By Nicholas D. Kristof
from The New York Times, August 16,
The central moral struggle of the 19th century
concerned slavery, and that of the 20th
pitted democracy against Nazism, Communism
and other despotic isms. Our own pre-eminent
moral challenge will be to ease the brutality
that kills and maims girls and women across
much of Africa and Asia.
Alas, this summer President Bush is putting the U.S. on the wrong side of the battle lines.
Most outrageous, last month Mr. Bush cut off all $34 million in funds for the United Nations Population Fund, in all 142 countries in which it operates, because of concerns about its role in China. What does this mean on the ground?
An emergency obstetric care program was to begin this year in Burundi, where only one-quarter of births are attended by a trained midwife (almost none by a doctor) and where one woman in eight will die in childbirth.
Because of Mr. Bush's move, however, that program in Burundi has now been canceled — along with plans for midwife training in Algeria, a center to fight AIDS in Haiti and a maternal mortality reduction program in India.
Conservatives are right to object to China's often brutal one-child policy. But only Washington could come up with a solution to Chinese problems that involves killing teenage girls in Burundi.
Aside from cutting off funding for the population agency, the Bush administration is busy devastating third-world women in other ways. It is trying to block a landmark international treaty on the rights of women, even though the State Department initially backed it. The treaty, known as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, or Cedaw, would make no difference in America but would be one more tool to help women in countries where discrimination means death.
The Bush administration is also undercutting international efforts to use conferences to bolster support for rural health care for poor women. For example, the Bushies tied up negotiations for this month's Earth Summit in Johannesburg by insisting that documents be purged of phrases like "reproductive health services" that they think connote abortion.
President Bush has also walloped international family planning efforts by banning the use of American aid to overseas organizations that provide any information about abortions. And while Mr. Bush basked in his promise of $500 million for the global AIDS fund, his administration is making such onerous demands of the fund that none of the money can be used anytime soon.
In one crucial field, the battle against sexual trafficking, it is conservative Christians who have taken the lead in fighting on behalf of third-world women. So on this one issue has Mr. Bush shown any mettle?
No. As a reproachful letter to him from a broad range of conservative leaders pointed out on June 28, the administration record "is one of passive acceptance of the world trafficking status quo."
In the Bush administration, the assumption is that in all these cases the fundamental issue is abortions or sex. It is not.
The central issue is that 500,000 women die each year in pregnancy or childbirth; that 100 million women and girls worldwide are "missing" because they are denied adequate food or medical care, or because they are aborted or killed at birth because they are female; that 60 percent of the children kept out of elementary school are girls; that 130 million girls have undergone genital mutilation; that between one and two million girls and women are trafficked into prostitution annually.
If I'm angry, it's because those figures conjure real faces of people I've met: Aisha Idris, a Sudanese peasant left incontinent after giving birth at 14, with no midwife or prenatal care, to a stillborn child; Mariam Karega, a young woman nursing her dying baby in a Tanzanian village far from any doctor; Sriy, a smart and vibrant 13-year-old Cambodian girl who was sold into prostitution by her stepfather and by now is probably dead of AIDS.
Instead of joining the fight on behalf
of Ms. Idris, Ms. Karega or Sriy, the Bush
administration is allying the U.S. with
the likes of Iran, Sudan and Syria to frustrate
international efforts to save the lives
of some of the most helpless people on earth.
By Tine Rosenberg
The New York Times, August 18, 2002
Globalization is a phenomenon that has remade
the economy of virtually every nation, reshaped
almost every industry and touched billions
of lives, often in surprising and ambiguous
ways. The stories filling the front pages
in recent weeks -- about economic crisis
and contagion in Argentina, Uruguay and
Brazil, about President Bush getting the
trade bill he wanted -- are all part of
the same story, the largest story of our
times: what globalization has done, or has
failed to do.
Globalization is meant to signify integration
and unity -- yet it has proved, in its way,
to be no less polarizing than the cold-war
divisions it has supplanted. The lines between
globalization's supporters and its critics
run not only between countries but also
through them, as people struggle to come
to terms with the defining economic force
shaping the planet today. The two sides
in the discussion -- a shouting match, really
-- describe what seem to be two completely
different forces. Is the globe being knit
together by the Nikes and Microsofts and
Citigroups in a dynamic new system that
will eventually lift the have-nots of the
world up from medieval misery? Or are ordinary
people now victims of ruthless corporate
domination, as the Nikes and Microsofts
and Citigroups roll over the poor in nation
after nation in search of new profits?
The debate over globalization's true nature
has divided people in third-world countries
since the phenomenon arose. It is now an
issue in the United States as well, and
many Americans -- those who neither make
the deals inside World Trade Organization
meetings nor man the barricades outside
-- are perplexed.
When I first set out to see for myself
whether globalization has been for better
or for worse, I was perplexed, too. I had
sympathy for some of the issues raised by
the protesters, especially their outrage
over sweatshops. But I have also spent many
years in Latin America, and I have seen
firsthand how protected economies became
corrupt systems that helped only those with
clout. In general, I thought the protesters
were simply being sentimental; after all,
the masters of the universe must know what
they are doing. But that was before I studied
the agreements that regulate global trade
-- including this month's new law granting
President Bush a free hand to negotiate
trade agreements, a document redolent of
corporate lobbying. And it was before looking
at globalization up close in Chile and Mexico,
two nations that have embraced globalization
especially ardently in the region of the
third world that has done the most to follow
the accepted rules. I no longer think the
masters of the universe know what they are
The architects of globalization
are right that international economic integration
is not only good for the poor; it is essential.
To embrace self-sufficiency or to deride
growth, as some protesters do, is to glamorize
poverty. No nation has ever developed over
the long term without trade. East Asia is
the most recent example. Since the mid-1970's,
Japan, Korea, Taiwan, China and their neighbors
have lifted 300 million people out of poverty,
chiefly through trade.
But the protesters are also right -- no
nation has ever developed over the long
term under the rules being imposed today
on third-world countries by the institutions
controlling globalization. The United States,
Germany, France and Japan all became wealthy
and powerful nations behind the barriers
of protectionism. East Asia built its export
industry by protecting its markets and banks
from foreign competition and requiring investors
to buy local products and build local know-how.
These are all practices discouraged or made
illegal by the rules of trade today.
By Elfie and Nicholas Raymond
of 400 Million Rural Women in Developing
The following report on rural women in developing
countries is drawn from documents and background
studies prepared for the UN's Food and Agriculture
Organization's World Conference on Agrarian
Reform and Rural Development, Rome, Italy,
1979. It served as background paper to the
policy discussions of WCARRD on integrating
rural women more equitably into social and
economic development and thus reduce famines.
Every country in the world has laws to protect women and guarantee
them certain rights. In recent years there have been gains (along with
some setbacks) in school enrollment, in the number of women in the professions,
in the right to family planning, and in freedom of lifestyles for the
urban elites. However, such progress is rarely related to the majority
of women in the developing countries who live in the rural areas.
The lives of most rural women are governed by two basic conditions:
poverty and the triple workload of family, house, and field. An improvement
in their lives would require, above all, a reduction in work, particularly
in the mindless and back-breaking tasks assigned to them in most rural
societies. Yet, because of desperate poverty, women too often are forced
to seek more work, not less. Nearly all studies show that the most basic
of women's problems cannot be solved except through escape from poverty.
Although specific problems of rural women need much more attention,
all issues of agrarian reform and rural development are women's issues.
When the governing body of FAO, the Food and Agriculture Organisation
of the Uited Nations, decided to convene WCARRD, the World Conference
on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development, a special resolution was adopted
calling on the Conference especially to undertake "a systematic analysis
of the situation of rural women" and to identify "measures for achieving
the full incorporation of women in social and economic development processes..."
Such an analysis was undertaken, and it shows how far there is to go
before the goal of "full incorporation" is achieved.
According to statistics gathered from various UN sources, women constitute
from 60 to 80 percent of the agricultural labor force in African and
Asian countries and more than 40 percent in Latin America. As paid and
unpaid laborers, they are responsible for almost all the hoeing,weeding
and transplanting of crops and share with men in the harvest work. They
do most of the food processing at the subsistence farm level, nearly
all spinning and weaving and handicraft production for use and sale,
and most care of small animals. They do most milking of animals,carry
food to men in distant fields, and gather the fuel wood and water for
the home. Far more than is generally known, especially in Africa, they
run farms without the help of men at all.
Yet, the WCARRD studies show that rural women also face problems
beyond poverty and workload which perpetuate their social and economic
marginalization in all developing regions. Among them
- Legal discrimination, particularly in relation to (male)
rights as head of household, ownership of property and inheritance;
- Other obstacles to equality rooted in tradition, cultural attitudes
and customs (often shared by women), even when contrary to law;
- Discrimination in access to productive resources (within the family
as well as in the society at large), membership in group organizations
such as cooperatives, and government programs of land distribution,
credit and skills training;
- Low and/or unequal pay scales for work predominantly performed
by women, and lack of union organization to secure job protection
or bargaining rights;
- Lack of consideration of the effects on women in the introduction
of technology and lack of interest in the development of technology
pertinent to work women perform; and
- Difficulties of rural women of all ages to gain equal access to
education and consequent illiteracy rates of up to 90 percent.
Because of these and other factors, even within the context of rural
poverty overall, women continue to be deprived of true equality. Because
of poverty, however, some forms of discrimination weigh far more heavily
on rural women than others.
Impact of technology
There is increasing evidence that modernization and commercialization
of agriculture and related activities undermine women's earning power
and status in rural society, and at the same time create new inequalities
between sexes. In a fight they can't hope to win, women seem to be pitted
against technological progress
- In most traditional agrarian societies, ploughing is done
by men while seeding, hoeing, weeding, transplanting and much of the
harvesting is left to women. When ploughing is mechanized and acreage
extended, women must work harder and longer to keep up with the new
- Most pesticides are mixed with water before use. While crop spraying
is men's work (like almost all use of new equipment), water supply
is women's, often meaning extra trips to a distant water source in
addition to those for house use.
In these cases, new technology is labor-saving for men, but labor producing
for women. But the dichotomy between the burden of work and the desperate
need for wages continues to be felt. Double cropping in irrigated areas
can increase employment for weeding and transplanting, but both jobs
are underpaid stoop labor. Technology can also eliminate work.
- The introduction of mechanical rice hullers, although
a boon to women through elimination of drudgery, deprives them of
a major source of wages.
- Yarn spinning and cloth making are traditionally done by Asia's
village women in the home, but spinning mechanization and modern textile
industries have wiped out many thousands of jobs.
- Weeding, which traditionally brings women up to four hours of work
a day through long periods of the growing season, can be greatly reduced
by the use of herbicides. (In fact, herbicide use is small in most
developing countries because pay for weeding is so low as to make
chemical use uneconomic.)
Introduction of cash
The work burden-wage need trade-off is thus deeply embedded in conditions
of life under poverty and underdevelopment, but is not much argued by
the poorest women. When technology reduces unpaid work, it is a boon.
When it reduces wage employment, it is resented. But the decisions on
whether, or how quickly, to introduce the technology are almost never
in women's hands.
In the transition from subsistence to commercial farming, women tend
to be hurt in several ways. To begin with, a basic assumption is made
in nearly all countries that cash crop farming is a male preserve. Again
the colonial mentality is at workmen are "supposed" to take care of
business, women to stitch and stir. This assumption, which is also reflected
in official rural development programs of all kinds, magnifies sex inequalities
while reducing women's actual and potential productivity.
On family farms combining cash and subsistence food crops, women are
increasingly called on to spend more and more time in the men's cash
crop fields. Particularly in Africa, this means less time available
for food production, a reduction in women's income from marketing food
surpluses and handicrafts, and greater dependence on men because of
less control over family income. This last point is of great importance,
not least because it upsets the natural balance of the home and family.
Without question, there is also a negative effect on food supply for
the society as a whole. Export-dominated commercial farming (cotton
or tobacco, for example) is steadily taking overland formerly used for
food production - often the most fertile land - and replacing male for
female control in the process. Export opportunities have also led in
many countries to a switch in land use from crops to pasture for cattle
raising, which is again usually men's work.
In commercial farming and related activities where men and women are
engaged as hired labor,sex-role bias is increasing and higher paid jobs
go to male workers. Wage scales for jobs done by women are not commensurate
with value added in the production process, and women workers are rarely
organized in unions to defend their rights.
Beyond field work, modernization of secondary activities such as processing
and marketing usually introduces male control even where the systems
displaced were traditionally governed by women. For example, women do
the milking and making of curds and cheese. Traditionally the marketing
of surpluses provided money outside male control. But dairy cooperatives,
beneficial in other ways, usually mean the introduction of male control
and loss of the women's private income.
Unpaid family labor by women is also dramatically increased by male
migration in search of wage labor, even if the men return home in key
times of the agricultural cycle. Women find themselves de facto (but
not de jure) heads of the households with greatly increased work and
responsibilities. The women farmers are then hampered by lack of legal
decision making power over land held in their husbands' names. Decisions
on what to plant or whether to hire labor often have to wait for a husband's
permission by mail.
Studies in many countries show that remittances from male migrants
can be a substantial support of rural households, but often are not
owing to the difficulty of migrants in finding steady work and the cost
of maintaining separate households. Studies also tend to provide a more
macroeconomic aspect of migration. Movement to the cities facilitates
urban economic activity through the creation of a low-wage labor pool.
At the same time, it is believed that a lower rate of migration would
reduce agricultural productivity. Thus, it can be argued that the unpaid
subsistence farming and other work by women is subsidizing the growth
of both urban and rural economies at no benefit to themselves.
Access to resources
Equity for women in rural societies would require equal access to resources
and control over their use, starting with land. But the workings of
customary and sometimes legal marital and inheritance systems and other
property rights almost always favor men. In reform areas,discrimination
in rights to land is sometimes but not always ended, depending on national
laws governing women's rights.
In some cases, particularly where new land settlements are involved,
land distributions has actually worsened the relative condition of women
because (male) planners have not taken into account women's separate
needs. Where reforms eliminate private plots, for example, the burden
on women is particularly onerous unless all other social and economic
conditions are changed. In some cases, dissatisfaction of women is cited
as a major reason for colonization failure.
Institutional credit schemes, usually tied to the land as security,
are often closed to women farmers, although studies of a few special
women's credit programs show very favorable repayment rates. Official
programs to upgrade women's agricultural or agriculture related skills
are very rare in all developing regions. Such programs as exist are
usually oriented to nutrition and home economics rather than farming
techniques or other forms of income generation.
What can a world conference
Most governments, as well as the United Nations system, have recognized
in principle that equal participation and full integration of women
at all levels of national economic and social life is necessary for
the achievement of sustained development. Recent UN conferences have
given full support to these goals through a number of special resolutions.
Yet, the actual extent of follow through of such good intentions remains
very limited in terms of women, especially in the rural areas.
In a first draft program of action now being considered by governments
in preparation for WCARRD, 13 recommendations are made dealing
with specific women's concerns. The draft calls on the governments to
consider action to
- Ensure equality of legal status
- Repeal those laws which discriminate against women in respect
of right of inheritance,ownership and control of property.
- Adopt measures to ensure women equitable access to land, livestock,
and other productive assets.
- Repeal laws and regulations which inhibit effective participation
of women in economic transactions and in the planning, implementation
and evaluation of rural development programs.
- Ensure full membership and equal voting rights for women in
people's organizations, such as tenants' associations, labor unions,
cooperatives, credit unions, organizations of the beneficiaries
of land reform and other rural development programs.
- Expanding Women's Access to Rural Services
- Provide agricultural inputs and services to women through non-discriminatory
access to existing delivery systems.
- Establish special recruitment and training schemes to increase
the number of women in the training and extension programs of
- Broaden the range of agricultural training and extension programs
to support women's role in activities of agricultural production,
processing, preservation and marketing.
- Women's Participation
- Promote collective action and organization by rural women to
facilitate their participation in the full range of public services
and to enhance their capacity to participate in economic, social
and political development.
- Establish systems to identify and evaluate obstacles to women's
participation and to monitor progress, especially in such areas
as agricultural services, school enrollment, social services,employment
- Establish and strengthen programs to facilitate and ease the
burden of women's household work in order to forward their greater
participation in economic, educational and political activities.
- Improve Educational and Employment Opportunities
- Provide special incentives, such
as reduced fees, for increased enrollment
of girls and women in schools and
- Guarantee equal wage rates for men
and women doing similar work.
- Establish and strengthen formal
and non-formal education opportunities
for rural women, including training
in agricultural activities and support
for better health care and family
PAIN SWALLOWED BY SILENCE was written by Nicholas and Elfie Raymond
and published in "Land, Food and People," the fifth issue
of the newsletter of the World Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural
Development. The thirteen points of WCARRD'S Program of Action quoted
above were adopted in May 1979 by the 168 governments represented at
the conference and signed into law.
See also The UN World Hunger