Trade union members, NGO activists and researchers met to discuss the connections between gender justice and tax justice in London, UK on June 30-July 1, 2016. Participants exchanged dialogue, analysis, campaign tools and training material about how gender inequalities are fuelled by tax injustice, in the global South as well as in Northern countries.
The event, organized by Public Services International with the support of the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, gathered expertise from countries as varied as Argentina, India, Nepal, Norway, Jordan, Thailand, Albania, Uruguay and England. Featured speakers included representatives from PSI, EPSU, Global Alliance for Tax Justice, ICRICT, AWID, Tax Justice Network, Oxfam, ActionAid, Christian Aid and APWLD.
Women’s rights have improved in many countries in recent decades, though progress is often slow and uneven due to lack of resources, even when policies are comprehensive and potentially transformative.
And where should the money to implement gender-equitable policies come from? From a fair tax system.
While the fight against corruption and non-transparency is making headlines, there is still much to be done to empower activists to articulate the ways tax policy is strongly linked to political stability, economic development, energy, education, health and related human rights.
Describing gender-sensitive budgeting and gender-responsive public services, quantifying hidden care work, and explaining technical terms and processes related to corporate tax practices – crucial concepts were explored by forum participants in a dynamic workflow that included postcards, skype calls, post-its and #taxpower labelled USB drives.
Participants shared tax avoidance case studies, including of Starbucks, Chevron and McDonald’s, and discussed features to build common campaigns on – for example, how many corporations seek public procurement contracts, funded by taxpayers, while practicing tax avoidance or evasion.
While the recent sentencing of the LuxLeaks whistle blowers underlines how Europe is protecting the current tax system that benefits multinational corporations over citizens, several European activists highlighted that interest in tax justice is growing among public figures (documentary directors, actors) and other social movements (such as UK Uncut).
No gender justice without tax justice
The answers to the major public finance questions are political and not merely technical. When debates about tax are unnecessarily complicated, they exclude workers and the community from fully understanding the implications and participating in that very debate. Ensuring women’s and gender perspectives as part of the tax debate strengthens the movement for tax justice and empowers women to have influence in the tax debate. Ensuring women trade union leaders are empowered with the necessary knowledge about tax and other economic issues strengthens unions and women’s leadership within them.
The objective is to “demystify the technical and build the hope” for tax justice to fund gender justice. The work ahead includes mobilizing women’s rights leaders inside trade unions to speak out for tax justice, and promoting the links to gender equality across the global tax justice movement.