Development Justice: perspectives from Kyrgyzstan
New York, 9 March 2015. Aijamal Bakashova speakinq at the UN High Level Thematic Debate on Advancing Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women and Girls for a Transformative Post-2015 Development Agenda. She spoke on the need for a living wage, accountability for land-grabbing, and the need for development justice.
I want to first comment on the important questions on property rights and decent work. There’s no doubt that access and control over land is critical for women’s economic empowerment, but we have to also see that one of the greatest threats to women’s land rights is land-grabbing.
We can’t aim for equality only for the tiny minority of land that is left for marginalised communities living in poverty. We must measure the amount of land that is accessible to communities, the amount that’s being grabbed by corporations and governments AS WELL AS the amount of land over which women have decision making power.
When we talk about unpaid work and labour markets, we should consider reality. We can’t aim to increase women’s workplace participation if those jobs are jobs that are poorly paid, that expose women to exploitation.Women want employment opportunities but they want decent opportunities that provide real livelihoods and foster their potential.
In this post-2015 process we need very clear targets and indicators that measure the rights of domestic workers. I want to highlight domestic workers as domestic work is the number one reason for women’s labour migration in our region.
We need indicators for the rights of domestic workers and around the existence of domestic workers in the labour code, so that they have the same rights and protections as other workers. Most importantly, we need to enforce a living wage. In Asia we have the biggest gender pay gap, partly because growth has been dependent on women’s low paid labour. If there’s one message I want to highlight here it is that we MUST agree to a global living wage indicator in the post2015 development agenda to measure and enforce living wages. So, to the question of ensuring non discrimination against girls and women at local levels.
I want to highlight 3 important activities: first is the importance of feminist movements, second is the need for capacity building and empowerment and third is women’s role in decision making. The single biggest factor in advancing policies for women’s rights is the existence of autonomous feminist movements. Researchers like Mala Htun and Laurel Weldon have confirmed how critical feminist movements are.
One of the good examples is the women’s movement in Kyrgyzstan that has strong networking, due to which it was possible to enforce Criminal Code Article for bride kidnapping, which mainly means early and forced marriages. Advocacy for changes was based on feminist participatory action research results of grass root organizations, including my organization, and it was successful as sanctions for bride kidnapping were changed from 1-3 years up to 5-7 years.
Second, In order to keep and sustain such achievements, we need local level activities aimed at empowering and strengthening the capacity of women and girls to address gender inequities, alongside efforts to integrate needs of women and girls into the development process.
Third, Kyrgyzstan is one of only 2 countries in Asia that had a woman head of state who has not come from a family dynasty. When women leaders are seen as representing the elite it really doesn’t make a significant difference to women on the ground. It’s very clear that we have to mandate targets for women in decision making. In my experience it’s most critical at the local level.
If women become local leaders its more likely to change perceptions. While there’s a lot of attention on engaging men in changing norms, our first step should be to ensure women see themselves as rights holders. Again, local women’s movements are imperative for that.
In conclusion I’d like to stress that the bottom line to ensure non discrimination of women and girls is that governments must have the political will to address both the obviously discriminatory laws and policies but also to dismantle the systems that reproduce inequality – the economic systems, the cultural systems, the political systems and to commit to Development Justice. We need a model that asserts the right to development for all people and that ensures social and economic justice between men and women, between rich and poor. It will give us an opportunity to do something more than rhetoric – to really commit politically with resources.