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The OAS/FTAA and Womyn
How the OAS Violates Women's Rights

The OAS/FTAA and Womyn

by Aurita Withers

Wom[y]n constitute half of the world’s population, perform nearly two-thirds of its work hours, receive one-tenth of the world’s income and own less than one-hundredth of the worlds property” (united nations). Organizations like the OAS and agreements like the FTAA do significantly more to maintain these inequalities than they do to alleviate them.

The OAS does have a body dedicated to womyn’s issues and both the OAS and FTAA discuss some of the issues impacting womyn. However, final decisions in the OAS are made by a group of (almost exclusively) men. Womyn’s issues are not as much of a priority of the OAS as trade is, which almost always directly conflicts with womyn’s interests. As a result, the OAS and FTAA pays lip service to womyn and the only meaningful action that takes place surrounding womyn’s issues is when it benefits the corporate good.

Womyn are systemically excluded from decision making processes throughout the Americas. If you take a look at the OAS web page (, there is a picture of the OAS general assembly. It is a picture of a group of elite men. Womyn are not in the upper levels of decision making in the OAS, nor are they in the governments which are members of the OAS (there are a few women at this level, but they are tokenistic and largely forced to work in the interest of men). The OAS recognizes every country in the Americas (except Cuba) as democratic, how are any of these governments democratic or representative of the people when they largely exclude womyn? They aren’t. Women have been removed from decision making which results in any of the decisions made, which have any significant standing, are in the interests of (elite) men.

The OAS/FTAA works to “foster free trade” in the interest of corporations. What is the corporation? Vandana Shivahas described it as: created both as a way of getting more power and allowing those who own them to be able to escape the responsibility for wielding this power. The corporation was a fiction imagined in the likeness of white men with property. That is what a corporation is: a white man with property. Yet, because it has been abstracted from these white men with property, people do not see them as being responsible. (Sharma and Campbell, 72) As the corporation works in the interests of white men with property, the OAS/FTAA, therefore, also works in the interest of white men with property. The FTAA says it will work towards “straightening the role of wom[y]n in society.” The FTAA, like most other male dominated organizations, views womyn’s role in society as “underproductive”. How is it that a demographic group can perform two-thirds of the worlds work and still be underproductive?

The FTAA states that it will “promote the fulfillment of wom[y]n’s potential, enhancing their productivity though education, training skill development and employment” and that it will “adopt appropriate measures to improve wom[y]n’s ability to earn income beyond traditional occupations, achieve economic self-reliance, and ensure wom[y]n’s equal access to the labor market at all employment levels, the social security systems, the credit system, and the acquisition of goods and land.” Doesn’tthat sound good?

On paper almost everything the FTAA and OAS say sounds very good. However, the realities of how the OAS/FTAA goes about achieving its goals have tremendous human costs and further marginalize oppressed groups. What the FTAA means when it says it will increase the productivity of womyn is that it will increase the amount of paid labour for womyn. Current economic measurements do not factor in most of womyn’s work as it is performed in the home or doing subsistence agriculture. Womyn’s work largely focuses on reproducing society. Womyn’s work is the backbone of society, because of this work, families are fed, clothed, kept warm and educated. However, womyn’s work is largely unpaid and, therefore, not considered to beproductive.

The OAS/FTAA works to force many Latin American womyn into the paid labour sector in order to make them productive. This occurs by making it impossible for people who had once been community or self sufficient to remain so. The robbing of indigenous and peasant land and its transition into cash crops, the flooding of land for hydro projects and the destruction of if for oil drilling, mining, logging and other mega projects are always that the OAS uses to force people, and particularly womyn into themarket economy.

Once forced off of their land, many womyn are must work in sweat shops and other low paying as it is often the only employment available for “unskilled” womyn. Sweat shops employ about 90% womyn and they rely on easily exploitable and expendable work forces. Because of the FTAA sweat shops will become even more common throughout the Americas than they are now as labour laws are reduced or eliminated if they interfere with profit.

Although many womyn in the “Third World” are forced to work in the paid labour sector because they can no longer support their families by other means, they continue to maintain most or all of their domestic duties. This means that womyn who once worked full time caring for and educating children now work full time in the market economy as well. Many women in the “Third World” are working two or more working days in a single day as a result of the spread of capitalist globalization.

Because womyn retain most of the responsibility for the care of children, the ill and elderly, use the forests, gather water, utilize inter-tidal zones, the ocean and other sensitive water bodies, and perform much of the world’s subsistence agriculture, they are often the first to recognize environmental problems. The devastating impact that OAS endorsed mega-projects and the FTAA have on the environment has an extremely negative impact on womyn, particularly in the “Third World” (both in kanada, the u$a and Latin America).

There is great diversity in the lives and experiences of the womyn of the Americas. The OAS/FTAA impacts many different womyn differently, but what remains constant is that the OAS/FTAA works to maintain patriarchy, rather than eliminate it. The OAS/FTAA does discuss “womyn’s issues” but that is far from sufficient. As long as the OAS/FTAA, and other organizations and agreements like them, exist patriarchy will remain a strong oppressive force in the Americas was designed and run off software by Radical Designs and hosted on