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A Voice from India 13 Sept 1995

THE EARTH TIMES

BEIJING SEPTEMBER 13, 1995

Marginalized again

By Ashali Varma

Beijing China: Rukmini Rao is among more than a hundred NGOs from five different continents who form the Economic Justice Caucus at the Fourth World Conference for Women.  Having worked on women’s issues in India for the last 20 years, Rao represents an NGO called Deccan in Development, a grassroots organization that focuses on poor and marginalized rural women in 70 villages, in the state of Andhra Pradesh, in India.

 “We work with about 3,000 women who are agricultural labourers.  Most of them are landless and they get together to lease land from the farmers to grow food crops for their families,” said Rao.  “the problem is that with the current trend toward globalization and new trade policies the price of a cash crop like cotton has gone up and this has had a direct effect on these women.  They can no longer lease land cheaply for food crops, since the farmers only want to grow cotton.”

In addition, the environmental consequences on the land is disastrous as lots of pesticides are used, Rao explained, and the land cannot be used  again for food crops even when cotton is no longer a lucrative cash crop.  Rao said this problem was just an example of how the process of trade and globalization has social implications and can affect the very poor who live in rural areas.  It even causes conflicts between farmers and the women, in communities where people rely on each other.

“The scenario is the same in other developing countries and there is a concern among the NGOs working at the grassroots level that this could affect the food security of developing nations.  Food security is very important and women and children are increasingly at risk,” said Rao.

“Our caucus has reviewed the Platform for Action and we find it does not have any analysis of the causes of increasing poverty.  Governments say that eradication of illiteracy, and credit for women will solve some for the problems but we feel that it is also necessary to analyze the process of globalization with an export oriented economic growth model, in order to see the far reaching effects it has on the poor and marginalized,” said Rao.

The Economic Justice Caucus points out that fair trade is a must and affects the lives of millions of women in developing countries but it has not been addressed in the Platform, since it is not considered a women’s issue.

“We have also demanded that the functioning of trans-national corporations and there impact on women who are poor and marginalized should be monitored,” said Rao.

The Caucus is challenging the economic policies, which include cutbacks on health and education to meet the debt burden that developing countries face.  The NGOs question the rationale that only export-oriented growth can help a nation survive economically, putting at risk the food security of a country and the health and well-being of the rural poor.