the biographical sketches
Dr. Marilyn Waring is a farmer, an international economic consultant, and a senior lecturer on social policy at the Albany Campus, in New Zealand. Her farm is located to the north of Auckland. Farming makes her aware of environmental conserns. She does some of her best thinking in the goat's barn. Marilyn received an Honours Bachelor of Art, in Political Science and International Politics, from Victoria University, of Wellington, in 1973. At the age of twenty-two, Marilyn was elected Member of Parliament in the New Zealand. She retained this position from 1975 to 1984. She served as Chair of the Public Expenditures Committee, Senior Government Member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, and on the Disarmament and Arms Control Committee. As a Member of Parliament, she cast the decisive vote, to institute a policy of no nuclear weapons in New Zealand.
In 1988 she published, If Women Counted. In 1989, she was awarded a Doctorate of Philosophy, in Political Economy. In 1990, she was awarded the Research Council Grant, of the University of Waikato, to continue her work on female human rights. From 1991 to 1994, she was the Senior Lecturer on Public Policy, and the Politics of Human Rights, with the Department of Politics, at the University of Waikato, New Zealand. She has worked as a consultant for the Food and Agriculture Organization, the United Nations Development Fund for Women, the Territorial Government of Yukon, the Ford Foundation, and the Provincial Government of Ontario. She has also written, Three Masquerades: Essays on Equality, Work, and Human Rights. Her first book exposes the folly of governments that ignore the unpaid work of women. Why? Here is one example: In many parts of the world, the excrement of animals is a precious resource. Women follow herds of animals. They scoop up the excrement in their bare hands, and put it in baskets. Then they carry the baskets home. The loads are heavy and the work is hard. But it is a matter of survival. This resource is used for fertilizer, for fuel, and as a basic building material. Milk, skins, meat, and animal by-products, are all included in the livestock production accounts of a nation. But not excrement. Nor is it recorded in energy production accounts. The hours that women worked to collect, transport, and process it, are not recorded as work. The women's contribution to agriculture is not included or is underestimated, in the official statistics. A survey of an Asian country in 1994, reported that 92% of women, over ten years of age, were inactive. The survey also reported that only 0.5% of the female population had participated in agriculture.
The government statistician who was responsible for the survey, told Marilyn, "They expect me to count women who collect fodder, fuel, and water. That is every woman in the country. They must be crazy, if they think I will do that!" The exclusion of the unpaid work of women from national accounts raises crucial policy questions. The rhetoric that is used to exclude these activities, says that they have little effect on micro-economic activity, and have no effect on macro-economic activity. But the consequences are immense. In Nepal, for example, the World Bank estimated that eight million tons of excrement are burned for fuel each year. The use of excrement for fuel, instead of for fertilizer, is an example of import substitution. It represents a national saving. Debt would have resulted from the importation of commercial fuels, if women had not processed an alternative. The method by which unpaid work is counted, can also have significant policy implications. In Bangladesh, for example, the 1984 population census reported that 90% of the rural female labour force were housewives. This category was excluded from the survey's definition of economic activity. A questionnaire from the previous year, reported that the majority of rural housewives did food processing, and other agricultural duties. In 1992, Bangladesh conducted a survey of its labour force and continued to exclude housework from its revised definition. It included the unpaid agricultural work. Being counted in 1992 is no guarantee that the rural women of Bangladesh can have access to bank credit, or to agricultural classes at agricultural development projects. There is a documentary on this same topic, Who's Counting? Marilyn Waring on Sex, Lies and Global Economics.
Marilyn is known for explaining bewildering economic theories in simple language that is easily understood. She attributes this ability to her mastery of questioning. She says that when you question, most people are pleased, because they do not know the answer either. She defines economics as a value system, in which all goods and activities are related only to their monetary value. Activities that are hazardous to us and our environment are often regarded as productive. The weapons industry, for example. Marilyn has an alternative economic vision. It is based on the idea that time is the only thing that everyone has in equal abundance for exchange. Marilyn helped me to better understand why our world is out of balance. Read Marilyn's lecture, Will the World Economy Produce Only World Culture?
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