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Transforming Economic Power to Advance Women’s Rights &

Justice
The 12th AWID International Forum on Women’s Rights and Development
April 19-22, 2012 | Istanbul, Turkey

Call for Proposals


Deadline: May 27, 2011

Transforming economic power… are you up to the challenge?

Are you willing to move beyond your comfort zone? To question your usual thinking? To engage
with actors outside of your every day activism or workplace? Are you ready to build alliances
across boundaries so that together we can transform economic power?

Through the 2012 AWID Forum, we aim to explore how economic power is impacting on women
and the planet, and to facilitate connections among the very diverse groups working on these
issues from both human rights and justice approaches so that together we contribute to
stronger, more effective strategies to advance women’s rights and justice.

Legacies of colonization, tumultuous transitions from communism and decades of neoliberal


policy prescriptions have put public resources in the hands of the private sector, irrevocably
damaged the environment, fostered rampant militarization, eroded human rights and, with few
exceptions, allowed capitalist markets, rather than lived human experience, to determine what
has value. The financial crisis and economic recession that began in 2008, part of a broader
systemic crisis of food, energy, and the environment, laid bare the failures and falsities of the
current dominant economic model in ways that even the strongest proponents of the system
found difficult to defend. While some of the economies that exist outside the dominant model
are also built on unequal power relations, others are founded on more equitable principles,
offering important insights and possibilities for those committed to transforming economic
power.

Now, the broad-based mobilizations across the Middle East and North of Africa are inspiring
women and men around the globe to see new opportunities for confronting what once seemed
to be unchangeable structures of power. Significant geopolitical shifts—stronger roles of
‘emerging’ countries and fortified regional blocs to name a few—are also raising questions
about the possibilities for radically shifting the balance of economic power, even as dominant
economic actors are fast re-grouping to defend their interests and avoid making significant
changes.

Regardless of the circumstances and contexts in which we live, economic power cuts across all
dimensions of our lives, from negotiating household expenditures to allocating national budgets
and campaigning for recognition of the care economy, fair wages, decent working conditions,
and affordable, common access to the world’s resources – including food, water, energy and
land.

Economic power also impacts on and intersects with all women’s rights issues and agendas -
from reproductive and sexual rights to violence against women, education, political participation
and health. Without economic systems that take account of women’s needs and realities and
value their contributions, rights and justice are not possible.

Throughout history, patriarchy and other systems of oppression, including persistent racism,
have influenced the way we organize ourselves in society and permeated our politics,
economies, knowledge and culture. As a result, many people, particularly women, have been
systematically shut out of economic and other decision-making. Yet women, in all their diversity,
have long been negotiating the fractures and fissures in the system as well as filling the gaps
left by cuts in spending and services.

There are many important experiences from which to learn and build. Indigenous, peasant and
rural women building food sovereignty. Grassroots women developing strategies of resilience
and empowerment in the face of both environmental and economic disasters. Young women
and girls using new information and communication technologies in diverse and creative ways
to mobilize and bring about social change. Sex workers, migrant workers and domestic workers
redefining what it means to work and why care work should count. Women with disabilities,
trans activists and women living with HIV/AIDS continuing to question unbridled emphasis on
growth and productivity at the expense of human dignity. And feminist economists naming and
analyzing the forces shaping and assigning value to social production and reproduction.

As women’s rights and justice activists, we have a responsibility at this historic moment to join
together across lines of difference. Now is the time to listen and learn from each other. Now is
the time to build our collective power as political actors, to gather our years of experience and
knowledge to more effectively participate in the current critical economic debates. Now is the
time to contribute together to building diverse alternative visions and just practices and to
continue building our movements. Now is the time to transform economic power!

Join us at the 2012 AWID International Forum and be part of deepening our understanding of
economic injustice, equipping ourselves to engage in economic debates, and devising
strategies to transform and reclaim economic power.

Are you up to the challenge?

How you can contribute to the Forum:


Contribute to shaping the conversation – and the strategies – at the 2012 AWID Forum by
submitting a proposal to organize a session.

We have selected 10 broad themes to frame our exploration of economic power. The themes
reflect some of the core dimensions and manifestations of economic power. They are also
crucial areas in which economic power impacts on and intersects with a diverse range of
women’s rights issues. The next section provides brief descriptions of each theme. Since the
themes are profoundly inter-related, you will have the option, when submitting your session
proposal, to indicate the “primary theme” to which your session proposal relates and whether
your session is closely linked to a second theme as well.

The ten themes are:

• Labor & Work


• Militarism, Violence & Conflict
• The Role of the State
• Sexuality
• The Planet & Ecological Health
• Financial Flows
• Access to & Control of Resources
• Private Sector & Corporate Power
• Culture & Religion
• Global Governance

We strongly encourage session organizers to use an intersectional approach by considering the


relevance and significance of how diverse identities intersect to define people’s experiences and
how people are impacted by the issues explored in your session. This includes consideration of
diverse gender identities, class, ability, race, ethnicity, age, and locality, among others.

Forum sessions are 1.5 hours in length. In addition to relating to one or two of the themes
above, your session proposal should respond to at least one of the questions below.

1. What are key insights, lessons or debates about how economic power works in this
theme, keeping in mind the realities and experiences of women in all their diversities?
2. What are existing experiences in building towards transformative, alternative visions and
practices within this theme—whether at local, national, regional and/or international levels—and
what are the roles of women’s movements and/or other social movements in these
experiences?
3. What skills do activists need to transform economic power in relation to this theme?
4. What are concrete strategies, including the kinds of alliance building needed, for
transforming economic power in relation to this theme?
5. What are concrete forward-looking proposals for change and visions to transform
economic power in relation to this theme?

More about the themes:


Each of the ten themes could be the subject of an entire Forum. Nonetheless, we would like the
Forum to explore some of the complexities and nuances of the debates related to these themes.
The following descriptions of the themes are intended to provide basic yet flexible parameters
for the discussions at the Forum. You are encouraged to use your creativity and insight
in articulating how your session links to one or more of these themes.

Labor & Work

Formal, informal, subsistence, household, community, caring, voluntary, reproductive—women


are in a number of these ‘classes’ of work at any one time. Yet a large part of women’s work is
rendered invisible and is often either outside of what is officially counted as work or is
undervalued and underpaid. Women face barriers to advancement across the economy – from
exploitation and unsafe working conditions in agro-industry, garment factories and other sectors,
to the ‘glass ceiling’ that blocks advancement to managerial positions within major corporations,
to their exclusion from more profitable sectors of informal trade.

Recent years have witnessed important changes in the nature of work in many contexts. At the
same time there is a growing recognition of the diverse ways in which women engage in
economic relations and their means of livelihood. New technologies are facilitating greater
flexibility of labor relations, at times contributing to growing precariousness in women’s working
situations. Lack of time and resources and the demands of ‘productive’ work life have
contributed to a ‘crisis of care’ in many contexts. Shifting trends in women’s migration are also
having a significant impact on work patterns. Barriers to and opportunities for work also vary
significantly across women’s diversities, including gender, ability, age, ethnicity, class, and
sexual orientation.

Transforming economic power to facilitate just, sustainable ways for women to generate a
livelihood requires influencing how work is defined and what gets valued. Valuing the care
economy takes place through public provisioning of social protection and basic social services.
There is much to learn from women organizing in trade unions, sex worker organizations, and
domestic and home-based worker organizing, as well as experiences of co-operative
economies and the “decent work” agenda.

How are women organizing against existing labor inequalities and what are their key strategies
and proposals for alternatives? What have been government responses to women’s labour
rights and needs in recent decades? How are trade unions responding (or not) to women’s
demands? How is women’s informal work contributing to economic development, and how have
women from this sector organized to see their contributions recognized and their labor rights
fulfilled? In what ways are women building alternatives related to the care economy?

Militarism, Conflict and Violence

Militarization is an increasing and global phenomenon. Spending for arms, security forces and
wars make up major proportions of national budgets and fuel the global economy. A number of
actors, increasingly from the private sector, profit hugely from militarization. Meanwhile, military
might is used to sustain, and sometimes challenge, dominant economic powers. Very often,
conflicts are directly linked to economic interests such as control of territories and natural
resources such as land, oil, water and minerals.

Increased militarism and conflict has a number of gender-specific impacts. Gender-based


violence escalates before, during and after wars, with some forms of violence against women
such as rape already recognized as war crimes. In militarized contexts, with paramilitary groups
and organized crime—and their scope of control and power—on the rise, feminicides and
attacks on women’s human rights defenders have become commonplace and increasingly
normalized.

How is women’s limited economic power – in homes, in national and global budgets – linked to
gender-based violence, in particular for those women who are multiply marginalized? How are
women’s anti-militarism campaigns and roles in transitional justice processes directly
addressing economic inequalities? What strategies have been successful in ensuring that
women’s rights defenders are adequately protected? What kind of responses are women’s
rights defenders themselves building? Which tools used in peace building processes and which
visions of ‘security’ encompass economic well being for women?

The Role of the State

Worldwide, the role and strength of states is constantly changing. In many countries, neoliberal
policy prescriptions have drastically limited the state role to that of social control and policing,
thereby undermining democracy. This limited role services private sector interests and facilitates
deregulation and the lifting of protectionist policies to benefit trade and investment at the
expense of spending on health, education, and housing. Some states have implemented
protectionist policies, while other governments have both protected and grown the role and size
of the state. Meanwhile, post-socialist states have struggled to ensure benefits amidst
transitions to political democracy and capitalism. In the last few years, multiple, systemic crises
have challenged the status quo for all states. Despite the attention that some governments have
given to women’s demands for equality, the lack of comprehensive policies (including
appropriate fiscal policy to support social spending or proper recognition of women’s
contributions to national revenue) has prevented many countries from achieving women’s full
and equal participation and economic and social autonomy.

How are women’s rights advocates, including those working inside governments, redefining and
strengthening the role of the state to advance the rights of women and others, including people
without states such as Roma communities, pastoralists and refugees? How are women’s
movements and their allies reconfiguring relationships between governments and civil society
within an economic democracy framework? What are effective strategies for holding states
accountable to protect and fulfill women’s human rights, including their economic and social
rights? Which governments have put in place effective policies responsive to women’s rights?
What are effective mechanisms for increasing women’s participation in local and national
governance, including decision-making processes for redistributing national resources and
budget allocations? What are alternative visions for transformative social protection?

Sexuality

The current dominant economic system has profound impacts on women’s sexual and
reproductive rights and LGBTQI rights—including and beyond the commodification of sex,
sexuality and women’s bodies. Times of economic crisis often lead to even greater attempts to
control sexuality and further limit access to sexual and reproductive health services and rights,
especially for women living in poverty and other marginalized groups. Economic and
development policies are highly gendered and heteronormative; they are part of social
mechanisms to control and regulate people’s sexualities. The dominant vision of the intersection
between the economy and sexualities is most commonly associated with problems and reduced
to sex work, pornography and trafficking. This limited vision renders invisible key dimensions of
sexuality that both affect and are affected by economic systems and relations.
These dimensions include, for example, the prevalence of sexual and gender-based
harassment and policing in workplaces. New social media as purveyors of sexual and gender
stereotypes and exploitation as well as sites of sexual and gender experimentation and
transgression. The ways in which controversial issues relating to sexuality are used to obscure
public debate on economic policies or practices e.g. tabling policies restricting sexual rights that
also serve to distract attention from trade agreements under negotiation or cuts being made to
social services. The limitations of efforts to cope with the HIV and AIDS pandemic, the
stereotyping and discrimination that some HIV and AIDS programs have fostered and the
gender-blindness of many existing responses.

What are the economics of desire? For example, how does the mainstream media and
advertising target certain populations to stimulate and profit from desire? What are effective
ways to break the silo that places sexuality outside of economic and development debates?
How can strategizing to advance sexual rights take into account influencing economic policies at
different levels? To what extent does the disconnect between sexuality and economic policies
impact gender equality and the advancement of women’s rights? Can sexual rights be a useful
framework to inform economic and development policy so that policies are more focused on
pleasure and not only on harm?

The Planet and Ecological Health

Humanity is witnessing the unprecedented impact of its erroneous assumptions about unlimited
natural resources and patterns of production and consumption. Despite numerous global
agreements to protect the environment, international institutions and governments have not
significantly curbed environmental degradation, which includes not only climate change, but also
biodiversity loss, the pollution of rivers and water basins, and the depletion of forests.
Meanwhile, governments and the private sector promote responses to the environment based
on financial markets and technologies that exacerbate inequalities, leaving underlying
consumption and production models unquestioned. Environmental degradation hurts grassroots
women and poor, peasant and indigenous communities the most, threatening their livelihoods
and forcing unsustainable adaptation strategies. Recurrent and worsening ‘natural’ disasters are
making evident the need for stronger regulation that places communities above market
interests. Also needed are responses that take into account the particular impacts of disasters
on women and women’s own experiences in building community resilience and dealing with
disasters.

How are women and other marginalized communities such as peasant and indigenous
communities organizing and implementing sustainable environmental alternatives? What are
the strategies and tools being used by grassroots women and other key actors to broaden the
debates and responses to climate change beyond market-based approaches? What are the
lessons to learn from women’s experiences in responding to ‘natural disasters’? How can
feminisms both inform the strategizing in response to environmental degradation and be
enriched by perspectives from the ecological, environmental and climate justice movements?

Financial Flows

Daily, money in the form of either currency or credit, exchanges hands between a host of actors
from individuals, governments and creditors (including banks and international financial
institutions), to private corporations, donor agencies and philanthropists. The conditions of these
transactions are spelled out in fiscal and monetary policies; loan, debt, trade and aid
agreements; philanthropic contracts; and informal, unspoken agreements between individuals
and within families. Remittances sent by migrants, in some cases, have contributed more to
national incomes than foreign direct investment and official development assistance combined.
At the same time, the world of private philanthropy (and wealthy individuals like Bill Gates)
represents greater financial flows than the GDP of several low-income countries put together.
Funding that flows from international donor agencies has long been subject to debate about its
development effectiveness. Also widely criticized is the role that aid conditionalities have often
played in decreasing national policy space in aid-recipient countries and advancing the trade
and investment related interests of donors. In recent years, climate change financing has also
become a crucial area for attention in advancing climate justice for those most affected by
environmental degradation.

Through the international, regional and bilateral agreements of the past decades, trade,
exchange rates and capital markets have fostered the dominance of the financial market over
actual production (real economy). Women are implicated in the terms and flows of these
agreements, but are often excluded from negotiating tables. These experiences have
underscored the need for greater financial regulation and for trade agreements that are linked to
sustainable development for all people and the respect of human rights. In response, diverse
organizations and movements have proposed alternative financing mechanisms for
development, such as the international financial transaction tax, commonly referred to as the
‘Robin Hood tax’.

How are technologies enabling greater transparency and accountability for women’s access to
diverse financial flows? How, and with what tools, can women influence tax policy? What are
important mechanisms of regulation and taxation to keep powerful actors in check? How can
women’s rights activists and organizations join forces with other social movements demanding
regulation of financial markets and capital flows and the establishment of an equitable
international monetary and financial system?

Access to and Control of Resources

Resources are critical to people’s identities and livelihoods and to advance autonomy, agency,
and rights. Yet, historically, due to gendered divisions of labor, patriarchal cultural norms and
laws and economic inequalities, women in all their diversity have been denied access to
resources such as education, health services, credit, land and technologies. Assessment of
access to and control of resources has been a fundamental tool of gender analysis. But in the
face of the ‘race for resources’, including the intensifying pressures on land, so-called land
grabs in many countries of the global south and the predicted wars for access to basics such as
water, there is a need for new tools and strategies. Land reform and redistribution, especially in
post-colonial contexts, remain unfinished business.

What strategies are women’s movements and other allied movements such as indigenous
peoples, migrant rights, landless peoples, smallholder and peasant farmers, and disability rights
movements using to advance equal access to and distribution of resources? How are women
contributing to resource struggles through, for example, food sovereignty demands and
campaigns against land grabs? What have we learned from the significant focus and resources
given to initiatives on women’s access to credit, including microcredit? What other economic
alternatives are women building, from the grassroots to the international level, to transform
unequal access to and control over resources?

Private Sector & Corporate Power

Corporations and other private sector actors are often influential players in defining global and
national economic agendas. The rising importance of transnational corporations on the global
stage, and in a broad range of critical sectors in national economies, raises many challenges for
democracy around the world. These companies have enormous power, often with little or no
accountability, over many human, technological, and environmental resources. Corporations
also have significant impacts on diverse areas of development from food security, to resource
depletion to labor rights. Corporate media and technology companies have a huge impact on
women’s rights and are often overlooked as targets for action. “Public-private partnerships”
have become a mantra in many development circles yet their significance for women’s rights
and environmental sustainability requires further exploration. Still, here to stay, the private
sector is not homogeneous. It is a significant source of employment for many women and at
times, small businesses have been allies for women’s rights campaigns. In some cases, efforts
to ensure safe, fair working conditions for women and gender-equitable access to ‘supply
chains’ are gaining ground with positive impacts for women’s rights.

How can we move beyond limited frameworks of “corporate social responsibility” to use human
rights standards and mechanisms to hold corporations and other private sector actors
accountable? What types of strategies—for example from labor organizing and campaigns
around extractive industries—have been successful in changing the course of corporations?

Culture & Religion

In all countries of the world there are cultural practices that hinder and in some cases prevent
women’s and entire communities’ full enjoyment of their human rights. Different forms of
gender-based violence are commonly justified in the name of culture, tradition or religion.
Agendas grounded in the political manipulation of religion or culture often work in powerful
combination with other forms of absolutist identity politics such as racism, tribalism,
communalism, nationalism, and xenophobia, to restrict women’s rights and equality. Cultural
and religious interpretations and practices are institutionalized through unequal family laws,
laws and policies restricting women’s reproductive and economic choices, and the absence of
laws banning gender-based violence and harmful traditional practices, to name a few.

Yet culture is not static. It is a highly dynamic process that shapes and reflects the diverse ways
of living of different populations around the world. Neither is religion monolithic. All religions
have groups within them that use different interpretations and practices that challenge
discriminatory gender roles and economic policies and practices in order to advance justice and
human rights. Women in all their diversity have historically struggled against the ways in which
dominant culture is defined, using their agency to transform cultural practices and traditions that
undermine their human rights.

How have women’s organizations and movements successfully strategized to counter the role
played by religious and cultural fundamentalisms in obstructing women’s economic autonomy
from the family to the international level? How are religious and cultural practices manipulated
and imposed by powerful economic actors from individuals and businesses to organizations and
states for their benefit? How can women actively claim their cultural rights and strengthen their
agency to transform cultural or religious practices that hinder their capacity to exercise human
rights, particularly their economic and social rights?

Global Governance

Global geopolitics is rapidly changing. Triggered in part by systemic crises, and alongside the
ever-present power of private sector actors, new powers are emerging. These new powers
include the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India and China), regional political and economic blocs and
communities such as the European Union, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations
(ASEAN), the Mercosur, the African Union, and the Southern African Development Community
(SADC), and new groupings like the G20. At the same time, transnational networks of civil
society organizations, loose associations of diverse groups and social movements are coming
together in powerful ways. Making increasing use of tools such as social media, they are
influencing the agendas of these new powers and working to hold them accountable to the
demands of women and other excluded groups. Meanwhile, powerful nations and actors, have
systematically weakened the UN’s power as a multilateral negotiating body, undermining its
capacity to uphold human rights and influence global economic and development policies.
International financial institutions such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund have
lost credibility but continue advancing market-oriented policies and have been reinvigorated by
resources made available to respond to the financial crisis.

What are the implications of these geopolitical changes for transforming how economic
power is exercised at the global level? What do they mean for the advancement of
women’s rights, gender equality and justice agendas? How are feminists and
women’s rights activists engaging with regional processes and blocks, including
South-South cooperation efforts? And how are those processes advancing or
hindering women’s rights and justice? What kind of global system could ensure
more democratic participation of all states, particularly the poorest ones, in the
enforcement and implementation of international reforms, rules, and standard
setting? How can diverse civil society groups effectively participate in global
economic decision-making? How should UN Women play its part and what does this

new body mean for women’s and feminist movements? Participation


Formats
| 2012 AWID Forum Themes | Questions for Proposals | Participation Formats | Submit a Proposal |

Below are suggestions of possible formats for your Forum session. Please consider what format
will best achieve the objectives of your session in about an hour and a half. You are also
welcome to use your creativity in designing another kind of format for your session. Please keep
in mind that Forum participants are a very diverse group and consider how your session can be
relevant and useful for participants of diverse experiences and identities.
Interactive panel or debate:

Up to 3 speakers and a moderator speak in turns in a panel-style discussion. Alternatively, two


sides could debate a question formally, prepared with research and other documentation to
bolster their position. A significant portion of the discussion should be devoted to audience
interaction. The audience should come away with a much richer idea of the complexities
involved in the theme.

Skills-building workshop:

Share specific, hands-on knowledge and how-tos regarding particular tools, skills, or processes
relevant to the Forum theme. Ideally, there should be opportunities for participants to not only
learn about a new tool or technique, but to also try it out for themselves and receive resources
they can take with them to help them practice the ‘skill’ being shared. These session sizes tend to
be smaller, to facilitate audience interaction.

World Cafe session:

Discussion is held in multiple rounds of 15-30 minutes. Participants are seated around small
tables to discuss the issue at hand around their table and at regular intervals they move to a new
table. One participant (the table host) remains and summarizes the previous conversation to the
newly arrived participants. By moving participants around the room the conversations at each
table are cross-fertilized with ideas from other tables. At the end of the process the main ideas
are summarized in a plenary session and follow-up possibilities are discussed.

Artistic or creative session:

These sessions focus on the use of arts, culture and creativity to stimulate new ways of thinking
and create change, and are intended not merely to discuss the use of art, but to actually display,
perform, debate, and/or create it collectively during the session. Examples of artistic or creative
sessions include such things as film, mural painting, creating public art for activism, and popular
theatre.

Talk show:

A disparate group of people are brought together in television “talk show” style, with a “host”
who moderates the discussion, posing questions as well as taking questions from the audience.
Fluid and improvisational, this type of session takes its cue from the audience.

Strategy session:

Individuals or groups come together to discuss a concrete situation (be it a problem or


opportunity) they are facing, with an eye to strategizing with others in the session and planning
campaigns or other kinds of actions. The momentum from these sessions aims to carry beyond
the forum itself into action.