Women’s empowerment needs a people-centred economy

Recently linked in Siyanda, new thoughts from a group of researchers on how women can truly become empowered in our world — “a system where the well-being of people is the goal and commodity production the means – rather than vice versa.”

Here’s the short summary:

In 2006 the World Bank coined the slogan ‘Gender equality is smart economics’. The argument was that pushing women into paid employment or making it easier for them to establish a business leads to reduced poverty and faster growth.

But what has tended to get overlooked in this approach are the gender inequalities associated with the unpaid work of household maintenance and sustenance of society on which the market economy depends. This ‘Agenda for Change’ proposes an alternative vision; one in which the economy is shaped for people rather than people for the economy. In other words, it argues for a system where the well-being of people is the goal and commodity production the means – rather than vice versa.

Central to this is the question: what would a gender-equitable economic system look like?

For one, the inter-dependency of unpaid domestic and caring labour and market employment would be recognised, and unpaid labour in the home and in communities would be valued as much as earning an income through the market. Firms would not discriminate against employees on the basis of their domestic and care responsibilities. The public sector would play a greater role in investing in infrastructure and services to reduce and redistribute burdens of unpaid care work. And work of any kind would be equally shared between women and men, and be organised to support and nourish rather than oppress and exploit. The current financial crisis has given the State an important role in securing people’s material wellbeing; now is a pivotal moment of opportunity for creating a fairer world.

Title:    Women’s Empowerment Needs a People-Centred Economy
Author:   Fontana, M., with Eyben, R.
Publication Date:  March 2009
Publisher:  The Institute of Development Studies
Donor:  The UK Department for International Development (DFID), with additional funding from he Norwegian and Swedish Ministries of Foreign Affairs, and UNIFEM

From the publication, a chart created by UNIFEM.

From the publication, a chart created by UNIFEM.

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