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Public services are essential for women’s equality

International Women’s Day March 8th 2005

Public services are essential for women’s equality

Public sector unions around the world called on governments to reaffirm the commitments made as part of the Beijing Platform of Action as essential for achieving the Millennium Development Goals and ending women’s poverty. On the occasion of March 8th International Women’s Day 2005, Hans Engelberts, General Secretary of Public Services International (PSI) stated “Governments are hypocritical if they think they can keep on track to meet the MDGs while they continue to privatise the services which are essential for women’s empowerment and equal participation in the labour market. Worse still, some countries are taking steps back and denying women access to the full range of reproductive health services, driven by extremely dangerous religious fundamentalisms.”

Throughout the world, public sector unions have organized a post card writing campaign calling upon their respective governments to invest in public services, in particular reproductive health services, child and community care, education and essential services such as water and electricity. The unions have argued that without such investment, governments will clearly be unable to meet the commitments they made as part of the Beijing Platform of Action 1995 and the Millennium Development Goals 2000.

“Since the Beijing Platform of Action was adopted, the great majority of women have experienced a deterioration in their general well-being, as a result of free trade agreements, long-term privatisation and deregulation. We are seeing an increasing gap between rich and poor nations, and within nations, a negative shift back from the provision of public services to the household. Women’s secondary social status in the economy has not been seriously addressed. Job segregation remains, the pay gap is even beginning to widen again in some countries and women are the most likely to be forced into unprotected informal employment. If governments and the international financial institutions continue to pursue global economic and trade policies without consideration of the negative and disproportionate impact on women and children, we may as well shred the MDGs,” Hans Engelberts added.

A large delegation of trade unionists from the public sector and education unions are at the UN Commission on the Status of Women, February 28- March 11 at New York arguing the case for a gender impact assessment of free trade policies and a revaluing of the role of public services in advancing gender equality and equal opportunities. “Global unions are joining with many other women’s organisations to present a united message,” said Nora Wintour, Equality and Rights Officer at Public Services International “The attainment of the MDGs depends on women’s empowerment and gender equality as spelled out in the Beijing Platform for Action and the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.”

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