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‘Walk the Busan Talk’

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BUSAN, South Korea, Dec 13 2011 (IPS) - Women’s rights champions are not prepared to let the dust settle on the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness that ended in this South Korean port city on Dec. 1 with the customary nod towards gender equality and empowerment.

An internally-displaced Kenyan woman cooks in her makeshift kitchen.  Credit: Miriam Gathigah/IPS

An internally-displaced Kenyan woman cooks in her makeshift kitchen. Credit: Miriam Gathigah/IPS

The Busan Outcome Document’s paragraph 20 says: “We must accelerate our efforts to achieve gender equality and the empowerment of women through development programmes grounded in country priorities, recognising that gender equality and women’s empowerment are critical to achieving development results.”

Roselynn Musa, programme manager at the African Women’s Development and Communication Network, says, “Busan is not the end, but the beginning.

“As we turn a new leaf, there is no time to wait for the dust to settle before we roll up our sleeves and get our hands dirty. We need to start engaging with our governments to ensure that they move paragraph 20 of the Busan Outcome Document into the lives of women,” Musa said.

Although many gender experts continue to express discontent with the handling of the issue of women’s empowerment at the Busan conference, they agree that there was an increased show of interest in the plight of women compared to the previous forum in Accra, Ghana.

Says Monica Njenga, a gender activist in Kenya: “Previous international conferences offered many promises to women, hoodwinking them into believing that there is a real interest in fighting gender inequalities and narrow down gender gaps. Women need to take initiative and make paragraph 20 work.”


Njenga adds that many developing countries are facing major socio-economic challenges and may not prioritise the Busan commitment to gender.

“In Kenya, citizens continue to struggle as the cost of living continues to skyrocket. Labour unrest is now unprecedented with doctors in public hospitals having been on a week- long strike. The army is also at war with Al Shabab in Somalia. Gender equality is perhaps the last thing on the government’s list of priorities.”

In spite of these challenges, gender champions believe they can use the Busan document to leverage the gender agenda. One of these is Mayra Moro-Coco, development policy and advocacy manager at the Association for Women Rights in Development.

“The global partnership coming out of Busan will aim to reach effective development cooperation,” says Moro-Coco.

“Working for development effectiveness means promoting a development model that shifts the dominant development scenario towards an inclusive, sustainable, and just paradigm that recognises and values reproductive and unpaid work, promotes decent work and promotes the empowerment, human rights and emancipation of women and girls,” she said.

Moro-Coco lays emphasis on the need for various stakeholders to acknowledge that “development effectiveness requires democratic ownership by women and meaningful and systematic participation by civil society, especially women’s and feminist organisations.”

The global partnership that resulted from the Busan conference shows no real commitment to the human rights approach to development, says Moro-Coco.

This, she says, poses a challenge for initiatives and interventions geared towards “advancing development and poverty eradication in ways that are democratic and coherent with international human rights standards and give adequate attention to women’s human rights, the right to development and environmental justice.”

Moro-Coco expresses concern about the implementation of the Busan global partnership since the document “has not given adequate attention to women’s rights, the right to development and environmental justice.”

Paragraph 20 does express an interest in reducing gender inequality as “both an end in its own right and a prerequisite for sustainable and inclusive growth.”

It also recognises the need to “accelerate and deepen efforts to collect, disseminate, harmonise and make full use of data disaggregated by sex to inform policy decisions and guide investments, ensuring in turn that public expenditures are targeted appropriately to benefit both women and men.”

These, many feel, are not enough.

Says Njenga: “Promises are easy to make. Women need to show their leaders that they mean business. If indeed women account for a majority of the population, especially in developing countries where gross gender inequalities thrive, they need to make their votes count.”

Njenga believes that women should vote for leaders “who have tangible results to show as commitment to women rights.

“During campaigns, most leaders give gender issues lip service only to be voted in and disappear from the gender forums. This needs to change.”

 
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