Development Bystanders: Women and South-South Cooperation

Leonida Odongo
Posted March 21, 2020 from Kenya
Thika super Highway -Kenya

South-South cooperation emerged as collective reaction to the global political and economic changes. South based countries felt a need to come together based on a shared common past namely colonialism and fighting for a war that was not theirs namely the World Wars. Many citizens in south based countries were taken across borders to fight on behalf of colonising countries. The unequal relationship between the North and South further reinforced the need for South-South cooperation. The Nairobi outcome document[1] of the High Level United Nations Conference on South-South Cooperation defines South-South Cooperation as “ a common endeavour of people and countries  of the South , born of shared experiences and sympathies , based on their common objective of solidarity and guided by the principles of respect for national sovereignty and ownership , free from any conditionality .South –South therefore in the ideal situation should be seen as a partnership among equals based on solidarity.

From the Bandung conference to the Non-Aligned Movement, the South South-South cooperation architecture continues to date with various forms of economic integration. Sadly, despite the initial push by South-South Cooperation to promote equality, the current situation is no better when we talk of equality. In South-South development projects, voices and concerns of women are normally muted. In the available jobs during for example a South-Cooperation mega project women tend to get the menial jobs of sweeping surfaces and clearing debris. Additionally, such projects also make women vulnerable to sexual abuse and exploitation.

Sadly, African has become the new frontier for development, with almost every country coming up with infrastructural projects comprising of roads, railways and airports. A walk through African countries such as Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Senegal and Zambia, one is bound to see these mega projects.

Many a times when new development projects come, local communities are promised jobs which in the long run never materialise. Public awareness on the potential negative impact of a mega project is rarely done. Women tend to be the ones most affected by these mega projects such as construction of high ways, roads and airports. When family land is lost to pave way for development projects, women are the ones who suffer because at the household level they are the ones responsible for household food security. When communities get cut off due to infrastructural projects, women have to detour and walk longer distances to get to the community well. In extreme cases such social amenities like wells get destroyed to pave way for ‘development’, schools   which would have helped ensure gender parity to an extent also get demolished, this can result into school drop-out as not every parent can afford to transfer their children. Sadly, in such instances the first casualty is normally the girl child. Furthermore, when families get compensated during mega projects development, which sometimes never happens, the compensation mainly goes to the husband or male member of the family in form of sons. Women get short changed in some cases either because they do not have tittle deeds, have not secured identity cards, do not know how to read and write or lack the negotiation power to ask for higher amounts of compensation or because of a patriarchal system that gives priority to males. Once the compensation money is released, men tend to move away from their homes and go to the nearest city or town, squander the entire compensation then come back home empty handed.

And when the South-South cooperation is in the form of technical cooperation, rarely is there exchange of technology with local women. They are relegated to be suppliers of food to the men working on the construction site within which a development project is taking place or to clear debris in dusty wheelbarrows.

 It is therefore about time women claim a rightful place around issues of South-South Cooperation. If South-South Cooperation is to really work, women should be at the forefront and technology needs to be transferred to women.

As Thomas Sankara aptly put it, we cannot talk about liberation without women. We cannot talk about South-South Cooperation when women voices and experiences are muted.

References

http://ris.org.in/pdf/Mr.%20James%20Wafula%20(Plenary%20Session%20IV).pdf

https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2016/jan/12/world-bank-cancels-uganda-road-sexual-assault-claims

https://kenyanews.co.ke/thika-road-businesses-residential-estates-and-major-establishments/

Cover image Ó https://kenyanews.co.ke

[1] http://effectivecooperation.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/OutcomeDocumentEnglish.pdf

 

 

 

Comments 12

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Sinyuy Geraldine
Mar 21
Mar 21

Hello Leonida. Thank you for sharing your story on the South South Cooperation. It is too sad to hear that women are often relegated to the background. Why don't theybhave ID cards? Certainly because they are not valued by their societies. Yes, for the world to be free, women have to be freed. Let us raise our voices and cry for equality of all.

Leonida Odongo
Mar 21
Mar 21

Dear Geraldine ,

The ID issue sometimes happens due to ignorance and placing too much trust in the male members of communities .Also during any legal process the id becomes an important tool and if one does not have it when it is required then you get bypassed by processes.

Yes women need to be free , I agree with you 100%

Sinyuy Geraldine
Mar 22
Mar 22

Thanks dear.

Tamarack Verrall
Mar 21
Mar 21

Dear Leonida,
What an important message to move forward with. This is patriarchy being shown for how prejudiced, selfish and violent it is toward women in this area. Now we have each other, and can raise our voices together until this treatment becomes unacceptable and illegal. Your story holds important documentation of what needs to change, and find ways to give global wight to our sisters' work, like yours here. Would a petition help? If South-South Cooperation to promote equality they need to follow through.
All the best with this,
Tam

Leonida Odongo
Mar 21
Mar 21

Dear Tam,

Thank you for the comments , a petition would help but the first step is making women own processes and feel valued .I think there is need for political education of women and girls to reclaim their space in society, to make them realise that rights are never given they have to be demanded.

Tamarack Verrall
Mar 22
Mar 22

Dear Leonida,
I so agree. The work you are doing is the heart of what we are working to make happen. Each woman and raising her voice is a celebration and claiming her rightful place in the world is a celebration.

Anita Shrestha
Mar 22
Mar 22

Good work

Leonida Odongo
Mar 22
Mar 22

Thank you Anita

Leah Wangui Njuguna
Mar 22
Mar 22

Thanks Leonida, it's a great observation that you have made because the bigger society just see the milestone that has been achieved when they see new roads, railway lines etc without putting into consideration the pains few who were displaced by the same had to go through, especially women and girls. Before any project commences in Kenya for example, public participation has to take place, but sadly due to so many factors women are rarely involved and the people who participate sadly just look at the positive things that the project will bring to the community but not the negative impacts. Maybe you can advocate for many women to participate in public participation sessions. All the best in freeing women.

Leonida Odongo
Mar 22
Mar 22

I agree with you Leah and the public participation sessions have to be tailored in such a way that women feel comfortable to attend and are also given space to air their views and their views are listened to.

Hello, dear sister,

I learn a new thing today. Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

Leonida Odongo
Mar 25
Mar 25

You are most welcome