2018 development prediction: 4 ways to make sure the future is feminist – from London to Yemen

by 03rd Jan 2018
Women in Somaliland during the 2017 drought Women in Somaliland during the 2017 drought

As we launch into 2018 it is worth reflecting that 2017 has not only seen some political upheavals in the UK and the US but also some fundamental social shifts. Whilst the revelations of sexual harassment and abuse of power from Hollywood to almost every workplace were not a surprise to some, they certainly got people talking about what is acceptable and gave people the confidence to come forward and share their #metoo experiences. So 2018 has to be the year we reinforce this cultural shift and secure some concrete changes in policy and practice when it comes to achieving gender justice at home and abroad.

Here are the top 4 things we will be advocating for at CARE in 2018:

100 years since women secured the vote in the UK but we will be #stillmarching

2018 is the UK Centenary of Suffrage and offers a great opportunity to illustrate that the barriers to women’s political participation are truly global in nature. It’s a depressing fact that a global study of women MPs found that 82% experienced some form of psychological violence. Among them, some 44 per cent said they had received threats of death, rape, beatings or abduction during their parliamentary terms, including threats to kidnap or kill their children.

We will be urging DFID to spend and deliver on women’s empowerment programmes and persuading the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting to focus on violence and harassment. CARE has also been helping coordinate the Centenary Action Group of 50+ domestic and international NGOs who will be working together to support action on increasing women’s political participation in 2018. Watch out for the launch on 17 January and of course CARE’s annual march for gender equality on Sunday 4 March in London – this year’s #March4Women will be bigger and better than ever and end with speeches and entertainment in Trafalgar Square, so don’t miss it!

Beginning of the end for workplace violence and harassment

We heard a lot about abuse in Hollywood and Westminster in 2017 but perhaps the less told story is the fact that 1 in 3 garment workers in Cambodia experienced violence at work last year, and that rape is not uncommon if you’re one of the world’s 50 million domestic workers. Women’s poverty means they will do everything to keep the job, whatever the personal costs – this exposes them the most and makes them least able to speak out, or report incidents or to seek redress.

Violence is a major barrier to women’s economic empowerment across the world. In June this year the ILO will meet to give initial views on a new global convention to tackle workplace violence and harassment – 20+ offices across the CARE confederation will be pushing for a strong convention. We are demanding that it protects people wherever they work, be that formal or informal sectors. It needs to include often overlooked areas like working in homes and in public places and needs to include all people in that workplace including interns or volunteers. Such a law would hold governments and other stakeholders like employers and trade unions to account and help put an end to impunity.

New Global Compact on Refugees must put women at the centre

It’s devastating to hear that 2018 is predicted to be the worst year for humanitarian crises since World War 2. We need to redouble our efforts to respond in ways that put women at the centre. CARE research in 2017 found that European refugee policies are failing women and girls, who make up 86.5% of cases for family reunification in Greece. This includes survivors of gender-based violence who should be eligible for relocation, but whose cases go unregistered because of the reluctance to share refugee hosting.

2018 offers the chance to shift the debate as the world negotiates a new UN Global Compact on Refugees. For this to happen, we need the UK (FCO as well as DFID) to help rally a coalition of states amongst both donors and G77 aid recipient states to push for specific actions on GBV, sexual and reproductive health and the empowerment of refugee women-led organisations in the detailed Programme of Action pegged to the Compact. Given the government’s championing of women and girls at the UN World Humanitarian Summit, and its commitment to spend £225m every year on Family Planning, this should be a no-brainer.

Women’s economic empowerment in fragile and conflict-affected states

CARE remains adamant that gender equality will not be achieved while women have fewer economic rights, less control over economic resources, and less access to economic opportunities than men. We will be seeking to launch a major new alliance to financially empower 100 million women this year. Key to this initiative will be increasing women’s access to informal savings groups which have proven time and again to have a positive impact on women’s voice, health, literacy, livelihoods and access to savings and loans.

We will also be doing some major thinking on how to achieve women’s economic empowerment in fragile states. By 2030, it is estimated that over 60% of the world’s poor will live in a fragile state (OECD States of Fragility Report 2016, p20) while 300 million already live in one today. No wonder DFID has committed to spending 50% of its budget in fragile and conflict-affected states (FCAS). Yet, search for analysis and learnings on how best to support women’s economic empowerment within FCAS and you find a gap. It is an empty space which also exists in humanitarian response plans and economic development strategies.

There are multiple moments in 2018 which offer the opportunity to address this gap. The above-mentioned UN Global Compact on Refugees is one. Similarly, when the European Union hosts the second Brussels Conference on Syria in April, states have the opportunity to address women’s economic empowerment among those displaced and affected by conflict. Any peace process that is attempted in Yemen must also meaningfully ensure women’s participation, taking a holistic approach which addresses social and economic inequalities. For CARE’s part, we will be looking at this ourselves, drawing learnings from our women’s economic empowerment programming in fragile states and talking to a diverse range of internal and external actors in this area.

The challenges of global poverty and insecurity are huge but we know that small steps and concerted action with others will help multiply our impact and ultimately help bring the changes the world needs to see.

Keep track of how we are progressing with this work here on our policy and practice website CARE insights.

This blog was co-authored by the CARE International UK advocacy team: Alice Allan, Katherine Nightingale, Fiona JardenGerry Boyle, Howard Mollett and Suzy Madigan.

Alice Allan

Alice led CARE’s policy and advocacy on women’s economic empowerment which included influencing the private sector. She is passionate about the social and economic benefits of savings-led financial inclusion.

Alice worked with CARE International UK from 2011 to 2018. She spent a big chunk of that time working with Barclays and other banks to responsibly link savers to their services. Before CARE Alice spent nearly 20 years working both ‘inside’ government – as a Human Rights Advisor at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and as a researcher in the UK parliament – and ‘outside’ at supporter-led organisations, Amnesty International UK and Saferworld where she helped push for the Arms Trade Treaty. Before that she was a journalist in Colombia and Mexico.

One good thing I've read

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe (1958). An all-time favourite book that sums up how change can go so wrong. Generally, however, I am an eternal optimist.

Twitter: @aliceallan3