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Women, Development and Empowerment: A Pacific Feminist Perspective

The Economy

page 108

The Economy

Women do not have control over resources and how they are allocated. A lenghty discussion on women's economic contribution followed when one participant suggested that women demand payment of some of the nation's gross domestic product (GNP) for the unpaid work that women did in the home and in subsistence agriculture. It was noted that women's projects were often not provided with resources by governments because they were thought to contribute little of economic value to the nation. Women's considerable contribution to food production was not recognised. In Kanaky, the liberation movement hoped to change the economic system to one that served all of the community. In other Pacific countries, development that supported private enterprise and foreign business had not resulted in benefits “trickling down” to the people. Resources tended to be allocated by government to those groups and sectors that had resources to invest.

The workshop emphasised the need for women to be economically independent; most women were powerless to change conditions in their lives because they were economically dependent. Collective economic enterprises were preferred methods of self-help and self-sufficiency. Women's lack of participation in development planning - the experience of many other powerless groups - meant they had no choice over the kind of economic development that took place.

The idea of “collectivity” or a collective effort in economic production as opposed to individual effort and enterprise, was not fully accepted by some participants who felt that this view was of a dream society that could never exist, unless collectivity was enforced by the state or government, a method some participants disagreed with. Questions of individual privilege and wealth were again raised and defended by some participants as an alternative view. Generally, the workshop was supportive of collective efforts that emphasised community well-being rather than individual development and progress. This issue of economic benefits and individual effort was unresolved, however, and some participants felt it needed further debate.