Category: struggle for the equality of women
A Tribute to Claudia Jones

 

A TRIBUTE TO CLAUDIA JONES

Thursday 26 October 7pm

Marx Memorial Library, 37a Clerkenwell Green, EC1R 0DU

Book tickets here http://tinyurl.com/yamdq2jj

  • Claudia Webbe, Islington Councillor and member of the Labour Party’s National Executive Committee in the Chair
  • Winston Pinder, friend of Claudia, on Claudia’s life as socialist, organiser and writer
  • Meirian Jump, Archivist & Library Manager, on Claudia’s archives at the MML

Claudia Jones (1915-1964) was a political activist and tireless anti-racist campaigner. Her activity as a member of the Communist Party USA – during a period of McCarthyite attacks on the left in America – led to her imprisonment and deportation in 1955. She moved to the UK where she was instrumental in founding the Notting Hill Carnival in 1959 and established the first major black British newspaper The West Indian Gazette. She was an inspirational speaker, addressing numerous peace and trade union meetings. At her funeral in 1965 Paul Robeson gave the following tribute ‘It was a great privilege to have known Claudia Jones. She was a vigorous and courageous leader of the Communist Party of the United States, and was very active in the work for the unity of white and coloured peoples and for dignity and equality, especially for the Negro people and for women’.

 

Marx Memorial Library & Workers’ School

37a Clerkenwell Green
Marx Memorial Library
London
EC1R 0DU
United Kingdom
Africa/Global: How Women Lose from Tax Injustice
| September 25, 2017 | 8:02 pm | Africa, struggle for the equality of women | No comments

AfricaFocus Bulletin September 25, 2017 (170925) (Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor’s Note

A new report from the Association for Women in Development (AWID), authored by Dr. Attiya Waris in Nairobi, makes a powerful case that women lose disproportionately from illicit financial flows, which reduce the tax base and deprive states of the resources to invest in critical public goods, and that addressing this issue is key to efforts to combat gender inequality. The point should not be surprising, but too often the impact of tax evasion and tax avoidance is cloaked in jargon that makes it less visible than cases such as overt discrimination against women in employment and wages. In contrast, this report stands out for its clarity. AfricaFocus strongly recommends the full version, which is available on-line at http://tinyurl.com/ych3zce3

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains selected excerpts, as well as a short set of background notes prepared by AfricaFocus on the context of related debates in the United States.

Two other examples highlighting the impact of illicit financial flows through tax avoidance by multinational companies are reports by Action Aid (2010) on SAB Miller in Ghana (http://tinyurl.com/ych3zce3) and on Associated British Foods (2013) in Zambia http://www.africafocus.org/docs13/tax1302.php).

ActionAid also has a short (3.5 minute) animated video highlighting the impact of this in the Zambia case (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ijtOErKjPMg). [Whether or not you have time to read the reports, you can watch and share this video!]

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on tax injustice, illicit financial flows, and related issues, visit http://www.africafocus.org/intro-iff.php

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor’s note+++++++++++++++++

 

Illicit Financial Flows: Why We Should Claim These Resources for Gender, Economic and Social Justice

by Dr Attiya Waris

Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID)

July 28, 2017

http://www.awid.org – Direct URL: http://tinyurl.com/ych3zce3

Editor’s note: The conceptual distinction between a narrow and wider definition of illicit financial flows is often confusing. This paper begins with a very clear short explanation and justification for using the wider definition. For an earlier slightly longer discussion, prepared by AfricaFocus Bulletin in November 2015, see “Defining Illicit Financial Flows” http://tinyurl.com/yamhlajc

 

Concept and Scale of Illicit Financial Flows (IFFs)

The concept of illicit financial flows (IFFs) is characterised by a lack of a unique consensual definition. Cobham, for example, explains the difference between a narrow and wider definition as follows:

“There are two main definitions of illicit financial flows (IFF). One equates ‘illicit’ with ‘illegal’, so that IFFs are movements of money or capital from one country to another that are illegally earned, transferred, and/or utilized. This would include individual and corporate tax evasion but not avoidance (which is legal), and other criminal activity like bribery or the trafficking of drugs or people.

The other relies on the dictionary definition of ‘illicit’ as ‘forbidden by law, rules or custom’ – encompassing the illegal but also including the socially unpalatable, such as the multinational corporate tax avoidance”.

Editor’s note: This Venn diagram shows the overlap between illegal and illegimate financial flows. Almost all illegal flows are also illegitimate, with exceptions such as family remittances which may bypass legal foreign currency laws.

For the purpose of this brief, we will use the broader definition that encompasses tax evasion, particularly by multinational corporations (MNCs). This is because the strong corporate lobby has largely shaped the very design of tax laws around the world. Exercising their economic and political influence on countries, they can define what type of tax avoidance is considered legal or illegal in different countries according to their profit interests.

Illicit financial flows can be broken down into three main types:

  1. Proceeds from corrupt dealings: For example, bribes by corporations to secure public contracts/permits or false declaration of corporate profits in order to evade tax payment, especially by extractive industries such as mining and oil exploration.
  2. Proceeds from criminal activities: A system of bank secrecy is necessary to conceal the origins of illegally obtained money (e.g. from human trafficking or sale of illegal arms), typically by means of transfers involving foreign banks or legitimate businesses – a process known as “money laundering”.
  3. Proceeds from commercial tax abuse: tax abuse includes both tax evasion and tax avoidance by corporations and wealthy elites by using, for example, anonymous shell companies in secrecy jurisdictions 4 that hide who the beneficial owners really are and/or obscure information from tax authorities. Another form of commercial tax abuse by MNC’s is to over quote imports or under quote exports, to hide the real value of products, and therefore profits – a process known as “trade mispricing”.

The exact amount of money being transferred through these systems is hard to calculate, because IFFs can only be traced through the international banking system. This does not account for money that simply moves from one place to another, within or across to states, without the aid of the banking system, for example, cash in exchange for political favors or ivory in exchange for small arms. While estimating just how much money is lost through IFFs can be a difficult task due to the inherent secrecy involved in their movement, there is consensus that they represent a tremendous problem.

The Financial Transparency Coalition (FTC) released an infographic (http://tinyurl.com/yde4gqsa) summarizing the different existing estimates. For example, using data of trade misinvoicing, the Global Financial Integrity estimates, that as much as 7.8 trillion was lost by developing and emerging countries to IFFs from 2004 to 2013, and that this loss is getting bigger.

The landmark report of the High Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows from Africa (also known as the Mbeki report) estimates Africa to be losing more than $50 billion annually in IFFs. This reality is having severe consequences to the development of the continent. “Their economies do not benefit from the multiplier effects of the domestic use of such resources, whether for consumption or investment. Such lost opportunities impact negatively on growth and ultimately on job creation in Africa”, 6 states the report.

To illustrate the effects on development, the same report cites a study (O’Hare and others 2013) on the potential impact of IFFs on under- five child and infant mortality in the region. “Without IFFs, the Central African Republic would have been able to reach the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 4 on child mortality in 45 years compared with the 218 years at current rates of progress. Other striking examples are Mauritania, 19 years rather than 198 years; Swaziland, 27 years rather than 155 years; and the Republic of Congo, 10 years rather than 120 years. Perhaps most striking is the finding that if IFFs had been arrested by the turn of the century, Africa would reach MDG 4 by 2016” . The sheer amount shows that these ‘lost’ resources could have assisted states nationally and regionally to achieve the unmet Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Moving forward, this could play a crucial role in financing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and mobilizing the maximum available resources to ensure the realization of human rights and social justice.

Efforts to quantify the gendered impact and implications of IFFs across the African continent are needed more than ever. The African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET) in partnership with Trust Africa, set out an important path in 2016 to strategically discuss with other organizations, how to effectively address this problem and propose political solutions supported by global processes to curb IFFs.

The Disproportionate Impact of IFFs on Gender Justice

Gender impacts of IFFs tend to be understood and studied at the national and even local level, with scarce literature that focuses on the global impact of IFFs as an obstacle to the realization of women’s rights and gender justice.

We take a look at some specific impacts here:

Impact on delivery of social services

An inadequate tax collection system has a direct impact on a country’s budget deficit. The result has commonly been a reduction in key areas such as education, health care, cares facilities, which has a direct impact on women and women-headed households that are more vulnerable to national budget constraints.

Despite external constraints, decisions on budget spending at the national level are highly political and gendered. The decision to choose between privileging certain areas like militarization and propaganda over social spending on people’s needs in the areas mentioned above, is part of maintaining the status quo of power by local and global elites. The lower the investment in education, the easier to control a population kept on survival mode.

The feminisation of poverty is a persistent phenomenon in which women are overrepresented amongst the most poor, with low-paid and poor-quality jobs. Because of unequal gendered power relations and entrenched cultural stereotypes that define women and girls identities and social roles, they predominantly do unpaid care work across the world. This situation has an impact on the advancement of women and girls’ human rights It perpetuates their impoverishment, acting as an obstacle to women and girls participation in the paid economy, political life and bodily and sexual autonomy. For these reasons, women tend to be more dependent on public social services, which have the capacity to shift the unpaid care burden that falls disproportionately on their shoulders. Failure to mobilize public resources therefore robs women and children of the much-needed public services, which reflects a lack of recognition of the role of the care economy in subsidizing the entire economy.

Unemployment and under investment in the economy

When monies are illicitly transferred out of developing countries, the loss of public resources impacts negatively the economic development of a country and ultimately job creation. Similarly, when profits are illicitly transferred out of developing countries, reinvestment and the concomitant economic expansion to create local jobs are not taking place in these countries.

Lack of public investment has consequently led to lack of employment creation and greater unemployment, hitting women particularly hard. According to 2016 ILO figures, in many regions in the world, in comparison to men, women are more likely to become and remain unemployed. They have fewer chances to participate in the labour force and – when they do – often have to accept lower quality jobs. Women are typically the first to lose their jobs and/or accept shorter hours and bad working conditions to keep jobs.

Regressive fiscal policies

IFFs often trigger regressive tax policies – countries facing budget deficit tend to cover that through increased consumption taxes rather than taxing the wealthy. Neoliberal assumptions that taxing the wealthy would result in the withdrawal of private investment in a given economy have permeated so deeply in economic policy decision-making, that putting profit over people has become an unquestionable reality worldwide, even as it remains fundamentally a political decision. Increasing consumption taxes is in many cases the less costly of options for governments (both economically and politically). After all, media corporations will not attack them as they would if they tax the wealthy and also because, unfortunately, in most cases there is not enough of a ‘counter-power’ / people power to stop them.

A great way to get middle and even working class people to support governments that will not invest in social welfare, is the argument that the impoverished don’t pay taxes and live off benefits that formalized workers sustain with their contributions. The invisibility of consumer taxes, and of who pays them the most in proportion to their income, is an effective tool for preserving the status quo. Countries that refuse to put into place mechanisms to efficiently tax those with greater wealth and income (both individuals and corporations) typically resort to indirect tax mechanisms – such as high rates of value added tax (VAT) – that collect taxes from consumer goods or services rather than from individuals or companies. These have a particularly negative effect on informal workers and people living in poverty – the majority of whom are women – as they spend a large part of their income on taxes for the essential goods and services they consume to sustain livelihoods, perpetuating the cycle of poverty and aid dependence.

Marta Luttgrodt, 48, sells SABMiller beer from her stall     in the shadow of the company’s Accra Brewery, Ghana.     Photograph: Jane Hahn/Jane Hahn/ActionAid    

A poignant example is the SAB Miller case in Ghana where Marta, who sells beer at her small stall in Accra, Ghana outside the SAB Miller factory, was paying more tax than the factory right next to her informal stand. This situation does little to encourage informal workers to register as formal workers, as this would further increase their tax burden. As a result, this perpetuates a situation in which informal workers are ineligible to receive social services like health and pension benefits; yet corporations and large businesses with huge profits are not pushed to contribute to building and sustaining the infrastructure for these same basic services.

Principles of Equality and non-discrimination

Tax policies can play a crucial role in reducing inequality and redistributing resources in order to level the playing field as much as possible.

The failure to prevent corruption and the fact that tax amnesties continue to be granted to large corporations, fuel the desire among common taxpayers to be part of those that outwit the state and its tax administration.

Equitable and progressive tax policies, based on human rights, have the potential to reduce inequalities and redistribute resources to achieve development goals and end impoverishment. Yet the wealthy few access legal and financial advice and services to better exploit tax loopholes, or open undeclared foreign bank accounts in low-tax jurisdictions.

Reliance on debt and development cooperation

Hidden wealth also increases inequality between developed and developing countries. For instance the African Tax Administration Forum estimates that up to one-third of Africa’s wealth is being held abroad. This wealth and its associated income are beyond the reach of African tax authorities. It deprives countries of resources that could be used to mitigate inequality, and further enrich donor countries, where it is stored. This income could address the over-dependence on overseas development assistance (ODA), and shift the balance of power between donor and recipient countries; and enable self-determined development priorities and outcomes, rather than those imposed by ODA conditionality, including trade conditions.

Threat to Women’s Peace and security

Lost resources through IFFs often cannot be used legitimately and end up fuelling criminal activity, including illegal arms trade, human trafficking – of which 49% of victims are women and 21% are girls 24 – and other activities undermining peace and human rights.

The data is patchy given the illegal nature of IFFs, but evidence gathered by many including Cobham, the Tax Justice Network and the report of the High Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows out of Africa, noted that “IFF thrive on conflict and insecurity and also exacerbate both, undermining the financial and political prospects for effective states to deliver and support development progress.”

Considering the well-documented impact that war and conflict has on women and girls, the issue of IFFs is of outmost importance to tackle the financial enablers behind conflict and militarization.

Resourcing for women’s rights and gender justice

One of the biggest challenges facing the implementation of long agreed commitments on human rights, women’s rights and gender equality and related goals, like those contained in Agenda 2030, is ensuring that resources are sufficiently allocated.

States have an obligation to mobilize the maximum available resources for the realization of human rights. Progressive taxation plays a key role in mobilizing public resources and is a key tool for addressing economic inequality, including gender inequality. The hidden resources of illicit financial flows must be unlocked and returned to bolster domestic resourcing of development goals and gender equality.

Editor’s note: The following notes were prepared by AfricaFocus Bulletin as background for the visit of a delegation to the United States by representatives of African trade unions & civil society organizations, organized by the Solidarity Center and ITUC-Africa on September 20-30, 2017. The delegation, which is visiting Washington, DC and the San Francisco Bay Area, is meeting with activists and policymakers to exchange views on strategies to combat inequality, tax injustice, and illicit financial flows. The delegation includes Joel Odigie, Coordinator Human and Trade Union Rights, African Organisation of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC-Africa); Claudine Barigye, of the East African Trade Union Confederation; Luckystar Miyandazi, Policy Officer African Institutions Program, European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM) and former Africa Coordinator for Africa for ActionAid’s tax justice program; and Gyekye Tanoh, head of the Political Economy Unit at Third World Network Africa.

 

The United States and the International Debate on Illicit Financial Flows

In Africa, the High Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows (https://www.uneca.org/iff) and the Stop the Bleeding Campaign to End Illicit Financial Flows from Africa (http://stopthebleedingafrica.org/) have put this term and this issue on the agenda for African governments and civil society organizations around the continent.

In contrast, the term is not very familiar even among policy analysts in the United States, but the issues of tax justice, tax evasion, and tax avoidance are central to debate in both political circles and among social justice organizations. The focus is primarily on the domestic issue of how the rich do not pay their fair share. There is also an understanding that this has an international dimension, but there is little awareness of how the United States itself contributes to illicit financial flows. The challenge is to make these connections. This background note provides several resources useful for doing so.

Financial Secrecy Index, Tax Justice Network http://www.financialsecrecyindex.com/

The Financial Secrecy Index ranks jurisdictions according to their secrecy and the scale of their offshore financial activities. A politically neutral ranking, it is a tool for understanding global financial secrecy, tax havens or secrecy jurisdictions, and illicit financial flows or capital flight.

An estimated $21 to $32 trillion of private financial wealth is located, untaxed or lightly taxed, in secrecy jurisdictions around the world. Secrecy jurisdictions – a term we often use as an alternative to the more widely used term tax havens – use secrecy to attract illicit and illegitimate or abusive financial flows. Illicit cross-border financial flows have been estimated at $1-1.6 trillion per year: dwarfing the US$135 billion or so in global foreign aid. Since the 1970s African countries alone have lost over $1 trillion in capital flight, while combined external debts are less than $200 billion. So Africa is a major net creditor to the world – but its assets are in the hands of a wealthy élite, protected by offshore secrecy; while the debts are shouldered by broad African populations.

Top 15 countries: 1. Switzerland, 2. Hong Kong, 3. USA, 4. Singapore, 5. Cayman Islands, 6. Luxembourg, 7. Lebanon, 8. Germany, 9. Bahrain, 10. United Arab Emirates (Dubai), 11. Macao, 12. Japan, 13. Panama, 14. Marshall Islands, 15. United Kingdom

Fact Sheet on Offshore Corporate Loopholes, Americans for Tax Fairness https://americansfortaxfairness.org/ – direct URL: http://tinyurl.com/y7kmqs8x

“Many U.S. corporations use offshore tax havens and other accounting gimmicks to avoid paying as much as $90 billion a year in federal income taxes. A large loophole at the heart of U.S. tax law enables corporations to avoid paying taxes on foreign profits until they are brought home. Known as “deferral,” it provides a huge incentive to keep profits offshore as long as possible.

Deferral gives corporations enormous incentives to use accounting tricks to make it appear that profits earned here were generated in a tax haven. Profits are funneled through subsidiaries, often shell companies with few employees and little real business activity. Effectively, firms launder U.S. profits to avoid paying U.S. Taxes.”

Background notes on tax justice and illicit financial flows in U.S. political context

Prepared by AfricaFocus Bulletin for Solidarity Center Mini-Symposium, September 28, 2017 Africa & the U.S.: Illicit Financial Flows, Tax Justice, and Economic Inequality

The “tax reform” debate

“The big battle throughout the fall will be taxes. The Republicans are trying to decide whether to go for massive tax cuts–particularly for corporations, which are awash in cash, and the rich–or massive tax cuts plus an overhaul of the tax system that will permanently favor the wealthy and the corporations (and probably hurt the middle class).” – Brooklyn College political scientist Corey Robin, Facebook post, September 2, 2017 https://www.facebook.com/corey.robin1/posts/1488929127839470

“It’s a Myth That Corporate Tax Cuts Mean More Jobs,” by Sarah Anderson The New York Times, August 30, 2017 http://tinyurl.com/y8fqapyq

“The arithmetic for us is simple,” AT&T’s chief executive, Randall Stephenson, said on CNBC in May. If Congress were to cut the 35 percent tax on corporate profits to 20 percent, he declared, “I know exactly what AT&T would do — we’d invest more” in the United States. Every $1 billion in tax savings would create 7,000 well-paying jobs, Mr. Stephenson went on to say. The correlation between lower corporate taxes and more jobs, he assured viewers, runs “very, very tight.”

As Congress prepares to take up tax legislation this fall, including an effort to reduce the corporate tax rate, this bold jobs claim merits examination. Notably, it comes from the chief executive of a company that’s already paying comparatively little in federal taxes.

According to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, AT&T enjoyed an effective tax rate of just 8 percent between 2008 and 2015, despite recording a profit in the United States each year, by exploiting tax breaks and loopholes. (The company argues that it pays significant taxes, at a rate close to 34 percent in recent years, but that includes deferred taxes and state and local levies.) Despite the enormous savings AT&T has realized, the company has been downsizing. Although it hires thousands of people a year, the company, by our analysis at the Institute for Policy Studies, reduced its total work force by nearly 80,000 jobs between 2008 and 2016, accounting for acquisitions and spinoffs each involving more than 2,000 workers.

Institute for Policy Studies report: “Corporate Tax Cuts Boost CEO Pay, Not Jobs” http://www.ips-dc.org – Direct URL: http://tinyurl.com/y7fdkovy 3-minute video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EIdOkaeqe2E

House Speaker Paul Ryan is proposing to cut the statutory federal corporate tax rate from 35 to 20 percent. President Trump wants to slash the rate even further, to just 15 percent. Their core argument? Lowering the tax burden will lead to more and better jobs.

To investigate this claim, this report is the first to analyze the job creation records of the 92 publicly held U.S. corporations that reported a U.S. profit every year from 2008 through 2015 and paid less than 20 percent of these earnings in federal income tax. Did these reduced tax rates actually lead to greater employment within the 92 firms? The data we have compiled give a definitive — and sobering — answer.

The money-laundering debate and the Trump investigation

Dan Froomkin, “Trump’s World of Luxury Real Estate is Fueled by Money-Laundering” American Constitution Society Blog, August 31, 2017

Brief excerpt. Full article at: http://tinyurl.com/y93w93f8

The ultra-high-end real estate business, where Donald Trump made a lot of his money, is the easiest place for oligarchs and others to launder large amounts of illicit cash. And because several of the lawyers on special counsel Robert Mueller’s team investigating Russian connections with the Trump presidential campaign are specialists in money-laundering and other financial crimes, some observers are speculating that he may be looking into Trump’s past business dealings to see if any of those connections are relevant to the matter at hand.

The fact that money-launderers flock to luxury real estate is nothing new, and isn’t much of a mystery either. It’s the direct result of a major loophole in U.S. government rules that require banks to report cash deposits over $10,000 — but allow property owners to accept $10 million in cash for a condo without divulging who gave it to them.

For fraudsters, drug cartels, oligarchs and corrupt foreign government officials looking for a way to launder huge sums of illicit cash — and park it somewhere safe — high-end real estate is the investment of choice. “You can put a lot of money in one place at one time, without raising any eyebrows,” says Heather Lowe, legal counsel for the dirty-money watchdog group Global Financial Integrity. The Treasury Department explains it this way: “The real estate market can be an attractive vehicle for laundering illicit gains because of the manner in which it appreciates in value, ‘cleans’ large sums of money in a single transaction, and shields ill-gotten gains from market instability and exchange-rate fluctuations.”

A New York Times series in 2015 found that more than half of the $8 billion spent each year on New York residences that cost more than $5 million comes from shell corporations that mask the real owners’ identities, one possible sign of moneylaundering.

Global Witness, “Undercover in New York,” January 2016 https://www.globalwitness.org/shadyinc/

“We went undercover and approached 13 New York law firms. We deliberately posed as someone designed to raise red flags for money laundering. We said we were advising an African minister who had accumulated millions of dollars, and we wanted to buy a Gulfstream Jet, a brownstone and a yacht. We said we needed to get the money into the U.S. without detection.

To be clear, the meetings with the lawyers were all preliminary. None of the law firms took our investigator on as a client, and no money was moved. Nonetheless, the results were shocking; all but one of the the lawyers had suggestions on how to move the funds. To see what some of them said, watch [this 3-minute video]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j8pgI60GrvU

Current Congressional Legislation related to Illicit Financial Flows and Tax Justice

Corporate Transparency Act of 2017 A bill to amend title 31, United States Code, to ensure that persons who form corporations or limited liability companies in the United States disclose the beneficial owners of those corporations or limited liability companies, in order to prevent wrongdoers from exploiting United States corporations and limited liability companies for criminal gain, to assist law enforcement in detecting, preventing, and punishing terrorism, money laundering, and other misconduct involving United States corporations and limited liability companies, and for other purposes.

  1. 1717: Sponsor Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), 1 cosponsor, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/115/s1717 H.R. 3089: Sponsor Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), 10 cosponsors (5R, 5D) https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/115/hr3089

Related background on beneficial ownership https://thefactcoalition.org/issues/incorporation-transparency

Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act A bill to end offshore corporate tax avoidance, and for other purposes.

Summary: This bill authorizes the Department of the Treasury to impose restrictions on foreign jurisdictions or financial institutions to counter money laundering and efforts to significantly impede U.S. tax enforcement. It amends the Internal Revenue Code to expand reporting requirements for certain foreign investments and accounts held by U.S. persons, and amends the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 to: (1) require corporations to disclose certain financial information on a country-by-country basis, and (2) impose penalties for failing to disclose offshore holdings.

  1. 841: Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), no cosponsors https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/115/s851 H.R. 1932: Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), 59 cosponsors, all Democrats https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/115/hr1932

Related background on country-by-country reporting https://thefactcoalition.org/resources/country-by-country-reporting

Inclusive Prosperity Act of 2017 A bill to impose a tax on certain trading transactions to invest in our families and communities, improve our infrastructure and our environment, strengthen our financial security, expand opportunity and reduce market volatility.

  1. 805: Sen. Bernard Sanders (D-VT), no cosponsors https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/115/s805 H.R. 144: Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), 23 cosponsors, all Democrats https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/115/hr1144

Related background on financial transaction (“Robin Hood”) taxes http://www.robinhoodtax.org/how/everything-you-need-to-know

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Three years of Narendra Modi’s government: The devastating situation of women in India

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Three years of Narendra Modi’s government: The devastating situation of women in India

https://communismgr.blogspot.com/2017/05/three-years-of-narendra-modis.html
Three years of Modi Raj. How has it been for the women of this country?
In one word: devastating. Budget spending on women related programs has been cut, employment opportunities for women are nowhere in sight, unbridled violence against women continues and on top of everything, we have scores of RSS-inspired leaders who are openly preaching a return to medieval times with women locked inside domestic walls, wearing “proper” clothes and behaving respectfully towards men.
No surprise that the promise of passing the Women’s Reservation Bill is not even on the govt.’s agenda.
Cuts in govt. spending on women
For the past 2 years we have seen significant cuts in the gender budget, and this year also the pattern continues. When Finance Minister, Arun Jaitely, presented the budget it was called a budget for women by Ministry for Women and Child Development. But what do the numbers say?
This year’s budget was a disappointment in terms of gender budget. There are many schemes and programmes which don’t have separate allocations for women. Dairy and fishery are two industries that provide employment to a large number of women and yet their budget has no separate allocation for women. Same goes for the various agricultural schemes.
The only food related programme which has a separate allocation for women is National Food Security Scheme which saw a meagre increase of Rs. 60 crore.
According to the Economic Survey 2016-17, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme has 57% participation of women workers. Finance Minister claims to have increased the scheme’s budget by 26%, from Rs. 38,500 crores in 2016-17 to Rs. 48,000 crores in 2017-18. But the revised estimate of 2016-17 for the scheme was Rs. 47,499 crores, which makes the increase in this year’s budget just 1%. We know how Modi government likes to forge numbers but take a closer look and you can easily call their bluff. We regularly see reports about the non-payment of wages under MGNREGS. These workers are amongst the poorest of our country, their wages are a matter of survival for them. Did the Finance Minister think a puny increase of 1% will solve the crisis of non-payments this scheme is facing?
Integrated Child Development Scheme employs only women and caters to the nutritional needs of 0-6 year old children. Minister for Women and Child Development, Maneka Gandhi, informed the Rajya Sabha in May, 2015 that there are 24.58 lakh women employed under the scheme. These women are not considered workers and in lieu of their services are given a meagre amount of money as honorarium. Anganwadi workers have been demanding for years that they are brought under the definition of workers. But like the preceding Congress government, Modi government too has been ignoring their just demands. These workers don’t get their paltry honorarium regularly. In the financial year 2015-16, according to WCD ministry, the scheme endured 50% budget cut. Similarly, in financial year 2016-17, the scheme’s budget was cut by another 6%. In this year’s budget, it saw a minimal increase of Rs. 34.79 crores, from Rs. 411.68 crores in revised estimate (2016-17) to Rs. 446.47 crores. This “increase” will not be able to cater to the needs of this extremely important scheme.
On New Year’s Eve, PM Modi claimed to launch a new scheme for pregnant women of the country called maternity benefits programme. In reality, it was just expansion of an already existing scheme. Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojana (IGMSY) was introduced in 2010 and in 2013 was brought under National Food Security Act. On 17th May 2017, the cabinet decided to limit the scheme to only firstborns as opposed to earlier when it was for first two live births. This excludes a large number of women from the scheme. In violation of the NFSA, the government has also decided to provide only Rs.5000 to the mothers instead of Rs.6000. Also, this benefit will be linked to Aadhar cards, which will leave out thousands of women. The Modi government has allocated only Rs 2700 crore for this in 2017. This will cover only 17 percent of the 2.6 crore live childbirths per year in India. It is evident that the centre government is trying to rid of its responsibilities toward women of the country by such moves.
No work for women
A report by the Labour Bureau published in 2016 revealed that just 22% of women over the age of 15 were working on a regular basis, compared to 74% men in the same age group. In urban areas, the working women’s share slips to a mere 14%. This shocking state of affairs, which puts India at rank 136 out of 145 countries for gender parity in work, is not new: it has continued like this for many years. But Modi govt is completely blind to this. No policy has been announced to encourage more job opportunities for women, no special measures for preparing women to take up jobs has been thought of, technical training for women still focuses on beautician and tailoring courses and there is no attempt to address safety and security issues for women in workplaces.
Wage differentials between men and women doing the same work continue as before, maternity leave and other benefits are not available to the bulk of working women and special provisions like creches at workplaces are rarely found even in ultra-modern industries, forget about the smaller units.
As a result, women’s unemployment was pegged at 8.7%, more than double that for men, according to the report. This is of course based on reporting by women who said they wanted to work but couldn’t find it. The vast majority of women are simply confined to their homes with no hope for working, even in dire circumstances, because of the stranglehold of patriarchal thought on families. Modi, and the Sangh parivar are not in the least bothered by this at it fits in with their ideology completely.
In 2015, WCD minister, Maneka Gandhi, made a request to Finance and Corporate Affairs minister, Arun Jaitely, to make it mandatory for companies to disclose whether they have constituted an anti-sexual harassment committee. Arun Jaitely rejected the request stating that industry representatives are against this type of enhanced disclosure and this is not desirable. This shows that as long as the industries are happy it is absolutely fine to ignore Vishaka guidelines which directs the offices where women work to have in place an anti-sexual harassment committee.
Hindutva inspired approach to women
It may be easier to rectify the errors in policies and implementations of schemes. But what the Modi government and its motherboard RSS is trying to do with the fabric and structure of our society will be extremely difficult to undo. They are propagating the anti-women agenda intensively and it is evident in the comments and statements their ministers, BJP leaders and RSS members make regularly.
This year in March, minister for Women and Child Development, Maneka Gandhi, made a statement which brought her under fire. She has said on record that there should be an earlier curfew for women in their hostels for their own protection. She went on to say that a 16-17 year old girl is ‘hormonally challenged’. Hence, a lakshmanrekha is drawn to control the ‘hormonal outburst’. According to her “logic” women are responsible for their own safety and to ensure it, they should just remain in confines. Young adult females’ hormonal equilibrium is too fragile to let them out in society. She justifies the patriarchal norm of keeping women locked away in order to “protect” them.
The appointment of Yogi Adityanath as chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, shows that the government is dead set to push the hindutva agenda which is devastating for women. This is the same person who had said in a speech that dead bodies of Muslim women should be dug out of their graves and be raped to avenge the so called “Love Jihad”. A person who thinks that raping a women, dead or alive, is acceptable is now the Chief Minister of the largest state in the country. This is the ideology that the RSS and their political extension BJP upholds.
Immediately, after becoming the CM of Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath, ordered the police to form ‘anti-Romeo squads’ to curb incidents of eve teasing. But media reports show, that this squad has primarily targeted couples, often beating them up, as recorded on videos available on social media. This is not an attempt to protect women from harassment but a thinly veiled plan to prevent inter-caste and inter-religion marriages. This again is an attack on a women’s right to choose their partner.
Similarly the BJP leader, Manohar Lal Khattar, had said that women are the reason behind rising incidents of rape in India. He is now the Chief Minister of Haryana since the last three years.
Violence against women
Violence against women in its myriad forms continues unabated under Modi’s rule, despite much chest thumping by diverse BJP leaders about protecting “our mothers and sisters”. Police records, which reflect only the tip of the iceberg, show an uptick in 2015 over 2013 for rape, attempt to rape, kidnapping and abduction, assaults, and domestic violence among others. Strangely, the bunch of penal provisions related to dowry exhibit a dip. This may be because the Sangh parivar and BJP has always been wishy washy about opposing the heinous practice of dowry and its barbaric product, dowry deaths, probably resulting in a lower registration of cases by the police. In all, recorded crimes against women increased by 5.8% in 2015 compared to the last non-Modi year 2013.
The appalling state of convictions by courts in cases of crimes against women continues under Modi rule, worsening in several instances. While conviction rates for rape, attempt to rape, kidnapping and abduction showed minor increases, they are still such that roughly three quarters of those brought to trial are let off by courts. Conviction rates for three other violent crimes against women – assaults with intent to “outrage modesty”, “insult to modesty” and cruelty by husbands and relatives – actually declined under Modi if one compares 2015 to 2013. Overall, under Modi raj, conviction rates for crimes against women have declined from an already outrageous 22.4% in 2013 to 21.7% in 2015.
Since last year, Modi government has taken upon the responsibility of salvation of Muslim women by ending triple Talaq. While this practice is no doubt anti-woman but is the Modi government really interested in the welfare of Muslim women? It doesn’t seem like it. Because BJP’s and Modi’s answer to this archaic practice is uniform civil code. One might ask what will be the character of this uniformity. We all know RSS wants to make India a Hindu Rashtra. So, one can infer that this proposed uniformity will destroy our multi-cultural society to create the nation of RSS’ dream.
Also, Modi and his beloved Sangh parivar, who consider themselves the sole repository and protector of Hinduism, have completely failed to raise their voice against a host of heinous anti-women practices which are widely prevalent in the majority community. These include dowry, dowry murders, son preference driven female feticide and infanticide, and various rituals and customs for keeping women enslaved to menfolk. To don the cloak of reform of anti-women practices in Islam only and turn a blind eye towards Hinduism exposes the fraudulent nature of this anti-triple talaq stance of the govt.
So, what does it mean to be a woman under Modi raj? It means that women’s place is in the shadows. And they shall remain in the shadows till the patriarchal society need their services.
May Day 2017: Unite and fight!

Source: CP Canada website

Unite and fight for jobs, democracy, sovereignty, equality and socialism!

We celebrate May Day 2017 in the shadow of the Trump war machine which has moved the whole planet into extreme danger of extinction due to nuclear war and/or climate change.  According to the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, it took just 100 days in office for the Trump administration to move the Doomsday Clock to 2 and a half minutes to midnight.  The world hasn’t been this close to Doomsday since 1953, at the height of the Cold War when the US openly campaigned for war with the USSR.  Is this the end of history that capitalism’s triumphant spokesman Fukuyama proclaimed in the 1990s?

For the last 25 years, capitalism has had the upper hand, and the ability to demonstrate its self-proclaimed ‘superiority’. Its enormous wealth and capacity could have been put to the service of the world’s exploited and impoverished billions with health care, education, jobs, development, peace and disarmament, and action to reduce the effects of climate change. In fact this is socialist Cuba’s contribution over the past 25 years, despite the US embargo.

But capitalism did what capitalism always does – seek out new places and new ways to exploit and to profit from the misery of the many, for the benefit of the richest corporations and the wealthiest few. This is the nature and the purpose of capitalism:  the exploitation of one human being and one class by another, for the private profit and benefit of the ruling class at the expense of the working people, the youth, women, immigrants, Indigenous Peoples. It is incapable of addressing the needs of the people, or the needs of the planet, because its purpose is to ruthlessly exploit both.

As a result austerity has been introduced across the capitalist world, and wages, pensions and living standards have fallen in all the advanced capitalist countries, including in Europe and North America, while unemployment – and the growth of the ultra-right and its policies of xenophobia, racism, and misogyny – has surged.  In the developing countries, hunger, debt, dependence, and capitalist globalization, and threats of invasion and ‘regime change’ are the reality of capitalism’s self-proclaimed ‘superiority’ over national sovereignty, independence and socialism.

We see the outcome of this dictatorship of the most powerful corporations in the US today: the ultra-right in control of the White House, the Congress and Senate, and the judiciary.  With an agenda to match: corporate tax cuts, deregulation, free-trade benefiting the most powerful US corporations, militarization funded by massive cuts to social security, and war with the two-pronged objective of leveling all resistance to US corporate power and profits inside and outside the US borders.  This means war on the labour and peoples’ movements at home, war and subjugation on nations and states around the world, and war on the planet itself.

This is an agenda of global destruction that the Canadian government should strongly oppose.

But the Liberals have tiptoed around the Trump administration, supporting illegal US airstrikes on Syria and Afghanistan, threats to invade and overthrow the DPRK (North Korea), and any country that resists the US global corporate agenda. The Liberals have promised to double Canada’s military budget in order to pay NATO 2% of GDP as demanded by Trump, or in lieu of payment, to send Canadian troops wherever Trump decides to make war next.

And, instead of pulling out of NAFTA and exposing the US administration’s reactionary and job-destroying agenda on trade, the Liberals are supporting a renegotiation of NAFTA that will wreak havoc on Canadian jobs, manufacturing and agriculture, on resource development, on universal public Medicare, on labour and democratic rights, on sovereignty and independence.  This is the moment when Trudeau should have said NO.

NO to NAFTA – NO to war

Canada is at a crossroads. In one direction, the Liberals’ team-up with the Trump administration will escalate Canada’s complete integration into the US war economy and politics.  This would mean Canada would lose its manufacturing and industrial sector and revert to a source of natural resources and a market for US value-added goods and services.  We will see a further drop in wages, pensions and living standards, where even minimum wages are not guaranteed.  We will also lose Medicare and universal social programs, our labour, civil, social and democratic rights, along with what remains of our sovereignty and independence.  In return, we become a completely integrated part of the US war machine, spending $40 billion a year on war (and rising).

For corporate Canada and their political parties this may seem like a good way to go. For working people it’s a fast-forward freeway to disaster.

It’s deeply regrettable that the NDP and Greens both support US airstrikes on Syria and renegotiation of NAFTA, while also claiming  to represent the interests of working people.

It’s also disturbing that the outgoing CLC leadership has taken the same position, when NAFTA was widely panned and opposed as the corporate agenda on steroids.

In 1988, just a few months of campaigning by a broad-based coalition of labour and the democratic people’s movements nearly derailed the first free trade deal between Canada and the US.  This powerful movement against capitalist globalization succeeded in derailing both the MAI and the FTAA, and came close to blocking NAFTA.

Similarly, massive anti-war and anti-globalization protests took place around the globe during the same period, mobilizing public opinion against nuclear weapons, and for political solutions to global problems.

The Women’s March of 5 million women globally including 200,000 women in Canada, along with the struggles of Black Lives Matter, Idle No More, and mobilizations for climate justice, show the way forward today.

The struggle of the youth and minimum wage workers to win $15 and Fairness, and the response of the labour movement in Quebec to make $15 a universal bargaining demand, is the way forward.  The response of some unions in BC and Ontario to make $15 a basic bargaining demand, and to win it after striking on it, is the way forward.  It’s a political and economic fight that the CLC should adopt at its May convention.

The fight to pull out of NAFTA and adopt a trade policy that’s multi-lateral and mutually beneficial, creating value-added jobs, building  sustainable primary and secondary industry and manufacturing, will need the CLC to bring the labour movement and its allies into the streets, to oppose capitalist corporate globalization supported by both Trump and the Big Business parties in Canada.

Mass mobilizations are also needed to get Canada out of NATO, to bring Canadian troops home, and to adopt a foreign policy of peace and disarmament.

Workers in Canada can show their solidarity and support for workers’ struggles globally by standing shoulder to shoulder in opposition to austerity and war, capitalist globalization, Islamophobia, racism, xenophobia, misogyny, homophobia and transphobia, reaction and fascism.  They can stand with Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Palestine, and all those countries in Latin America, Asia and Africa fighting for their right to self-determination and independence from US interference, including those who choose a socialist path of development.

Working people, youth, women, the unemployed and labour must use their united might to oppose compromise with US war-mongers and the reactionary, fascist-supported administration of Trump’s government of oilmen, generals and bankers.

A People’s Agenda for Canada

Labour and its partners must unite and fight for a People’s Agenda for Canada, organizing mass mobilizations to campaign for:

  • Fair trade, not NAFTA – multi-lateral trade with all countries that is beneficial to all parties, and includes long term credits for developing and socialist countries;
  • A foreign policy of peace and disarmament – Get out of NATO and NORAD, Cut military spending by 75%, bring home Canadian troops involved in foreign wars;
  • Fight Climate Change – nationalize natural and energy resources; close the tar sands and guarantee jobs in public development of new energy sources such as solar, wind, thermal, and renewable energy;
  •  Create Jobs – invest in a national housing program to build affordable social housing across Canada; invest in value-added manufacturing, including a Canadian car and urban and inter-urban mass rapid transit; agricultural implements industry; machine tool industry; ship-building; expand social programs;
  •  Raise wages and incomes – raise the minimum wage to $20; substantially increase pensions and drop the age for a full pension and OAS to 60; introduce a guaranteed annual income at a living wage; increase EI to 90% of former earnings and expand to cover all job seekers including part-time and first-time job seekers   Enact universal pay and employment equity; repeal the Temporary Foreign Workers Act;
  • Expand immigration and refugee acceptance and re-settlement; scrap the Canada-US Safe Third Country Agreement;
  • Expand universal social programs and Medicare, and introduce a system of universally accessible, affordable, quality public childcare;
  • Eliminate tuition fees and make post-secondary education accessible to all;
  • Protect and expand civil, social, labour and democratic rights.  Enforce and enact anti-hate laws.

Another world is possible – and urgent! 

In this centenary year of the victory of the Great October Revolution, which opened the door to socialism and workers’ power around the world, we recall the historic struggle of the working class in Russia to create a society free of exploitation and oppression, a society of equality and justice, where working people were in the driver’s seat and corporations, greedy landowners and landlords were put out of business, and war-mongers and profiteers sent packing.  With 100 years of both heroic and painful experience of war and fascism, and the overthrow of the socialist states in Europe, we know that socialism represents the future, and capitalism is the past.  There is no other rung on the ladder of human development between capitalism and socialism.  The time has come – is overdue – for working people to take control of our own destiny, to establish working class political power.

In the struggles ahead, working people will build socialism anew, learning from the experiences of the past and building for the future.  The struggle continues, more urgent than ever.

Africa: African Feminism Past and Present

AfricaFocus Bulletin
April 10, 2017 (170410)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor’s Note

“On February 18th I lost my grand aunt – my grandmother really …
This incredible woman, May Kyomugasho Katebaka left us at the age of
97. We last met in 2014 when I visited her. She’s a fierce woman.
Fierce in her religion but also fierce in her knowledge of what she
wanted from the world. And that is what moves me. Moves me every time
one claims feminism is foreign and for the educated, un-african. She
always came to mind when I met such arguments. I would tell myself
that if only they could hear half her life story, then they would
understand why I am such a rebellion.” – Rosebell Kagumire
(https://rosebellkagumire.com/)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

NOTE: AfricaFocus is beginning a transition to a new email
distribution system and format. To preview this Bulletin in the new
format, visit http://eepurl.com/cKnLuT. To sign up for the new format
and to be dropped from this plain text distribution list, please fill
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++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

“Today as ever, African female activists are reshaping not just
African feminist agendas but global ones as well,” wrote scholar
Aili Mari Tripp in a March 8 article published in African Arguments.
But this was only a small sample of articles and web features that
have recently appeared highlighting different aspects of “African
feminism(s),” as well as a host of new books by both famous and
relatively unknown authors.

Among sources that have come to my attention in the last month, this
AfricaFocus Bulletin features the overview article by Aili Mari
Tripp, a reflection by Ugandan journalist and activist Rosebell
Kagumire, several additional links to web features from the African
Feminist Forum and OkayAfrica, and a listing of a selection of
recent related books, from 2017, 2016, and 2015.

The article from March 8, International Women’s Day, was the initial
impetus for this Bulletin. But it is appropriate that the Bulletin
comes only a few days after April 7 (Mozambican Women’s Day),
commemorated to honor the example of Josina Muthemba Machel (
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josina_Machel), who I was privileged
to work with in Dar es Salaam in 1966-1967, a few years before her
death at the age of 25 on April 7, 1971. [I don’t know who wrote the
Wikipedia article, but it is substantive and, to my knowledge,
accurate).

Additional recent web references

African Feminist Forum, “Know Your African Feminists” and “African
Feminist Ancestors” Accessed March 2017
http://www.africanfeministforum.com/ – direct URLs:
http://tinyurl.com/mrlua9o and http://tinyurl.com/nxg3u8v

“Talking African Feminisms with Dr. Sylvia Tamale,”
Rosebell Kagumire blog, August 19, 2016
http://tinyurl.com/m9l3fav

“OkayAfrica’s 100 Women” Accessed March 2017
http://www.okayafrica.com/100-women/

“Ghana: Women are the new face of telecommunications’ players,”
Balancing Act Africa, March 17, 2017
http://tinyurl.com/ma3j2sr

“Malawi: Rural Women, Empowerment and Mining,” Publish What You Pay,
December 19, 2016
http://tinyurl.com/m35tt3k

Eunice Onwona, “Karen Attiah Is the ‘Warrior of Diversity’
Channeling Journalism Into Activism,” OkayAfrica, March 17, 2017
http://tinyurl.com/mwvggag

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor’s note+++++++++++++++++

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Those who Defied the Odds, Those Who Stood True to their Beliefs
Till the End

by Rosebell Kagumire

African Feminism, March 22, 2017

http://africanfeminism.com – direct URL: http://tinyurl.com/m3h7dhw

On February 18th I lost my grand aunt – my grandmother really
(English limitations) because in my culture a sister of my
grandmother is my grandmother. Both have almost equal roles and
space in your life.

This incredible woman, May Kyomugasho Katebaka left us at the age of
97. We last met in 2014 when I visited her. She’s a fierce woman.
Fierce in her religion but also fierce in her knowledge of what she
wanted from the world. And that is what moves me. Moves me every time
one claims feminism is foreign and for the educated, un-african. She
always came to mind when I met such arguments. I would tell myself
that if only they could hear half her life story, then they would
understand why I am such a rebellion.

Grandma May, always made it a point to tell us she got ‘saved/born
again’ in 1949. Religion was at the centre of her life. She always
told us had it not been for her selfless service in the church, she
would have ended up like most women of her time.  She was one of the
few among millions of women at the time who could read. And that
came through the colonial state where knowledge of the bible
accorded one certain privileges.

Her life is an inspiration. She was married, briefly, and quickly
figured out that married life wasn’t for her so she dedicated
herself to serving the church. Where she was married and even when
she didn’t have children of her own, she is known to have treated
the kids she found in the home like her own. Of course this is
something many women are required of by society and the conditions
are often not on their side – women should have choices – but the
love between her and her step children remained even when she was
longer part of their family. That love was demonstrated till the
end.

In my culture and many in Uganda still, unmarried and childless
women are scorned upon but Grandmother May commanded a certain
respect above all these. She managed to weave her life story, with a
church as her shelter, to be who she wanted to be. Of course many
would say she should ‘have had a child at least’ and god knows what
other pressures she faced. All these little narrow definitions of
what a woman’s life should be according to society wouldn’t dwindle
her.

I loved her and she lived an exceptional life and didn’t matter who
accepted it. She was beautiful too and a deep deep soul. In many
ways she was still traditional like I remember her asking me to
always wear long t-shirts over my jeans – you know – not to show
‘secret body parts’ like we call it in my Runyankole. I usually
laughed these off.

She is inspiration and the fact that her life in itself – some
aspects probably weren’t intentional – but she never followed the
crowd. And that’s enough to get me through this life. I thought in
the spirit of women’s history month, Grandma May fully represents
the people in my life that shattered those expectations. To
understand where we are going we must always look back for a lesson,
inspiration and sometimes caution.

********************************************************

How African feminism changed the world

Aili Mari Tripp

African Arguments, March 8, 2017

http://www.africanarguments.org – direct URL:
http://tinyurl.com/hrpzdbw

[Aili Mari Tripp is Professor of Political Science and Evjue Bascom
Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of
Wisconsin-Madison. She is the co-editor, with Balghis Badri, of
Women’s Activism in Africa (2017).]

Today as ever, African female activists are reshaping not just
African feminist agendas but global ones as well.

One of the great fallacies one still hears today is that feminism
started in the Global North and found its way to the Global South.
Another is that universal understandings of women’s rights as
embodied in UN treaties and conventions were formulated by activists
in the North.

International Women’s Day, however, provides an opportunity to
highlight the reality: that not only do feminisms in the Global
South have their own trajectories, inspirations, and demands, but
they have contributed significantly to today’s global understandings
of women’s rights. Nowhere is this clearer than in Africa, where
women are increasingly exerting leadership from politics to business
and have helped shape global norms regarding women’s rights in
multiple arenas.

For decades, African activists have rejected the notion that one can
subsume all feminist agendas under a Western one. As far back as the
1976 international conference on Women and Development at Wellesley
College, Egyptian novelist Nawal El-Saadawi and Moroccan sociologist
Fatema Mernissi challenged efforts by Western feminists to define
global feminism. In the drafting of the 1979 Convention on the
Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the All African
Women’s Conference was one of six organisations and the only
regional body involved.

African women have also been influencing national gender policies
for over half a century. In 1960, for example, Mail’s Jacqueline Ki-
zerbo had already developed the idea of considering the gender
impacts of policies. It was only decades later that this idea – now
commonly known as “gender mainstreaming” – gained international
currency, particularly in national budgetary processes.

In key UN conferences, African women activists have been visible
from the outset. Egypt’s Aida Gindy held the first international
meeting on Women in Economic Development in 1972. The Kenya Women’s
Group helped organise the 1985 UN Conference on Women in which
African women brought issues of apartheid and national liberation to
the fore. And Egypt’s Aziza Husayn helped organise the 1994 Cairo
International Conference on Population and Development, which
shifted the debate around population control away from a traditional
family planning emphasis on quotas and targets to one focused on
women’s rights and health.

Additionally, Sierra Leone’s Filomena Steady was one of the key
conveners of the Earth Summit in 1992. Tanzania’s Gertrude Mongella
was General Secretary of the pivotal 1995 UN Beijing Conference. And
African women peace-builders played a crucial role in the 2000
Windhoek conference, which paved the way for a UN Security Council
Resolution encouraging the inclusion of women in peace negotiations
and peacekeeping missions around the world.

Leading the world

Women in Africa have also set new standards for women’s political
leadership globally. The likes of Guinea’s Jeanne Martin Cissé,
Liberia’s Angie Brooks and Tanzania’s Anna Tibaijuka and Asha-Rose
Migiro have all held top positions at the UN. Meanwhile at a
national level, many African countries have made important gains in
women’s representation.

Rwandan women today hold 62% of the country’s legislative seats, the
highest in the world. In Senegal, South Africa, Namibia, and
Mozambique, more than 40% of parliamentary seats are held by women.
There are female speakers of the house in one fifth of African
parliaments, higher than the world average of 14%. Women have
claimed positions in key ministries throughout Africa. And women
have increasingly run for executive positions, with Liberia, the
Central African Republic, Malawi and Mauritius all having had female
heads of state. Moreover, these increases in female representation
are taking place across the continent, including predominantly
Muslim countries such as Senegal, where women hold 43% of
legislative seats.

These new patterns are found at the regional level too, with women
holding 50% of the positions at in African Union Commission,
compared to just one-third at the European Commission. South
Africa’s Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma meanwhile chaired the AU Commission
from 2012 to 2017.

Women’s strong presence in African parliaments has resulted in new
discussions about strategies to enhance female political
representation worldwide. Scandinavian scholars such as Drude
Dahlerup and Lenita Freidenvall even argue that the incremental
model that led to high rates of female representation in Nordic
countries in the 1970s has now been replaced by the “fast track”
African model in which dramatic jumps in representation are brought
about by electoral quotas.

Shaping the world

African women have also been pioneering in business. Aspiring young
female entrepreneurs today have several role models they can follow
such as Ghana’s Esther Ocloo, who pursued the idea of formalising
local women’s credit associations and became a founding member of
one of the first microcredit banks, Women’s Worlds Banking, in 1979.

According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, African countries
have almost equal numbers of men and women either actively involved
in business start-ups or in the phase of starting a new firm. And in
countries such as Ghana, Nigeria and Zambia, women are reportedly
more likely to be entrepreneurs than men.

These changes are evident not only at the grassroots but, to an
extent, at the highest levels. Female representation in boardrooms
worldwide is very poor, but Africa’s rate of 14.4% is only slightly
behind Europe (18%) and the US (17%), and ahead of Asia, Latin
America and the Middle East.

Finally, a younger generation of activists is emerging throughout
Africa today and redefining feminism from an African perspective.
One sees this not only in the work of the African Feminist Forum,
which first met in 2006, but also in the work of figures such as
novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie who issued a clarion call to women
in her video We Should All be Feminist, adapted from her 2013 Ted
Talk, in which she explores what it means to be an African feminist.
Her book length essay by the same title is found on bookshelves in
major cities around the world, and the Swedish Women’s Lobby has
given it to every 16-year-old in Sweden to help them think about
gender equality.

Feminist discourse meanwhile has become commonplace throughout the
continent on websites, blogs, journals, and social media. New
feminist novels like Dust by Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor (Kenya), Kintu by
Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi (Uganda), and Americanah by Adichie
(Nigeria) have offered new ways of imagining women.

There are clearly still enormous hurdles for African feminists to
overcome in fighting for gender equality. But as they have over the
past half a century, Africa’s women activists of today are reshaping
not only African feminist agendas in tackling these challenges, but
global ones as well.

*********************************************

Books, 2017

[Thanks to Kathleen Sheldon for most of these suggested books.
Short quotes after each book are from the publishers’ descriptions
unless source is otherwise cited.]

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in
Fifteen Suggestions, 2017. “Adichie has partly written Dear Ijeawele
to reclaim the word feminism from its abusers and misusers. Her
advice is not only to provide children with alternatives—to empower
boys and girls to understand there is no single way to be—but also
to understand that the only universal in this world is difference.”
– Emma Brockes, The Guardian (UK)
http://amzn.to/2ndqp05

Balghis Badri and Aili Mari Tripp, eds. Women’s Activism in Africa:
Struggles for Rights and Representation, 2017. “Drawing on case
studies and fresh empirical material from across the continent, the
authors challenge the prevailing assumption that notions of women’s
rights have trickled down from the global north to the south,
showing instead that these movements have been shaped by above all
the unique experiences and concerns of the local women involved.”
http://amzn.to/2nJLhxq

Helene Cooper. Madame President: The Extraordinary Journey of Ellen
Johnson Sirleaf, 2017. “Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and
bestselling author Helene Cooper deftly weaves Sirleaf’s personal
story into the larger narrative of the coming of age of Liberian
women.”
http://amzn.to/2nCo0Nm

Linda M. Heywood. Njinga of Angola: Africa’s Warrior Queen
Hardcover, 2017. “Though largely unknown in the Western world, the
seventeenth-century African queen Njinga was one of the most
multifaceted rulers in history, a woman who rivaled Elizabeth I and
Catherine the Great in political cunning and military prowess.”
http://amzn.to/2nnklmd

Kathleen Sheldon. African Women: Early History to the 21st Century.
2017. “The rich case studies and biographies in this thorough survey
establish a grand narrative about women’s roles in the history of
Africa.”
http://amzn.to/2ndpiNS

Books, 2016

Berger, Iris. Women in Twentieth-Century Africa, 2016. “This book
introduces students to many remarkable women, who organized
religious and political movements, fought in anti-colonial wars, ran
away to escape arranged marriages, and during the 1990s began
successful campaigns for gender parity in national legislatures.”
http://amzn.to/2nJSnSC

Feldman-Savelsberg, Pamela. Mothers on the Move: Reproducing
Belonging Between Africa and Europe, 2016. “[The author”takes
readers back and forth between Cameroon and Germany to explore how
migrant mothers—through the careful and at times difficult
management of relationships—juggle belonging in multiple places at
once: their new country, their old country, and the diasporic
community that bridges them.”
http://amzn.to/2o5jC6c

Hunt, Swanee. Rwandan Women Rising. Durham, N.C.: Duke University
Press, 2017. “[The author] shares the stories of some seventy
women—heralded activists and unsung heroes alike—who overcame
unfathomable brutality, unrecoverable loss, and unending challenges
to rebuild Rwandan society.”
http://amzn.to/2o56cY4

Mgbako, Chi Adanna. To Live Freely in This World: Sex Worker
Activism in Africa, 2016. “Well-written and elegant, Mgbako’s
research reveals the rise of African sex work activism and the
ongoing trials and tribulations of organizing in the face of
economic, social, and political adversity.” – Aziza
Ahmed,Northeastern University
http://amzn.to/2nVXb3V

Rhine, Kathryn A. The Unseen Things: Women, Secrecy, and HIV in
Northern Nigeria, 2016. “The book is especially innovative in its
rich detail about desire, pleasure and love, and the strategies men
and women use to reconstitute relationships after testing positive
for HIV.” – Carolyn Sargent, Washington University in St. Louis
http://amzn.to/2nCFqd1

Scully, Pamela. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (Ohio Short Histories of
Africa), 2016. “A clear and concise introduction to the woman and to
the domestic and international politics that have shaped her
personally and professionally.” —Peace A. Medie, University of Ghana
http://amzn.to/2ndGpPI

Sylvanus, Nina. Patterns in Circulation: Cloth, Gender, and
Materiality in West Africa, 2016. “[The author] tells a captivating
story of global trade and cross-cultural aesthetics in West Africa,
showing how a group of Togolese women—through the making and
circulation of wax cloth—became influential agents of taste and
history.”
http://amzn.to/2nJW8Ye

Books, 2015

Galawdewos, Wendy Laura Belcher, and Michael Kleiner. The Life and
Struggles of Our Mother Walatta Petros: A Seventeenth-Century
African Biography of an Ethiopian Woman, 2015.
“This is the first English translation of the earliest-known book-
length biography of an African woman, and one of the few lives of an
African woman written by Africans before the nineteenth century.”
http://amzn.to/2nnpSco

*****************************************************

AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication
providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a
particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus
Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

AfricaFocus Bulletin can be reached at africafocus@igc.org. Please
write to this address to suggest material for inclusion. For more information about reposted material, please contact directly the original source mentioned. For a full archive and other resources, see
http://www.africafocus.org

Upcoming Actions on March 24, March 25, and May 1
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
Houston Communist Party, Houston Socialist Movement, Latinos Inmigrantes Triunfadores, MORENA-Houston SE, Organizacion Latino Americano Pro-Derecho Del Inmigrante, and Party for Socialism and Liberation are organizing three important actions during the next several weeks.
On Friday, March 24, from 11 am until 2 pm, we will be demonstrating against Governor Greg Abbott while he speaks to the Greater Houston Partnership at the Hilton Americas Hotel, 1600 Lamar Street. Greater Houston Democrats are also planning to protest against Abbott, so discussions about developing a unified action are under way.
 
On Saturday, March 25, beginning at 11 am, we will have a counter-protest against the pro-Trump Houston MAGA March scheduled at City Hall, 901 Bagby St. Some Trump supporters may be armed, but this will not stop us from standing up against exploitation, white supremacy, anti-immigrant hysteria, misogyny, anti-LGBT bigotry, and the threat of Fascism.
 
On Monday, May 1, from 5:30 pm until 8 pm, there will be an International Workers Day/Dia Sin Inmigrantes Rally held at a City Park. This action will combine the traditional celebration of May Day by workers of all nationalities with a special focus on solidarity with our immigrant brothers and sisters. An event page with the location and details for this event will be posted soon.
If your organization would like to support these actions, or if you would like more information, please call 832.692.2306 or 713.447.4106. We look forward to your participation in these events.
In Solidarity,
HSM

 

Women’s Day protest organizers arrested outside Trump hotel in NY