We must fight against privatization tooth and nail

by Barb Dobrowolski, Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association (OECTA)

This afternoon at the Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment side event put on by Korea and the International Council of Women there was an interesting choice of panelist, Ms. Alicia Hammond, Gender Specialist with the World Bank. Why would the World Bank have a gender specialist, one might wonder?

Ms. Hammond shared some startling facts.  We’ve heard so much about the wage gap between men and women.  Did you know that the credit loan gap is 260 billion dollars?  44% of women entrepreneurs rely on their own savings, friends and family to finance their business ventures.  1.1 billion women are excluded from access to formal banking. In 100 countries, laws prohibit women from doing the same jobs as men.  For example women cannot drive trains, work or open businesses without their husband’s permission, or work at night in some countries.

In December 2015 the World Bank launched a new gender strategy, focused on education, skills training and mentorship.  For example, in Ethiopia and Uganda teams give salary information to girls in school showing how science is more lucrative as compared to hairdressing, helping to guide girls towards male-dominate occupations.  Ms. Hammond recognized how important the provision of care services and access to water and safe transportation were to women’s economic empowerment.  And she spoke of how business training must be paired with instilling young women with the confidence and self-esteem to succeed.

What struck me most, however, was a question from the floor:  how could the World Bank be promoting women’s economic empowerment when it imposed land and development conditionalities that included structural adjustment economies devastating to women?  And then there was a further question about what kind of work the Word Bank was doing in childcare and eldercare.  To the former question, Ms. Hammond spoke of driving change from within, and needing more representation from the global south.  To the latter, she admitted that this was a new area for the World Bank and they were dealing with private sector economies.

This made me think of the CLC’s morning side even, Labour of Love where Canadian union activists talked passionately of the importance of public care services that are of high quality and affordable, such as child care and eldercare and healthcare.  For many families daycare is the cost of a second mortgage.  Jasmine Meera of CUPE spoke of multinational corporation, Sedeco, getting all the long term care contracts in Vancouver, then subcontracting and contract flipping, laying off and hiring back at lower wages and cutting services. 

Will women fight for economic empowerment only so we can turn around and hand over our paychecks to multinational corporations who run the for-profit eldercare and childcare we need in order to participate more equitably in the labour force?  Who will be the richer for it?  Is this what is meant by women’s potential in powering the global economy?

Fight privatization.  Fight it tooth and nail.  If we don’t, we’ll all be indentured slaves.

Barb Dobrowolski, OECTA


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