150. There are considerable differences in women’s and men’s access to and opportunities to exert power over economic structures in their societies. In most parts of the world, women are virtually absent from or are poorly represented in economic decision-making, including the formulation of financial, monetary, commercial and other economic policies, as well as tax systems and rules governing pay. Since it is often within the framework of such policies that individual men and women make their decisions, inter alia, on how to divide their time between remunerated and unremunerated work, the actual development of these economic structures and policies has a direct impact on women’s and men’s access to economic resources, their economic power and consequently the extent of equality between them at the individual and family levels as well as in society as a whole.
Beijing Declaration (1995)
Now, with Paragraph 150, we move into the area of women and the economy. Something less downtrodden-inducing than murder, rape, death, and mayhem. Sometimes, I stay up very late at night after work or extremely early in the morning simply thinking about the number who have died each day. It’s a staggering number set if you look into them, whether by the hour, the day, the week, the month, or the year.
It’s time like these that soothe the mind as the heart softens. It’s a realization of the transience of life. Looking and reading on the level of extent of suffering in the light of human rights violations seems no different, these become hints at the triviality in the number of human beings and the preciousness in each one.
As we move into economics, it is important, I feel, to reflect on the previous sections of documents like this in order to proportion concern and balance the overall perspective on the sets of issues. In due course, an integrated perspective becomes part of looking at the issues of human rights for women and girls.
Paragraph 150 of the Beijing Declaration does not waste space with a special focus on the “considerable differences” between men and women in the “access to and opportunities to exert power over economic structures in their societies.’ We can break this down into the level of difference and the economic structures themselves.
Regarding the level of the difference, a significant difference here focuses on the levels of the differences between both the finances available to women and men as well as the institutions acting as pathways. Some of these might be various commercial industries, government policies, even tax systems. With these, too, the difference leads to “considerable” economic differences.
Those economic structures as the pathways to economic success or failure as probabilities leads to the differentials. The questions arise as to what are the economic structures in more precise terms. The claims of Paragraph 150 are quite large in fact, as in “most parts of the world” for women being “virtually absent from or… poorly represented in economic decision-making…” These claims to individuals who may know more about the issues facing women may not seem as controversial.
When individuals are raised by the old or the older, especially women, in a community, there are some interesting realizations for others that can seem as if truisms for you. In that, one can see the issues more clearly as if the eyes of another have connected with one’s own. The “economic structures” identified within Paragraph 150 are “financial, monetary, commercial and other economic policies.” These policies as contact-points of pathways towards “considerable differences” between men and women in economic outcomes.
If a policy deals with finances as a municipal or federal level, or with monetary concerns, even commercial interests in regards to decision-making, these will inevitably have an impact on women. However, if the same policies set about a disjunction for men and women, whether directly or indirectly, then the policies will have sex-discriminatory effects in some manner as those “economic structures” leading to “considerable differences.” In this sense, they are the differences in the kinds of economic policies, i.e., governance and legal structures as “economic structures,” within “most parts of the world” leading to “women… virtually absent from or… poorly represented in economic decision-making.”
The other facet identified is “tax systems and… pay” policies. Those “governing” the pay and the built for the tax systems in a society. My suspicion is the issues for women in these economic contexts becomes not what the policies explicitly state, but, rather, that which they do not state or leave out as gendered considerations.
If we take the armed forces example, then there are some clear issues dealing with the ways in which the lack of a gendered frame or lens on conflicts can lead to some clear blind spots about the plight of women and women’s rights, e.g., the majority of civilian or non-combatant casualties being women.
While having these “economic structures” and “considerable differences” become issues in and of themselves, another context is the ways in which the policies influence the decisions men and women make within a society. If some economic governance and policies structures provide a basis impacting on family formation, on childrearing, on childcare availability, on educational access, on small business loan status, and the like, then, inevitably, this will come to impact the lives of women in a large number of ways, including, but not limited to, the economic outcomes in life.
Women’s time may be divided or expended in ways different than men’s as a result, as naturally can be seen and is known in the cases of childrearing, caring for the old, the sick, and the infirm in the families, und so weiter. These are the lives and livelihoods of women at stake more often, while impacting men and women, but harming the lives of women more than others. When it states, “[It’s about] how to divide their time between remunerated and unremunerated work, the actual development of these economic structures and policies has a direct impact on women’s and men’s access to economic resources, their economic power and consequently the extent of equality between them at the individual and family levels as well as in society as a whole.”
The kinds and forms of work do not have to be those for pay. Indeed, unpaid work is a form of labour without recompense with largely dealing with them. Men deal with their own unremunerated work and this deserves focus in an appropriate venue. However, this series focuses on women’s issues from the perspective and rights and contextualizations. The ratios are different and the formulations of the differentials are – ahem – different in terms of the unremunerated work too. Men tend to do the dirtier and deadlier jobs, while women take on more of the lifelong, ongoing, and caretaking tasks throughout familial and personal networks.
These are important considerations in the use of one’s time, the pay for one’s time, and the policies implicitly supporting or not the recompense for one’s time or the influence of policies on how one can live a fulfilling life with economic equality.
In this, if one wants to comprehend the importance of voting in a democratic society, then one can simply look at the effects of voting on a) who gets elected, b) how those elected formulate policies, and c) how those policies create “economic structures” leading to “considerable differences” between “men and women in “most parts of the world.”
(Updated 2020-07-07, only use the updated listing, please) Not all nations, organizations, societies, or individuals accept the proposals of the United Nations; one can find similar statements in other documents, conventions, declarations and so on, with the subsequent statements of equality or women’s rights, and the important days and campaigns devoted to the rights of women and girls too:
- The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the Preamble, Article 16, and Article 25(2).
- Convention Against Discrimination in Education (1960) in Article 1.
- The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966) in Article 3, Article 7, and Article 13.
- International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966).
- Some general declarations (not individual Declaration or set of them but announcement) included the UN Decade for Women (1976-1985).
- Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (1979) and the Optional Protocol (1999).
- Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1984).
- The Declaration on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women and the optional protocol (1993).
- Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (1995), Five-year review of progress (2000), 10-year review in 2005, the 15-year review in 2010, and the 20-year review in 2015.
- United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000), and the UN Security Council additional resolutions on women, peace and security: 1820 (2008), 1888 (2009), 1889 (2009), 1960 (2010), 2106 (2013), 2122 (2013), 2242 (2015), and 2467 (2019).
- Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children (2000).
- The Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa or the “Maputo Protocol” (2003).
- Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence or the Istanbul Convention (2011) Article 38 and Article 39.
- UN Women’s strategic plan, 2018–2021
- 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, emphasis on the entirety of the goals with a strong focus on Goal 5
- 2015 agenda with 17 new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) (169 targets for the end to poverty, combatting inequalities, and so on, by 2030). The SDGs were preceded by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) from 2000 to 2015.
- The Spotlight Initiative as another important piece of work, as a joint venture between the European Union and the United Nations.
- February 6, International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation is observed.
- February 11, International Day of Women and Girls in Science is observed.
- June 19, Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict is observed.
- June 23, is International Widows’ Day is observed.
- August 26, International Women’s Equality Day is observed.
- October 11, International Day of the Girl Child is observed.
- October 15, International Day of Rural Women is observed.
- November 25, International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women is observed.
Guidelines and Campaigns
- Gender Inclusive Guidelines, Toolbox, & United Nations System-wide Strategy on Gender Parity.
- Say No, UNiTE, UNiTE to End Violence against Women, Orange the World: #HearMeToo (2018), and the 16 days of activism.
Women and Men Women’s Rights Campaigners
- Abby Kelley Foster
- Angela Davis
- Anna Julia Cooper
- Audre Lorde
- Barbara Smith
- Bell Hooks
- Claudette Colvin
- Combahee River Collective
- Ella Baker
- Fannie Lou Hamer
- Harriet Tubman
- Ida B. Wells
- Lucy Stone
- Maria Stewart
- Matilda Joslyn Gage
- Rosa Parks
- Shirley Chisholm
- Sojourner Truth
- Susan B. Anthony
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