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When Will Attitude towards Women Change?

By Piya Mayenin

Society-made, insurmountable obstacles hinder the progress of gender equality. With one step forward and leaps back the ugly mountain blocks our future unless some real changes are made worldwide. ..Quantitative actions are not turning into qualitative change because of insurmountable obstacles of society. 

 

Why do women have to bang on about Women’s right?  Well, firstly as women they would have experienced inequality and, at some time in their life, they would try to find a reason for those inequalities and solutions. Secondly, the status quo that is harming women, economically and socially has proved to be one that is almost impossible to shift inspite of achievements in equality by society.  Despite achievements of women, worldwide, the inequality mountain stands almost still. In the new era of ‘Trumpism  – when a Man like Donald Trump gets the Presidentship of in the US after making all the despicable comments about women – we need to put down our feet firmly for real quality changes!

Quantitative actions are not turning into qualitative change because of insurmountable obstacles of society. Quantitative changes mean that there are more women working today then say there were in the 1940’s. So does that mean that work around equality by our foremothers is really paying off? Comparators across indicators of qualitative change show that this is not the case. I have put that down, I am sure many many others have too, to a lack of respect for women. This lack of respect, globally, for women is simply from deep rooted ideas of women’s inferior place in society and the economy. This is seen, all over the world, where women are still usually working more and getting paid less than men irrespective of the major global women’s rights treaty that was ratified by the majority of the world’s nations a few decades ago.

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Bangladeshi-British women, including the author of this piece, in East London hold placards against sexual violence against women in 2015. Situation has worsen since. Courtesy: P V Dudman

In the US and pretty much in other western countries, women begun to enter work for many reasons including the rise of wages that made couples see that it is more beneficial for them, deindustrialization and men moving offshore or getting out of work.  Women earned about 60-65 percent of what men earned from the 1950s to the 1980s. After 1980, this began to equalize so that by about 2000, women earned 76 percent of what men did. Since 2000 there hasn’t been much more progress toward equality.

Women still earn less than men for many reasons which are unbelievably discriminatory. One explanation is, for instance, that employers pay people when they have more years of experience, and women’s child rearing breaks make them unsuitable. A report by the Women and Equalities Select Committee concluded last year that responsibility for childcare and the concentration of women in low-paid sectors were key causes of the pay differential. This means that some employers discriminate against women when hiring in higher-paying jobs, leaving the women no choice but to seek lower-paying jobs.

The glass ceiling is broken by a very few women and some when they get there are not very appreciative of feminism. ‘Far from “smashing the glass ceiling“, she was the aberration, the one who got through and then pulled the ladder up right after her, noted the reporter correctly in the Guardian on 9 April 2013.

So women have been given access to enter into a man’s work world only to stretch and fit, and as a result there is no qualitative change. The numerical pointers are not necessarily the indicators of success, while substantive changes are.

A woman now has to juggle working all day in overarching sexist structures and environments and tackle the bulk of housework and childcare after, doubling the stresses she previously had. Here’s another reality: Inequality is glaring when one sees that with most well off couples, the woman having the worse car while the husband flashes the better one. These indicators are evidence that attitudes and mentality have not changed around women although the benefits of their income have been realized by many.

Another achievement globally is where more girls are entering education and even higher education. However appalling safety levels and poor resources of the schools and incidents against women in developing countries do not allow for a real difference for girls.

The Independent in January 2017 has reported that ‘Russian lawmakers are being urged to reject a “dangerous” law that could decriminalise all acts of domestic violence, with the exception of rape and serious bodily harm.’  Let’s not forget that a large percentage of the world refuses to recognise rape within marriage as a criminal offence. In Turkey , for example, a draft law stipulates that men who sexually abuse girls under 18 without “force, threat or any restriction on consent”, and who marry their victim could go free.

Bdnews24 in Bangladesh reported on 27 February this year that ‘Bangladesh Parliament passes law allowing child marriage in “special circumstances”. Prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, has defended the law by saying the critics “know nothing about Bangladesh’s social system” and that her government was “making the law considering the ‘realities’ of society”. In Explaining the “special circumstances, the prime minister in Bangladesh who is a woman herself, said:

We’ve fixed the minimum age for girls to marry at 18. But what if any of them becomes pregnant at 12-13 or 14-15 and abortion can’t be done? What will happen to the baby? Will society accept it?

She added then, the girl could go for marriage with her parents’ consent in such circumstances in order to give the baby a “legal status” in society.

New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) have responded correctly, “Accidental or unlawful pregnancy suggests the law could lead to a situation where girls who have been raped are forced to marry their rapists.”

The same Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, promised in the 2014 Girl summit that child marriage will be eradicated by 2024. Bangladesh reports the highest case of child marriage at 66% on girls under the age of 18 getting married and over one third getting married before the age of 15. The recent law has just given for child marriages to rise and also the unintended consent to abuse of children.

Here in the UK, the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) estimates that 8.2% of women and 4.0% of men reported experiencing any type of domestic abuse in the last year and 2.7% of women and 0.7% of men had experienced some form of sexual assault (including attempts) in the last year.  (2017). Two women are killed every week in England and Wales by a current or former partner (Office of National Statistics, 2015)

The Guardian on 5 January, 2016, reported that Women outnumber men in 112 of 180 degree subjects, with females from poorer backgrounds 50% more likely to go to university than their male counterparts.

Papworth Trust in 2016 found that ‘one study shows there is evidence that Indian Asian people are significantly more likely to experience higher rates of disability than Europeans’., quoting Emily D Williams study Ethnic Differences in Disability Prevalence and Their Determinants Studied over a 20-Year Period: A Cohort Study.

This rather depressing state of affairs shows that issues of poverty, race, disability, sexual orientation and gender, amongst many other things, often combine to create a reality of extreme disadvantage for certain groups. Most of the time, these groups are female’, according to the New Statesmen 2013.

The status quo, the place where it is accepted that the poor, the physically weaker and people who are different get it rough, is tough and is so outdated and simply cruel. With regards to women, this is not helped by the large proportion of male banter concerning women around how they look and what they would like to do with them – usually violently when they have an issue with them.

Society-made, insurmountable obstacles hinder the progress of gender equality. With one step forward and leaps back the ugly mountain blocks our future unless some real changes are made worldwide.

UN Women have suggested the strategy for states to come together in working in their economies so that it works for women and equality by making macroeconomic and political changes with women’s development at the centre of it. They say that ‘they would have equal access to opportunities and resources – a good job with equal pay, or access to land – and social protection, which together would provide enough income to support a decent standard of living, from birth to older age. Their life choices would be unconstrained by gender stereotypes, stigma and violence; the paid and unpaid work that women do would be respected and valued; and women would be able to live their lives free from violence and sexual harassment. They would have an equal say in economic decision-making: from having a voice in how time and money are spent in their households; to the ways in which resources are raised and allocated in their national economies; to the broader economic policies set by global institutions.’  In their progress report in 2015 of the world women – 16 ‘Transforming Economics, Realising Rights’, they urge member states:

 To support substantive equality, economic and social policies need to work in tandem. Typically, the role of economic policies is seen primarily in terms of promoting economic growth, while social policies are supposed to address its ‘casualties’ by redressing poverty and disadvantage and reducing inequality. But macroeconomic policies can pursue a broader set of goals, including gender equality and social justice. Conversely, well-designed social policies can enhance macroeconomic growth and post crisis recovery through redistributive measures that increase employment, productivity and aggregate demand.

Let us call for a more equal world this International Women’s Day with the UN Women’s proposals listened to in order to help forge a better working world, a more inclusive, gender equal world. We can only keep trying and urge governments to enact and enforce these policies that would also change attitudes towards women and we can gradually get to see the qualitative change as and when the insurmountable obstacles are removed.


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Honouring women anti-mining campaigners and environmental-activists on #IWD2016

Tribute to two ‘true fighters of the Planet’ – Berta Cáceres and Janine Roberts

By Rumana Hashem

On International Women’s day we should celebrate both- our community women and international feminists, women’s and workers advocates’ struggles and achievements, especially women activists who devoted lives for working class and grassroots people. On this IWD 2016, when UN has chosen a theme called, Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step it Up for Gender Equality, we should think of the saviours of the Planet – the climate and anti-mining campaigners who tried to help those suffering from pollution of the planet by the miners and the corporations that serve none but the bourgeois and aims to destroy our planet. On this occasion we mourn the death, and celebrate the lives of Berta Cáceres and Janine Roberts, two hugely influential and inspiring personalities in the history of resistance to the injustices perpetrated by corporations and the mining industry.

 

Berta Cáceres, a great community organiser, Honduran indigenous and the founder of COPINH was assassinated by armed individuals who forcibly entered her home in La Esperanza, department of Intibucá in southwestern Honduras, Mexico.  Berta Cáceres was a leader who had inspired many of us for many years as an indigenous woman-leader and environmental-activist, raising her voice in the defense of women’s bodies and community, land, water and the commons. Through her actions, she has strengthened the role of women in resisting destructive corporations and macro-level repressions.  Berta was successful in constructing alternatives based on aboriginal knowledge and collective practices. In recent interviews, she encouraged many to rise up in collective solidarity in the global South and North against the predatory capitalist and patriarchal society in order to save women’s lives, human lives and the planet.

 

On International Women’s Day 2016, anti-mining activists and environmentalists at Friends of the Earth (FoEI) have paid homage to and raised voices in indignation at the brutal murder of Berta Cáceres. So did we. Berta was an indigenous Lenca leader, a grassroots feminist and an environmental-justice activist. She was murdered in early morning of 3rd March in her very own home at the side of Mexican activist Gustavo Castro Soto from Otros Mundos / FOE Mexico, who was badly hurt by the same gunmen. Anti-mining activists and environmentalists have initiated an urgent action alert and signed a letter to protect Gustavo Castro who witnessed the assassination of Berta Cáceres in Honduras and was injured himself. Everybody is encouraged to sign the letter here

 

Janine Roberts (1942 -2016) was another great woman who, for more than forty years, devoted herself fearlessly to exposing the covert practices of global miners. She knew what it means to counter the lies and myths perpetrated by the mining industry. Janine Roberts, known to many as just “Jan” or Jani”, had put herself in direct physical danger on many occasions. But she is sadly no longer with us on the earth.

Jan has passed away peacefully on 26 February 2016 – six years since the very day when she had suffered a massive stroke, following several days locked-in by ice on a boat in Bristol’s city basin. Bristol served her as both a home and a cherished centre of some remarkably effective and diverse electronic campaigns.

Latin American women at Peru denounced violence by the mining company. File photo 2011 (Source: https://www.salvalaselva.org/peticion/1044/mujeres-denuncian-que-proyectos-extractivos-generan-violencia?mtu=140662608&t=1771

Latin American women at Peru denounced violence by the mining company. File photo 2011 (Source: https://www.salvalaselva.org/peticion/1044/mujeres-denuncian-que-proyectos-extractivos-generan-violencia?mtu=140662608&t=1771

Today, 8th March, is the right day to pay our tribute to Janine Roberts who initiated many strategies, now familiar to organisations critical of the extractive industries. One of the most noteworthy of these strategies were the launch of People against RTZ and its Subsidiaries, known as PaRTiZanS, in 1980. We should not forget how this strategy and this global network became the vehicle for many so-called “victims” of the-then world’s largest corporate miner in the following few years. This network, PaRTiZanS, has acted as a way of survival for those who dramatically threw-off the dubious mantle of “victimhood”, by attending and speaking out as minority shareholders at Rio Tinto’s AGMs.

Jan’s close friend and a colleague working to hold Rio Tinto to account, Roger Moody, has written a beautiful tribute to Janine Roberts. I thought that it was worth reclogging on community women’s blog for our readers.

 

Jan Roberts: commemorating a true warrior

Published by MAC on 2016-03-02
Source: Statement (2016-02-29)

1942-2016

The tribute below comes from Roger Moody, currently Research Editor of the MAC website, and a close friend and colleague of Jan Roberts over many years.

“Our” Jan

There’s one woman, among all those I’ve been privileged to know,  to whom I owe more than any one else what it means to counter the lies and myths perpetrated by the mining industry.

For more than forty years, she devoted herself fearlessly to exposing the covert practices of global miners – often putting herself in direct physical danger.

However,  Janine Roberts – known to many colleagues and friends as simply “Jan” or Jani” – is sadly no longer with us in mortal form.
She slipped away peacefully on 26 February 2016; six years to the very day when she had suffered a massive stroke, following several days locked-in by ice on a boat in Bristol’s city basin, which served as both a home for her and her cherished canine, Storm, and the focus of some remarkably effective and diverse electronic campaigning.

Many strategies, now  familiar to organisations critical of the extractive industries, were ones she either initiated or materially assisted in bringing to birth. Perhaps the most noteworthy of these was the  launch of  PaRTiZanS (People against RTZ and its Subsidiaries) in 1980.

In a few  years, this global network became the vehicle for many so-called “victims” of the-then  world’s largest corporate miner, to dramatically throw-off the dubious mantle of victim hood, by attending and speaking out as minority” shareholders at Rio Tinto’s AGMs. In fact,  around one hundred Indigenous spokespeople and workers  have intervened as “dissident” shareholders at Rio Tinto AGMs over succeeding years, and one or more will surely be present again at this years event.

The CIMRA years

Having spent a formative period of her earlier life camping out in the bauxite-ravaged lands of Weipa, north Queensland, Jan arrived in Britain in the late 70’s, pledged to stand four-square with the region’s Aboriginal communities, as they battled to overturn the fraudulent colonial trope of their land as being  “terra nullius” – thus unoccupied and open to flagrant exploitation.

She swiftly set up a militant Aboriginal solidarity group in the UK – Colonialism and Indigenous Minorities Research and Action, or CIMRA

Her 1978 book, “From Massacres to Mining”, inscribed the first full account of the atrocities which accompanied that invasion to  the late 1970’s; an Australian edition appeared in 1980, and a second was published ten years later (1).

In 1980, Jan organised the first visit to the UK capital by three mining-afflicted Queensland Aboriginal leaders – Joyce Hall, Mick Miller and Jacob Wolmby – who publicly indicted Rio Tinto (then RTZ-CRA) for “racism” in the columns of the Financial Times.

Although the trio didn’t themselves get to attend that year’s AGM, another Aboriginal Australian, Boolidt Boolitha from Victoria, flew in to confront the company in person at its 1981 Annual General Meeting.

Following this, and in quick succession, Jan poured out a tremendous corpus of work, including several books and numerous articles. She gave many radio and television interviews, and was indispensable to the production of several films, including one shown on Granada TV in the UK – and just once by ABC in Australia, before CRA stepped in to prevent its further dissemination down-under [ Australia: why we must still weep for Weipa .

A second mining giant, Anglo-De Beers, also wanted to stop her bringing to fruition perhaps her most treasured authorial project – an exposé of how the world’s biggest diamond trader viciously exploited workers and communities across the globe.

Begun in 1987, and multinationally funded, this mission took her across five continents, and produced some very disturbing images (for example of  young children labouring in the company’s diamond cutting shops.)

Only there for (or rather against) De Beers

In this case, Anglo American didn’t need to resort to legal action to prevent the truth being told of what she’d uncovered about these “conflict diamonds” (which in a real sense they were, some years before Global Witness and Leonardo di Caprio made the term fashionable.)

The company asked to meet the film’s prime sponsor, the BBC, to discuss the series’ content. Here’s Jan’s own account (in third person) of what happened after “Aunty” at Broadcasting House then decided to sack her:

“Researching why the BBC were so insistent on her removal and why it refused to give reasons, she learns that the Oppenheimer family attacked her in meetings with BBC, complaining that she was “obsessed” with investigating the diamond trade .(That is, she will not go away.) The film is completed by the BBC in her absence. It is then first shown in the US – and despite her having produced many of the scenes in the film, her credits have practically vanished. When she asks why, she is told the BBC gave instructions to remove her producer and journalist credits.

“At her request the General Secretary of the Broadcasting and Entertainment Industry Trade Union, the powerful BECTU, contacts high officers of the BBC asking that she be given the proper credit for her work. On the Friday before her film is shown, a senior officer of the BBC phones her to tell her that while the BBC did not deny that she produced part of the film, and was the senior journalist, it refuses to give her any credit for this work on the film… She is extremely perplexed by this..”

“[T]he BBC (who do not own the film – it is owned by the Australian government investors – the BBC only bought UK transmission rights) then make a deal with De Beers Tthat they will not sell her film to any other country…”

Despite this: “[S]he does all she can to get the film out to more viewers – and to complete her book on De Beers. When De Beers tries to ban the American version of her film from being shown in the diamond rush area of Arctic Canada, their heavy handed action leads to the Federation of Trade Unions, the local environmental organisation, Ecology North and the Dene Indians inviting her to speak to her film. She is flown to Yellowknife. Her film is put on in the largest hall in town and it is standing room only. Later she is the guest of Dene Indians, goes out with dog teams, falls in love with a beautiful frozen land and sky.

That’s not all: “When she goes to South Africa and Namibia to research her diamond book, she shows her film on De Beers property to the mine workers. De Beers tries unsuccessfully to ban her from several mines. The Union says she is the first person banned by De Beers since the Emergence of 1988!” [See: http://www.witch.plus.com/jancv-1.html%5D.

I’ve quoted this extract from one of her many blogs at some length, because it strikes me as emblematic of the sheer courage and fortitude – we may also say “bloody mindedness” – Jan exhibited towards the highly powerful and insidious forces she chose to tackle head-on throughout her life.

Speaking truth to power

It was this resilience and passion for the “right way” of doing things which inspired every facet of her extraordinary life.

On her hospitalisation in early 2010, the consultant treating her doubted she would survive more than a few days. Jan not only proved him wrong; she went on to publish several further books, though not specifically on mining, from her bedside over the following six years.

Even though it’s increasingly rare to meet – let alone work alongside – such a multi-faceted human being in today’s mono-cultured and rapidly acculturating societies, Janine Roberts was truly a “Renaissance Woman” in many senses of the term.

I doubt we’ll ever encounter her like again.


(1) My own recollection is that first English edition of “From Massacres to Mining” was co-published by War on Want and CIMRA in London in 1978. However, pressure on the British development agency and threats to suet for libel, caused War on Want to withdraw this version from distribution, although a second, re-edited, version was soon put back into circulation (RM).