Monday, April 21, 2008

‘Protect the Rights of Women in Informal Sector’

‘Protect the Rights of Women in Informal Sector’

Daily Graphic, Monday, April 21, 2008. Page 55 (News)

Jasmine Afari-Mintah

The increasing drift from the formal sector by public servants threatens the economic and social rights of women, a senior research fellow of the Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER), Ms Dzodzi Tsikata, has observed.

“This situation is a threat to women’s right to decent employment and social security,” she stressed. Ms Tsikata, therefore, advocated the enactment of policies to protect the rights of women in the informal sector.

She made the observation at the 12 United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD XII) civil society forum, held by the Network for Women’s Rights in Ghana (NETRIGHT) to deliberate on the forces of globalisation and policies of international trade that reduce gender inequalities.

The forum was on the theme- Women and Globalisation: Issues and Challenges for Advocacy today.

Ms Tsikata said whilst employment opportunities had been crested under globalisation processes, most of these jobs were informal and did not qualify as decent by the International Labour Organisation.

“What concerns us is the growing information of labour relations across economies of the world, particularly, Sub-Saharan Africa.” She added that, “This was a fallout of economic globalisation and underpinned the global inequalities in incomes and living conditions that we face today.”

She noted that the informal economy had been a place where gender inequalities were visible, adding that, “the majority of women in urban areas make a living there, mostly in self-employment, with the result that their participation in the informal economy was higher than their share in the total labour force.”

A Social and Development Policy Analyst from South Africa, Ms Lebohang Pheko, said the fight against injustice against women should not be the responsibility of women alone but collectively for both men and women. She said there was the need to provide a forum to discuss gender inequality, work and sharing of ideas that concerned women and children.

She said it was equally important for government in Sub-Saharan African countries to ratify international conventions and agreement that would aim at advancing women’s rights.

She said that women’s livelihood in Sub-Saharan Africa was rural and based on traditional technologies. “Livelihood in most of Africa are rural, agrarian, household-based and employs traditional technologies. However, the rapid growth of the urban informal economy underscores its increasing importance,” she noted.

Ms Pheko further explained hat the women should be empowered economically to enable them to earn income through viable venture to reduce the level of poverty among women. “Our vision is for African women to live in a world in which there is social justice, equality and respect for women’s human rights,” she stated.

The Convenor of Manifesto Coalition of NETRIGHT, Mrs. Hamida Harrison, said what was needed was a global consensus to make trade policy-making to be informed by human rights commitment , rather than use human rights as an imposed condition in trade relations.

She said UNCTAD was the best forum to address the critical intersection of trade and development that dealt with women. She said available reports showed that rural women in Africa were responsible for half the world’s food production, noting that “women’s agricultural work includes farming, food processing and selling in the markets.”

The Convenor of NETRIGHT, Dr. Rose Mensah-Kutin, said conservative social practices and religious extremism were identifies as the main causes of gender inequalities. She noted that women were being pushed out of formal employment and were forced to find employment in the informal sector, saying that “this meeting taking place in the shadow of UNCTAD XII is an opportunity to raise the question of information of work as one of the challenges of globalisation.”

NETRIGHT is an NGO that strives to build a strong coalition of groups and individuals committed to women’s rights issues in the country. It also provides national advocacy platform for civil society organisations around national and international processes.

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