The purpose of Module 4 is to provide a framework for integrating women’s rights and con­cerns into ESC rights activism.  

This module should help trainees understand/clarify for themselves:

  • gender ideology and the impact of a gender perspective on ESC rights;
  • the principal relevant international treaties on women’s rights;
  • some conceptual issues that may arise while integrating women’s rights; and
  • challenges and opportunities for integrating women’s rights in ESC activism.  

Suggested Methods

Poem: The following poem could be given for discussion in small groups. Participants should discuss whether ESC issues faced by women are different from those faced by men. If they are different, how are they different and why? The idea is to facilitate a dis­cussion on gender and ESC rights.

Beasts of Burden

Our master’s farm is the biggest of all farms.
It’s our men who work like beasts of burden on our master’s farm.
I am carrying gruel for my hungry father toiling since morn.
I am learning to bear the burden
of a child on my hips and
a pot of gruel on my head
for, one day, not far off,
I have to walk on these field bunds
with a child in my belly and a child on my hips,
carrying gruel for my husband, working in these farms.
But there’s something
I’d like to know . . .
Who made the rule that
our heads be bowed and backs
always be bent, under burden?1

Using stories and proverbs: Participants can be asked to share stories or proverbs as a basis for discussion on the question of the link between women’s rights and ESC rights. 

The following is a Garri folktale from northern Kenya that is used by a women’s group in India in its education programs.

Thus God Judged the Women

Once upon a time, very long ago, God needed someone to help him with something he wanted to get done.  He turned to the women, who already had their hands full even in those days.  Just when they were sitting making milk jugs and water basins and mats to cover the huts, God summoned them, "Come here!  I shall send you on an important mission.” The women replied, "Yes, we are coming but wait a moment, we shall just finish our work here.” After a while, God summoned them again. "Wait a moment, we are nearly done.  Let us just finish our mats and jugs,” said the women.

The men did not have to milk, build houses, fetch wood and water as the women did. Their only duty was to put up a fence and protect the livestock. So, since at the mo­ment they had nothing else to do, they came running at God’s call and they said, "Send us instead, father.”

Then, God turned to the women and said, "Hereafter, women, your chores will never be done.  When one is completed, the next will be waiting for you. Hence men may rest since they came at once when I called but you women will have to work and toil with neither pause nor rest till the day you die.”

And so it has been ever since.2

¨      Case study discussion: The following case study could also be used for facilitating dis­cussion on the question of women and ESC rights.  In small groups participants should discuss the situation of Susheela and identify the gender elements involved in her story.

Susheela Case Study

Susheela wiped the sweat from her brow as she hurried to finish making the chapat­ties (bread).  Her customers would soon be coming in for the food and she had to be ready.  They were just the few regulars, labourers who lived in small shacks like her­self in the neighbourhood.  Sometimes she would really feel sorry for herself, sweat­ing it out for the few rupees she made each day. How she wished she could have moved to a different place, a better neighbourhood, with water facilities, paved roads and even more a proper house.

Susheela thought to herself that one had to have luck in life.  She often thought of the small coconut husking factory she had worked until six months ago.  She had to work hard too then and her hands used to burn at the end of the day.  But at least she got a regular wage though it was less than what the men got for the same work.  What bad luck the owners sold the factory to people with big money from the city.  The new owners wanted to bring modern machines to produce more in the factory.  Almost all the women lost their jobs.  The new owners said that women could not read and write and they cannot be given training to work with the machines.  The men were fortu­nate, they were to be trained.

Susheela remembered her father saying to her when she was a child, "Why send you to school, you will only end up married and working in the kitchen.” He was right wasn’t he?  That is where she was today-in the kitchen.3

1.   Taken from T.K. Sundari Ravindran, "Subverting Patriarchy: Workshops for Rural Women,” Rural Women’s Social Education Centre, Tamil Nadu, India.

2.   Ibid.

3.   Taken from IWRAW Asia Pacific, Training Manual on the Convention Against All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (Version: 1998).

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