How ‘inclusive’ are our ‘spaces of inclusion’?
Aug 3, 2021
By Sania Muzamil
The G20 (or Group of Twenty) is an intergovernmental forum that comprises 19 countries and the European Union (EU). It works to address major issues that are related to the global economy, climate change and sustainable development.
An online seminar conducted by BRICS Feminists Watch and Partners analyzed the state of women’s inclusion/ exclusion in G20 and the subsequent implications for Gender Equality, prior to the 2021 summit of G20 that will take place between 30-31 October in Rome, Italy this year.
The three main pillars that G20 rests upon are People, Planet and Prosperity. But are all people really included and if they are, do they really have a say in these seemingly democratic spaces? The session splendidly moderated by Kripa Basnyat was divided into two sessions with brackets of time for questions by the audience and their graceful responses by the panelists. The seminar opened up with Kripa Banyat giving a brief and eloquent introduction about the G20 and the issues that would be taken up, while also talking about the current crisis brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic; the deep economic recession, the shrinking democratic spaces as well as the painfully gendered and structural inequities that have only become more ossified.
The first session included feminists from Argentina, Italy and South Africa who shared their personal experiences of having been part of several spaces that claim to promote equality and sustainable solutions and shared how they struggled to balance the difficulties they faced with their efforts to promote and push for gender equality and dynamic, practical changes.
Do the Women in G20 spaces represent all of us? Who all can access these spaces and where are vulnerable and subaltern sections of people like migrants, refugees, low-economy classes, transgender and homosexuals included in these spaces of elite and privileged people?
The context of the nations and their different ways of engaging and negotiating with these spaces was brought in by Mabel Bianco, while Maria Georgia Panunzi briefly talked about the main criticalities and opportunities of G20 in terms of Gender. She shared her focused interest on Sexual and reproductive rights and the unequal accessibility that plaques us. Contraceptives and safe abortions among various other means to attain gender parity were discussed and an oppurtunity seen for these denads to be pushed for and made part of the global politics and policies from 2021 onwards. With 70 percent of the global care-workforce being female, a need for recognizing and valuing women’s labor both inside as well outside domestic spaces was reiterated by most of the panelists. Elimination of gender-based violence (GBV) and increased association of all non-normative and vulnerable gender and ethnic groups was called for.
Sibulele Poswayo talked about how these spaces lack women’s participation from many communities and also shed light on inadequate accessibility to internet services, medical care (including vaccine-apartheid) and the importance to engage in conversations about the shocking levels of ‘Femicide’ globally.
The session ended on a positive note with how G20 could be a safe-space for the ‘girl child’ to be able to speak up about ‘her’ issues- disruption of education due to the pandemic, lack of healthcare and even the need for more participation of women to kill the gender and cultural divide, in the on-going Olympic Games at Tokyo. Girls engaging in creating ‘girl solutions’ in such spaces was the sliver of hope that the panelists shined for us.
The second session discussed the G20 and its linkages to the feminist politics. The issues behind the limited participation by women were discussed. Faustina Araba Boakye from Ghana expressed her views on the manifestations and consequences of lack of inclusion of all African countries (except South Africa) in the G20 and the Eurocentric dominance. Feng Yuan talked about the importance of eradication of GBV at workplaces and homes which is vital for creating safe and secure (working) conditions for all women.
Issues pertaining to clean and safe ‘cooking’ and working resources were discussed as well. Energy resources like coal and firewood that are common in places like India lead to unprecedented number of deaths every year and as women’s labor in domestic spaces is seen more as a social duty than a valuable form of work, that should be equally recognized and rewarded, women bear the brunt of not having enough access to clean and environment-friendly fuels and electricity. Govind Kelka emphasized this point and also talked about how disproportionate levels of domestic and care-work relegated to women results in an imbalance in how ‘women’s time’ is utilized. The forgetting of these sustainable goals in G20 spaces especially with regard to the South Asian context was visiblized.
The session ended with a reiteration of the issues taken up and called for a balance and collaboration between the activism for climate change and gender rights. The panelists agreed that steps are needed to increase the participation of women in G20 and a focus on intersectional inclusion is vital. Everyone should be allowed to make ‘noise’ and as feminists and advocates of human rights should leverage on each other’s ‘hidden’ capabilities instead of racing for power, because the planet needs to be saved and so do we all.
Sania Muzamil advocates for equal gender and human rights, and calls for a free world for all. She has a postgraduate degree in English Literature from the University of Delhi and is currently studying and researching Gender perceptions and manifestations. She is currently interning at kractivist.org