Global Exchange

As we celebrated Women’s Equality Day* yesterday, we want to talk about one of the most enduring signs of the gender equality gap — the differences in how men and women spend their time on an everyday basis. Many of you have probably heard of the term the “double-shift” when talking about women’s work outside and inside the home, and anecdotally, we all have examples (“I came home from a 12 hour work day and had to pick up his socks.” Or “After work I had to pick up the kids, clean the house, and cook dinner.”) The recently released American time use survey proves what we’ve known all along: women bear the burden of household work.

A couple of snippets:
• At 5:10 pm, 17% of women are doing household activities – 11% of men are.
• At 7:40 am, 11% of women are doing household activities – 6 % of men are.

Really, do check out the link – they’ve done a cool interactive chart where you can compare time use according to age, gender, race, employment, educational attainment, and size of household. Categories vary from “household activities” to “eating and drinking” to (our favorite!) “relaxing and thinking”. The only downside to the chart is that you cannot compare by multiple qualities – for example, are black women doing more household activities than white women at 5:10? Then black men? What about black single mothers? And Hispanic women over 65? (You get the picture.)

Internationally, feminist economists have been arguing for the inclusion of household work into overall GDP estimates – where traditionally, the bulk of women’s work was uncounted, as it did not take place within the marketplace. For the past few years, the United Nations Development Fund has been tracking Gender, work, and time allocation in its Human Development Report. Although only 33 countries reported on time allocation in 2007, the results are nonetheless interesting – globally women aren’t faring that much better in balancing free time and personal care and family care.

Even the “wunderkind” countries of Northern Europe women seem to be putting more time into the children and the chores then men. In Norway, while women and men spent approximately equal amount of time on themselves, women spent more time cooking and cleaning (2:14) than their male counterparts (0:52). Women also spent double the time (34 mins) that men (17 mins) did on childcare.

In Nicaragua, a moderately developed country where interestingly even the one country where women and men have relatively equal free time women, women are the primary caregivers for the children (1:01 hours compared to the 17 mins men spent with the kids), the cooks and cleaners (3:31 hours to 0:31 mins) and less likely to be involved in market activities 28% to men’s 74%.

It is no surprise that the least developed countries have the widest disparities with regards to time. Women in Benin spend much more time (8:03 hrs) on market and non-market activities combined than men (5:36 hrs). Beninese women don’t have much time for themselves (1:32hrs) their children (45 mins) or their household chores (2:49 hrs) and yet they still spend more time on everything, except themselves, than their men. I’m exhausted just blogging about it.

Virginia Woolf spoke of the need of one’s own room and time (and of course money) when writing fiction. And truly, all of these things are needed for most successes. Who knows how much more the world could gain from women if more men got more involved in activities beyond the market? There are signs that times are changing, however: although recent studies do not indicate more equality in household chores, they do point to a shift in younger men’s (Gen X) attitudes and behaviors around fathering. Looks like we are one step closer to taking ALL work activities seriously, whether inside the market or out. And that’s what we call equality.

* Don’t miss the National Council for Research on Women’s tribute to Women’s Equality Day on their blog, The Real Deal. (Full disclosure: both Tonni and I have posts up! We did them in our personal time.)

Iran WomenA few years ago (ok may more than a few) Gil Scott Heron said the revolution would not be televised and Tracey Chapman, when talking about the revolution, thought it would whisper, not ‘tweet’. Iranian women and men are risking their lives to protest for their rights and their voices will be heard, televised, and ‘tweeted’.

If you’re like us, you’ve spent the past couple of weeks glued to your computer, watching the historic Iranian election – and its aftermath – unfold. For us, what’s been important are not only the changes in Iranian society that the post-election protests signal, but women’s role in these protests (dare we say revolution) and what this election means for Iranian women.

On June 20th a young woman and her father took to the streets demanding to be heard, not knowing that hers would echo across the globe. When they named their daughter, her parents probably could not fathom how well her name suited her; Neda in Farsi means the voice or the call. Neda and thousands of women are taking to the streets and demanding equal rights. Dana Goldstein, of the Daily Beast, stresses that the underreported part of what is unfolding in Iran is women’s involvement in the protests.

Feminist politics are not new to Iran. According to Manilee Bagheritari, an independent gender consultant of Iranian descent, the feminist movement, or rather the ongoing three-decades old wave, is divided by two different approaches; the secular feminists (e.g. Shirin Ebadi) and Islamic feminists (though they might not prefer the label). What is important is that the two groups both demand that the state first ratify and second harmonize its laws with those of the international human rights instruments, namely the international Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, or CEDAW.

According to Haideh Moghissi, Professor of Sociology and Women’s Studies at York University and founder of the Iranian National Union of Women (and author of one of my favorite books, Feminism and Islamic Fundamentalism: The Limits of Postmodern Analysis), although the Iranian women’s movement has a robust and long history, “at no time has the political influence of women and women’s issues been so profoundly visible as at present.” Prior to the election and women’s visible presence in the post-election demonstrations, women’s organizations came together to demand change from presidential candidates. The coalition, which included 35 women’s and social justice groups and 600 activists and intellectuals made two major demands

“under the banner of ‘women’s coalition movement’ (jonbesh-e Hamgerai’i)…
1) Joining the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW); 2) A constitutional amendment to eliminate discriminatory articles that deprive women of equal rights with men.”

The blog Vital Voices has the following breakdown of the positions taken on these issues by Ahmadinejad and opposition candidate Mousavi:

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

* Ahmadinejad changed the name of the government organization the “Centre for Women’s Participation” to the “Centre for Women and Family Affairs”.
* Ahmadinejad proposed a new law that would reintroduce a man’s right to divorce his wife without informing her. In addition, men would no longer be required to pay alimony. In response, women’s groups have initiated the Million Signatures campaign against these measures.
* Ahmadinejad’s administration opposes the ratification of CEDAW…
* Ahmadinejad implemented the Social Safety program, which monitors women’s clothing, requires the permission from a father or husband for a woman to attend school, and applies quotas limiting the number of women allowed to attend universities.

Mir-Hossein Mousavi

* Mousavi pledged to disband the “Morality Police” that monitor women’s clothing in accordance with traditional Islamic dress.
* Mousavi vowed to support legal measures to end violence and discrimination against women.
* Mousavi has sounded support for the ratification of CEDAW.
* Mousavi promised to appoint female ministries and other high offices, if elected.

Zahra Rahnavard, wife of reformist candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, addressed crowds earlier this month saying, “Thirty-four million women demand to have female cabinet ministers, 34 million women demand to be eligible to run for president, 34 million women want the civil law to be revised, 34 million women want the family law revised.”

What is truly beautiful about these protests is that men and women are protesting for human rights, which most seem to realize are incomplete without women’s rights. These protests feel like the modern day Middle Eastern manifestation of the French Revolution’s call for Liberté, Egalite and Fraternité…in this case a Fraternité that encompasses both brotherhood and sisterhood.

Quick round-up of links on women’s involvement in the post-election protests and demonstrations. Please feel free to add more in comments:

Iran and the Women Question

Iran’s Women’s Revolution

In Iran, “Pretty” is Sometimes the Protest

Who was really cheated in Iran’s vote? Women.

Protests in the Wake of Iran’s Election

The Women Protesting in Iran

You can also get up-to-the-minute info on Twitter by searching #iranelection

servicesTravels and graduations behind us, we’re back! This month foremost on our minds is the issue of budget cuts. How many times will history have to repeat itself before we get it right?

What do cuts in services for disabled and vulnerable people, shoddy food regulation practices that are making people in some states very sick, the recent rise in crime and simultaneous reductions in police resources, and even Nebraska’s inability to provide adequate services for troubled children and their families have in common?

Answer: These recent phenomena can be traced in some part to the reduction in social services that is common in national, state, and local budgets when trying to prevent the onset of a deep fiscal crisis. While these phenomena are all deeply troubling, even more troubling is the fact that there is historic evidence that such cuts do not work and, in many cases, actually have the opposite effect. That is, when the state no longer pays for things like health care, education, and even local security, there are extremely negative consequences for everyday people, especially for vulnerable groups such as the elderly, the disabled, and children, who depend on such services for daily survival.

In the 1980s, the world saw the effect of these policies writ large in the international arena, with so-called “Structural Adjustment Plans”, or plans put in place by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which laid out various conditions that had to be met by countries in order to get a loan from both establishments. Most of these conditions involved the opening of markets, “free” trade conditions, and extreme reductions in state provisions of social services like health care and education; it was argued that such services should instead be privatized. In short, the prevailing sentiment was this: let the markets take over and we’ll see what happens.

What happened was that structural adjustment plans had disastrous effects, particularly in many parts of Latin America (where the period of heavy structural adjustment has led many to refer to the 1980s as the “lost decade”) and Africa (where 34 countries implemented some form of a structural adjustment plan in the 1980s). Further, women were the ones to bear the brunt of many of the negative effects of these policies. According to Dzodzi Tsikata of the Third World Network, this is because such policies “assume the unlimited availability of women’s unpaid labour and time and… have tended to see women as a resource to be tapped to promote the efficiency of free market policies and to deal with the short-fall in access to social services.” In many instances, this leads to an increase in women’s working burdens and social responsibilities. In other words, women are expected to shoulder the majority of the burden of reductions in state provided services. And this phenomenon is not limited to developing countries (and surely not when the developing countries in question are following the economic prescriptions of their Western donors and lenders) – critics in the US have also argued that domestic budget cuts have a disproportionate effect on women and children.

The USA’s neighbor up north hasn’t done much better. Kathleen Lahley, a Law professor at Queen’s University in Canada outlined in her gender analysis of the 2009 budget, key ways in which the Canadian government has missed the mark. Not only does her analysis make for good reading, it also demonstrates how women in Canada will not directly benefit as much as men will from the $64 billion in spending and tax cuts. Gender equity requirements have not been included in the spending programs – the result is a gender-skewed stimulus.

With so much evidence on the negative effects of cuts to social services, one wonders why this model is still pursued in such a fashion and, further, whether there are any movements (policy or otherwise) to reverse the ongoing trend, particularly as global leaders consider changes to international economic frameworks in light of the recent crisis.

As we can see, leaders in North America don’t seem to be the fastest learners, but what about the rest of the world? The World Bank and the IMF? In 2007 Elaine Zuckerman, a former World Bank economist, challenged the Bretton Woods institutions to improve their track record of short-changing women. For all intents and purposes, it seems that World Bank President, Robert Zoellick, is trying to rise to the challenge. At last month’s G20 meeting in London, he spoke of the Bank’s plan to develop a Vulnerability Framework. The fund would provide support infrastructure, agriculture, small- to medium- size businesses and micro-finance. Past lessons may just be paving the way to a more gender-balanced future for the World Bank. This plan would benefit not only men through infrastructure jobs, but also women who are heavily involved in agriculture, are the majority of small business owners, and represent 85% of the poorest 93 million clients of Microfinance Institutions. This effort would require a contribution of 0.7% of more “developed” countries’ stimulus packages. Maybe this is their way of making up for the gaping holes left at home through budget cuts…nice but gender equality should happen at home too.

Who would have thought that the G20 would bring us even more good news?! We were a bit skeptical at first; the official documents that come out of these meetings rarely mention gender equality. Oh, we of little faith! The G20 countries pledged to support the World Bank’s Vulnerability Framework AND addressed the human dimension to the crisis and the pledge to “build a fair and family-friendly labour market for both women and men.” Steps in the right direction. Let’s hope this will manifest itself in thoughtful gender-conscious budget cuts across the board. The entire Official Communique can be seen here.

Finally, Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner called for a “new starting point” in hemispheric relations at the recent Fifth Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago (the country that gave you Blogger TAB 🙂 ). While much attention has been given to Presidents Obama, Castro and Chavez, we recommend you take a look at President Fernandez’s speech, which was in our opinion one of the, if not the, best (though we haven’t been able to find any links to it). Further, the Summit’s Declaration of Commitment’s preamble Point 6 is calypso music to our ears: “We recognize the importance of considering the differentiated needs of women and men in promoting and ensuring the integration of the gender perspective as a cross cutting issue in national and hemispheric policies, plans and programmes to be implemented in the political, economic labour, social and cultural spheres…’’

At the very least, countries globally have demonstrated a rhetorical commitment to gender-balanced recovery and development. It remains to be seen how these plans will be put into action. Judging from past experiences, the best way to ensure that these rhetorical commitments are implemented in practice is through the work of gender researchers, advocates and practitioners, who must hold governments and international organizations accountable for the commitments that they make in these international forums. So, please, join us in reminding local, state, and national leaders to stick to their commitments to build a more gender-inclusive world. Let the fiscal crisis be used as an opportunity to strengthen gender equitable programs – not an excuse to cut much-needed services for women, men, and children.

Image Credit

Busy month for the Global Exchangers!

This month we’ve been extra busy at the Global Exchange – Tonni’s finishing up at ESADE and Gwen took off for fieldwork in the Dominican Republic and Haiti – so we’ve only had time to compile a roundup of interesting links to studies and articles that we’ve recently come across. Please feel free to leave additional links in comments!

ActionAid recently released a report on the rise of “corrective” rape of lesbians in South Africa.

AWID has a really cool project that highlights 10 case studies from around the world where women mobilized to make a difference.

The folks over at Gender Action just came out with a report that provides a much-needed analysis of the gender dimensions of post-conflict reconstruction.

Along these lines, UN-INSTRAW are doing some amazing things as part of their Gender, Peace & Security project, including a project on <a href="gendering security sector reform in Haiti (more on this from Gwen in the future).

Following the headlines on the G20 meetings in London, check out this Q&A with Rosa Lizarde of Global Call to Action Against Poverty’s (GCAP) Feminist Taskforce on the implications of the G20 meeting for women. (These are the same people who have coordinated the incredible Poverty Hearings and Women’s Tribunals – one of which Gwen was lucky enough to attend in New York last fall.)

And finally, for those interested in issues of translation, please consider answering the Call for Book Reviews for the Graduate Journal for Social Science’s special edition Lost (and Found) in Translation.

See you at the end of April!

Gwen & Tonni

We had different plans for this month’s blog, but it has become impossible not to comment on what transpired on the night before the Grammy’s.

Tonni: Thanks to the wonder of technology I was receiving live Grammy commentary via a three-way conversation with friends in the States when my girlfriend mentioned that Chris Brown was missing. Apparently so was ‘our girl’ Rihanna- ‘our girl’ ‘cause she’s a fellow ‘Caribeana’ and regardless of her vocal abilities we’re proud and protective. There are many problems with what happened next but what I find repulsive is how the gory details are unfolding in the media. Unlike Salon’s Tracy Clark-Flory, try as I might I couldn’t escape TMZ’s trademarked photo. It was everywhere, displaying a young woman battered, bruised, and completely and totally vulnerable.

Gwen: As a survivor of violence myself, it will not come as a shock that, like Tonni, I was saddened, outraged and generally overwhelmed by the coverage of Rihanna’s struggle with domestic violence. We felt that highlighting Rihanna’s ordeal could help us capture the fact that domestic violence is directly related to the systematic oppression of women around the world, regardless of race, class, ethnicity and fame. In short, domestic violence can happen to anyone, including celebrities. Further, the coverage of domestic violence in popular media outlets shows the shortcomings of current methods in dealing with the structural nature of violence against women.

The Big Picture
According to Amnesty International’s Stop Violence Against Women program, without exception, a woman’s greatest risk of violence is from someone she knows. Amnesty International classifies domestic violence as a human rights abuse, rightly arguing that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms the inadmissibility of discrimination and proclaims that everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in the declaration, without distinction of any kind, including distinction based on sex. When women are subjected to domestic violence and the State does not protect them against this violence, whether due to inefficient or ineffective laws and policies, then the State should be held responsible for the abuse.


Taking off our inaugural ball gowns (woo-hoo Obama!) and picking up our pens, this week’s Global Exchange will take a look at religious faith and feminism.

The inauguration is a good place to start for an examination of religion, since we don’t have to tell you that our pal religion – and the controversy surrounding it – was on full display during the festivities. President Obama’s selection of Pastor Rick Warren to conduct the inaugural invocation set off a firestorm of protest from the left, and particularly gay-rights and women’s rights organizations, for his recent support of the gay marriage ban in California (as well as previous positions on divorce and abortion, among other issues).

On the progressive side, Bishop Gene Robinson, the “first openly gay, non-celibate priest to be ordained a bishop in a major Christian denomination,” and enemy of the religious right, was chosen to give the opening prayer at the We Are One concert held on Sunday at the Lincoln Memorial (the controversy continued when HBO decided not to include Bishop Robinson’s prayer in their official coverage of the event).  Reverend Sharon Watkins was selected by the President to be the first woman to lead the national prayer service on the day after the inauguration.  And who can forget the Reverend Joseph E. Lowery’s inaugural benediction?  For our purposes, this obsession with, and prevalence of, religion during the inauguration provides a perfect inroad to explore the historically complex relationship between women’s rights and religion.

We’ve been marinating on 2008; what an incredible year! Turbulent, exciting and really most of our wishes seemed to be granted in one fell swoop with the outcome of the US election.

There was China’s Olympic moment of glory, the first female Mayor in Egypt and of course the highs and lows of the U.S. election and then the same sex marriage Proposition in California. For all the leaps forward there is still more to be done for gender equality globally. Next year we want more inclusion! We wanted to share our top 5 wishes en route to inclusion. Enjoy and add your own in comments.

Our Top 5:

We’re back to regale with tales of research from the international hinterland. The global economic crisis has been making front-page news for weeks now. And while we’ve heard lots about the bankers and the automakers, the gendered impacts of these shifts, especially internationally, are little reported. This week, we take a look at these impacts in the context of the phenomena of remittances.

Remittance is a big word that describes a simple concept critical to the economic viability of many countries. The term ‘remittance’ refers to the transfer of money from one country to the other by immigrant (or migrant) workers who leave their home country (usually in the Global South) to work in a higher-paid arena (usually in the Global North). Although difficult to exactly measure, remittances now account for the second largest source of external funding for developing countries. The Migration and Remittances Team at the World Bank estimates that flows to developing countries will reach $238 billion in 2008. Interestingly, with the rapid economic development of some developing countries, especially the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China), the flow of remittances is increasingly between developing countries. Information from the US Census Bureau shows that remittances between developing countries was 17% in 2008.

Why is this important to women? Remittances are a direct product of migration, one of the most highly gendered social processes. According to UNFPA, in 2006 95 million migrants were women, approximately half of all international migrants worldwide. Whether women are being left behind with the children, making decisions on how to spend the money that men (or children or other family members) send from abroad, or whether they leave behind children with extended family members in the hopes that they can create better lives for themselves and their families from a distance, women are at the maelstrom of movement.

UN-INSTRAW has been working on a fantastic project on Gender and Remittances since 2003. So far, they have looked at the patterns of migration and remittances by women between the Dominican Republic and Spain and the US, the Philippines and Italy, Guatemala and the US, Columbia and Morocco and Spain, SADC and Lesotho and South Africa, Albania and Greece, and Senegal and France. Key concerns of these projects are not only the recognition of the shear number of women migrants and the amount of money being sent back, but these monetary flows are then gendered both at the household and community level. In many countries, community development projects have been started with remittance money. INSTRAW, and others using a gender perspective, seeks to ensure that such money benefits both men and women, as well as is inclusive of issues specific to age, sexuality, race, ethnicity and religion.

Why does the gendered nature of remittance patterns matter in the context of the current global economic crisis? Well, according to The Economist, “plunging commodity prices and reduced foreign demand will hurt quite a few African economies; foreign investment, remittances and foreign aid will all shrink.” However, in spite of much doom and gloom in the current financial forecast, there is hope.

Remittances are one of the least volatile sources of foreign exchange in developing countries. They may slow but they never stop. They will continue as long as migration continues. Not only are they sometimes the sole source of income for many families – they are often seed funds for entrepreneurs. Two amazing young women from Mexico recognize the importance and the effect of remittances in their communities and have mobilized women in the community and the diaspora to exploit the full potential of these funds, as well as to ensure that the funds are used in a way that benefits both men and women.

Image Credit.


Hey all, I am completely excited to announce that GWP will be going global with a new column from Gwen and Tonni called Global Exchange. Global Exchange will be appearing the last Wednesday of every month. Here’s an intro from the authors so you know what to expect. — Kristen

Hi everyone. Tonni and I wanted to introduce ourselves and our monthly segment, Global Exchange, which will normally appear every 4th Wednesday. Since we’re in the last days of the election, however, and this month we get an extra Wednesday, we’ve decided to hold off until next week, when we will offer an election special. We agree with Ruth Rosen and the folks over at the Center for New Words: there just hasn’t been enough focus on women in this year’s election. And, from our perspective, this is especially so when it comes to foreign policy. Both candidates talk about the war in Iraq – but how is it affecting women – both U.S. vets and Iraqi civilians? Both candidates talk about health care at home. But what are the candidates’ positions on the ‘Global Gag Rule’ – the policy that prevented thousands of women from accessing U.S. funded health programs worldwide? Senator Obama opposes CAFTA– what will this mean for women? So stay tuned… next week Global Exchange will bring you our assessment of how the foreign policy proposals of both candidates will affect women around the world.