Women’s Forum: Feminist Perspectives on the Third International Conference on Financing for Development

*By Nyaguthii Wangui Maina, FEMNET

July 10th 2015, marked an important day when feminists from around the globe converged in Addis Ababa Ethiopia to share their views, reflect and consecrate their ideas ahead of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development.

With a vibrant room filled to capacity by both female and male counterparts, succinct and pertinent opinions were shared on the amalgamated view that the stakes are indeed high for realizing gender equality and women’s rights as development financing is shaped, negotiated and agreed upon in Addis Ababa. A consistent theme that did however run throughout the discussions was that transformation of mind sets was critical in surmounting the structural barriers impeding gender equality.

The Forum was opened by Dinah Musindarwezo, from FEMNET and Rosa Lizarde from Feminist Task Force /Women’s Working Group on FfD, both of them echoing the views and concerns of participants present in the room; that the road ahead was indeed bumpy.

Despite the well known fact of women’s empowerment and gender equality being basic human rights and central to human development, governments and global state actors alike have nonetheless mismatched their commitments with the required financing and policies. If anything, the alarming trend of women’s civil society spaces shrinking globally is a cause for concern and redress. A keen participant added to this point by raising the issue of women at home being excluded from influencing these very processes. “There is a strong disconnect between politics and the economy and women’s voices are missing everywhere, even at home in domestic processes,” she said.

As the forum began with discussions on the issues at stake in the Financing for Development negotiations and strategic interventions on ways to overcome global obstacles for gender justice and sustainable and equitable development, Ms. Lakshmi Puri, deputy Executive Director UN Women, urged the audience to consistently remember that there can never be enough gender in these discussions. “The political declaration from CSW59 committed member states to support and provide a safe environment for women and girls, however, making all stake holders accountable is pertinent; the private sector has a massive role to play too,” she said. Ms. Puri also urged for cohesive interventions in pushing for gender equality. “We must show solidarity between women from the north and south to push our common agenda forward.”

The forum took place in five consecutive sessions. The full program for the women’s forum can be seen here.

Session 1 highlighted the Red Flags for Women’s Rights around the Third Financing for Development Conference and the Post 2015 Development Agenda.

Session 2 included five thematic discussions on the red flags highlighted. These were as follows: Tax Justice & Domestic Resource Mobilization; Private Finance; International Public Finance; Debt, trade, systemic issues and technology; and Follow up and Review.

Session 3 included a plenary session where there was reporting back from the thematic group discussions. Thereafter discussions by Simultaneous Working Groups on FfD 3 regional priorities took place.

The final session included reflections dubbed ‘Morning after Addis. What comes next?’ This was a very participatory discussion which encapsulated both stock-taking and looking forward in the horizon for feminist and women’s organizations looking at where they would find themselves post-Addis; a look at the links with Post 2015 and other processes at the regional and global level; and what in fact the Addis outcome could mean for the Post 2015 process. This session was summarized by the highlighting of the existing opportunities at regional and global level to advance the links between women’s rights and the FfD agenda.

In her closing remarks, Ms. Emma Kaliya, Chair FEMNET and the Women’s Working Group Co-coordinators echoed the same sentiments. After all is said and done and there is sufficient mobilization of resources, how will these resources be used to enhance gender equality? What does the governance architecture look like? How will we consistently and persistently mobilize ourselves to ensure that women’s rights are at the heart of development? Yes investing in women makes economic sense but economic development in and of itself undermines addressing women’s rights as basic human rights.

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