1963-2013 - 50 years of Research for Social Change

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Visible Hands: Taking Responsibility for Social Development

Programme Area: Special Events (2000 - 2009)
Project Title: Geneva 2000: The Next Step in Social Development
No. of Pages: 190

From Chapter 7: Getting Development Right for Women...

Women are gaining formal rights, but this has not been matched by an improvement in their quality of life. Although women’s groups have become increasingly visible and vocal, their political influence remains limited. And as governments shift more social responsibilities to families and communities, most of the burden falls on women’s shoulders.

The democratic openings of the past decade have offered greater opportunities for women. Women’s groups have helped draft national constitutions and have developed new legislation in areas such as family law and violence against women. Women’s groups have also been among the most influential NGOs. In the 1990s, feminist ideas and practices proliferated across a wide range of public arenas: in black and indigenous movements, for example, and in trade unions, universities, political parties, and international development agencies. Women also played a prominent part in the international conferences of the1990s.

1995 was particularly significant in this respect. It was the year of the Social Summit, which established that “equality and equity between women and men is a priority for the international community”. It was also the year of the landmark Fourth World Conference on Women, in Beijing.

But have formal declarations on gender equity actually had a political and social impact? Have women’s lives started to change? Here the story is much less optimistic. Many of the hidden barriers and ceilings to women’s meaningful participation remain stubbornly in place. Whether in UN meeting halls or in national or local governance, social conservatism continues to block the implementation of many hard-won rights. And the social dislocation that has accompanied economic liberalization has often thrown extra burdens on women’s shoulders.

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