Gender Equality: A Prime Concern for Non-Aligned Movement

The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) had its origins in the Bandung Conference of April 1955 In Indonesia, inspired by three world leaders: Nehru of India, Tito of Yugoslavia and Nasser of Egypt. Bandung formulated the concept of Non-Alignment based on the developing world’s desire not to become involved in the East-West ideological confrontation of the Cold War, and to focus instead on national independence struggles, the alleviation of poverty, and economic development. These principles were adopted at the founding non-aligned summit in Belgrade in 1961.

The 10th NAM Summit in Jakarta in 1992 adopted the Jakarta Declaration which laid out the future direction and priorities for the Movement. In the past, NAM was purely a political Movement. Now economic cooperation is also given priority. A call was made to further enhance South-South Cooperation.

Common problems of the Global South like population, foreign debt and poverty are identified as priority areas. A call was also made to reopen the North-South dialogue. It redefined the Movement’s role as “tackling the increasing polarization between North and South” and that they would “remain an independent political force despite changes in the world”.

One such key issue faced by almost all member nations is of gender equality and the issues of equity, an issue which has also been enshrined in NAM’s guiding principles from the very begging in line with the various international treaties and conventions. Majority of the member state grant equality to women and even empower them to adopt suitable measures of positive discriminations in favour of women. In recent years, empowerment of women has been recognized as the central issue in NAM’s socio-economic agenda. Within the framework of democratic policies, the laws, development policies, plans of the member states now aim at women empowerment and gender equality. To safeguard the legal rights of women, most member nations have constituted national bodies for women.

One of the main causes of gender inequality is closely related to social and economic structures which is based on informal and formal societal norms and practices. Access of women to basic infrastructures like education , health are still inadequate particularly for those belonging to rural areas, unorganized income sectors. Therefore they remain largely marginalized, poor and socially excluded.

In order to ensure sustainable development, it has become imperative to recognise the importance of the two sexes (male and female) as complementary biological entities and moreover, to respect full equity and equality of each of the two genders, i.e., of the social roles that men and women assume in their lives.

These roles, it must be emphasised, are socio-political and cultural constructs, which have evolved through history, and vary from one society to another. The fact that the roles attributed to men and women are not static and eternally valid but, on the contrary, that these roles change, have changed and are prone to further change, is essential in explaining why the term gender is now in the forefront on the debate, and why it is not interchangeable with the term sex but is, in fact, complementary to it.

The “gender and development” approach seeks to integrate gender awareness and competence into mainstream development, while recognising that development activities may affect women and men differently (due to sexual differences as well as historic circumstances), and therefore emphasising the need to apply appropriate gender planning in order to ensure that the resulting conditions and results are equitable to women and men.

NAM thereby states the following:
• women and men have different and special needs;
• women do not constitute a homogeneous group because, while being of female sex, each woman is also marked by her race/ethnicity, class, age, sexual preference and other factors;
• women tend to be disadvantaged compared to men in terms of their access to and control of the means of production, and of their welfare in genera;
• gender differences can, however, also result in men being disadvantaged in certain societies, although presently, in most parts of the world, it is above all women that are victims of discrimination.

One of the major dilemmas of human society from the very beginning has been that of gender discrimination. India and Africa today have the largest female populations in the world, therefore if the Non-Aligned movement doesn’t make it an area of focused improvement, it may prove to be a hindrance to their growth and development.

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