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Global is at Ion Report

Global is at Ion Report

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Published by: mohanvelin on Nov 06, 2008
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05/26/2012

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Globalization and the Women’s Movement in IndiaGlobalization and the Women’s Movement in IndiaGlobalization and the Women’s Movement in IndiaGlobalization and the Women’s Movement in India
Concept NoteConcept NoteConcept NoteConcept Note
From the early 1990s, the principal economic, social and political problems experienced bythe mass of Indian women have, in one way or another, become inextricably linked with theprocesses and policies of liberalisation led globalization. Struggles around basic foodsecurity, health, education, women’s employment, livelihood and conditions of work,declining child sex ratios, commoditisation of women and human relations with attendantgrowth in violence against women, expansion of dowry, etc. have all necessitated a degree of confrontation between the women’s movement and economic and social practices beingestablished by globalization. And yet, while an implicit consensus on these key issues existsvirtually across the spectrum of women’s organisations, approaches and positions onglobalization itself have often been quite divergent.It is often assumed that such divergences merely reflect democratic differences among thevarious ideologies within the movement – a movement whose growth and advance has inpart been based on its ability to hold several ideologies within common platforms of unitedaction. And yet, any hesitancy to clearly debate and oppose a phenomenon that is steadilyrolling back the decolonisation process, would reflect a tacit suppression of the severalfreedom loving ideologies that gave strength and voice to women’s issues during the firstwomen’s upsurge associated with the national movement as well as during the second wavefrom the seventies.One of the methods of suppression of meaningful debate within the women’s movement hasbeen the practice of fragmenting the issues before women, a trajectory that carries thedanger of blurring and dissipation of perspective when confronting the hegemonic characterof globalization. At the same time, it is increasingly becoming obvious that approachesconfined to either the purely local or individual plane, or focused only on narrow sectionalor niche benefits, or confined to single issues, are running aground. In the changed globalcontext local situations are being pitchforked into the increasingly volatile workings of thelarger world economy and social order at a pace that tends to quickly erode much of thebenefits achieved by local, sectional or issue based action. The impact of wider crises arealso immediately and acutely felt at all levels, particularly since as part of the advancingagenda of globalization, most existing protection mechanisms of the state are beingwithdrawn. In such a situation, there is urgent need for welding together of the severalstrands of movements and struggles into a stronger political force to confront the erosion of the anti-imperialist protective functions of the Indian state.From the early nineties, when ‘economic reforms’ ushered in the open accession of theIndian government to the neo-liberal prescription of globalization, the women’s movementdid respond with widespread agitation focused largely on the PDS and withdrawal of thestate from the social sector. It is largely to the credit of the women’s movement that theissue of the erosion of food security in India that has accompanied the policy pathway set byglobalization has remained a central issue that cannot be ignored.
 
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However, at the level of women’s work and employment issues, the movement has yet towork out a strategic perspective. At one level it has been engaged with organisedinterventions which, often with the backing of the international financial institutionsassociated with the globalization project, have been promoting perceptional divorce betweenthe local or individual economic interests of women and the wider movements of theoppressed and exploited classes and communities. The retarding effects of suchinterventions on sections of the movement can be seen in the tendency to focus on perceivedeconomic ‘opportunities’ for some very few women in ‘global markets’, a reluctance toanalyse or address the macro-processes driving globalization, and equivocation and evasionfrom taking a stand against economic imperialism. In consequence a distancing from thefundamental social and political agendas of the Indian women’s movement has insidiouslyinserted itself into several discourses claiming to advance gender equity.On the other hand, many issue based ors local interest based movements and organisationsinvolved with women’s economic activities have also started giving voice to their experiencebased need for wider and more forceful political intervention and movement against thelarger processes associated with globalization. This was strikingly evident in the wideranging participation of such movements, and large numbers of women in the World SocialForum 2004 which provided a meeting ground for peasant, workers’, women’s, dalit andenvironmental movements to come together against what was termed “capitalist ledglobalization”.In March 2000, at the initiative of six national level women’s organisations including theCWDS, some ninety women’s groups and organisations were signatory to a documentprepared for the Global March 2000.This document,
Womenspeak,
United Voices againstGlobalization, Poverty and Violence in India, was the first attempt at a comprehensiveanalysis of the adverse effects of IMF and World Bank dictated Structural AdjustmentPolicies (SAP) and globalization on women in India, by the principal national platform of the united women’s movement. Since then, the processes of globalization have continuedand deepened, with consequent effects of rising urban and rural unemployment, a fall inthe share of women’s employment in manufacturing and services, increasing migrationparticularly of women, deepening agrarian crisis – mass suicides of farmers accompanied byrising proportions of women in the embattled peasantry, increasing non-availability of employment in agriculture particularly for women, falls in per capita agricultural output,dangerous levels of erosion of food security, etc. The 2001 census has brought to light theshocking decline in sex ratio in the 0-6 age group between 1991 and 2001, largely a productof spread of sex selective abortions. Research and experience have pointed to its intimateconnection with the exponential expansion of medical technologies for private profit,associated with liberalisation and privatisation and the enhanced commercialisation of human relations which is a hallmark of globalization. Women’s organisations also have toengage with the consequences of a globalization induced or international demonstrationeffect based wave of consumerism. Once again research and experience has shown that thishas facilitated the expansion of dowry on an unprecedented scale, socially and culturallyrolling back some of the advances made by the anti-dowry movement of the eighties. Old,new, and expanded forms of violence against women have clearly found powerful stimulusfrom the cultural environment created by an unchecked drive towards commodification of women, with neo-liberal market fundamentalism establishing itself as the dominant sourceof social regulation and policy.
 
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In such a situation, the women’s movement is faced with the urgent task of consolidatingand expanding its strength against, and understanding of the nature and consequences of globalization. For this, the experiences, issues and increasingly dire conditions of themajority of Indian women under globalization require to be given greater voice. But wehave to also bring more faculties to bear on understanding the anatomy of globalization,and to make visible the motivations behind the hands that have guided its advance, atnational and international levels, and the interests they represent.With the dual objective of integrating the experiences of women’s movement with a wideranalysis of the workings of globalization, and advancing research and analysis of the newareas and issues that have emerged, the CWDS proposes to organise a three day all Indiaseminar/conference bringing together activists and leaders of the movement with scholarsand other analysts on 20
th
, 21
st
, 22nd January 2005. This seminar is a part of the 25
th
 anniversary of the CWDS, whose foundation and history runs alongside the second wave of the women’s movement in India.
Inaugural SessionInaugural SessionInaugural SessionInaugural Session
 
Chair: N.K.Chair: N.K.Chair: N.K.Chair: N.K. Banerjee Banerjee Banerjee Banerjee 
Prabhat PatnaikPrabhat PatnaikPrabhat PatnaikPrabhat Patnaik
It is really a matter of honour for me to have been asked to give an introductory speech atthis gathering. Typically globalization is supposed to refer to a process of benigncosmopolitanism that is apparently enveloping the world. As a matter of fact however,within the process of globalization there are very serious issues of domination, of hegemony,and it is these issues which have prompted many to refer to this process as one of 

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