From Trade Union World|
Africa: the cost of adjustment 1/5/1999
"In Africa it is we, the women, who are the first victims of the structural adjustment programmes which have led to a sharp fall in public expenditure. Far less has been spent on education and health, a situation further aggravated by the devaluation of the CFA franc in 1998 which pushed up the cost of social services. As schools become less accessible, children's education becomes the preserve of the privileged few, while with a female population that is 70 per cent illiterate, health education doesn't go far. The mortality rate is also higher among women, who have to give birth in clinics far away from their homes.
The social cost is enormous. Poverty is spreading rapidly, in the towns and the rural areas. Many men are losing their jobs in the civil service and we are the ones who have to find other means of survival." Binta Sarr is the chairperson of Senegal's Association for the Promotion of Women (APROFES). Addressing an international conference held recently in Brussels, she spoke on behalf of these African women who are "convinced from their personal experience that the failure of development strategies is due largely to the failure to take into account the need for the social, economic and cultural advancement of women".
Binta Sarr was also critical of the policies applied in her country. "The government talks about growth, but we have not benefited from it, it is used mainly to help repay part of the debt." Like many African women trade unionists, she is concerned about the privatisations currently taking place within the framework of structural adjustment programmes and the sale of whole sections of the economy to foreign enterprises. "We have no control over the extraction or management of our resources. And the government is taking a harder line towards workers."
Views expressed in Trade Union World (except editorials) are not necessarily those of the ICFTU.