Women and the Globalization Samir D. Ajmeri Abstract: How do rising levels of international interconnectedness affect the social, economic, and political condition of women? Competing hypotheses are easy to identify; indeed, a prudent answer to the question would be that some women will benefit from globalization and some will be hurt, or that the status of women will improve in some respects but not others. We advance the hypothesis that, on balance and over time, increasing cross-national exchange and communication lead to improvements in the status of women.
We argue that both economic factors and ideational or normative effects support that proposition. Economic aspects of globalization bring new opportunities and resources to women. But equally important, globalization promotes the diffusion of ideas and norms of equality for women; though some societies resist such notions, others gradually abandon rules and practices that have functioned to subordinate and constrain women. Results of our analysis of data from 180 countries during the years 1975 to 2000 are consistent with the expectation that global norms and institutions make a difference for the quality of life and status of women.
More often than not, when domestic cultures are more open to international influences, outcomes for women, as measured in health, literacy, and participation in the economy and government, are generally improved. We find that International norms and institutions can, at a minimum, give women one more source of leverage in pressing for domestic reforms. Women and the Globalization Samir D. Ajmeri Introduction The current wave of globalization has greatly improved the lives of women worldwide, particularly in the developing world.
Nevertheless, women remain disadvantaged in many areas of life, including education, employment, health, and rights. According to the U. S. Agency for International Development and the World Bank, 57 percent of the 72 million primary school aged children who do not attend school are females. Additionally, females are 4 percent less likely to complete primary school than are boys. Globalization is about making things global. It is the process of creating languages, services, and products that apply not just to an individual neighbourhood or city or country, but to the whole world.
But it has also led to deepening global poverty, increased stress and workloads in both the paid and unpaid labour force, and environmental destruction. Women have been particularly affected. Because of the merging of global economies, we can buy cheap bananas and pineapples, foods that don’t grow in India year-round. We can also surf the internet and find out about life on the other side of the globe. We can indulge ourselves in African and Cuban music.
And, we can drop by at our neighbourhood flower shop and pick up low-cost and beautiful fresh flowers on the coldest winter day. So if globalization is such a good thing, why are so many people so critical of it? While one interpretation of globalization has to do with equal exchange and sharing of goods and services between countries and cultures, the reality of a globalized world is much different. Globalization is a phenomenon that crosses and erases geographical and political borders and makes all countries start to look the same.
As a result of globalization, local products, services, and cultures disappear into a global culture, a culture defined not by the global citizenry but rather the world’s economic and political superpowers – mostly North America-owned corporations. Because of globalization, people on every continent are exposed to and consumed by a North American ‘culture’ defined by Nike running shoes, MTV, Coca Cola, and McDonald’s. Some people have re-named the process of globalization and called it McDonaldization or CocaColonization.
Not only does globalization create one bland culture the world over, it forces people to arrange their lives to promote this culture. Poor Filipino farmers end up being forced off their land and into factories producing running shoes and video cameras for North Americans, Brazilian rainforests are destroyed in order to make room for giant beef farms producing hamburgers that will be consumed by the world’s richest people. Because of its focus on corporations’ access to the free market, globalization has led to an increase in the gap between rich and poor.
The world’s poorest people have experienced deepening poverty while the incomes of a very few rich people, have soared. Although globalization is about culture, it is mostly about money. Globalization encourages the merging of world economic markets through ‘free’ trade agreements, the creation of transnational corporations that sell products and services to people all over the globe, and the privatization of government services like health care, water, and mail delivery in favour of private ownership.
Unfortunately, globalization isn’t about equal exchange, it’s about concentrations of profit and power in certain parts of the world and with certain people Women and other marginalized communities have suffered disproportionately from free trade agreements. When communities become less stable it is women who must pick up the pieces. Globalization has increased women’s unpaid work as social services are privatized. At the same time it has decreased the quality of many of their paid work opportunities.
Women are already overrepresented in low-paying, labour-intensive sectors where women’s nimble figures, flexibility, and ability to work hard are needed. Free trade drives wages even lower and makes these industries even less stable. One of the hardest hit industries has been the garment industry. In India , 30,000 jobs in the garment industry have been lost since the advent of international trade agreements. Most of those jobs were held by women. Globalization has also severely impacted women’s relationship to food and the production of food.
The liberalization of trade and the subsequent global spread of a market economy has forced many impoverished countries to stop growing food for themselves in favour of growing food for export. This has led to greater food insecurity, reduced nutrition, and has moved women in exporting countries into low-paying, undervalued agricultural work such as picking and packing tomatoes for export. Thousands of indigenous women in Guatemala and other Central American countries have lost their own land and subsequently their ability to grow food for their families and been forced to move.
When inequalities between countries become greater, the desire for citizens of poor nations to leave their own countries also increases. Millions of people worldwide, many of them women, leave their homes in search of work in other countries. Thousands of farm workers come to Canada each summer to harvest fruits and vegetables. Many Filipino mothers feel their only option is to go overseas and work as domestic servants for wealthy people.
And women in Eastern Europe, displaced by the market economy, become part of the global sex trade. Roughly 529,000 mothers – or one every minute – die each year in childbirth; according to BBC World News, 95 percent of the 529,000 childbirth deaths occurred in Africa or Asia in 2000. An African woman, for instance, faces a 1 in 16 chance of dying in childbirth in her lifetime, while in the United States, the chance is 1 in 2,500. The UN’s Millennium Development Goals therefore prioritize gender equality and empowerment of women.
As part of the Millennium Goals, the international community, especially the UN, will monitor indicators of gender equality such as levels of female enrollment at school, participation in the workplace, and representation in decision-making positions and political institutions. Two key international declarations form the basis for this agenda. As part of its “Decade for Women,” the UN published the Nairobi Forward-Looking Strategies for the Advancement of Women in 1985 with the purpose of creating a blueprint for global action to achieve women’s equality by the year 2000.
Ten years later, the Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing in 1995 issued the Beijing Platform for Action aimed to update and invigorate the world community’s commitment to gender equality. These international conferences and documents have served to crystallize the understanding of the unique problems women face worldwide and to promote efforts to address them. More recently, means to monitor the progress of both have been implemented. Other, similar documents deal with specific challenges to women’s rights.
For example, the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women vows to guarantee women equal rights with men in all spheres of life, including education, employment, health care, suffrage, nationality, and marriage. The effects of globalization on women worldwide, namely on their participation in the economy, representation in the political process, education, health, and sexual slavery. It also will discuss perhaps globalization’s greatest benefits to women in the internationalization of the movement for gender equality, and the legal structure that supports this goal and recognizes women’s rights as basic human rights.
Women are becoming high-level managers in Europe, entrepreneurs in Asia and mechanics in Africa. The more globalization changes the world, the more it liberates women from traditional roles. But what are they doing with the opportunity? Late last year, a global conference called the Women’s Forum for the Economy and Society met in Deauville, a resort town in northern France. There were businesswomen and politicians at the conference, which features women from 90 countries, some wearing Indian saris and others dressed in African robes.
But most of attendees were dressed in business outfits, and for three full days they looked as if they had just come from the hairdresser. The economic crisis was the focus of this year’s conference, of course. But the topics on the agenda included globalization and progress, and the question of how globalization is changing women, and where women are changing the world. The atmosphere was charged with ambition, a sense of concern, doubt and irritation. But the women here also seemed determined to benefit from the financial crisis, from this unheard-of moment in the world economy.
Globalization breaks through cultural barriers and transports images and ideas on television and the Internet. It means the expansion of knowledge, people, goods, money and values. It often runs up against archaic social ideas that cement drastic inequality between the sexes. Globalization attacks backward gender roles in Vietnam, encourages women in Yemen to shed their veils and gives European women economic power. The faces of power around the globe are increasingly female — think of Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko in Ukraine, Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington.
Spain’s current defense minister, Carme Chacon, was visibly pregnant when she made an appearance before Spanish troops. Anne Lauvergeon in France runs the nuclear power company Areva, US multinational PepsiCo has a female CEO, the United Arab Emirates has a female minister of economics and in Iceland, women were promoted to head two of the now-nationalized banks in the wake of that nation’s financial crisis. The presence of women in power carries a potent symbolism, but progress requires more than symbols. The question is whether these women are truly changing the world or whether their roles will remain largely symbolic.
The problems of tremendous growth and crushing poverty in Bangladesh, as well as in many other freshly globalized countries. Three-fifths of the world’s poorest people and two-thirds of the illiterate are women. Women perform two-thirds of all work if you include unpaid labor, but they receive only 10 percent of total wages paid worldwide. They own 1 percent of assets in all countries. Which includes Many women who benefit from globalization, as well as those who see the message they and their lives convey. We embody progress. But what does progress mean for the ladies of Deauville: a better career, or a better world?
It’s difficult to measure real progress in numbers. For the last decade or so the United Nations has issued a Gender-Related Development Index (GDI), which specifies the degree of gender equality in a given country on a scale of 0 to 1. But instead of the distribution of political power, the UN index compares men and women based on such factors as life expectancy, education and income. At the time of the conference in October, according to the UN’s latest numbers, France was in seventh place — behind Iceland, Australia, Norway, Canada, Sweden and the Netherlands.
Germany ranked 20th, the United States 16th, the United Kingdom 10th. In both Germany and France the income gap between men and women was the main source of inequality. Guinea Bissau and Sierra Leone were at the bottom of the list of 157 countries. War zones like Iraq and Afghanistan are not included in the statistics. France had a value of 0. 95 on the scale, while Bangladesh’s was 0. 539. One could say that women in Bangladesh had approximately half the rights of those in France. But Irene Khan’s native country had improved in the last 10 years. It ranked 140th in 1998 — 20 positions lower than today.