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'Globalisation denied women rights to land and water'

By Anupama Katakam

MUMBAI, JAN. 17. The denial of a means to a livelihood is an act of violence, said Sunila Abaysekaran, the head of Inform, a human rights organisation in Sri Lanka. Globalisation is responsible for that violence, she said, echoing a theme that ran through a conference on "Women and Globalisation" held at the World Social Forum (WSF) here.

The neo-liberal policies of the globalisation process denied women the rights to land and water. This directly affects their livelihood. It prevented access to food and basic amenities. "Globalisation has had a very specific negative impact on women," Mr. Abaysekaran told the conference, organised by the All-India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA). The conference's panellists stated that women have been the largest and the worst-affected victims of globalisation. The all-women panel comprised activists, lawyers and economists from Malaysia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Uruguay, the United States and India.

Speaking on the social and economic effects of globalisation, Jayati Ghosh, an economist, said: "We are led to believe that we don't have the right to land and water. It is an absolute lie." The Government opted for policies which had systematically destroyed our economic rights.

She said globalisation was a conscious political decision. Countries were not forced into it. Because of the concessions and reduced tax rates that the policies demanded, India's expenditure in the social sector, especially in public health, had come down drastically. And women had been the first to be affected by the cuts.

Across the developing countries there was a massive unemployment crisis as a result of the economic changes. Women once again were the first to be affected, she said. "Women are crying for work. They have to feed their families. They are now migrating from their families for employment and many are reduced to doing demeaning work."

Although the panellists presented a bleak picture on the effects of globalisation on women, they agreed that women had begun to resist. Ms. Ghosh said women were much involved in public life. In fact, the women's movement was the most progressive and dynamic part of the anti-globalisation movement.

Similarly Dita Sari, an activist from Indonesia, told that women had become the driving force behind agitations against multinational corporations, which exploited labour in Indonesia.

"They have even gone beyond just tackling women's issues. Women all over the world have felt the negative impact of globalisation. There was a need to broaden the struggle and the World Social Forum provided us a platform to voice our concerns," Subhashini Ali, leader of the AIDWA told . Innumerable women's organisations intended to make their presence felt, said Ali.

Amid slogan-shouting and camaraderie, the speakers urged the attendees to take home the message that "if the woman is not free than the world cannot be free."

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