Panel organized by the Women’s Global Network for Reproductive
Rights (WGNRR) Amsterdam
At the European conference of the People’s Global Action 1st September 2002 20:00- 23:00 in the Volkshuis (Leiden, NL)
As most of us are aware that globalization and the effects of the policies
of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), and of the World Bank, impact differently
on the lives of women than on men. The lives of women from rural areas and
poor women are also differently affected from those of urban educated women
in all parts of the world.
In terms of access to health care services there has been a tremendous set back not just due the rise in female poverty worldwide but also due to the effects of privatization and trade liberalization. Poor women' s access to abortion services, basic health services and emergency treatment have been dramatically reduced leading to an increase in deaths during delivery and due to treatable illnesses like malaria and tuberculoses. The spreadof diseases like AIDS have complicated the situation even more.
Women from many countries of the world are leaving their homes in search of work in huge numbers, traveling to far away lands to look for a living wage to sustain their families. While such an undertaking does add to their self-confidence and sense of self-worth they are also at the receiving end of practices that exploit their lack of knowledge of the world they travel to. Women end up doing domestic work and in some cases may be forced into sex work. The dynamics of changes in the lives of women who have little choice but to take such risks or who dare to do so need to be looked at to appreciate what migration means in today’s world and how women are organizing to protect themselves.
With the fall in birth rates in W.Europe most governments in these countries have been worried about the reduction in numbers of the white populations. Besides this the average age of the population has risen and there is talk of a ”graying” of the population. The implication being, according to figures of the UN agencies, that these economies will not be able to sustain themselves unless migrants (educated and temporary) are encouraged to come in to work. The existing feelings of racism in these societies and economic demand for migrants to be allowed to enter has given an added impetus to the anti-migrant feelings among the average W. European that has been aggravated by the events of 11 September 2001. With the rise in poverty and oil related conflicts in the world there is a great increase in migrants in search of work and asylum. There is a conscious effort in W.Europe to stimulate women into wanting more children although such policies cannot be very directly pushed since it will be seen as an invasion of people’s private right to decide the number of children they wish to have. On the other hand there is a active promotion of population control programmes for countries of the South to reduce their birth rates, the rationale for it being that the fewer people those countries produce the fewer of them are likely to migrate to the west! These programmes are focused on women and their reproductive capacities with major negative consequences as a result.
In this panel we would like to make the interconnections between these themes to show how racism, class and patriarchy intertwine to keep the poor especially poor women at the bottom end of the hierarchy. In a globalised world wealth sharing is to be between the rich. Women are however not taking their situation lying down. Groups and organizations have sprung up to raise protest and to organise for change – some such instances will also be presented.
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