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Breaking Barriers, Building Bridges: Pioneering Gender Equality in a Rights-Based Economy

On 19 June 2024, CESR  hosted a fascinating roundtable discussion, examining how our vision for a Rights-Based Economy (RBE) can incorporate ideas from indigenous and feminist movements to fully realize economic and social rights. The event featured a short welcome address outlining key features of the RBE from our Executive Director, Dr. Maria Ron Balsera. This was then followed by a five-speaker panel, each of whom offered key insights into their work as groundbreaking actors in the feminist, Indigenous, and economic rights movements.

Relive the webinar here (English):

Revive el webinar aquí (interpretado al español): 

The first speaker was Nely Shiguando, a women’s leader of the Federation of Indigenous Organizations of Napo Province in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Following the concept of ‘buen vivir’ or sumak kawsay in Kichwa, Shiguando’s presentation honed in on the deeply entrenched power dynamics ingrained in our world’s global economy. She shared her experience as an Indigenous community leader in training women to defend their right to receive compensation for their work in the care economy. She advocated for a reimagining of the world’s economic system, transitioning from capitalist extractivism to an alternative economic system whose key aspect is wealth sharing and solidarity. 

Next, Eva Martinez-Acosta, a lawyer and activist from Centro de Derechos Económicos y Sociales (CDES), spoke about her work in the Ecuadorian Amazon alongside Shiguando. She emphasized that women continue to suffer from poverty, exploitation, and gender-based discrimination. Her organization’s project has focused on building women’s economic enrichment through a community economy. She stressed the importance of political advocacy to force governments to integrate rights-aligned policies that will aid women and indigenous communities. 

Constanza Pauchulo, of the International Women’s Rights Activist Watch (IWRAW), focused her insights on how the right-based economy framework could function based on her work with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). She highlighted the successes of utilizing the women’s rights obligations outlined in CEDAW to mobilize movement and public actors, hold governments accountable, and build narratives based on human rights norms. She also shared her organization’s shadow report guideline on the intersection of gender equality and macroeconomics. 

The following speaker was Jessica Mandanda, from the Feminist Macro-Economic Alliance in Malawi. Mandanda offered her perspective on how gender inequality manifests in Malawi. Specifically, she identified how when public services fail, women are automatically expected to fill that gap in the care economy. She stated the COVID-19 pandemic laid bare these existing inequities, with the responsibility to provide healthcare and healthcare falling to women.

Finally, Amna Terrass, of the Observatoire Tunisien de l'Economie (OTE), underscored the importance of gender-disaggregated data in economic policymaking. She stressed that reliable data is needed not only to design transformative policies that can contribute to the long-term transfer of wealth, but also to directly aid disadvantaged groups that have little access to land or other resources.

The discussion concluded with a short Q&A, with one particularly salient question regarding how the ongoing UN Tax Convention negotiations offer a window to lobby for women’s rights. Our Executive Director Dr. Maria Ron Balsera underscored the need for economic resources to realize gender rights, particularly given current international tax rules are highly beneficial for wealthy countries and former colonial powers. Gender equality must be high on the agenda for the UN Tax Convention (learn more on that process here). 

The high number of participants reflects the appetite for alternative economic models.   The webinar was highly successful in engaging a variety of voices from all continents further to build the CESR vision of a Rights-Based Economy. We call upon feminist economics to strengthen the transformative power of human rights to transform the current economic models to:

  1. Foster the synergies between diverse economic alternatives practiced by various communities.  
  2. Shifting the general public narrative of “there is no alternative to the neoliberal economic model”.
  3. Centering human rights and its shared values of dignity, equality, justice, participatory democracy, and solidarity in economic practices and challenging the perceived narrative of the economy as a rights-free zone.  
  4. Using human rights frameworks such as The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) to foster alternative economic practices. CEDAW can be used as a tool to support alternative economic movements by building accountability, mobilizing women's movements, and narrative building.

Special thanks to Nicole Maloba for her great facilitation and our program officer Alina Saba for organizing this wonderful event!