151. In many regions, women’s participation in remunerated work in the formal and non-formal labour market has increased significantly and has changed during the past decade. While women continue to work in agriculture and fisheries, they have also become increasingly involved in micro, small and medium-sized enterprises and, in some cases, have become more dominant in the expanding informal sector. Due to, inter alia, difficult economic situations and a lack of bargaining power resulting from gender inequality, many women have been forced to accept low pay and poor working conditions and thus have often become preferred workers. On the other hand, women have entered the workforce increasingly by choice when they have become aware of and demanded their rights. Some have succeeded in entering and advancing in the workplace and improving their pay and working conditions. However, women have been particularly affected by the economic situation and restructuring processes, which have changed the nature of employment and, in some cases, have led to a loss of jobs, even for professional and skilled women. In addition, many women have entered the informal sector owing to the lack of other opportunities. Women’s participation and gender concerns are still largely absent from and should be integrated in the policy formulation process of the multilateral institutions that define the terms and, in cooperation with Governments, set the goals of structural adjustment programmes, loans and grants.
Beijing Declaration (1995)
Now, Paragraph 151 is a rather lengthy statement on the rights of women. It focuses on the “remunerated work” in both the “formal” and the “non-formal” labour markets in which there was, circa 1995, rapid change in their structuring and continues to be much in this direction. We’re talking about economic changes tied to some of the informal changes in society via culture. As such, we come to the idea of the “past decade” relative to 1995 and the ways in which the gender roles were beginning to take more of an alternation and switch over at the time, which became more full-swing in the 2010s continuing into 2020.
As it notes, women are working in “agriculture and fisheries” with “micro, small and medium-sized enterprises.” All of which have previously been male-dominated sectors of the economy with women spending more time in the home than anywhere else. Within this contextualization of a historical view of the remunerated work for women, there is a tacit implication on the other side of the partition. That being the ways in which women have previously been still working in sectors of the societies deemed non-remunerable. We can think of examples of childrearing and homecare.
However, as noted, the ‘significant’ changes come from significant changes in the ways in which men and women have related to one another before and now. These changes bring about reduced “gender inequality” while having more of a “bargaining power” with this improved equality of relations between men and women in “economic situations” to, in part, reduce the “difficult” financial contexts for women.
What happens when women lack such “bargaining power” for more gender equality? In turn, and as has been the historical cases, women have had to “accept lower pay and poor working conditions” because of these biases against them. These make them, in rather cold terms, “preferred workers.” These contexts not only seem but are coercive to the disproportionately women entering into them. Women should become more aware of their rights, and demand more of them, too. With knowledge of rights, and a proper fight, the advancement within the workplace can occur, especially in regards to ‘improved pay and working conditions.’
The Beijing Declaration here is arguing for labour rights with a gendered lens. Even at the time, there was a time of some job loss for women, well before the time of COVID-19. Apparently, this didn’t matter as to the profession. This happened whether “professional or skilled women.” And even if acquiring a job of some sort, women enter the “informal sector” due to lack of access or “opportunities” for other forms of employment.
Without a focus on women’s participation in the economy or in the areas of labour rights fights without gendered lens, women’s concerns regarding better pay and better working conditions can be ignored. There should be a focus on women’s capacities of potentialities for positive contributions to the formal and informal economies in the multilateral institutions, the policy formulation, the governments, and the “structural adjustment programmes, loans and grants,” as these provide a basis from which to markedly improve the accessibility of good work and opportunities for implementation of women’s rights and the advancement of gender equality.
(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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