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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 3/13/09

As Global Recession Drives More Women into Poverty, a Challenge to Obama

By Kristin Sundell  Posted by Rady Ananda (about the submitter)       (Page 1 of 1 pages)   7 comments
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Leaders of the G-20 nations will try to figure out how to jump-start the world economy when they meet in London next month. Can President Obama push them to relieve those hit the very hardest by world poverty—women living in poor nations riddled with debt?

In his presidential campaign, Barack Obama promised to double foreign assistance, expand debt relief and grant support for poor nations, and reform the IMF and World Bank.  The next 30 days will tell us a lot about the kind of world leadership he is able to exercise to achieve these goals. 

On April 2, President Obama will attend the G-20 meeting in London, where the leaders of the world’s most powerful economies will coordinate their response to the global financial crisis.  This weekend, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is meeting with G-20 finance ministers and central bankers to prepare for the leaders’ summit.

The World Bank predicts that the global recession will push 53 million people in the developing world into poverty this year, leaving them to live on less than $2 per day.
Women and their families are being hit the hardest.  Even before the crisis, 70 percent of the world’s poor were women.  Since women earn less than men everywhere on the planet, they have less to fall back on when times turn tough. 

UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, the host of the G-20 summit, will be pressing for a global “new deal,” designed, in part, to alleviate global poverty.  His plan would have international financial institutions like the IMF and World Bank lend massive new amounts, anywhere from $500 billion to $1 trillion, to poor countries.       

This may sound like the right approach, but longtime observers of the World Bank and the IMF are saying, “Not so fast.” 

The problem is that these international financial institutions have a long history of imposing harmful conditions on the countries receiving loans.  In order to get a loan, a developing country must agree to cuts in social spending, the privatization of government services, or other changes that, all too often, create more poverty. 

For example, one condition imposed by the IMF and World Bank requires countries to open their markets to heavily subsidized goods, often from the United States.  In sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia and Latin America, where women produce between 60 and 80 percent of the food, small farmers cannot compete with cheap imports.

Without significant reforms at the IMF, World Bank and other international financial institutions, Prime Minister Brown’s proposal will create new debt in the developing world, increasing its existing burden of $2.7 trillion. It will not achieve its intended purpose of preventing a global depression.

Other ideas, such as providing grants to developing nations and canceling their existing debts, would do much more to alleviate poverty.   As it stands now, developing countries are paying debt service rather than providing education, health care, food, clean water, and other necessities for their people.  For every dollar the African continent receives in aid, it pays $2.30 in debt service.  The impoverished African nation of Lesotho spends as much on debt service as it does on education, leaving more than a third of its children unenrolled in school. 

Few people disagree that debt relief would go a long way to providing more resources for poor nations, although some worry about the costs.  But again, there is a solution. The IMF has amassed significant gold reserves over the past several years. These reserves could be sold to pay for anti-poverty efforts during this historic global crisis—if G-20 leaders, under President Obama’s leadership, can muster the political will. 

Kristin Sundell is the deputy director of the Jubilee USA Network, an alliance of 75 religious denominations and faith communities, human rights, environmental, labor, and community groups working for the definitive cancellation of crushing debts to fight poverty and injustice in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.  Her work has taken her to all regions of the United States as well as to Kenya and Zambia, where she spoke at the 2007 World Social Forum and met with debt campaigners from across the continent and around the world.  She has been featured on Pacifica Radio’s Democracy Now! and MSNBC among other news outlets.   

Sundell holds a Master of Divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary in New York City and has broad experience in community, solidarity, and faith-based organizing.  While in seminary, she worked as a community organizer in the Bronx and coordinated a citywide campaign by parents from low-income school districts for a stronger role in the governance of their children’s schools.  Prior to her time in seminary, Kristin served as the National Field Organizer for the East Timor Action Network and a staff organizer on the 1996 re-election campaign of the late Senator Paul Wellstone.

Originally posted at The Women's Media Center, a non-profit organization founded by Jane Fonda, Gloria Steinem, and Robin Morgan, dedicated to making women visible and powerful in the media.

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In 2004, Rady Ananda joined the growing community of citizen journalists. Initially focused on elections, she investigated the 2004 Ohio election, organizing, training and leading several forays into counties to photograph the 2004 ballots. She officially served at three recounts, including the 2004 recount. She also organized and led the team that audited Franklin County Ohio's 2006 election, proving the number of voter signatures did not match official results. Her work appears in three books.

Her blogs also address religious, gender, sexual and racial equality, as well as environmental issues; and are sprinkled with book and film reviews on various topics. She spent most of her working life as a researcher or investigator for private lawyers, and five years as an editor.

She graduated from The Ohio State University's School of Agriculture in December 2003 with a B.S. in Natural Resources.

All material offered here is the property of Rady Ananda, copyright 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009. Permission is granted to repost, with proper attribution including the original link.

"In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." Tell the truth anyway.

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