Friday, December 28, 2007

A Jump Start for 2008

As I sit here with the snow falling furiously outside my window I am already reflecting on the gifts that await me in 2008. One of the exciting events that I am preparing for is the Association of Women's Rights in Development Conference to be held in Cape Town, South Africa in November, 2008. In my considerations for a possible workshop to present, I reviewed their last Forum held in Bankok, Thailand. They identified the following issues that will potentially affect the future of the world and thus women's rights:
Fundamentalism - In instances when the civil society fails, the people often turn to fundamentalism. Fundamentalisms threaten to erode women's rights in marriage and divorce, property rights, and reproductive rights. Thus, women's continued activism is critical to ensuring secular and egalitarian constitution and alwas to stave off the erosion of women's rights around the world. II believe that a particularly important coalition will be one that parners with progressive and activist theologians because of their ability to span both the discourse of human rights and liberation theology. Along with postcolonial feminist theologians such a coalition poses a strong weapon in challenging some of fundamentalisms abuses of women's rights that have traditionally used sacred texts and patriarchal biases reinforced int he Bible, Quran etc. Progressive communities of faith potentially pose safe havens for women who are ready to hear new interpretations of canon that promote their human rights and dignity.

New Technologies - Tapping into the not-so-new-technology of cyberspace has proven to be a boost to the women's global movement of human rights around the world. Clearly the North and more developed urban areas in the South have benefitted disproportionately and been able to take advantage of the technology. Yet human rights violations in Sri Lanka recently demonstrated the power of internet to transmit up to date accounts of the unfolding events as they transpired which in turn galvanized public opinion and human rights coalitions that were outraged and lobbied for interventions. It cannot be disputed that placing these images before the eyes of caring individuals and organizations can compell some degree of influence. Obviously, it cannot be the only strategy. Furthermore, the organizational structures must already be in place to act with promptness and clarity. The Amnesty International is an organization that comes to mind and appears to use the power of technology with the power of organizing and bringing pressure to bear. All of these factors have helped to to break the hegominic grip on oppressed peoples and restored the sense that they can take actions to make a difference in their lives.

Turning to scientific technology, concerns about the relationship between resources and global population growth, population control advocates have targeted the bodies of women of color in the global south first, then in the global north for experimental mdical drugs, risky and invasive scientific procedures and immune system altering fertility vaccines trials.(Marla J.Tyson Darling. Feminist Approaches to Reproductive & Genetic Technologies: Historical & Contemporary Perspectives AWID Plenary, 2005)

In direct contrast is the focus of fertility reductionand population control of less well off women and women of color to the aggressive use of medical techniques to increase and geneticall enhance fertility for those women that are resurce rich and well off in developing countries.

In regards to DNA the question becomes, "Who owns DNA?" Women activists are encouraged to be more vocal and present in these debates and to get over being afraid of science. Thus, while the new technology is potentially a double-edged sword, clearly its use of the world wide web has proven to be an innovative strategy that all global movements working to promote women's human rights must conquer or be left behind.

Global Power
- Global power - What is it? Who has it? How can it be utilized to promote a quality of life for all people is the illusive question. Failure to understand the most fundamental issues driving global power places women around the world and women activists at a disadvantage. AWID has accomplished a tremendous service to its constituents in providing resources to demystify global power. Its website is filled with essays that engage in rigorous analyses. It contains conference reports, proceedings and announcements about events that keep its constituents plugged into those that demonstrate an awareness and understanding of the who, what, when, how and why - thus promoting an ongoing understanding and exploration about global power and its impact on women.

AWID is not afraid to tackle issues of power. Furthermore, AWID recognizes that power includes economic security and its job bank reflects one of the best sources of employment tied into social change work and designed to provide a source of livlihood with organizations engaged in meaningful work and seeking to employ some of the brightest and most passionate individuals at competitive salaries.

Economic Inequalities - Economic inequalities are tied into global power and cannot be unpacked without an analysis of global power and its dialectical relationship. The evolution of development policies, including structural adjustment, foreign aid and more recently globalization on developing countries that continues to be one of the greatest challenges facing women's human rights. It is this drive for economic profits that oftentimes places women and men at risk as multinational corporations seek to maximize their profits while minimizing their output and overhead, hereby reducing and compromising workers safety and wages. In the meantime, they count on the local labor market to produce consumer goods that can be shipped to developed countries and sold at enormous profits, little of which returns to the workers or the developing nations economy. Hence, the vicious cycle facing women's rights activists and global movements around the world.

Climate Change - Climate change is no longer a scientific issue to be discussed by scientists in their annual conferences. It is an issue that impacts everyones future and therefore might well become an integral part of every organizational agenda. There are invaluable lessons to be gleaned from the tsunami, hurricanes, mudslides, and earthquakes that have affected the world in recent years. If we are to act responsibily and to share global resources in the so called developed countries, there is the need to create a global early warning system and heed the wake up call of previous disasters.

May we have the courage and insights to step up to these challenges in 2008! May it be so! Blessed Be!

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