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22.11.2005 General News

Economic policies should not make women poorer - Tsikata

By GNA
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Accra, Nov 22, GNA - Unfair international trade policies and especially that of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) needed radical reforms to enable the poor to derive benefits of poverty reduction policies and not worsen their conditions.

Dr Dzodzi Tsikata, Convener, Network for Women's Right in Ghana (NETRIGHT), said policies of WTO on feminist organisations were neo-liberal and tended to have adverse effects on women's economic empowerment.

He was speaking at a three-day international workshop on the linkages between trade and other economic policies of the WTO on feminist organisations in Accra.

Presenting a paper on: "Implications and Impacts of Global Level Policies and Rules on Women in Africa", Dr Tsikata said despite many efforts and programmes that had been designed to address gender inequalities, there were still wide disparities between men and women. The Gender Unit of the Third World Network Africa (TWN) is hosting the workshop on the theme: "Gender on the Road to Hong Kong Strategy Session Programme". The workshop is preceding the Sixth Ministerial Cnference of the WTO to be held in Hong Kong in December.

Gender activists from Ghana; Kenya; Nigeria; Sierra Leone; Zambia; Zimbabwe; Togo; Mauritius and South Africa are attending the workshop, which would discuss issues regarding trade, gender and economic development inherent in the workings of the WTO. Dr Tsikata said national and international documents like the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP), meant to address poverty, had been ineffective and that the poor could not actually access the opportunities and benefits in the strategy. "While the PRSPs recognise how widespread poverty is, they continue to treat poverty as though the poor were a special category of people rather than the majority of the people.

"To accept that most of the population have been impoverished by certain policies mean that a radical review of the policy framework is needed and the PRSPs do not approach this by any stretch of imagination", Dr Tsikata said.

She, therefore, urged participants to continue to press for an interrogation of the neo-liberal macro economic framework and fundamental rethink of the gaols and mechanisms of economic policy. She also asked the activists to help in the reformation of their individual States to make them accountable first and foremost to the citizens.

Dr Tsikata said women, particularly in Africa, still had serious problems with access to formal education.

Outside formal education, she said female apprentices also had a much narrower range of training options than men because of gender segregation in artisanal occupations.

Dr Yao Graham, National Coordinator of the Network, said activists were gathered to identify ways to build upon ongoing feminists groups and other civil society organisations' actions and mechanism vis-=E0-vis WTO processes.

He said African and other developing countries civil society and feminist organisations needed to be effective in relation to negotiations at Hong Kong and beyond and that required a thorough understanding of the complex trade and economic policy, gender and development issues at stake.

"This event is to help to define and refine collective and organisational level strategy up to and beyond Hong Kong," Dr Graham said.

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