The United Nations have adopted this weekend the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that set the global development agenda for the coming 15 years. The agenda is presented in conjunction with a “Global Leaders’ Meeting on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment: A Commitment to Action” that took place on Sunday, which aims to commit governments to accelerate implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (BPfA) that member states adopted 20 years ago.
WIDE+, a European feminist network of gender specialists, women’s rights advocates and activists, women’s rights organizations and development NGOs, calls on governments to adopt policies that will transform the current economic system. Only a new global development paradigm will ensure that women’s rights are protected. The newly adopted SDGs agenda does not redress systemic issues and does not do enough to combat the global backlash against women’s human rights.
In light of the SDGs and the renewed commitment of governments to the BPfA, WIDE+ publishes today its proposals to revitalize an encompassing women’s rights agenda. The report is the result of the meetings WIDE+ organized in Barcelona, Spain, on 17 and 18 June this year, financed through the Spanish and Catalan Development Agency (Plataforma 2015 y más and ACCD). The reports, available in English, Spanish and Catalan, can be accessed here:
All the issues covered in the BPfA are still relevant for today’s feminist agenda. However, using knowledge and perspectives from across the world, it is necessary to widen and deepen many of the aspects covered to address the current backlash. The past decennia has led to a development model that is more and more framed as the ‘marketization of everything’. There is a continued proliferation of free trade agreements and policies that lead to resource-grabbing and growing inequalities. At the same time, today there are ideologies and social movements that support neo-conservative and even fundamentalist ideas and values, which are opposed to those that women’s movements across the globe have for decades been striving for: gender equality, reproductive rights, women’s bodily integrity and rights to economic agency.
A new paradigm of global development should integrate alternative models of economic growth with policies that decrease inequalities and discrimination. An alternative economy redefines the concept of work and re-organizes unpaid care work. Many policy makers focus on women’s limited access to the paid economy, without fully recognizing women’s huge contributions to the unpaid economy, as producers, as agricultural workers, and key sustainers of human livelihood. Women’s work is typically unpaid or underpaid and undervalued by the current market economy.
Feminists need to constantly expand their knowledge about the challenges posed by current economic, financial and trade policies and their impacts on women’s human rights. This analysis should be connected to the analysis of other areas where a backlash on women’s rights is experienced.
Bodily autonomy, encompassing sexual and reproductive rights, health, protection and education and the need to eradicate all types of sexual abuse, gender based violence and harmful practices, is a necessary condition for gender equality. Women’s bodily autonomy needs to be included in the conceptualization of an alternative economic agenda since the current patriarchal economic system has a huge impact on women’s bodies.
European feminism also entails advocating against racist and Eurocentric policies, such as the closing of borders, asylum quotas, etc. A human rights based approach on migration should be advocated for that includes feminist perspectives and respect for international human rights conventions, such as the Refugee Convention.
In the context of ongoing democratic struggles in Europe, and while struggling to be loud voices in European and global debates, feminists are fighting the criminalization of the women’s rights movements, like the GAG Act in Spain prohibiting demonstrations.