Here's a forwarded message from FEMISA.  I think the topic is 
particularly relevant to ECOFEM, so I decided to send it, although 
it's rather lengthy.  I apologize for any cross-postings or mailbox 
fatigue.  Stefanie

------- Forwarded Message Follows -------

Date: Mon, 20 Mar 1995 23:05:45 -0500
Subject: Long Text: International Conference on Population and Develop

Here is a fascinating analysis of the Cairo Conference on Population and
Development which certainly contributes to a discussion last week, including
the disparity between Western and Third World feminism.

** Topic: Cairo-Empowering T. World women? **
** Written  8:04 PM  Oct 10, 1994 by twn in **
Was Cairo a step forward for Third World women?

In   this  assessment  of the  International  Conference  on
Population and Development, the writers consider whether the
Conference  contributed  to the empowerment of  Third  World
women. They also xdraw attention to the important issues  andconcerns which
were deliberately ignored by the Conference.

Drs Vandana & Mira Shiva

  THE International Conference on Population and Development
(ICPD) has been celebrated as a victory for women.  However,
to  assess  whether  Cairo  contributed  to  empowerment  or
disempowerment  of  Third World women, it  is  necessary  to
analyse what war was won, in terms of people and  resources,
politics   and  policies,  power  and  control.  It  is   as
important  to bxe aware of what was ignored and left  out  ofthe  text  as
 what  was introduced in it.  It  is  in  this
larger  perspective that we weigh the outcome of  Cairo  for
Third World women.
    The  most  important process underlying  Cairo  was  the
disjunction  of 'population' from 'development'.  The  signs
were clear early. The Draft Programme of Action of the  ICPD
had  already  put  into  square  brackets'  those   specific
paragraphs  which dealt with the right to development,  with
resources  and the exnvironment, with poverty, the debt  trapand unequal
trade relationships. (paras 3.16, 3.22)
    The   second   equally  important   process   that   was
accomplished  at Cairo was the conjunction  of  'population'
with   'women's  rights'  which  were  reduced   to   merely
'reproductive rights' _ reducing the option of 'choice' from
the  right  to  sustainable  development  to  the  right  to
contraceptive technologies.
    The  two processes _ the one of development amnesia  and
the  other of biological xreductionism _ made defeat  certainfor  Third
 World women. Cairo firmly placed the  blame  for
ethnic  conflict and resource scarcity in the South  on  the
Third World women's fertility.

Development Amnesia

    Tim  Wirth,  head of the US delegation  mentioned  at  a
briefing  in Cairo that agreement on the text was  important
to  set new goals for US foreign policy. He saw five  issues
as controversial. These included references to  reproductive
health  care  and  reproductive rights,  the  references x to sexually active
adolescents, to family and other unions  and
abortion.   Since   the   last  was   seen   as   the   most
controversial,  the substantial negotiations began with  the
chapter which refers to it. (Chapter 8, especially paragraph
8.2.5)  However,  no  agreement had  been  reached  and  the
abortion  debate was put off to the end when  consensus  was
reached.  In  his briefing Tim Wirth made  no  reference  to
Chapter  3, which covers the right to development.  The  US,
therefore,   did  noxt  expect  a  controversy  in   deleting
references to development issues.
    This  was  also confirmed at a briefing  by  the  Indian
delegation at which the representative said that development
was not germane to the population issue and India would  not
be  putting up a fight to retain references to the right  to
development.  Thus,  both the governments of the  North  and
South put issues of economic and social justice aside.
    The  non-governmental organisation (NGO)  community  too
seemed   to  haxve  forgotten  about  issues   of   equitable distribution of
natural resources and economic wealth.  Most
of  the NGOs present at the NGO forum were  family  planning
NGOs or representatives of women's organisations and groups.
The  former  are  the  delivery  mechanisms  of   population
policies and programmes and they were therefore not expected
to   raise  a  critical  voice.  The  latter,   victims   of
reductionist biologism, end up ignoring the fact that  women
are  human  beings, not just reproductixve  beings  and  have political,
 economic  and  environmental  rights,  not  just
reproductive  rights. [is this because of their ethnocentrism? The
limitations of their own experiences?] They also overlooked  the  fact  that
population  programmes  violate the reproductive  rights  of
Third  World  women either through coercion or  through  the
introduction of hazardous contraceptive technologies.
    Thus,  women's groups who should have been the  ones  to
raise  issues of women's right to development and  right  to
resources  joined the governments of the North and South  in
developmexnt  amnesia. While being very active  in  resistingthe   imposition
  of   the   agendas   of   the   religious
fundamentalists,  they unwittingly become promoters  of  the
agenda  of demographic fundamentalists who believe that  all
problems  _  from ecological crisis to ethnic  crisis,  from
poverty to social instability _ can be blamed on  population
growth, and as a corollary population control is a  solution
to all problems facing humanity.
    The  exception  was the 'Women's  Caucus'  organised  by
xWomen's  Environment  and  Development  Organisation  (WEDO)which
 repeatedly tried to refocus the debate on  population
and 'development'.
    By  ignoring global economic structures, and the  clever
mechanisms  by  which they put the burden of  adjustment  on
Third World people, particularly women, the Governments  and
northern  NGOs at Cairo failed to address the real  problems
women  in the Third World face. The UNDP, UNFPA  and  UNICEF
had  proposed  a 20/20 compact between North and  South  for
mobilxising  resources for implementing the action agenda  ofCairo.  This
20/20 proposal requires the Southern  countries
to increase their current level of public spending on  basic
social  services  from the current average of about  13%  to
about 20% which would yield two-thirds of the $30-40 billion
required  for  attaining universal access  to  basic  social
services. The remaining one-third would come from donors  if
they  increased their allocations to basic  social  services
also to about 20%.
    Howevexr, World Bank structural adjustment programmes are actually
 forcing Third World governments to further  reduce
their already meagre social service budgets including health
care. [even as these are increased by fundamentalists] While health budgets
are being slashed, epidemics  are
spreading  even in diseases that are supposed to  have  been
eradicated. India is currently facing an epidemic of  plague
in  the states of Maharashtra and Gujarat and  Delhi.  There
has  been a resurgence of several waterborne  diseases  like
cholera,  diarrhoea, dysentery, hxepatitis  and  vector-borne diseases  like
 malaria,  filaria,  Japanese   encephalitis,
kalazar  and  other  diseases  of  poverty.  These  are  the
biggest  killers  and cause of high morbidity in  the  Third
World, and are related to the polluted environment in  which
the  poor  are  forced  to  live.  They  receive  the  least
funding. Nearly two million people die of tuberculosis every
year, but only US$16 million is spent on this disease.
    The  World  Bank,  which was present in  Cairo  in  full
foxrce,    has  emerged  as  a  major  funder  of  population control.
 During    1969-70  it only spent  $27  million  on population   programmes.
   In  1987,  the  then   President
promised this would rise to $500   million in 1990. In 1993,
it  had already shot up to $1.3   billion. Preston  has  now
promised to raise it further to an   annual $2.5 billion  by
1995.  The World Bank did not even   once refer to the  role
of structural adjustment in   undermining health care  while
increasing population contxrol financing.    In  spite  of the rhetoric about
 the  changes  affected
under    the World Bank's guidance, which have  resulted  in
'pro-women'   policies  offering  'choices'  to  women   and
coercion  is the fundamental tool used to meet targets  that
still exist.
    This coercion has been extended to cover all aspects  of
survival. Access to natural resources vital for survival  is
being  made  conditional  on women  offering  themselves  to
becoming targets to family planning programmes.
    'Lastx  year, I was privy to a conversation  between  the Collector and
representatives of a group of villages who had
gone  to  complain  about  a  serious  water  shortage.  The
response was the same, 'You get me the cases, I'll take care
of   your  water  problem.'  Which  is  fine,  except   that
conversely  it means, 'You didn't 'cooperate in  the  family
planning programmes, so sweat it out for water.'
    Thus, in Rajasthan, there is a military style  operation
on  to  meet  targets. The village  official,x  the  patwari,makes  people
'an offer they cannot refuse' _ accept  family
planning,  or  your land will be taken away.  Acceptance  of
family  planning is also being tied to housing  schemes  for
the  poor  to  which they are  entitled  even  without  such
    'It's much easier to keep the patwari in good humour, by
driving  your  wife (or sister-in-law) to the  camp  to  get
operated, even though she may have different ideas. So  it's
never the women who are motivated _ they're the targets, xthe numbers  that
decorate the Confidential Reports of  doctors,
patwaris, and Collectors.'
    Vehicles  are  despatched to different  destinations  to
pick    up  (and drop back) 'acceptors' and  bring  them  to
camps,     where   out station  doctors  operate   on   them;
motivators  and   'acceptors' are given on-the-spot  payment
of   'incentives'.    The  responsibility  of  the   medical
personnel  ends here. Even   in cases of sterilisation,  the
removal  of stitches and other   post-surgical  theraxpy  are not  considered
the responsibility   of the surgeon who  did
the operation; the victim is left to fend for herself.
    The  World Bank has cleverly redefined  the  'population
and    development' sector as 'population and  women',  thus
making   invisible the destructive impact of its policies on
the   lives of Third World women and ironically appearing as
a champion of women's rights.
    Viewed  in  the light of the  development  amnesia  that
afflicted the population debate at Cairo, it is evidexnt thatThird  World
 women lost the war by losing  their  right  to

The  re-emergence  of  biological  reductionism  and   the
politics of choice
    The  real  gain of the women's movement  over  the  past
three   decades has been the rejection of the view women  as
only    sexual objects or as reproductive  machinery.  Cairo
reversed    this gain by equating 'population'  to  'women's
rights' and   'women's rights' to 'reproductive rights'. The
use  of  words    such  as 'rights'  and  'choxice'  in  this paradigm
 obscured  the    fact  that  demographic   trends,
whether  they  are positive or   negative,  are  not  merely
reflections   of   the   availability   or     absence    of
contraceptive  technologies. They are reflections    of  the
socio-economic patterns of society, which determine people's
options in terms of family size.
    The   negative  growth  rates  in   the   industrialised
societies    are the result of the absence of social  choice
related  to   bringing up children wixthout  adequate  social support for
  childcare. Processes of bringing up  children,
which  in   non-industrialised societies take place  through
social    relationships  in extended  families  and  kinship
networks,   are    absent  in  the   industrialised   world.
Childcare,  like   everything else, has to be  purchased  in
the  market place.   Children thus become economically  non-
viable  in spite of the   overall affluence of  the  society
and  a surrogate economic   drain on the individual  family.
xSimilarly, positive growth   rates also reflect the  absence of social and
economic choice   under conditions of  poverty
and  economic insecurity. Under   these conditions  children
become a surrogate economic resource.
    Thus  in  Cairo, women's groups,  particularly  Northern
women's  groups, with the exception of the 'Women's  Caucus'
organised by WEDO, unwittingly engaged most vigorously in  a
politics  that  reduced and limited women's  rights  to  the
domain of reproduction and sexuality. This was xmost  obvious in the
domination of the ICPD by the abortion debate and  by
the   language   of   reproductive   rights   and    choice.
Reductionism in the language of choice is intimately related
to polarisation of ethical and moral positions as  discussed
below. When choice is reduced to contraceptive choice alone,
and  other  aspects  of life  which  influence  reproductive
behaviour are negated or ignored the space is created for  a
fundamentalist  religious response for the  'protection'  of
life and xsociety.    Further,  it was taken for granted that for Third
 World women even this choice cannot exist if the planet was to  be
saved.  The  only 'choice' offered them was  the  choice  of
contraceptive technology.
    Whether  it is the 'pro-choice' fundamentalism  limiting
itself  to contraceptives, or the 'pro-life'  fundamentalism
limiting  itself  to  the  foetus,  women's   socio-economic
choices and health rights are sacrificed by both.
    Women's   health   issues,  which  include   issues   of
xnutrition,    infectious diseases, violence  against  women,etc.  are  being
  put aside in a  discourse  where  women's
health  is  being    reduced to  'reproductive  rights'  and
reproductive  rights  are    being  equated  with  women  as
consumers   of  contraceptive    technologies.   Even   when
international  and national policies   have  worked  against
women's  health and women's rights in    population  policy,
they  have  used  women's rights and  women's    health  and
women's choices as the jxustification for population control.    Thus  even
as the foreclosure of economic rights  forces
its  young women to offer sexual services to plane-loads  of
pleasure seeking men from the North, leaving only the choice
of  contraceptives,  Thailand,  like  Indonesia  which   has
maternal  mortality rate of 450 per 100,000 women, is  proud
of its successful family planning programme.
    A  woman-oriented  family  planning  programme  is  only
meaningful if it is associated with upgrading women's status
in x the  social,  political  and  economic  spheres.   'SafeMotherhood'  is
 only  possible  in  the  context  of  'Safe
    Choosing  is an activity of a subject able to  determine
the  conditions  of  her life and  her  well-being.  Passive
recipients  of other people's choices are not  subjects  but
object   of  choice.  When  reproductive  issues   are   not
determined by women, and contraceptive technologies are  not
evolved in response to their health and economic needs,  the
women  themselxves  become  the objects  of  the  demographic establishment's
  choice.  When  'Choice'  is  used   as   a
justification  for population control, it is an  example  of
Orwellian doublespeak.
    Thus  at  Cairo, women's multiple rights as  full  human
beings  in  society were reduced  to  'reproductive  rights'
alone.  The  western women's movement  contributed  to  this
biological  reductionism  in Cairo by failing  to  focus  on
women's  productive  roles and by  focusing  exclusively  on
their  reproducxtive roles, by failing to draw  attention  todenial   of
 women's  economic  rights  through   structural
adjustment  and  GATT,  and allowing  'unmet  needs'  to  be
redefined  as needs for contraceptives alone, and not  needs
for food, water and livelihoods. Further, by reducing  women
to their biology alone, and divorcing them from the  economy
and society, the western feminists have created a  discourse

which strengthens the hands of patriarchy based on religious

Western feminists stxrengthen religious fundamentalism in theThird World
    While Western feminists falsely believed that the battle
was  between  women  and  the  church,  they  were  engaging
vicariously  in  a  war  between  two  partriarchies  _  the
demographic  establishment and the religious  establishment.
By  not  being  fully  aware of  how  the  Northern  women's
movement  is  being used by the  patriarchal  establishment,
Western  feminists were actually contributing to the  growth
of  religious fundamentalism in xthe Third World. Instead  ofpointing  out
 that  it  is women who  are  taking  care  ofchildren,  and  holding family
and community together  in  a period of social breakdown, women's groups
contributed to  a discourse  that  allowed  'women's rights'  to  be  seen
 as antithetical  to the rights of children and women's  freedom
as based on neglect of family.
    However,  in  reality, it is women  who  are  protecting
children  and  carrying family responsibility.  Today,  more
than  one-third of the hoxuseholds in Africa,  Latin  America and  the
 developed world are female headed; in  Norway  the
figure is 38% and in Asia 14%. Even where women are not  the
sole family supporters, they are primary supporters in terms
of  work  and energy spent on providing  sustenance  to  the
family. For example, in rural areas, women and children must
walk further to collect the diminishing supplies of firewood
and  water while in urban areas they must take on more  paid
outside  work. Usually, more time thus spent on  xworking  tosustain the
family conflicts with the time and energy needed
for child care. At times girls take on part of the  mother's
burden  in India, the percentage of female workers below  14
years increased from 4% to 8%. In the 15-19-year age  group,
the  labour  force participation rate increased by  17%  for
females,  but declined by 8% for males. This  suggests  that
more  girls are being drawn into the labour force, and  more
boys  are sent to school. This sizeable  proportion  perhaps
explains thex high female dropout rate, a conclusion that  is  supported  by
the higher levels of illiteracy  among  female
workers, compared with 50% for males. It has been  projected
that by the year 2001, work participation among   0-14-year-
old  girls will increase by a further 20% and  among  15-19-
year-olds by 30%.
    By   ignoring   the   social,   economic   and    family
responsibilities that Third World women carry, the exclusive
focus on 'sexual and reproductive rights' is  disempowering,
not empowering, foxr Third World women because it makes women appear
 socially irresponsible. As the social crisis  grows,
people  will have to find ways of holding society  together.
In real life, it is women who have shown leadership in these
matters.  Wherever women have been active and articulate  in
rebuilding community and society, fundamentalists have  been
silenced.  However,  the Cairo Conference was  dominated  by
Northern  women  obsessed with  individual  sexual  freedom,
indifferent   to  society  and  to  otherx   freedom.   They,therefore,
  failed   to  highlight  how   women   carry   a
disproportionate  share of social responsibility  and  thus,
crated  a  stereotype of women's rights as  implying  social
irresponsibility. The vacuum created in the domain of social
responsibility,  we know by experience, gets filled  by  the
emergence  of  religious  fundamentalists  who  create   new
restrictions  on women for the cause of maintaining  'family
values'   and   social  norms.  Western   feminists,   thus,
uninxtentionally create new space and power for the religious fundamentalists
 while shrinking the space and reducing  the
power  of  women  within their societies.  The  politics  of
Cairo  therefore,  rendered  women's  multiple  social   and
economic roles invisible, reduced women to their biology and
put the entire burden of family planning on women. These are
gains for patriarchy, not for women.

The Third World War: Blaming everything on 'Population'

    Who  controls the planet's resources has always beexn  animportant
 aspect of the population and development  debate.
It is not the large numbers of Third World poor who use most
of  the world's resources. Seventy per cent of the  planet's
resources  are  used  by  20%  of  the  population  in   the
industrialised  North.  As Emory Lovins has  shown,  98%  of
energy  rise  is  not  by  people  but  by  'energy  slaves'
associated  with  the industrialised  economy.  The  average
inhabitant  of the US has 250 times as many 'slaves' as  the
average Nigerian.
x    However,  in Cairo, it was the poor of the  Third  World who    were
identified as the real threat to the  planet.  A
book by   Michael Tobas entitled 'Third World War' which was
an   conspicuous display at the NGO forum stated, 'We are on
a    collision course between humans and the  biosphere.  It
has escalated to full blown warfare.'
    Cairo  made  it clear that it is only humans  in  China,
India,  Indonesia and Africa who are engaged in  this  'war'
against the planet.
    The  wife  of the US Vixce-President, Tipper Gore,  in  a speech  in the
US forum even explained the current  genocide
in  Rwanda as rooted in population growth. No reference  was
made to the impact of structural adjustment, the collapse of
coffee  prices, or to the aid conditionalities  attached  to
multi-party   democracy   by  Northern   governments   which
encouraged  the emergence of parties based on  ethnic  lines
and divided society, instead of creating democracy.
    The  Third  World is paying for globalisation  and  free
trade  through  accelerated  environmental  degradation  and emergence of
ethnic conflicts and religious  fundamentalism.
It  is  important to remember that the roots of  social  and
environmental  decay are nurtured in a highly unjust  global
economic  system. The development amnesia of  Cairo  carries
the  risk  of putting aside the right to  survival  of  poor
people  in  the Third World by denying them their  right  to
development and blaming them for all the political, economic
and  environmental problems of the world of which  they  arethe worst
victims, but not the primary cause.
    Rather  than representing a 'victory' for  women,  Cairo
has    thus  proved to be an even  powerful  weapon  against
Third World women in their struggle for life with dignity.

  Dr Vandana Shiva is a well-known ecologist. Mira Shiva  is
an  MD,  specialising and working in community  health.  The
above is from a position paper written by them for the Cairo

** End of text from **

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