On this Women’s Month March 2021, the Asian Peoples’ Movement on Debt and Development (APMDD) honors women and stands in solidarity with them in their many fights and struggles

APMDD Statement for Women’s Month 2021

APMDD Statement for Women’s Month 2021: pdfWomen, Fight for Survival, Justice, the End to Inequality and Tyranny, and for a Safe Planet!

Women, Fight for Survival, Justice, the End to Inequality and Tyranny, and for a Safe Planet!

On this Women’s Month March 2021, the Asian Peoples’ Movement on Debt and Development (APMDD) honors women and stands in solidarity with them in their many fights and struggles

The weight of the impacts of the multiple crises – the COVID19 pandemic, the global economic recession, and the state of climate emergency – is almost impossible to bear. We bear it because we fight, and fight together.

The multiple crises have exposed the deep flaws in the dominant neoliberal system. This is a system that violates rights, exploits people, destroys the environment and intensifies the climate crisis, and subjugates and discriminates against women. Peoples’ assertions of their perspectives and rights are met with disregard and hostility, often by agents of the state. Democratic exercises and institutions are under attack by growing authoritarianism. The severe lockdowns in Asia were without adequate state support for health and livelihoods, or were coupled with measures that exceeded necessary safeguards against COVID 19.

Women are among the most vulnerable to the multiple crises and are suffering the brunt of the impacts

Women comprise the majority in the informal economy, in insecure jobs, and communities living in poverty . Women earn less and have less access to and control over land and other productive resources. They take on the brunt of paid and unpaid care work; are exposed to multiple forms of discrimination and violence. Their voices are marginalized if not suppressed in decision-making in the household and in public life. The dwindling of funds for essential public services especially harm women the most, as they make up for the gaps with greater unpaid care work. They also face more challenges accessing health care and formal education, and have gender-specific needs especially for their reproductive health.

Economic losses worldwide are projected at $8.8 trillion, with Asia and the Pacific accounting for over $2.5 trillion or around 30% of global output. In terms of everyday lives, this translates to a high of more than 240 million total jobs lost, of which 70% is in Asia and the Pacific. A fall in incomes in Asia Pacific is estimated between $359 billion and $550 billion, and around 96 million people, 47 million of whom are women and girls, are at risk of being pulled back into extreme poverty by the pandemic and the crises it has intensified in relation to public health, economies and climate change . In South Asia alone, it is projected that by 2021, under a business-as-usual-scenario, “for every 100 men aged 25 to 34 living in extreme poverty (living on USD 1.90 a day or less), there will be 118 women, a gap that is expected to increase to 121 women per 100 men by 2030.” (UN Women)

Women suffer the devastating effects of climate change more, especially in developing countries where women have less income, education, and resources to deal with climate-related risks. Droughts and extreme weather events that often result in displacement and forced migration take a heavier toll on women, increasing their multiple burdens and exposure to violence. Women are more likely to die from natural disasters. Women comprise the majority of farmers and fisherfolk and take crucial roles in food production. Their livelihoods and incomes are affected by climate impacts on diminishing agricultural harvests and fishing yields. With meagre incomes and greater responsibilities in family care, they face bigger challenges of rising food prices and the threat of hunger.  Despite being most vulnerable to climate change, they are least responsible for it.

Women’s struggles for survival in all fronts are compounded by increased exposure to multiple forms of violence that exacerbate the social, economic, and political barriers to the full enjoyment of their rights and their genuine empowerment.

While the overwhelming majority of the world’s population struggle to survive, there are some who have stayed afloat and a few who in fact are better off. Oxfam reported that just 10 people – the world’s richest billionaires, all men – have seen their combined wealth skyrocket by half a trillion dollars since the pandemic began. And that is more than enough to pay for a COVID-19 vaccine for everyone and to prevent the pandemic from pushing anyone into poverty.

Women’s voices and conditions are the least heard and addressed.

Whether in decision-making in the household or in policies and policy-making in the public space – women have to assert and fight for their rights, their perspectives and issues, their needs. These include macroeconomic policies, policies on access to and use of land and resources critical to their livelihoods and economic autonomy, policies on energy systems, and on climate programs.

Women are fearlessly in the frontlines of collective actions.

  • marching among farmers in India who have been waging fierce resistance since November against new farm laws that leave them unprotected against corporate profiteers in agriculture
  • protesting with climate justice activists at the gates of Asia’s dirty companies – banks and corporations that finance coal and other dirty energy – to demand an immediate end to the age of fossil fuels
  • protesting with Indonesian trade unionists the Omnibus Law enacted in November, which aims to attract investments at the expense of workers’ rights, fair wages, social benefits, job security, and environmental sustainability.
  • fighting among the ordinary people and civil society leaders in Myanmar against the military coup in February that unleashed a new wave of repression and human rights abuses

APMD also honors women who have fought and continue the fights for tax and fiscal justice, for freedom from the bondage of historical and new debts that exacerbate inequalities within countries and between countries, for sustainable energy systems, for climate justice, and for profound systemic transformation.

Together we fight!

  1. Make Taxes Work for Women! Tax Justice for Women’s Rights, Now!

The economic crisis intensified by COVID has been met with more support for corporations than people, such as the tax cuts and anti-labor policies in the Philippines and Indonesia. Measures such as these have further increased economic inequality in almost every country. Prospective tax revenues from the elite and the multinational companies are lost to tax abuse and the failure of governments to establish progressive tax systems that sharply tax wealth and income. According to The State of Tax Justice 2020, Asia has lost an estimated $73.4 billion annually in recent years from tax abuses by multinational corporations and private tax evasion every year. The tax loss is equivalent to 6.48% and 8.36% of the region’s combined health and education spending, respectively, and to the yearly salaries of more than 11 million nurses in Asia.

As the vast majority of women struggle to survive, they have to deal with more burdensome taxes and contend with gender biases in tax systems. Now more than ever we need to make taxes work for women by:

  • reducing unfair tax burdens on women,
  • removing discriminatory provisions and gender biases in tax policies,
  • ensuring that tax and fiscal policies recognize, represent, reduce and redistribute care work,
  • allocating more tax revenues to quality public services that address women’s needs and uphold their rights,
  • stopping corporate tax abuse and illicit financial flows, and establishing an inclusive, democratic and transformative intergovernmental tax mechanism under the auspices of the United Nations where developing countries truly sit at the table and where voices of the people who are most affected by tax policies, including women, are truly heard.
  1. For justice and women’s rights – Cancel the Debt!

Public funding is most urgently needed to address the steep human toll exacted by the multiple crises. Yet, millions of Asian peoples who remain impoverished and indentured continue to be bled for debt service payments to international financial institutions, bilateral financial institutions, private banks, and other lenders.

The IMF’s much-vaunted COVID19 debt relief initiative and concessional lending are a far cry from the massive resources required by countries of the South for lifesaving COVID healthcare alone, and a pittance compared to the resources mobilized in 2008 to save big banks, corporations and investment houses. The G20’s Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI) ignores countries that are forced to trade off people’s well-being to comply with debt service payments. Even for DSSI-eligible countries, lenders require the suspended debt service to eventually be paid, even as crises show little signs of abating. The G20’s “Common Framework for Debt Treatments beyond the DSSI”, insists that “debt treatments will not be conducted in the form of debt write-off or cancellation” and carries the same overriding interest of ensuring that countries pay their debts.

The brunt of austerity measures imposed on “debt-distressed” governments, such as cutting social service budgets and charging user fees, falls heavily on women’s bodies, time and labor. More often, making do with less resources is a responsibility charged to women who typically work longer hours in both paid and unpaid work, take on multiple jobs, or give up personal needs including reproductive health care and rest. Loan conditions such as privatizing water, sanitation and health, among others, sideline women’s increasingly constrained access to social services and greater multiple burdens of unpaid work.

The debt problem in today’s context did not arise only with the pandemic. We should not forget that IFIs, North governments, and private lenders hugely profited from the business of lending and collecting interest, as they continue to do so today, by exploiting the neoliberal export-orientation of Southern governments and their vulnerabilities to the volatilities of global markets. Many of these loans were illegitimate – fraudulently contracted, damaging the environment and violating human rights – and through time, already paid several times over.

International fiscal responses to COVID19 are leading to greater debt burdens for Southern countries. The “debt relief” measures in response to COVID19 is miniscule amount compared to the hundreds of billions of dollars flowing as loans in the name of COVID.

A bigger historical, social and ecological is actually owed to peoples of the South - which dwarfs the financial debt we are being made to pay. The debt owed to the peoples of the South has been accumulated through decades of northern economies, multinational corporations and elites in collaboration with Southern elites exploiting natural resources, labor and economies of Southern countries, plundering and damaging ecosystems, and the unhampered occupation of atmospheric space with excessive greenhouse gas emissions, leading to the climate crisis. So do patriarchal societies, North governments and the IFIs owe a massive debt to women for the vital care work – unrecognized and under-valued – that has nurtured and continues to sustain humanity especially in light of the crisis in public social services exposed by COVID.

  1. End the age of fossil fuels and a transformation of energy systems for people and communities

Women bear the brunt of negative impacts of ‘dirty energy.’ Air pollution emitted by coal gas and oil energy power plants affect the health of communities, including women’s reproductive health. Women also know that they, along with the entire planet itself, stand to benefit from ‘clean energy.’ Women are thus in the forefront of a growing movement calling for a thoroughgoing transformation of energy systems for people and communities. Their message: all production and use of fossil fuels must end through a just and swift transition.

We need to stop building new coal  and fossil fuel projects  and phase out existing ones if we want to cap global warming under the targets of the Paris climate agreement. Coal remains very much alive, especially in developing countries crippled by the coronavirus pandemic. Before 2020 ended, we saw coal plant projects push ahead in the Global South despite falling electricity demand and strong community resistance against these dirty projects.

Public financing of coal and fossil fuels must end, in stimulus spending or otherwise, to end the production and use of fossil fuels. This must be accompanied by significant scaling up of public financing to support the swift and just transition to renewable and democratic energy systems.

The COVID-19-related fiscal spending measures has reached trillions of dollars. These funds should be used to rapidly transition to a just equitable and sustainable system. Instead a huge portion of these funds are spent on supporting fossil fueled industries, extractive industries that destroy local livelihoods and damage the environment, the privatization of essential services that violate peoples' rights, and so-called development projects that result in land-grabs, deforestation, displacement of indigenous peoples and other communities, and deepening of the exploitation of women and workers.

The latest Emissions Gap Report notes that so far, the opening for using fiscal rescue and recovery measures to stimulate the economy while simultaneously accelerating a low-carbon transition has largely been missed. This is unacceptable and alarming.

  1. Equity and fair-sharing of climate action! Climate Finance as Reparations and payment of climate debt! No Climate Justice without Gender Justice!

The climate crisis has exacerbated existing inequalities and injustices, making it even harder for women to better adapt to changes in climate. The system that perpetuates the marginalization, exclusion and oppression of women is the same system that is exploiting our planet, depleting our natural resources and destroying ecosystems.v This system must change. The fight against planetary destruction requires major social and economic transformation aimed to put an end to the vicious cycle of resource exploitation and social oppression.

Climate finance is a key component to address the climate crisis - its roots and impacts. However, the current state of commitments and actual delivery of climate finance obligations from rich, industrialized countries is unacceptable and alarming. They who bear the huge share of responsibility in the climate crisis continue to renege on their word to provide at least $100 billion-a-year to help developing countries combat climate change. Climate finance commitments remain far short of the $100 billion target. In addition, the majority of the reported public climate finance was not provided in the form of grants, but mostly as loans offered on ungenerous terms.

Women demand adequate climate finance to restore biodiversity and ecosystems, build food security, water supplies, and jobs and livelihoods in disproportionately impacted communities in the South. They who have the least contribution to the climate crisis rightfully deserve new and additional financial resources to adapt to and mitigate the impacts of extreme weather events and changing weather patterns that changed and brought destruction to the lives and livelihoods of women.  Women demand the repayment of climate debts, the need to respect, protect and fulfill human rights, and rights-based resource conservation that enforces indigenous land rights and promotes peoples’ sovereignty over land, forests, water, and energy.

The fight for climate justice must put the rights of women and the most vulnerable sectors at its core. Women demand climate policies and mitigation and adaptation programs that address gender-specific barriers to coping with the climate crisis, and that contribute to addressing inequalities and realizing genuine women’s empowerment. There is no climate justice without gender justice.

Women, fight for survival, justice, an end to inequality, tyranny and oppression, and for a safe planet!

This month of March, courageous women from all over the world and from all walks of life are once again on the move, marking International Women’s Day March 8 and coming together in various actions in the succeeding weeks. Let this be a month of solidarity with women in their many fights – for survival, justice, an end to inequality, tyranny and oppression, and a safe planet.

We note, too, that the 65th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) prepares to meet on 15-26 March 2021 to deliberate on States’ commitments to achieve women’s full and effective participation and decision-making in public life and eliminate violence against women and girls as among the keys to realizing gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. We call on the CSW to rigorously assess the deeply rooted structural and systemic issues that expose women to multiple forms of violence and that pose barriers to women’s full, effective and meaningful participation and decision-making in public life, and to exercise greater ambition and political will to make gender equality and gender justice a reality.

We call on governments and the international community to heed women’s demands and calls, among them:

  1. Make Taxes Work for Women! Tax Justice for Women’s Rights, Now!
  2. Public funds for public services vs. COVID! Cancel the Debt! Unconditional cancellation of all illegitimate debts!
  3. End the Age of Fossil Fuel! Swift and just transition to democratic, renewable and clean energy systems for people and communities!
  4. Equity and fair-sharing of climate action! Climate Finance as Reparations and payment of climate debt! No Climate Justice without Gender Justice!
  5. End all forms of gender-based violence and discrimination against women! Uphold women’s rights and advance gender justice! End tyranny and women’s oppression!