Outsourced labour: international surrogacy and women’s rights

Ashlee Betteridge writes on international surrogacy, and whether commercial surrogacy in a poor, developing country can ever be a fair or acceptable option.

“…the voice that we perhaps most need to hear in this debate is the voice of women who work as surrogates. As governments scramble for answers, both in developed and developing countries, it is this voice that is missing from policy debates.”

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Global Gag Plus, family planning and Australian aid

Ashlee Betteridge and Camilla Burkot write on the US decision to reinstate the Global Gag Rule, and urge Australia not to follow suit.

‘Australia must stay strong and stick to the current family planning guidelines that put women’s empowerment at the forefront. It should also consider increasing the percentage of aid spending that goes towards family planning and sexual and reproductive health to fill the vacuum that will be left as US aid-funded programs are forced to end. Since the Global Gag Plus executive order was signed, the Dutch government has announced the establishment of a global abortion fund to help fill the gap, for which Belgium has indicated its support and Canada has also expressed interest. Perhaps this is an initiative that Australia too should consider supporting.’

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Wonder Women aren’t (just) the stuff of fiction

Camilla Burkot and Ashlee Betteridge discuss the UN appointment of Wonder Woman as an ambassador for gender equality.

‘Why celebrate a cartoon character when there are so many real life women heroes (or, should we say, sheroes)? And why resort to tokenism via an online mascot when there are so many avenues for real and meaningful change left for the UN to pursue, both within its own halls and in the wider world?

It’s 2016. Gender equality shouldn’t need to draw on fictional characters to find a message. If Wonder Woman can attract some attention to gender equality among the noise (and abuse) online, perhaps that’s OK, but the real women of the real world need real power — not just a superhuman mascot to cheer for them.’

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No orphanages, or just ‘good’ ones? Books and controversies from Cambodia’s Australian orphanage doyennes

Australians have a lot to answer for when it comes to Cambodia’s ‘orphanage problem’, being among the most involved in visiting them as tourists, starting them up and financially supporting them. They’ve also been behind some that have been shut down in recent years. So it is no surprise that knee-deep in this debate around the future of residential care in Cambodia are two high-profile Australians who have started orphanages, but who are now changing tack – one more willingly than the other.

Ashlee writes on Cambodia’s orphanage problem, the push to end residential care, and a new book by a high-profile Australian who has changed her view on the orphanage model.

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Scholarships and women’s leadership: power, privilege and measurement

Ashlee analysed a recent evaluation of the impact of Australia Award scholarships on women’s leadership in developing countries. While overall, she felt the evaluation was positive, she highlighted gaps in the analysis and in the use of tracer studies of former scholarship recipients.

The tracer studies, as interpreted by this evaluation, allow measurement of leadership in three main ways: whether the individual was promoted on return from their scholarship; whether they had increased responsibilities; and whether they were transferring skills to others through formal or informal channels.

This is leadership narrowly defined—it does little to tell us about women’s true influence or power (recent ODI research shows this does not necessarily go hand and hand with increasing access to higher positions), and it doesn’t venture beyond career development markers to look at women’s leadership in a broader, contextual sense.

Read the full blog post here.