towards women.
  • The Spanish Law against Gender Violence displays a reductionist perspective on violence by equating all gender violence to domestic violence, thus excluding other types of gender violence.
  • The practical usage of the law is insufficient and minimally effective, as is demonstrated by the high number of mis-estimations (e.g. when the denunciation or complaint made by women is not taken further by prosecutors in the legal procedure) and the requirement for physical proof which makes it hard as well.
  • Migrant women involved in organized sex-trade denounce the violence that they encounter because of their sex, ethnicity, nationality, and administrative reasons linked to their status that causes them to be even more vulnerable when threatened with deportation from Spain.
  • In Latin America, the high rates of inequality hide economic violence against women, which transcends from salary inequality, and which builds an economy based on the unpaid labour of caretakers.
  • Empowerment and the use of networks are strategies to subvert these problems, and are also a way to counter the hegemonic discourse that denies women’s independence.
  • We need to promote collective alliances between migrant women and feminists with the common goal of political action and vindication of the fulfilment of Women’s Rights.

Collective Conclusions  

The crisis has raised doubt on the currently accepted paradigms, such as Development, Democracy and the Welfare State. All these (almost) universally accepted paradigms are being confronted and put in question. For example democracy is proven to be not a real democracy: citizens do not decide and take decisions as we thought before. All these myths are falling before our eyes.

As diverse organizations, we have a common agenda and approach in which the sexual and reproductive rights of women are non-negotiable. We have a common demand to call upon governments to fulfil their commitments to support Women’s Rights through the real implementation of laws.

Facing waves of conservatism, multiple and diverse resistance movements are arising. We are taking back these spaces by proposing developmental models that put Women’s Rights at the centre and ensure compliance. By using feminist pedagogy and creativity, we are able to go far on at all levels and are capable of creating alternatives.

Finally, empowerment and collective action are fundamental ways to advance our self-recognition and the enforcement of our rights.

Link to the video of the Reading of the feminist Manifesto at the Alternative Summit, 17 November 2012, at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7mpplI_83Vg

Link to the full report: Traducción Inglesa Reporte Cádiz Nov 2012

Rosabel Agirregomezkorta, Director at Centro de Estudios e Investigación sobre Mujeres (CEIM), WIDE-E platform Coordinator and WIDE+ Task Force member

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