1. Men, Women, and Cross-Gender Solidarity
Gender Explained: Sexuality, Biology, and Gender Identity
Originally published in
Common Dreams, 17 May 2016
under a Creative Commons License
Image Credit: ABC News 7 / Chicago
The U.S. government is officially suing the state of North Carolina over its controversial, discriminatory “bathroom bill,” which bars transgender residents from using public restrooms appropriate to their gender identity.
In announcing the lawsuit, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch gave a powerful speech invoking the state’s segregationist past. “It was not so very long ago that states, including North Carolina, had signs above restrooms, water fountains, and on public accommodations keeping people out based upon a distinction without a difference,” she said of the South’s Jim Crow laws. “We have moved beyond those dark days, but not without pain and suffering and an ongoing fight to keep moving forward. Let us write a different story this time.”
Then, in a surprising tag-team move, the Department of Education announced an additional decree calling on public schools across the United States to allow transgender students to access restrooms and locker rooms that are consistent with their gender identities. The guidelines also advocate other ways to ensure civil rights for transgender students, such as using their chosen name and preferred pronoun and allowing them on the sports teams that match their self-identified gender. Together, these moves put public school administrators nationwide on notice: Discrimination against transgender students violates federal civil rights law.
Denying transgender students equal treatment isn’t simply discriminatory. It’s also just plain ignorant of human biology.
"Ultimately what’s between people’s legs tells us little about their gender. Instead, we can only know gender according to how people self-identify."
Those who oppose equal rights for transgender people, for instance, often insist on enforcing a linkage between gender and “biological sex.” Biology, it turns out, does indeed shape gender — just not in the way they think.
According to the National Institutes of Health, there’s no convincing evidence that gender identity is either formed independently of hormonal influences or influenced by social environment after birth. On the contrary, there’s overwhelming evidence that the behavioral expressions we identify as “gender” are formed inside the brain, in utero, as a result of the presence or lack of androgens.
This process occurs quite separately, and later in pregnancy, than the development of genitalia. Genitalia develop in the first half of pregnancy and begin producing sex hormones. In the second half of pregnancy, the brain is influenced by the varying types and amounts of hormones produced and absorbed. Thus gender variation occurs along a spectrum, to greater and lesser degrees matching the sexual organs.
It’s also distinct from sexual orientation. Someone who identifies as transgender has the same likelihood of being straight, gay or bisexual as any other person.
In short, reproductive organs themselves don’t define gender. The hormonal influence on brain structure does.
Further, Science magazine reports, more recent studies show us that most brains are “a mosaic of male and female structures.” Indeed, very few brains — researchers estimate between 0 and 8 percent — are what we’d call “all female” or “all male.” In other words, virtually none of us has a fully male or fully female brain.
Instead, we all have brains that have some degree of mismatch with the social and behavioral expectations we assign to our reproductive organs. Mismatch is the norm, not the exception.
For many of us who don’t identify as transgender, the “mismatch” may be small. For other people, it may be sufficient to warrant a change in their gender markers. Still others may feel comfortable in many gender expressions, or none at all. Many people in this category call themselves genderqueer, or trans* with an asterisk, and may include intersex people. Some may need or desire medical intervention. All need affirmative legal policies to ensure their civil and human rights.
Ultimately what’s between people’s legs tells us little about their gender. Instead, we can only know gender according to how people self-identify.
Gender, like sexuality, doesn’t exist as a binary — it exists as an arc. It’s that simple, that beautiful, and that natural. And while society catches up with science, we need legal protections to stop discrimination and violence against people who identify or present as transgender, trans*, and genderqueer. Much of this violence is perpetrated most brutally against black, as well as poor, transgender girls and women.
Bathroom bills like North Carolina’s, or laws requiring a transgender girl to be a boy in school, aren’t just ignorant of biology — they’re in opposition to what it means to be human. So rather than tell an old story of exclusion and oppression based on fictional understandings of biology — a “distinction without a difference,” as the attorney general put it — let’s stand up and tell the truth: Our gender identities belong inextricably to us.
And we all have the right to self-determination, the right to pee in peace, and the right to live free from discrimination and violence.
Karen Dolan is a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and directs the Criminalization of Poverty project there. She is author of "The Poor Get Prison: The Alarming Spread of the Criminalization of Poverty." Follow her on Twitter: @karendolan
2. Men and Women in Marriage and the Family
Gender Balance in Marriage and the Family
In the post-patriarchal era, marriage is to be seen as a covenant of mutual submission between husband and wife. The patriarchal model of male hegemony will be seen as a forgettable aberration in human history. Marriage is about responsibly sharing the gift of love and the gift of life, not about one-sided domination and control. Fathers are called to be fathers. Mothers are called to be mothers. Both authority and responsibilities are to be fully shared. This will not cancel the natural differences between men and women. It will make husband and wife more accountable to each other. It will allow fathers to continue their personal development to become more nurturing without loss of masculinity, and will allow mothers to continue their personal development to become more assertive without loss of femininity. The family will then become a "domestic school" in which children, boys and girls, learn by osmosis that things are better when authoritarian violence is replaced by just and merciful authority and, at the same time, loving care is not confused with permissive abuse of family resources. It should be possible to advance further in this direction, because this was the natural order of things before male domination became institutionalized (Cf. Genesis 1-3).
International Day of the Girl Child 2013:
Innovating for Girls’ Education
Innovation: a novel solution to a social problem that is
more effective, efficient, sustainable, or just than existing solutions
UNICEF Statement: "The fulfilment of girls’ right to education is first and foremost an obligation and moral imperative. There is also overwhelming evidence that girls’ education, especially at the secondary level, is a powerful transformative force for societies and girls themselves: it is the one consistent positive determinant of practically every desired development outcome, from reductions in mortality and fertility, to poverty reduction and equitable growth, to social norm change and democratization." READ MORE
3. The Patriarchal Culture of Command and Control
The following is quoted from Wikipedia:
"Patriarchy is a social system in which the male gender role as the primary authority figure is central to social organization, and where fathers hold authority over women, children, and property. It implies the institutions of male rule and privilege, and entails female subordination. Many patriarchal societies are also patrilineal, meaning that property and title are inherited by the male lineage.
"Historically, patriarchy has manifested itself in the social, legal, political, and economic organization of a range of different cultures. Patriarchy also has a strong influence on modern civilization, although many cultures have moved towards a more egalitarian social system over the past century.
"Patriarchy literally means "rule of fathers" (Greek patriarkhes), "father" or "chief of a race, patriarch". Historically, the term patriarchy was used to refer to autocratic rule by the male head of a family. However, in modern times, it more generally refers to social systems in which power is primarily held by adult men.
"Anthropological and historical evidence indicates that most prehistoric hunter-gatherer societies were generally relatively egalitarian, and that patriarchal social structures did not develop until many years after the end of the Pleistocene era, following social and technological innovations such as agriculture and domestication. However, according to Robert M. Strozier, historical research has not yet found a specific "initiating event" of the origin of patriarchy. Some scholars point to about six thousand years ago (4000 BCE), when the concept of fatherhood took root, as the beginning of the spread of patriarchy."
For more on patriarchy, click here.
The patriarchal mindset of rivalry and domination is pervasive and induces a culture of "command and control" and transcends family relations and contaminates all human relations as well as the human attitude toward the natural habitat. An excellent exposition of the need for a good dosage of "ecofeminism" to overcome patriarchy is provided by Patrick Curry in Chapter 9 of his book, Ecological Ethics. Following are some excerpts:
"Insofar as patriarchy identifies women with nature and dominates both, they are internally linked, so the struggle to resist or overturn either must address both."
"Ecofeminism is a meeting of two strands. One is feminism itself: the awareness of the pathological effects of dominant patriarchal or (to use a more recent term) masculinist structures, both 'inner' and 'outer' -- particularly, of course, on women but also, ultimately, on their oppressors -- and the attempt to replace them with ones that also value the feminine."
"The other element is a recognition of, and deep concern about, the equally masculinist domination and exploitation of nature through the very same habitual structures of though, feeling and action that devalue and harm women."
Curry goes on to analyze the master mentality, both dualist and hierarchical: "humanity versus nature; male versus female; and reason versus emotion... the domination and exploitation of nature and women proceed by the same logic, the same processes and, by and large, the same people... only ecofeminism brings a critical awareness of the extent and ways in which the subordination of women and ecological destruction are integrally linked."
The chapter unfolds with a review of work by ecofeminist leaders such as Vandana Shiva (India) and Wangari Maathai (Kenya), and proceeds to deconstruct the androcentric (male-centered) mentality while, at the same time, making it crystal clear that ecofeminism is definitely not a matter of demonizing men. In fact, men are victims of patriarchal practices as much as women; in one way or another, domination that goes around comes around. Only an ethics of care, as in a mother holding her child, can break the vicious circle of patriarchal command and control whereby humans abuse the human habitat at their own peril. Indeed, as Lynn White proposed years ago, St. Francis of Assisi should be recognized as the patron saint of ecologists.
ON THE HISTORY OF PATRIARCHY
The Creation of Patriarchy, Gerda Lerner, Oxford University Press, 1987
The Patriarchal Family in History,
Christopher Dawson, in The Dynamics of World History, ISI Books, 2003
What is Patriarchy and Why is it the Most Powerful Force in the World Today?, Mary L. Wentworth, GSN, August 2005
Patriarchy, International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, 2008
Moving Beyond the Pathology of History: Why We Need a Shift in Human Consciousness,
Jean Houston, Huffington Post, 21 September 2010
SOME RECENT NEWS ON PATRIARCHY
The Real Shame: India’s Patriarchy Roars Back After Delhi Gang Rape,
By Nilanjana Bhowmick / New Delhi, Time World, 18 January 2013
My patriarchy is better than yours,
By Hani Yousuf, International Herald Tribune, 17 January 2013
Parliament and patriarchy,
Ramachandra Guha, The Hindu, 31 December 2012
Shrouded in patriarchy,
Victoria Rossi, The Hindu, 15 January 2013
Benign patriarchy is deadly, , The Gleaner, Jamaica, 6 January 2013
Why we must not skirt the real issues—rape & patriarchy,
Patralekha Chatterjee, DNA, 14 January 2013
Patriarchy begins with the textbook,
Bhavya Dore, Hindustan Times, Mumbai, West India, 9 January 2013
No Patriarchy, No Police State, No Capital Punishment: A Report on the Rally Against Rape,
Soma Marik, International Viewpoint, 7 January 2013
Our Violent Economy is Hurting Women,
Vandana Shiva, Yes! Magazine, 18 January 2013
Microfinance and Patriarchy: 'A Drift Away from Serving Women',
Knowledge@Wharton, Forbes, 18 January 2013
The Bible Is Man-Made: Why Patriarchy Still Reigns,
George Elerick, Huffington Post, 21 ecember 2012
The tragedy of homo disappointus,
Deepanjana Pal, DNA, 19 January 2013
Were the First Artists Mostly Women?, Virginia Hughes, National Geographic, 8 October 2013
Cave Women Rocked: Science Shows Prehistoric Gender Equality, Piper Hoffman, Care2, 8 November 2013
4. Gender Balance for Solidarity and Sustainability
New York — The 60th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women concluded today with UN Member States committing to the gender-responsive implementation of Agenda 2030. A set of agreed conclusions called for enhancing the basis for rapid progress, including stronger laws, policies and institutions, better data and scaled-up financing.
The Commission recognized women’s vital role as agents of development. It acknowledged that progress on the Sustainable Development Goals at the heart of Agenda 2030 will not be possible without gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.
UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka welcomed the agreement and the commitment of UN Member States to make the 2030 Agenda, adopted last September, a reality in countries around the world. She said: “Countries gave gender inequality an expiry date: 2030. Now it is time to get to work. These agreed conclusions entrench and start the implementation of a gender-responsive agenda 2030 with which we have the best possibility to leave no one behind.”
Growing global commitment was already in evidence with a record number of more than 80 government ministers from around the world attending the Commission. Around 4,100 non-governmental representatives from more than 540 organizations participated as well, the highest number ever for one of the Commission’s regular annual meetings.
The agreed conclusions urge a comprehensive approach to implementing all 17 Sustainable Development Goals through thorough integration of gender perspectives across all government policies and programmes. Eliminating all forms of gender-based discrimination depends on effective laws and policies and the removal of any statutes still permitting discrimination. Temporary special measures may be required to guarantee that women and girls can obtain justice for human rights violations.
The Commission endorsed significantly increased investment to close resource gaps for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls. Funds should be mobilized from all sources, domestic and international, ranging from fulfilling official development assistance commitments to combatting illicit financial flows that shortchange public resources for gender equality.
With humanitarian crises and other emergencies disproportionately affecting women and girls, the Commission underlined the imperative of empowering women in leadership and decision-making in all aspects of responding to and recovering from crisis. On the eve of the World Humanitarian Summit, it stressed prioritizing women’s and girls’ needs in humanitarian action and upholding their rights in all emergency situations. Every humanitarian response should take measures to address sexual and gender-based violence.
Members of the Commission united behind ensuring women’s equal participation in leadership at all levels of decision-making in the public and private spheres, encompassing governments, businesses and other institutions, and across all areas of sustainable development. Depending on different circumstances, this may involve establishing temporary special measures, setting and achieving concrete benchmarks and removing barriers to women’s participation.
Given the major contributions to Agenda 2030 of civil society, including women’s and community-based organizations, feminist groups, human rights defenders and girls’ and youth-led organizations, the Commission welcomed open engagement and cooperation with them in gender-responsive implementation. It emphasized fully engaging with men and boys as agents of change and allies in the elimination of all forms of discrimination and violence against women and girls.
To guide systematic progress towards gender equality and women’s empowerment throughout the 2030 Agenda, the Commission stressed enhanced national statistical capacity and the systematic design, collection and sharing of high-quality, reliable and timely data disaggregated by sex, age and income. Members also agreed to bolster the role of national mechanisms for women and girls in championing their equality and empowerment.
5. Gender Balance for Adaptation to Climate Change
"As a rights-based organisation, CARE's climate change strategy is geared towards the empowerment of poor and marginalised people. CARE is deeply concerned about constraints that the inequitable distribution of rights, resources and power – as well as repressive cultural rules and norms – place on people's ability to take action on climate change. We believe that a wide range of development goals are achievable only if decision makers at all levels recognise the unique risks faced by poor and marginalised people and their essential roles in planning, implementing and evaluating action on climate change.
"The majority of the world's poorest people today are women and girls. Climate change is making it even more difficult for them to realise their basic rights, and it is exacerbating inequalities since they are more vulnerable to its impacts than men.
"Moreover, many women are denied access to new information about climate change and participation in important decision-making processes despite having unique skills and knowledge – about low risk farming, sustainable water management, family health and community mobilisation, for example – vital to effective adaptation.
"For all these reasons, and because women are central to the food and livelihood security of their families, we place a special emphasis on gender equality and women's empowerment."
For more, including links to other CARE resources, click here.
KEY LINKS TO ADAPTATION & GENDER
- People-Centred Climate Change Adaptation: Integrating Gender Issues, FAO, 2007.
- Gender and Climate Change, UNDP, 2007.
- Women, Gender Equality and Climate Change, UN WomenWatch, 2009.
- Women are powerful agents of change, CARE International Climate Change Information Centre, 2011.
- Adaptation, gender and women's empowerment, CARE International Climate Change Brief, October 2010. Also available in Spanish, French, and Portuguese.
- Climate Adaptation Challenges from a Gender Perspective, Boell Foundation, 4 April 2011.
- Bringing gender into climate change adaptation, CCAFS, CGIAR, 12 July 2011.
COLLABORATION BETWEEN INDIA AND SIERRA LEONE
One specific case worthy of study in Women Bringing Solar Power to Sierra Leone, The Guardian, 15 September 2011. The following summary is excerpted from YaleGlobal, 16 September 2011.
"Developing renewables to meet the growing demand for energy is a top priority in the 21st century. So is enhancing collaboration among developing countries. By training semi-literate women from rural Sierra Leone in solar-energy techniques, Barefoot College in western India works towards achieving both these goals. Twelve women attended and then returned to villages in Sierra Leone to assemble 1,500 household solar units at a new branch of Barefoot College in Konta Line, where the training will continue, reports a blog for the Guardian. The governments of both countries have played their part; Sierra Leone invested $820,000 in the project, and India provided equipment. The vast majority of households in Sierra Leone go without power. Following its decades-long civil war, electricity is Sierra Leone's "most daunting infrastructural challenge," notes a World Bank report. Lighting extends education and socializing into the evening hours, and the women are planning on manufacturing solar units to spread the new power."
6. Women in Roles of Leadership and Governance
Dilma Rousseff: Political Crisis in Brazil
Ilka Oliva Corado
Originally published in
Pressenza, 17 May 2016
under a Creative Commons License
“We should have killed her,” her torturers will have repeated hundreds of times to themselves when they saw her becoming Brazil’s first woman president. Or they would have wanted cancer to make her disappear from the political scene, just like Evita (but temporarily, because she is immortal). Dilma marked a watershed moment in Brazil and Latin America. A woman president overcoming patriarchy and gender inequality. A woman who in government has created policies of gender inclusion and social policies that have benefited millions of outcasts who the oligarchy only see as pawns and who they have exploited for centuries, and want to continue exploiting.
The life of women has always been an uphill struggle; we continue to fight against the worst enemy: patriarchy, from where misogyny and machismo – that is so damaging to us as a society and as a gender – is derived. It is much more difficult for women who dare to challenge the limits and rules imposed on them and actively participate in politics. For being a woman and for having the courage, the dignity and the ability to lead a nation, you pay dearly in Latin America, as both Cristina and Dilma have found out.
Both have been smeared. Much of the post-coup analysis, written by intellectuals and international political analysts condemns and blames her for being a woman.
It is an analysis made by the patriarchy, subjective and with a high level of misogyny and stereotype, with all kinds of insults, contempt and fallacies.
This fraudulent coup against Dilma has been carried out from a position of betrayal, hatred, and jealousy, from a feeling of inferiority, and that’s why it has been so vicious. An attack on progressivism and democracy developed since Lula came to power, and with an increasing dose of hatred when it was Dilma calling the shots: too many women in government, too many African descendants, something intolerable for classism and the oligarchy, and much more so for the patriarchy.
Too many benefits for those hardest hit by the system; the neglected and exploited. Too many improvements for the outcasts, too much life in the favelas, too much visibility for women, and too many rights for the LGBTI community. The progress achieved by Brazil under Dilma as president is undeniable from any point of view.
Her administration was backed by 54 million Brazilians, and overthrown by 50 treacherous votes from the pawns of capitalism. One of the new methods of the Condor Plan: undemocratic coups supported by a media which manipulates and plays politics.
There is not a single piece of evidence to implicate her. Let them leave no stone unturned in looking for it! Her unforgivable sin has been to govern for the vilified and to create policies of inclusion, development and social equality, trying to impose justice in Human Rights, giving voice to the invisible and dreams to the nobodies; there is no oligarchy, neoliberalism or classism that would condone or allow it.
By decapitating Dilma they have hit the hearts of the outcasts, hence the ferocious attack driven by treason. Because at the polls they would lose.
They were unable to succeed against a woman who has put a plate of food on the table and provided a roof over the heads of millions of marginalized people, someone who has created jobs, invested in education, health and infrastructure, someone who has showered the formerly oppressed peripheries with a utopia, someone who backed the BRICS instead of the USA and the oligarchic capital of the region.
This is someone who didn’t sell the oil into the hands of the greedy, someone who has a futuristic vision of regional integration, and someone who wants comprehensive development for Brazilian children in their own country so they are not forced to migrate – unlike in neoliberal countries – towards US exploitation.
This is someone who wants and fights for women rights so that women stop being seen as third class human beings.
Those 54 million Brazilians have the political and human obligation to take to the streets and demonstrate peacefully in defence of their rights. Dilma cannot do it alone, she has defended them during her term in office, and with her life since her adolescence. Never forget that she was tortured by those who now want to destroy her!
Now they have to assert their votes and make their voices heard. No one can defend the rights of the outcasts, except the outcasts themselves. For Dilma, for Brazil, for the favelas. For the right to live in a country that deserves to flourish. For the historical memory, dignity, identity, for human and workers’ rights. For prosperity. For justice, for integrity and love. For those who were, for those who are and for those who will be.
Dilma is unbreakable, they won’t defeat her. But they are not going after her; they want to dismantle the achievements of her progressive government and to destroy the dreams of the outcasts. They want to extinguish the unprecedented beauty of a blooming Brazil. But there is no source of big capital, no oppressor and no treacherous power that has ever been able to subdue the enormous strength of a wounded and honest people. Brazil has to show what it is made of. The time is now. The fight is today.
Now and forever, my love and support for my president Dilma, and my homeland Brazil.
Translated by Marvin Najarro
7. Men and the Changing Face of Masculinity
- The Invisible Partners: How the Male and Female in Each of Us Affects Our Relationships, John Sanford, Paulist Press, 1980.
- Original Unity of Man and Woman, John Paul II, Daughters of St Paul, June 1981.
- Men and Masculinities, SAGE, 1998-2011.
- Two Wings of a Bird: The Equality of Women and Men, Bahá'í International Community, 1999.
- Psychology of Men & Masculinity, APA, 2000-2011.
- Biological Differences Between Men and Women With Respect to Social Stability and Aggression, Judith L. Hand, 2006.
- Journal of Men, Masculinities and Spirituality, Joseph Gelfer, Editor - Monash University, Australia, 2007-2011.
- Shaping the Future, Judith L. Hand, August 2011.
- Patriarchies of the Past - Masculinities for the Future, Catherine of Siena College, 2011.
- Men for Gender Equality, Special Issue of New Internationalist, 1 July 2011.
- The Masculinity Conspiracy, Joseph Gelfer, CreateSpace, August 2011.
- Men and Meaning, Laki Sideris and Joseph Gelfer, website launched 26 March 2012.
- Southern Africa: Gender Mainstreaming or Malestreaming?, Temba Dube, All Africa, 26 April 2012.
- Zimbabwe: Involve Men in Fight for Gender Equality, Zimbabwe Women's Resource Centre and Network, AllAfrica, 13 August 2012.
- Religion and Masculinities: Continuities and Change, Religion & Gender, October 2012.
- Working with Men on Gender Equality, Gender & Development, Volume 21, Issue 1, March 2013.
- Young Men Break with Machista Stereotypes in Ecuador, Leisa Sánchez, IPS, 14 May 2013.
- Why Men Can Be Good for Feminism, Shira Tarrant, AlterNet, 8 August 2013.
- Why talking about ‘healthy masculinity’ is like talking about ‘healthy cancer’, John Stoltenberg, Feminist Current, 9 August 2013.
- Dying to Be Men: Symposium Digs for Roots of Gender Violence, Viola Gienger, USIP, 31 October 2013.
- Real men on board effort of gender equality, Bonnie Erbe, Reporter News, 2 November 2013.
- International Studies on Men, Masculinities and Gender Equality: An Emerging Focus for Policy and Research?, Guest editor: Jeff Hearn, Men and Masculinities, December 2014.
- 7 Ways In Which Being ‘Manly’ Oppresses Men As Much As It Oppresses Women, YKA Staff, Youth KiAwaaz, 25 November 2015.
8. Men, Women, and the Human Habitat
Women and Biodiversity Feed the World,|
Not Corporations and GMOs
Originally published in Common Dreams, 20 May 2015,
under a Creative Commons License
'Women have been the primary growers of food and nutrition
throughout history,' writes Dr. Vandana Shiva, 'but today, food
is being taken out of our hands and substituted for toxic commodities
controlled by global corporations.' (Photos: Georgina Smith/CIAT)
The two great ecological challenges of our times are biodiversity erosion and climate change. And both are interconnected, in their causes and their solutions.
Industrial agiculture is the biggest contributor to biodiversity erosion as well as to climate change. According to the United Nations, 93% of all plant variety has disappeared over the last 80 years.
Monocultures based on chemical inputs do not merely destroy plant biodiversity, they have destroyed soil biodiversity, which leads to the emergence of pathogens, new diseases, and more chemical use.
Our study of soils in the Bt cotton regions of Vidharba showed a dramatic decline in beneficial soil organisms. In many regions with intensive use of pesticides and GMOs, bees and butterflies are disappearing. There are no pollinators on Bt cotton plants, whereas the population of pollinators in Navdanya’s biodiversity conservation farm in Doon Valley is six times more than in the neighbouring forest. The UNEP has calculated the contribution of pollinators to be $200 billion annually. Industrial agriculture also kills aquatic and marine life by creating dead zones due to fertilizer run off. Pesticides are also killing or damaging aquatic life .
Besides the harm to biodiversity and the climate, industrial agriculture actually undermines food and nutrition security. Firstly, industrial agriculture grows commodities for profits of the agrichemical (now also Biotech) and agribusiness corporations. Only 10 percent of the annual GMO corn and soya crop goes to feed people. The rest goes to animal feed and biofuel. This is clearly not a food system that feeds the world.
"Genetically engineered Golden Rice and GMO Bananas are being proposed by corporations hiding behind the cloak of academia as a solution to hunger and malnutrition in the Global South. But these are false miracles."
Secondly, monocultures undermine nutrition by displacing the biodiversity that provides nourishment and the diversity of nutrients our body needs. Herbicides like Roundup do not just kill the milkweed on which the monarch Butterfly larvae feed, they kill sources of nutrition for humans – the amaranth, the "bathua," and the mixed cropping that produces more "Nutrition per Acre" than industrial monocultures (see Navdanya’s report on Health per Acre).
Having destroyed our sources of nutrition by destroying biodiversity—and creating vitamin A, iron and other deficiencies—the same companies who created the crisis are promising a miracle solution: GMOs. Genetically engineered Golden Rice and GMO Bananas are being proposed by corporations hiding behind the cloak of academia as a solution to hunger and malnutrition in the Global South. But these are false miracles.
Indigenous biodiverse varieties of food grown by women provide far more nutrition than the commodities produced by industrial agriculture. Since 1985 the false miracle of Golden Rice is being offered as a solution to vitamin A deficiency. But Golden rice is still under development. Billions of dollars have been wasted on a hoax.
On 20th of April, the White house gave an award to Syngenta which had tried to pirate India’s rice diversity, and owns most of the 80 patents related to Golden Rice. This is reminiscient of the Emperor who had no clothes. Golden Rice is 350% less efficient in providing vitanim A than the biodiversity alternatives that women grow. GMO ‘iron-rich’ Bananas have 3000% less iron than turmeric and 2000% less iron than amchur (mango powder). Apart from being nutritionally empty, GMOs are part of an industrial system of agriculture that is destroying the planet, depleting our water sources, increasing green houses gases, and driving farmers into debt and suicide through a greater dependence on chemical inputs. Moreover, these corporate-led industrial monocultures are destroying biodiversity, and we are losing access to the food systems that have sustained us throughout time. Biodiverse ecological agriculture in women’s hands is a solution not just to the malnutrition crisis, but also the climate crisis.
"Apart from being nutritionally empty, GMOs are part of an industrial system of agriculture that is destroying the planet, depleting our water sources, increasing green houses gases, and driving farmers into debt and suicide."
Women have been the primary growers of food and nutrition throughout history, but today, food is being taken out of our hands and substituted for toxic commodities controlled by global corporations. Monoculture industrial farming has taken the quality, taste and nutrition out of our food.
In addition to destroying biodiversity, industrial agriculture is the biggest contributor of greenhouse gases (GHGs) which are leading to climate change and climate chaos. As I have written in my book, Soil Not Oil: Environmental Justice in an Age of Climate Crisis, 40% of all GHGs—including carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and methane—come from industrialised globalized agriculture. And chemical monocultures are also more vulnerable to climate change as we have witnessed in the unseasonal rains at harvest time in 2015.
On the other hand, organic farming reduces emissions, and also makes agriculture more resilient to climate change. Because organic farming is based on returning organic matter to the soil, it is the most effective means to remove excess carbon in the air, where it does not belong, and putting it in the soil, where it belongs. Navdanya’s research has shown that organic farming has increased carbon absorption by 55%. International studies show that with 2 tons of Soil Organic Matter (SOM) per hectare, we can remove 10 gigatons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, which can reduce the atmospheric concentration of carbon back down to pre-industrial levels of 350 ppm.
In addition, organic matter in the soil also increases water-holding capacity of the soil, reducing the impact of floods and droughts. Just 1% increase in Soil Organic Matter can raise the water-holding capacity of soil by 100,000 liters per hectare. And an increase of 5% can raise it to 800,000 liters. This is our insurance against climate change, both when there is drought and too little rain, and when there are floods and excess rain. On the other hand, cement and concrete increases runoff of water, aggravating floods and drought. We witnessed this in the Uttarakhand disaster in 2013 and in the Kashmir disaster in 2014.
At harvest time of spring 2015 India had unseasonal rains which destroyed the crops. More than a 100 farmers committed suicide. The unseasonal rains due to climate instability added to the burden of debt the farmers are already carrying due to rising costs of production and falling prices. Both the crisis of debt leading to climate change and the climate crisis have a common solution – a shift to biodiverse ecological agriculture which is free of high cost chemical inputs and dependence on corporate seeds, hence of debt, and also has climate resilience built into it through biodiversity and organic soils.
4000 years ago our ancient Vedas had guided us, "Upon this handful of soil our survival depends. Care for it, and it will grow our food, our fuel, our shelter and surround us with beauty. Abuse it, and the soil will collapse and die, taking humanity with it."
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dr. Vandana Shiva is a philosopher, environmental activist and eco feminist. She is the founder/director of Navdanya Research Foundation for Science, Technology, and Ecology. She is author of numerous books including, Soil Not Oil: Environmental Justice in an Age of Climate Crisis; Stolen Harvest: The Hijacking of the Global Food Supply; Earth Democracy: Justice, Sustainability, and Peace; and Staying Alive: Women, Ecology, and Development. Shiva has also served as an adviser to governments in India and abroad as well as NGOs, including the International Forum on Globalization, the Women’s Environment and Development Organization and the Third World Network. She has received numerous awards, including 1993 Right Livelihood Award (Alternative Nobel Prize) and the 2010 Sydney Peace Prize.
9. Dismantling the Patriarchal Gender Binary in Society
UN Acts to Achieve Complete Gender Equality Ahead of 2133
Originally published in
IDN-InDepthNews, 21 January 2016
REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION
Photo credit: UN | Sylvain Lietchti
BERLIN | DAVOS (IDN) - Declaring that the empowerment of the world’s women is “a global imperative”, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has announced the first-ever High-Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment.
The establishment of the Panel, backed by the United Kingdom, the World Bank Group and UN Women, was proclaimed in Davos, Switzerland, the venue of the annual World Economic Forum (WEF), on January 21. Read in Japanese
The announcement did not surprise observers: The UN’s fifth Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 5) envisages achievement of gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls. And gender equality is one of the ten key global challenges the WEF has singled out this year for the four-day event concluding January 23.
For the past decade, the World Economic Forum has been measuring the pace of change through the Global Gender Gap Report. With a decade of data, this edition of the Global Gender Gap Report – first published in 2006 – shows that “while the world has made progress overall, stubborn inequalities remain”. At this rate, “it will take the world another 118 years – or until 2133 – to close the economic gap entirely”, says the report.
This is because, as the report finds, despite an additional quarter of a billion women entering the global workforce since 2006, wage inequality persists, with women only now earning what men did a decade ago.
The global gender gap across health, education, economic opportunity and politics has closed by only 4% in the past 10 years, with the economic gap closing by just 3%, suggesting it will take another 118 years to close this gap completely.
Asking whether education is failing women, the report finds that the gap has widened in 22% of 145 surveyed countries since 2006 and, while more women than men are enrolling at university in 97 countries, women make up the majority of skilled workers in only 68 countries and the majority of leaders in only four.
The Nordic countries still dominate the Global Gender Gap Index. Ireland is the highest placed non-Nordic country, ranking fifth. Rwanda (6), Philippines (7) and New Zealand (10) are the only non-European countries in the top 10; and the United States falls eight places to 28th.
On the other hand, research shows that women invest their income back into their families and communities, including in health and education. McKinsey Global Institute estimates that if women in every country were to play an identical role to men in markets, as much as US$28 trillion would be added to the global economy by 2025.
But at present, women continue to earn less, have fewer assets, bear the burden of unpaid work and care and be largely concentrated in vulnerable and low-paying activities. Women spend more than twice as much time on unpaid care and domestic work as men and women on average are paid 24 per cent less than men globally for the same work.
Moreover, 75 per cent of women’s employment in developing regions is informal and unprotected. These gaps constrain women’s rights and hinder economic growth and productivity.
Significantly scaled up actions and political will are therefore considered necessary by the UN to ensure that governments, development organizations and others invest in the economic empowerment of women for the benefit of whole societies.
Against this backdrop, the High-Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment will provide thought leadership and mobilize concrete actions aimed at closing economic gender gaps that persist around the world.
In particular, it will give recommendations for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to improve economic outcomes for women and promote women’s leadership in driving sustainable and inclusive, environmentally sensitive economic growth.
The Panel will advise recommendations for key actions that can be taken by governments, the private sector, the UN system and other stakeholders, as well as policy directives needed to achieve the new targets and indicators in the SDGs that call for the economic empowerment of women.
“The empowerment of the world’s women is a global imperative,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announcing the establishment of the Panel.
“Yet despite important progress in promoting gender equality, there remains an urgent need to address structural barriers to women’s economic empowerment and full inclusion in economic activity. If the world is to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, we need a quantum leap in women’s economic empowerment,” Ban said.
The Co-Chairs of the Panel are Luis Guillermo Solis, President of Costa Rica, and Simona Scarpaleggia, CEO of IKEA Switzerland. They will be joined by the leaders of the International Monetary Fund, World Bank Group, UN Women and a diverse range of eminent gender and equality actors, economics experts, academics, trade union leaders, business and government representatives from all regions.
The Panel will be supported by an independent Secretariat, hosted by UN Women with backing from the UK Government.
UK International Development Secretary Justine Greening, a founding member of the Panel, welcomed its launch. She said: “I am hugely proud to be a part of this Panel. Investing in girls and women isn’t just about basic human rights, it’s about fully unlocking the potential of half the world’s population. The UK is already at the forefront of this effort.”
She added: “At the Department for International Development I have put improving the lives of girls and women at the very heart of our work and Britain is successfully leading the fight against FGM and child marriage, as well as getting girls into school and women into jobs. Strong economies need the contribution of everyone – including women – and this panel will spearhead a movement to put women’s economic empowerment on the global agenda like never before.”
Jim Yong Kim, World Bank Group President, also a founding member of the Panel, stated: “The World Bank Group is strongly committed to gender equality, which is integral to ending poverty and boosting shared prosperity. Our new Gender Equality Strategy puts a much sharper focus on economic empowerment.”
He added: “No society, community or economy can achieve its full potential – or meet the escalating challenges of the 21st century – until all its people can achieve theirs. We are pleased to partner with the UK’s Department for International Development and the United Nations in convening this important panel, whose work will accelerate progress towards the goals we share.”
The High-Level Panel will help tackle gender gaps in economic opportunities and outcomes which persist around the world, building on the growing evidence and recognition by governments and the private sector that women’s economic empowerment has a multiplier effect and boosts whole economies.
The High-Level Panel will have its inaugural meeting during the 60th session of the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations in March 2016. A series of regional consultative meetings will also take place, and the Panel’s first report with action-oriented recommendations will be issued in September 2016.