The WEEP project was designed to address the following emerging concerns:
- Traditionally, the right to equality has been interpreted 1) as a civil and political right which does not encompass the economic and social rights dimensions of women???s inequality and 2) as a right whose paradigm is gender neutrality.
- Gender-neutral treatment of economic, social and cultural rights does not always advance women???s equality. Women???s persistent poverty and economic inequality are caused by a number of interlocking factors, including: the social assignment to women of the unpaid role of caregiver and nurturer for children, men, and elderly people; the fact that in the paid labor force women perform the majority of the work in the ???caring??? occupations and this ???women???s work??? is usually lower paid than ???men???s work???; the lack of affordable, safe child care; the entrenched devaluation of the labor of minority women, including indigenous women, migrant workers, women in the informal sector and women with disabilities; the economic penalties that women incur when they are unattached to men, or have children alone; and laws, policies and traditions which treat women as adjuncts to men and deny women independent entitlement to credit and loans; to own, rent, or inherit land, property and housing; and to fully participate in development processes. Women???s poverty and economic inequality cannot be addressed unless these realities are taken into account.
- At the national level, economic policy and human rights commitments are too often being treated as unrelated matters. Respecting or advancing the human rights of women is not a central goal when national budgets are constructed or national social policies, such as health care, are redesigned. This compartmentalization of societal concerns results in governments making decisions for ???budgetary???, ???deficit??? or ???trade??? reasons that exacerbate the social and economic inequality of women, without assessment, or regard for this effect.
- There is growing evidence that the neo-liberal economic agenda now being implemented globally - which encourages diminishing the size of governments, cutting social programs, privatizing public services, and deregulating markets - is having a negative impact on the economic and social conditions of women. On a global level, economic policy is being treated as though it is unrelated to the human rights of women.
The Women???s Economic Equality Project, which is now part of the Women's Working Group, was launched by Sarah Zaidi of CESR in collaboration with Leilani Farha of Centre for Equality Rights in Accomodation and Shelagh Day of National Association of Women and the Law. Between 1999 and 2001, WEEP hosted a set of meetings in Cape Town, South Africa,Geneva, Switzerland, and Montreal, Canada.