Gender inequality begins with bedtime stories


We all know how the children’s fairy tale usually ends: “the beautiful princess and the handsome Prince Charming married and lived happily ever after.”

But according to a new report, this sort of gender stereotyping we feed to children under three – conscious or unconscious – plays a part in contributing to domestic violence in Australia, where on average, one woman a week is murdered by her current or former partner.

The gender report by Our Watch, a non-profit chaired by former Senator Natasha Stott Despoja, to prevent violence against women and children, is launched on Wednesday in time for International Women’s day tomorrow, March 8. It will also launch a digital campaign, #Becausewhy to support parents to challenge limiting gender stereotypes.

As OurWatch Abassador Tasma Walton said: “For the most part, in both classic and contemporary tales, women and girls either have a peripheral role or are portrayed as stereotypically feminine. The princesses, the stepmothers, the cheerleaders, the maids; waiting for princes, sitting on the sidelines or cleaning up the mess.

“The brave, heroic ones, getting their hands dirty and leading from the front, are almost always male. And the quirky ones, or silly ones, or clever ones, or naughty ones are also mostly male.”

In early 2017, Our Watch conducted a national survey to ask 858 parents of children aged under three, what they thought about gender equality and violence against women, how they divided key household tasks and childrearing responsibilities within their family, and whether they believe that gender has an impact on their children.

The report Challenging gender stereotypes in the early years: the power of parents, showed that parents of young girls were more comfortable with the idea of them engaging in masculine-typed play, such as playing with trucks, whereas parents of young boys had lower levels of comfort in regard to their sons’ participation in feminine-typed play, such as playing with dolls.

Furthermore, more mothers were comfortable with the idea of their child acting in opposition to gender stereotypes than fathers, for example, more mothers than fathers were comfortable with the idea of their young sons crying when feeling sad.


By            :               Helen Pitt

Date         :               March 6, 2018

Source     :               The Sydney Morning Herald


Posted in Gender and Human Rights, Latest Post | Leave a comment

Authoritarian elitism and popular movements in Brazil


Can a president institute radical popular change alongside structural inequality and a militarized elite? The Brazilian case suggests that a progressive political party requires more social movement mobilization, not less.

“We fought and participated in a dream to build a better Brazil, we learned a lot. We did a lot of nonsense, but that is not what characterizes us. What characterizes us is to have dared to want a better country.”

(Dilma Rousseff, 2005, a quote widely shared after her election in 2010)


Brazilian history is like a roller coaster: vertiginous ascents are followed by plummeting crashes and significant ground is covered at lightning speed – but the cars always seem to end up back where they started.

For 13 years, the scrappy, leftwing Workers’ Party (PT) governed in a country that had been dominated by conservative authoritarianism for the preceding 500 years. And change was in the air! Three consecutive PT administrations implemented programmes and policies that simultaneously reduced poverty and malnutrition, brokered inclusion with historically marginalized groups, and maintained high levels of economic growth until 2014.

But in 2016, the cars pulled back to the station. Political elites orchestrated a rightwing coup and effectively removed president Dilma and the PT from power. Within days, signature PT policies were being undone. This was a massive backlash of authoritarian elitism against popular efforts to institute real change in Brazilian politics, economy and society.

Perhaps nowhere is this more evident than in the rural areas; historical and ongoing dependence on militarized, elite modernization has effectively dispossessed a majority of the rural population from the means to exercise basic citizenship rights. A system built on the twin pillars of unequal access to land and labour requires more than just a party, it requires a truly popular politics.

The rise of the popular in a land of contradictions

The early 2000s were a heady time in Brazil. In 2002, the much-anticipated (and long-awaited, this was his fourth attempt) election of outsider, Luis Inácio Lula da Silva, appeared to mark a real change in Brazilian politics. There were critical analyses defining the Workers’ Party governments as a form of progressive populism, but as the leader of metalworker strikes in the late 1970s, Lula defied first the military dictatorship and then elite neoliberalism to insist on inclusive development –a radical move in a country where a majority of the population was excluded from both the formal economy and formal politics.

As president, Lula created signature programmes such as the now-famous Bolsa Familia, which provided cash to poor families who kept their children in school and visited the doctor. Standing at the head of an uneasy alliance between right, centre-right and left, Lula committed to both economic growth, tax and pension reform, and social programmes for the poorest.

His signature initiative, the Growth Acceleration Program (PAC) instituted “neo-developmentalism”  or inclusive capitalism geared towards maximizing profits that would allow for the deepening of social assistance. For rural areas, this model of development meant a territorial ordering that privileged industrial extraction for export (whether agricultural, mineral or manufacturing) over sustainability and local economies.

President Lula believed in the potential for negotiation between seemingly contradictory positions. He lionized plantation owners in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, even as he “wore the hat” of the largest grassroots social movement in Brazilian history, the Landless Rural Workers Movement (MST- Movimento dos Trabalhadores Sem Terra). He thought he could find a way for agribusiness and peasant collectivism to co-exist. Part of this desire for comprise in the face of apparent contradiction came from the necessity to establish a coalition government; political alliances with the right and centre-right meant that the PT was committed to working with the contradictions (instead of against them) even before it took office.

Under Lula (2003-2010) and Dilma Roussef (2011-2016), the Workers’ Party government managed to walk this razor edge between social inclusion and economic extraction. Social movements worked with the PT, refraining from active protest in order to partner on reform. Brazil enjoyed a decade or more of high commodity prices and economic growth, and began to export its programmes worldwide, taking on new missions of political import, leading the UN mission in Haiti after 2004 and signing agreements with African leaders to bring Brazilian experience and technology to developing countries.

In 2013, however, hundreds of thousands of protestors took to the streets mobilizing first against increased bus fares and gaining momentum as the protests tapped into a “reservoir of complaints”, including bloated expenditures on the Olympic Games and diminishing social support. A year later, protestors took to the streets again, this time mobilizing against corruption and calling for Dilma’s ouster. Incited by the famously-conservative national media and organized by large industrial associations, protests were marked by expressions of rage against the so-called leftwing alliance and the very idea of inclusive development.

When Dilma narrowly won re-election in 2014, the conservative Congress moved quickly – Dilma’s pursuit of politicians who had taken bribes in the now-famous ‘Operation Car Wash’ threatened elite privileges and – like the part of the roller coaster ride where everyone is upside-down – the establishment put her on the chopping block, charging her with corruption and calling for her impeachment.

Protestors on both sides took to the street again, dividing Brazilian society. Although corruption charges never stuck, Dilma was successfully impeached three months later in 2016. As one observer said, “they lost power because they did the right thing.”

A new rural world

Only days after being impeached, a new government formed with Dilma’s vice president who was also the head of one of the largest right-wing parties in the coalition government. Michel Temer (Fora Temer!) immediately began reorganizing both politics and economy at the highest levels. He reserved his most regressive attacks for the rural world, fulfilling his promises and agreements to the Ruralist Block; powerful congress people representing agribusiness, who fully supported Dilma’s impeachment.

With Dilma and the PT out of the way, the plans for a “new rural world” echoed an earlier neoliberal agenda with budget cuts and setbacks in several agrarian programmes. Social movements such as the MST – the Landless Workers Movement, weakened by over two decades of aggressive criminalization, increased violence and internal division, found it difficult to mobilize against the agenda.

Within weeks, Temer’s administration had abolished the Ministry of Agrarian Development and slashed the budgets of the national institutes for land reform (INCRA), indigenous rights (FUNAI) and the environment (IBAMA).

He subjected areas under social protections (indigenous reserves, extractive reserves and conservation areas) to “revision,” threatening decades of hard-won access to land. Eschewing all talk of a “marriage,” he empowered the famously conservative and hierarchical Ministry of Agriculture, appointing the world’s largest single soy producer as minister. Temer also announced his intention to abolish the prohibition against foreign land ownership, a prohibition that Lula had instituted in the wake of heightened awareness of increasing large-scale land acquisitions around the world, with Brazilian land, particularly in the interior grasslands region, a major attraction.

In the time that Temer has been in office, land reform has ground to a halt and attacks on the rural poor have increased radically. Brazil is now one of the deadliest countries in the world for indigenous and rural activists. At the same time, the Car Wash corruption scandal has spread explosively across Congress, affecting over two-thirds of all standing congress officials (but not Dilma).

A truly new rural world?

In response to Temer and the return to increasingly regressive modes of extraction and exclusion, rural activists and movements have organized protests, such as occupying Temer’s “family farm” in western São Paulo during 2017’s “Red April.” They are reorganizing after struggling to determine their place under the PT.

Groups like the MST call on Brazilians to protest against the coordinated assault on life. What such social movements call for is not so radical. They call for organization across states with growing “alt-right” political tendencies. They call for land redistribution, food sovereignty, local control over resource decisions, more equitable distribution of access to resources and less submissiveness to the short-term violent dictates of capital.

Were these to be implemented, this would truly be a new rural world in Brazil, one worth dreaming about.


Wendy Wolford is Polson Professor of Development Sociology at Cornell University, USA. Email:

Sérgio Sauer is a sociology professor in the Post-Graduate Program on Environment and Rural Development (MADER) at the University of Brasília, Planaltina, and holds a scholarship grant from CNPq. A long-time organizer for social justice and rural development, Sérgio has published widely in the fields of agrarian studies, environmental sociology, land reform, social movements and the political economy of agriculture in Latin America.




By            :               Wendy Wolford and Sergio Sauer

Date         :               March 5, 2018

Source     :               Open Democracy

Posted in Democratization & Social Movements, Latest Post, Social Justice | Leave a comment

Democracy in Pakistan


Of the elite, by the elite, for the elite

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PML-N) surprising victory in the recent by-election in Punjab where the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) was favored to win is an interesting development as the country prepares for the next general elections.

The National Assembly seat which the ruling party won a few days ago was previously won by Imran Khan’s political party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI). The loss of the PTI in a constituency where it was a clear favorite to win means that the party’s popular ‘narrative of change’ is not adequate to win a general election in a country whose local political structure is still rooted in caste, feudal and other patronage structures. PTI has been working on a so-called political campaign to introduce true democracy in Pakistan. The campaign aimed at convincing the masses to vote for ‘what works for the county’ rather than ‘what works for their narrow interests,’ however, has not brought any results.

While Pakistan may have a formal constitutional and democratic structure, the current deep-rooted feudal and tribal dynamics of the country mean that the next general election will be won by a political party which has a lineup of electables with strong patronage links rather than candidates that are better qualified.

Domestically, Pakistan’s political structure is not ready for genuine democracy. Throughout Pakistan’s entire history, not a single political organization has tried to bring about massive reforms to uproot the entrenched tribal political structure in order to produce a true democratic order. There are two major reasons why this has never been done before and is not likely to happen any time in the foreseeable future. First, all political parties in Pakistan drive their support base from these tribal, feudal and semi-feudal political structures. Any attempt to challenge the existing social and political structure would not only pose a challenge to political parties immediate interests but would also alienate local tribal, ethnic and feudal groups and families that maintain their political relevance and control through such structures. Second, the country’s middle and poor class voter base has been accustomed to the current political structure to an extent that any idea of radical reforms which promises fairness and true democracy is deemed a threat. Arguably, the entire society remains divided into ethnic, caste, tribal and family lines. The protection of family, ethnic, caste, and tribal interests are considered far important than any idea of a political system that promises justice, fairness and a truly democratic order where anyone has a practical chance to run for a National Assembly seat without having to worry about massive financial and patronage support. The country’s elite class doesn’t see any interest in bringing mass change to uproot a structure that is keeping them in power in the first place.

The campaign aimed at convincing the masses to vote for ‘what works for the county’ rather than ‘what works for their narrow interests,’ however, has not brought any results

On the other hand, Pakistan’s civil society remains weak and has seldom made any attempts to force the ruling elite to bring a reformed political structure. During the past seventy years, none of the civil society groups have ever engaged in a sustained effort to force the state toward changing the existing political structure that only undermines the dispensation of true democracy. Any local rebellions by marginalized ethnic and political voices have been pushed aside by the ruling elite. Liberal and secular groups do not find space in an environment that only supports and provides legitimacy to the existing political structure. Similarly, the middle and working classes are too weak to introduce a social revolution that would oust the feudal dominated political structure and introduce a proper democratic order.

Moreover, pressure for change in this regard has not come from outside. States with close ties with Pakistan, particularly the United States and China never saw a democratic Pakistan as feasible to their geopolitical regional security and political interests. For instance, Washington has always preferred to engage with the country’s powerful military and persons with influence to find quick fixes for its regional security and political interests rather than supporting and pushing for the deep democratization of Pakistan. Similarly, China and Saudi Arabia, which are also Pakistan’s close allies, have never pushed the country’s ruling elite for liberal democratic reforms. Apparently, International states see a democratic Pakistan an impediment to their geopolitical interests which to the former are far important than Pakistan’s democratic transformation.

The ruling elite of Pakistan don’t see any incentive in the country’s true democratic transformation, for that will directly challenge their political influence in the country. Moreover, the country’s urban and rural middle and lower middle classes remain highly disorganized politically and are not in a position to put up a solid struggle to force democratic change in Pakistan. Generally, Pakistani society remains divided along caste, ethnic, tribal and family lines and any rhetoric of true democratic change in Pakistan is not likely to influence the country’s voting patterns that are tied to caste oriented social, political and power structures.

The country’s ruling elite needs to realize that the existing political structure in Pakistan is only undermining the process of modernization and true democratization which does not bode well for the country’s long-term future. Moreover, Washington and Beijing need to push Pakistan’s ruling elite toward adopting modernization, for only a deeply transformed and progressive society can truly accept democracy.

Moreover, pressure for change in this regard has not come from outside. States with close ties with Pakistan, particularly the United States and China never saw a democratic Pakistan as feasible to their geopolitical regional security and political interests

Beyond formal constitutional structure, the current political arrangements in Pakistan only strengthen nondemocratic mindsets and forces in the country. By aiding the existing feudal and tribal structures, political parties in Pakistan are only further strengthening non-democratic forces in the country whose interests remain tied to the prevention of Pakistan’s true democratic transformation.


Umair Jamal is a graduate of the School of Government and International Affairs, Durham University. He is a research fellow with the Centre for Governance and Policy. He regularly writes for various media outlets. He can be contacted on Twitter: @UJAmaLs.


By            :               Umair Jamal

Date         :               March 4, 2018

Source     :               Pakistan Today


Posted in Democratization & Social Movements, Latest Post, Social Justice | Leave a comment

The politics of social justice


Op-ed: Groups like Black Lives Matter have distorted Mideast reality, pushing many African-Americans to make assumptions and conclusions based on falsehoods and misinformation. BLM statements are anti-Semitic because it selectively chooses the Jewish state out of all states in the world to demonize.

On October of 1967, Martin Luther King underscored that “when people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. You’re talking anti-Semitism!” This bold and unapologetic statement is something that you would not hear today from the membership of Black Lives Matter (BLM).

In today’s age of technology, we see more rapid use of social media and soft power by pro-Palestinian groups hijacking the narrative of peace, justice and human rights, while in reality they yearn for Israel’s destruction.

The term “social justice” is nothing new in today’s world but may represent new ways of thinking among many who advocate for full equality in our society. Among many African Americans, the mere notion of social justice can be a constant reminder that institutionalized forms of racism still exist across all sectors of our society.

The reality of racism remains a constant force of evil that must of necessity be confronted by all Americans who subscribe to the basic principles that gave birth to America. Yet even among African Americans, there are divergent views about the concept of social justice and what it means in the larger context. This has particular relevance to many of the current events taking place in the Middle East and in the state of Israel.

To place this issue in some historical perspective, it should be noted that the murder of six million Jews was a causative factor in the creation of the state of Israel. Israel’s basic right to exist represents a foundational principle of social justice.

Interestingly enough, there is growing trend is to regard Palestinians as “people of color” as they continue to superimpose BDS on racial and other protest movements, even as violence by BDS supporters, and their “intersectional” allies, undermines their broader appeal.

It is predominately on the political Left where the adaptation of the Palestinian cause as their own under the guise of “intersectionality,” a term coined by legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw in the 1980s to highlight the dual oppressions faced by black women—sexism and racism—and the feminist and anti-racism movements that failed to fully represent and advocate for them. Currently, it has become a slogan under which minority groups join to fight what critics see as unrelated battles, but what activists see as iterations of the same struggle for justice.

As it is clearly articulated by the Black-Palestinian solidarity statement, “Palestinian liberation represents an inherent threat to Israeli settler colonialism and apartheid, an apparatus built and sustained on ethnic cleansing, land theft, and the denial of Palestinian humanity and sovereignty. While we acknowledge that the apartheid configuration in Israel/Palestine is unique from the United States (and South Africa), we continue to see connections between the situation of Palestinians and Black people.

“Israel’s widespread use of detention and imprisonment against Palestinians evokes the mass incarceration of Black people in the US, including the political imprisonment of our own revolutionaries. Soldiers, police, and courts justify lethal force against us and our children who pose no imminent threat. And while the US and Israel would continue to oppress us without collaborating with each other, we have witnessed police and soldiers from the two countries train side-by-side.”

The deliberate distortion of historical realities, fueled by those who oppose Israel’s right to exist, tend to exacerbate the path to peace in the Middle East. Clearly, there are many difficult issues that need to be resolved between Israel and the Palestinians, starting with a functioning Palestinian Authority (PA) removed from Islamist influence which has yet to be seen.

For many African Americans, the notion of social justice is indeed a complex phenomenon, and Palestinians are viewed as people of color and Israelis are viewed as white Europeans. There are, however, large numbers of Jews of color, many of whom support the Jewish homeland and call for peace in the Middle East.

Groups like BLM have distorted the reality of the Middle East and have thereby pushed many African-Americans to make assumptions and conclusions based on falsehoods and misinformation. BLM statements are anti-Semitic not only because they are false and modern versions of tradition anti-Semitic blood libel, but also because BLM selectively chooses the Jewish state out of all the states in the world to demonize. The façade has fed into the worldview of intersectionality that has divided the world into a conspiracy of oppressors and an agony of oppressed: Victimizers and victims.

Finally, in a time where universalism trumps particularism, we see more individuals lacking any sense of history or collective memory, thereby generating a postmodernist form of social justice that seeks not equal treatment for all, but rather an equality of outcomes by erasing the same systems that developed the West at large.


Earl Bowen Jr., PhD, serves as an associate rabbi at Congregation Temple Beth El, incorporated in 1956, a predominantly African American Synagogue located in Philadelphia; Asaf Romirowsky, PhD, is the executive director of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME).



By            :               Earl Bowen, Jr. and Asaf Romirowsky

Date         :               March 5, 2018

Source     :     ,7340,L-5145607,00.html


Posted in Democratization & Social Movements, Latest Post, Social Justice | Leave a comment

Just conservation is where environmental issues and social justice commingle


Date: March 1, 2018

Source: Michigan Technological University

Summary: Social justice and environmental conservation are considered great values in our society. However, in some conservation efforts, conflicts arise.

More people, limited resources. Environmental ethicists consider best practices for conflict resolution and fairness when people and the environment are at odds.

Conservation is increasingly stymied by people who object to particular conservation actions-claiming them to be unfair for one reason or another. In a new paper published in Biological Conservation , the authors propose principles for resolving such conflicts-principles that redress shortcomings in existing methods for addressing conservation conflicts.

“Social justice and conservation each represent great values of our society,” says John Vucetich, professor of ecology at Michigan Technological University, who led the study. “We aimed to examine those values from first principles to better understand how to respond when social justice and conservation seem to conflict.”

Vucetich’s co-authors include Jeremy Bruskotter from Ohio State University and a team from the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) from Oxford University-Dawn Burnham, Ewan Macdonald, Alexandria Zimmerman, David Macdonald and Silvio Marchini, who is also associated with the University of São Paulo. Vucetich explains the foundation of the analysis is recognizing that social justice is the fair treatment of others judged according to three principles: equality, need and desert.

Who are the “others” in social justice? Vucetich says this is “the first question and it is especially basic.” To answer, the team synthesized scholarship in social justice and environmental ethics; they arrived at a principle to help guide the adjudication of conservation conflicts.

“No human should infringe on the well-being of others any more than is necessary for a healthy, meaningful life. The “others” in this principle would include not only humans but also many nonhumans, especially many nonhuman animals.”

While that principle is closely related to many well-vetted ideas in social justice and environmental ethics, they also point out that application of this principle in the governance of natural resources would be a radical departure from current practice.

Take this example. Whether wolves, lions, bears or some other large predator, advocates for carnivore conservation ask ranchers to accept that predators are going to kill-on rare occasion-some of their livestock. Livestock owners often say the losses are unfair.

Similar conflicts readily come to mind: hard-working citizens of modest means no longer allowed to harvest forests on their property for the sake of some rare species of bird; to protect a rare ecosystem-a mangrove, for example-people are dislocated; in a different instance of mangrove protection, a land developer claims the restrictions unfairly infringe on their livelihood.

Mindful of such conflicts, Vucetich and his team show how one can address those conflicts with the three principles of social justice: Desert as in deserving; need meaning what you require to realize a healthy, meaningful life; equality in the sense of avoiding inappropriately unequal wealth and resources.

“We applied those principles to three general scenarios that cover quite a few real-world conflicts,” Vucetich says. “In particular, we address cases where a conservation action would cause a group to abandon a traditional cultural activity, financial loss to some human stakeholders or an involuntary loss of employment.”

The team’s analysis suggests that current methods for resolving conservation conflicts would more likely realize both conservation and social justice if they better attended the three principles of equality, need and desert.



Posted in Democratization & Social Movements, Latest Post, Social Justice | Leave a comment
  • Youtube Channel