Equal rights for men and women also applies to Swiss trade policy

International Women's Day 2001

On the occasion of the International Women's Day, the Berne Declaration, the Women's Council for Foreign Policy and the NGO coordination group Post Beijing Switzerland, associating more than 30 women's organizations, request the Federal Council of Switzerland to better take into consideration the living and working situation of women in Swiss trade policy. All decisions regarding foreign trade should be made with gender specific analyses in mind. Delegations should include persons engaged in promoting gender balance, and the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs should train its staff and render them sensitive to gender questions.

In November, the fourth WTO Conference will take place in Qatar on the Persian Gulf. After the failure of the conference in Seattle, a new effort is being made to launch an extensive round of liberalization of global trade. The Berne Declaration, the Women's Council for Foreign Policy FrAu, and the NGO coordination group Post Beijing Switzerland are concerned that such a round might be carried out at the expense of women. 80 percent of the world's poor are women.

The theory on which WTO is based wrongly assumes that women and men enjoy the same benefits from a deregulated global market. With this assumption the fact is ignored that the conditions of women widely differ from those of men. In particular in countries of the South, women have less access to loans, land and education. Their mobility is restricted by family duty. Their everyday life is characterized by unpaid work. «It is therefore high time,» Marianne Hochuli of the Berne Declaration claims, «for the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs in charge of trade policies, to acknowledge that trade policy has got something to do with equal rights for men and women.»
Economists and experts of women networks increasingly doubt the significance of the predominant economic theories. «How is it possible to pursue a realistic economic policy when the largest part of human labor - that is unpaid work - is not taken into account but is considered freely available anytime and anyplace?» Mascha Madörin asks, an economist and member of the Women's Council for Foreign Policy.

As an example, women are the most important producers of food worldwide. They supply most of the work input for the utilization and maintenance of natural resources, and their contribution to the nutrition of the family is essential. She was a 'food producer' herself, the farm woman Lisbeth Ulrich said, who had herself participated in the women's conference in Beijing and is now a member of the NGO coordination group Post Beijing. And that she knew what she was talking about when she was saying that nowadays this work was not estimated any more and was paid so little, at an hourly rate barely enough to subsist.