The Brandt Proposals: A Report Card
Inequality begins with the most basic of human relationships, the daily exchange between men and women. Historically, women have faced extraordinary barriers everywhere on the planet, although conditions were changing somewhat in the developed world by 1980. The Brandt Commission was particularly concerned about the status of women in developing nations, who must bear inequality in two ways: living in an impoverished society, while suffering from gender discrimination. The commission called for equal access of women in poor nations to nutritious food, education, training, jobs, land ownership, credit, and business opportunities. In addition, programs for alternative fuels, clean water, and day care centers could help overcome some of these social deficiencies, by reducing labor intensive chores and allowing women more time for personal development.
"Any definition of development is incomplete if it fails to comprehend the contribution of women to development and the consequences of development for the lives of women. Every development policy, plan or project has an impact on women and cannot succeed without the work of women. And development with justice calls urgently for measures that will give women access to better jobs; that will diminish the arduous tasks that hundreds of millions of women face in their domestic and agricultural occupations; and that will distribute more fairly between the sexes opportunities for creative work and economic advancement" (N-S, 59).
Two decades after the Brandt Reports, women are not equal participants in development in any region of the world, particularly in poor countries. In those nations, young girls are routinely excluded from schools. As the new century began, 543 million women and 311 million men – a difference of 27% – were classified as socially illiterate in developing nations.
Programs for national economic development are also geared to the male, the traditional head of the household; the secondary benefits of development programs are expected then to spill over to the women and children in the home. Deprived of education and direct advantages from development projects, women develop few positive incentives for personal dignity or self-realization.
Equal status, equal opportunity, and equal pay for equal work, remain the tangible goals of the women's movement in developed countries; in developing countries, these ideals seem utterly unreachable.
If developing nations are poor, women in those societies are the poorest of the poor. Where authority and information remain in men's hands, women's contributions are undervalued, both in pay and importance. Bridging the economic inequality between North and South must begin in empowering women and eliminating the gender disparities between women and men, and societies everywhere have a long way to go on that front.
Previous | Table of Contents | Next