The current global crisis began in the housing sector of the US economy, spilled over into the financial sector moving on to the real sector of the developed and developing world, causing immense hardship for millions of poor and vulnerable people in developing countries in the process. Despite tentative signs of recovery in recent weeks, the economic and human costs of the crisis have been considerable. Women, in particular, are adversely affected by the current crisis, which itself combines multiple crises: a global economic recession, the devastating effects of climate change, and an ongoing food and energy crisis. All of this is compounding increasing poverty and inequality in different parts of the world, as well as the increased vulnerability of women in particular where adverse health and nutritional impacts are concerned. The current situation however has to be understood within the larger historical context of an aggressive promotion of neo liberal policies in the past decades. The crisis is not new for most of the developing countries that have struggled with crises right from the 70’s with women’s group in particular emphatically voicing their protest and resistance to such policies in terms of its destructive effects on women’s livelihoods, increased burdens of work and unpaid labour as well as loss of social security nets . This crisis, however, reached global proportions when it impacted advanced economies and their role in global arenas thereby bringing out the interconnectedness of the divergent realities in a globalized world.
Accordingly national as well as international institutions are facing diverse pressures in the fields of growth, employment, food security and fiscal policy formulations in terms of framing adequate responses to contain both the financial sector crisis and the meltdown of production and employment all around the globe. The crisis also provides an opportunity to rethink macro and micro economic policies, and for those advocating a gender based approach in designing policy frameworks to advance proposals that promote jobs, economic security and human rights, and equality by class, gender, and ethnicity. Reviving the global economy will require policies that focus heavily on job creation and ensure a more equitable and sustainable development process that protect and enhance women’s livelihoods. As the crisis is now a driving force behind many development choices and processes (from the global to the local), and will shape approaches to development for years to come, the role of women becomes crucial. Not merely because of the inevitable negative gendered impacts of these crises, but also because women themselves are crucial development players in most communities world over and have a vital role to play in proposing effective approaches to alleviate the impacts of the crisis from within a framework of human rights, environmental sustainability and development commitments around the world. The inclusion of women and gender equality within a framework of human rights is central to these processes and an indicator of both the seriousness as well as efficacy of proposed responses.
In this context, there are few studies focusing on the gendered impacts of the global financial and economic crisis on the South Asian countries. Common economic analyses highlight the social impact using financial indicators. However, this approach ignores women and other sections of society who function outside the neoliberal economic framework. There is seemingly a gap in policymakers’ understanding of the issue and, more importantly, in women’s ability to ensure protection and enforcement of their rights. Further, there is a growing concern that without an integrated gender and human rights approach, the alternatives proposed to address the crisis will continue to increase women’s marginalization and vulnerabilities rather than addressing it.
A gender analysis of the human rights situation is therefore necessary in order to understand the impact of the crisis on women and their livelihoods. In South Asia, there is an urgent need for engaging, sharing, discussing these issues and formulation of alternative policies, strategies and recommendations. Hence PWESCR in partnership with UNIFEM and Heinrich Böll Foundation will be hosting a two day South Asian Regional workshop. The workshop is intended to enable experts in developing policy and advocacy tools to address the negative impact of the financial and economic crisis from a gender and human rights perspective.