north-south co-operation || a women's approach to north-south co-operation

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  • Oxfam GB

    A Women's Approach to North-South Co-operationAuthor(s): Carola CarbajalSource: Focus on Gender, Vol. 2, No. 3, North-South Co-operation (Oct., 1994), pp. 82-86Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd. on behalf of Oxfam GBStable URL: .Accessed: 14/06/2014 11:26

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  • 82

    Working on a progressive agenda

    A women '5 approach to

    North-South co-operation Carola Carbajal

    D uring the last few years, some development agencies have tried to make co-operation a more

    democratic affair, and to establish a dialogue between the agents of North and South on a more equal basis. 'Entre Mujeres' ('Among Women') is a network that was born within this context, started by NOVIB, a Dutch agency, and five Latin American counterparts.

    The Entre Mujeres network is a forum which allows our organisations to discuss openly our ideas, funding policies and specific practices in co-operative relation- ships between Southern and Northern NGOs. For instance, a meeting between women's NGO counterparts, held in Uruguay in 1989, generated swift consen- sus on the nature of the 'knots' which exist in co-operative relations. From this and other meetings, proposals have emerged on various issues; many of these are currently being integrated into the ways of thinking and acting of some of the funding bodies, who can hardly ignore these proposals since they came from a large number of Southern women's NGOs.

    The concerns which paved the way for the 'Entre Mujeres' network stemmed from our difficulties as women's NGOs in obtaining financial resources from the funding agencies, although funds were

    offered to 'general' NGOs with much greater generosity. We were also confronted by the agencies' lack of understanding of our programmes, which challenged our desire for autonomy in our work. We had to consider whether to accept their recommendations on what should be 'done with' Latin American women. We were given assessment and advice which lacked a gender perspective, and which valued our work with alien eyes and foreign patterns. We defended and validated our ideas, political views, and achievements over a long period; for each NGO, the outcome is determined by its strength of conviction and ability to face the conflict.

    We in the Entre Mujeres network hopes to use our analysis of the shared experiences of Latin American women by promoting a greater knowledge of them among Europeans, and especially European women. Secondly, we aim to democratise, strengthen, and consolidate ties between European development institutions and Latin American organisations working with women, and to support political pressure in the South and the North by women working in NGOs and agencies on the issues of gender, co-operation, and development. Thirdly, we wish to consolidate ties on a 'South-to- South' basis, between Latin

    Focus on Gender Vol 2, No. 3, October 1994

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  • A women's approach to North-South co-operation 83

    American NGOs which work with women. The South-to-South ties were envisaged as strengthening the Latin American and Caribbean women's movement's capacity for reflection and action.

    Entre Mujeres is conferring with women-only or mixed NGOs beyond the network, who have other ideas on co- operation, or who have not yet fully explored their views on it. We discuss the long-term development implications and strategies underlying the projects we support, and consider which approaches will be the most effective in transforming our societies. To move forward on this, several meetings between women counterparts have been held at a national level, as well as regional seminars. We have published and distributed newsletters and organised workshops. In the next stage we intend to intensify discussions and seminars with groups of mixed NGOs.

    The multiple expressions of passive and active resistance that women have developed during the last two decades in Latin America have resulted in a visibly heterogeneous movement, characterised by a great diversity of social agents: peasant women, factory workers, urban house- wives, art workers, academic workers all of them, with different approaches and demands, questioning their subordination in the public and private spheres. They have organised on issues such as health, violence, human rights, free motherhood education, sexual discrimination, and many others. We have discovered that women's status in society is related to all other types of oppression.

    Within this context, the feminist movement has contributed substantially by analysing the circumstances of women's lives, and the factors which affect women's experiences, such as their ethnicity, religion, class, and age. In addition, the gender identity of Latin American women is linked to the history of the conquest of the Americas: sexual violence in colonisation,

    the historic marginalisation of peasant women, slavery, the effects of more than a century of dependent capitalism, and the weight of traditional religions.

    CIDHAL (Mexico), CIPAF (Dominican Republic), La Morada (Chile), PLEMUU (Uruguay), and Centro 'Flora Tristan' (Peru) co-wrote a document called 'Contributions to a new politics of women and development', which was discussed at the Uruguay meeting. In it, we stated that the people in Latin America have endured five centuries of struggle to clarify and affirm their identity, which is a product of the linking of several cultures in the context of a process of brutal colonisation whose effects still remain. We are confronted by a situation in which complex social, cultural, and economic realities interact with different and sometimes opposing cultural beliefs and attitudes. Our society is multi-cultural and multi- ethnic. The complexities of our history run across the continent, giving special characteristics to the economic, political, social, cultural, moral, and ecological crisis which is affecting the whole world.

    Women's lives are currently affected, both adversely and more positively, by many factors. The debt crisis, and forced drive towards the industrial 'modern- isation' of our economies, are tremen- dously damaging for women's welfare and status. For example, although the number of women in paid work has increased, the majority of women occupy low-paid jobs which are undervalued, indeed which are often considered to be an extension of their unpaid duties in the home. Working-class women in both urban and rural areas suffer most, together with the very young and old, non-white women, and those living in regions involved in war.

    The problems are even more complex for the increasing numbers of women heads of household. In addition, violence against Latin American women is in- creasing, and this issue must be con-

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  • 8 Focus on Gender

    fronted. Domestic violence and rape, as well as institutional violence, has increased tremendously. Legal systems have been unable so far to do anything to help the situation. This increase in violence is inspiring women to join resistance and feminist movements.

    The current crisis has elicited different responses from different interest groups: a wide variety of social sectors which were previously politically marginalised are now expressing their disagreement, proposing alternatives, and acting within the social movement as a whole. The fact that women's lives, and even their identity, are going through such dramatic changes creates contradictory effects: on one hand, the oppression of women may deepen and widen, but on the other hand, there are positive responses to the problems, which

    will have a beneficial effect in the long- term. We may find that through the changes in our everyday life, our horizons may be widened, allowing us to express our needs and desires. Our responses highlight the repression of popular social participation, and question the traditional systems of political action in our countries.

    Because of its diversity, the women's movement has had internal problems and conflicts in working together on particular issues. It has also had to face external obstacles, such as traditional social attitudes to women's role, and attacks from official institutions and from the different social and political organisations which have felt threatened by our achievements.

    Entre Mujeres' vision

    'Black and white' d