II. Womens' promotion - A Comprehensive Political Approach
Societal tolerance for Promotion of women has increased in numerous
states: ministries for Women, departments for Womens' promotion, women's
contingents in parties, unions, and bureaucracies have been established
and have thus helped to politically and institutionally guarantee support
for gender equality. Anchoring the ideals of promotion of women in indigenous
political structures helps ensure a secure foundation for a comprehensive
approach. Regional, national, and international conferences belong on the
political agenda as well as a variety of programs and projects for the
advancement of women.
But an ever-changing political environment cannot secure sustainable, structural progress. The principles of gender equality are not translated into policy in government institutions or in political programs, just as campaigns against socio-cultural discrimination are non-existent. As a whole, the realization of official advancement programs is deficient. In a few countries such programs are pursued with vigour, but only due to exogenous factors, for instance, when suppliers of aid place a high priority on the advancement of women. Experience shows that the existence of plans and programs for Womens' promotion does not guarantee that they are actually a priority of top decision-makers. Despite the growing awareness of discrimination against women, there is often a lack of political will to fight for their right to participate in socio-political decision-making, and to adequately incorporate their particular interests in the planning and implementation of sectorial policies. As a whole, the number of "natural" dialogue partners has increased, and thus the chances for new kinds of policies for development and domestic politics which are also fair to women.
In the early phases of international programs of Promotion of women, women were viewed as passive beneficiaries of the development process. Based on the western model of small families and financially dependent women, it was assumed that, through the trickle-down effect, women would benefit from assistance programs aimed at male heads of household.
The important economic role of women in the procurement of daily existence-requirements was only recognized, once a basic-needs strategy had been adopted. At the same time it was recognized, that without changes to familial, economic, and legal-political parameters, measures to improve the status of women would have little impact. For this reason, the integration of women in the development process itself became a main goal throughout the Decade of the Woman (1975-85).
Women should not only have more opportunity to participate in the development of their countries, they should also receive more benefits from it. Womens' promotion should no longer restrict itself to projects only for women, because every transition in the interest of women requires modifications in the role of men. Sustainable change which benefits women thus implies a reorganization of the balance of power between the genders. In order to decrease discrimination against women, men have to realize that they will have to share power. For this reason programs must also be targeted towards men.
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