Women shape diversity

Wednesday was International Women’s Day–a day to celebrate the accomplishments of women as well as focus energies on future goals.

To mark the occasion, Dr. Marilyn Waring and Dr. Vandana Shiva, two of the most renowned current speakers on the international women’s movement, politics, social activism, and the environment spoke at the University of Calgary. Both highlighted the important links usually ignored between all these movements and the problems associated with ignoring these links.

In support of International Women’s Day, Marilyn Waring spoke out on the inequities of the economic system that works only in the framework of money. In common economic practices, the value contributed to the economy by women, especially in developing nations, is neglected because many of their activities are not directed at money making.

According to Waring, the current economic system sees benefit in tragedies such as toxic spills, because it creates businesses to deal with the costs of clean up, while the environmental movement is a detriment as it makes businesses more expensive to run while not producing anything.

A prime example is the use of manure in developing countries; it benefits the earth and the farmers, but results in less industrial fertilizers being bought, which contributes less money to the economy. Her proposed new system of accounting would take these and other values into effect, and would allow for better rationalization of environmental practices.

Speaking in a similar vein, Vandana Shiva’s recent talk focused on the pressure that globalization and multi-nationals have on the environment and agriculture, which in developing nations is dependent on women’s labour. These pressures include the push by Monsanto for genetically modified foods in India, and the lack of foresight of the consequences of globalization beyond the economic, at the cost of human lives and the environment.

What both speakers showcase is not only the problem with current political and economic structures, but also that different perspectives are needed to identify and solve these problems. Society, and probably most of the world, is still ruled by white, middle-aged businessmen or people who follow their creed. Homogeny, or the narrowing of ideas through mass media culture, has been the condition for the last 50-100 years.

More and more we need these different views and the perspectives of women, particularly those like Waring and Shiva, to allow us to escape from this deluge. They attack current trends on the basis of fundamental human and environmental rights.

The differences inherent in all of us, whether viewing ourselves as individuals or from the basis of our sex, beliefs or groupings, allow for a multi-dimensional view of situations. What the women’s movement along with social, environmental, economic and any other type of movements have in common is that they help redefine what we are doing with what we truly believe. The courage and the strength it takes for people to question the status quo and its injustices is pretty remarkable and is essential for progress.

Something as essential as women having the vote wouldn’t have happened if it were not for speakers like the Famous Five raising awareness and showing why, even by the principles of the day, discrimination was wrong. This "wrongness" is still at work today and only through recognizing and embracing diversity will it be challenged.

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