3.07.2007

if you are a woman on this planet...

If you are a woman on this planet, you are more likely to be poor, more likely to be a victim of violence, more likely to be voiceless and more likely to be exploited. You are less likely to have access to education, services or corridors of power.

. . .

When we look at those who earn less than $1 a day globally, 70 per cent are women. Of the 80 million children who aren't in school, most are girls. Every day, 1,400 women die needlessly in pregnancy and childbirth. One in five women will be a victim of rape or attempted rape in her lifetime. Women are overrepresented among the 8,000 people who die every day as a result of the AIDS pandemic, mostly in the world's poorest countries.

More than half the world's food is produced by women, rising to 80 per cent in many developing countries, yet tradition, laws and discrimination mean many women cannot own land, access credit or control the fruits of their labour. It is women and girls who have first felt the brunt of climate change as they spend a growing number of hours each day walking ever farther to fetch water and firewood.

. . .

As Canadians, we pride ourselves on the progress we've made to recognize and promote women's rights and equality among women and men. But our record is spotty at best. Women in Canada, too, are more likely to be poor, earn less than men and find themselves the victim of violence. The horrific experience of the disappeared women of Vancouver, Edmonton and elsewhere haunts us.

Women with whom we work in Zimbabwe, in Guatemala, in Ethiopia can't quite believe that in a country as rich as Canada we have women in aboriginal communities and elsewhere across this country who can't exercise their right to access basic services. They wonder how they can overcome huge barriers in their own countries when they see a country such as Canada stepping back from its obligations to ensure women's rights are respected.

The removal of equality from the mandate of the Status of Women department, the gutting of its budget and the closure of most offices sends a chill down the spines of women around the globe who are committed to ending discrimination. Equally disturbing is the prohibition on federal funding to support advocacy and campaigning on women's rights. These actions, after eliminating the Court Challenges program that played such a key role in protecting women's and minority rights, send exactly the wrong signal to the world about Canada's commitment to promoting full respect for women's rights.

When combined with the reversal of the national child-care program and other actions, it seriously undermines Canada's progress toward meeting its obligations under the United Nations Convention to Eliminate all Forms of Discrimination against Women.

Tomorrow is International Women's Day. Read this column by Robert Fox, executive director of Oxfam Canada.

10 comments:

M@ said...

As a side note, I heard on the Current the other day an interview with Ayan Hirsi Ali. Unfortunately, she began talking about female genital mutilation (which, annoyingly, Anna-Maria Tremonti persisted in calling "female circumcision" despite being corrected by Ali each time).

I have read about this practice before, and I am familiar with the whole social structure around it. However, hearing Ali talk about it so sickened me that I had to turn the radio off. I couldn't deal with it.

The fact that this barbarism goes on in our world, and affects 140 million women, is all that needs to be said about the status of women in this world. All the problems stem from the same source: women are property and baby factories, not people. Discrimination seems like such a weak way to describe the problem.

Sorry, this is a little unfocused, but I'm still upset about what I heard on Monday (and my reaction) and this post brought it all back to mind.

James said...

women are property and baby factories, not people. Discrimination seems like such a weak way to describe the problem.

Sometimes I get the impression that various societies would love to have an arrangement like the Bene Tleilax in Frank Herbert's Dune novels. The Tleilaxu create clones in "axolotl tanks", which turn out, late in the series, to actually be Tleilaxu women, mutated and modified into organic gestation machines.

L-girl said...

Thanks for this, M@, and no reason to apologize.

At least Ali continued to correct Tremonte. I detest that euphemism "female circumcision".

At the risk of sounding one-upping here, which I don't mean at all, I was part of a small group of women trying to tell people about female genital mutilation in the mid-1980s. We were frustrated that it got no traction, only to see awareness grow and grow, and finally reach the mainstream. (Which has taught me something about the arc of activism.)

New York Times columnist Bob Herbert has written about it a lot, among other mainstream commentators. I'm glad it was on the Current. I'm glad it's anywhere.

Discrimination seems like such a weak way to describe the problem.

Lord yes. Misogyny? Slavery?

L-girl said...

Oops, sorry, James and I must have been typing at the same time. That Dune image is chilling. Nauseating.

James said...

That Dune image is chilling. Nauseating.

That's part of the idea -- one of the recurring themes in Dune is the subjugation/mechanization of human life to serve a profitable purpose: the Guild Navigators undergo profound mutations brought on by spice addiction to enable them to pilot Guild starships; mentats are trained to be human computers; the Bene Tleilaxu engineer Face Dancers (shape shifters) and gholas (clones) to serve as spies and assassins; the Bene Gesserit manipulate breeding to produce their messiah, to the point of arranging rapes. It's not a pretty picture, as it dives deep into what humans will do to each other and themselves if they think they can profit by it.

The treatment of women by many societies is the most ancient and pervasive form of this kind of subjugation.

The most sympathetic people in Dune are the Fremen of Dune, who are caught in the middle of political and military battles between rival, intruding factions trying to control their homeworld -- and who are, interestingly, descended from Arabs (though they are not Muslims).

L-girl said...

That's part of the idea

Well yes, I got that. Back on present-day planet Earth, it's often just as nauseating.

James said...

Well yes, I got that. Back on present-day planet Earth, it's often just as nauseating.

Sorry, I'm in SF Geek Lecture Mode in preparation for my father's 70th birthday celebrations. I'm presenting him with a collection of SF films adapted from novels, one per decade of his life, since he taught a renowned SF course at UWO. Frank Herbert and Dune are one of his specialties, so it's been on my mind lately.

Ironically, I'm not giving him a copy of the Dune film, since the contemporary Blade Runner is a much better adaptation of its source.

L-girl said...

I'm in SF Geek Lecture Mode

:-)

Fabulous gift idea, btw.

M@ said...

It's funny, I first heard about FGM in the early part of the 90s, when it was beginning to get mainstream traction. I've never heard the phrase "arc of activism" but it makes a lot of sense to me. Fascinating.

One of the most disturbing things about the practice, as Ali described it, is that women who perform the "surgery" are far worse in the damage they inflict than men are. It really distresses me. That the practice is so widespread just beggars belief.

And I've never had that reaction to the Current before, though I'm often annoyed or angered by the people on there (I was shouting at the radio when Terence Corcoran was on, just the segment before, in fact). But Ali was just too much to take -- which is a shame because she was a very interesting guest.

Incidentally, I'm planning to go see Stephen Lewis at Wilfrid Laurier University on Friday -- I first got turned on to him listening to his Massey lecture on the plight of women in Africa last year. Went straight out an bought the book. It's funny how women's issues are among the most compelling to me -- to think I was once (long ago, in my early teens, and in a Catholic school) anti-abortion! I've come a long way, baby.

L-girl said...

that women who perform the "surgery" are far worse in the damage they inflict than men are.

Geez, it just makes your skin crawl, doesn't it?

When my pro-choice group first started to write about it, we were accused - by other feminists - of being culturally insensitive. I went ballistic. (A common mode for me in those days. :) ) That led us to look for people from within those cultures who were speaking out against it.

I'm planning to go see Stephen Lewis at Wilfrid Laurier University on Friday

Oo, lucky you! I haven't gotten in the habit of checking who is speaking at nearby universities and bookstores and such, as I did in NY. Another must-do...

to think I was once (long ago, in my early teens, and in a Catholic school) anti-abortion! I've come a long way, baby.

Nice.

I've found that many younger people are reflexively anti-abortion, seeing it in simplistic terms, not appreciating the many circumstances that can lead to unwanted pregnancies. If they're open minded enough, their views may change with time and experience.

On another tangent, a banned commenter recently described me as "pro abortion," which just made me sick (perhaps intentionally). Like I want everyone to have abortions. Free, available, safe birth control? Nah! Let's everyone have abortions, it's just the coolest thing...