International Women’s Day: Fighting the system that exploits us

International Women’s Day: Fighting the system that exploits us

OVER THE last decade, the number of women in the global labour force has
increased by 200 million. Now women account for 40% of the workforce.

But according to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), women are
less likely to hold regular paid jobs and more likely to be in the informal
economy outside legal and regulatory frameworks. Women generally earn less
than men for the same type of work, even in female-dominated occupations.

The vast majority of women today, no matter what part of the world they
live in, are hit hardest by the neo-liberal attacks carried out against the
working class as a whole. This will not only lead to an increase in women’s
poverty and suffering but will also lead to the political radicalisation of
more women and working-class women in particular.


Poverty, sexual violence and lack of education have led to an increase in
the number of women living with HIV/Aids in every region of the world over the
past two years.

According to the World Health Organisation, the sharpest increase – of 56%
– occurred in East Asia, followed by a 46% increase in Eastern Europe and
Central Asia. In sub-Saharan Africa, the worst affected region, close to 60%
of adults living with HIV are women.

Young women aged 15-24 are three or four times more likely to be infected
than young men of the same age.

By July 2004, only 440,000 people had access to Aids treatment out of the
six million who need it in the neo-colonial world.

Some politicians, like chancellor Gordon Brown, have recently developed a
concern for Africa. But Africa and other deprived areas of the world will not
be lifted out of poverty as long as capitalism exists. The money promised to
those countries is peanuts compared to what is spent on continuing the
imperialist occupation of Iraq.

In order to successfully fight HIV/Aids and poverty, a clear break with
capitalism is needed which will free those countries from the dictatorship of
the IMF and the World Bank. As part of that international struggle, the
pharmaceutical industry needs to be nationalised and taken under workers’
control and management. This is the only way of ensuring a future and a life
worth living for the masses in the neo-colonial world.

The potential, readiness and capability of the African working class to
unite and fight against attacks on their living standards is shown by
public-sector strikes in South Africa. Nigeria, the most populous country in
Africa, has seen general strikes against the government’s hike in fuel prices.
In both cases, women have played a large part in making these strikes solid.


George Bush, leaning on the Christian religious right in the US, has
launched a major attack on women’s rights and the gay community.

Bush’s re-election marks a setback for the women’s movement. But it will
also provoke major opposition and a fightback.

The Million Women march in defence of abortion rights, which took place in
the USA in April 2004, shows the willingness of women to struggle. Socialist
Alternative, the US affiliate to the CWI, intervened in this, the biggest ever
women’s rights demonstration in the USA. They raised the need to build a new
working-class party and demanded free abortion on demand as well as free
health and childcare.

Women and single mothers in particular will be hit hardest by the bosses’
offensive in countries like Germany. The so-called reform of the unemployment
legislation is part of the biggest impoverishment programme in post-war German
history. It enforces traditional gender roles by taking the partner’s income
into account when calculating unemployment benefit.

Unemployment benefit is to be cut after one year of unemployment. This will
discriminate against single mothers who struggle to find child care. Child
poverty, which has already reached a record high in one of the richest
countries in the world, will increase even further.

In Russia, pensioners have also started the fightback against attacks by
the Putin government. Mass demonstrations, road blockades and other forms of
protest have attracted large numbers of women pensioners and led to a partial

Women are often the most determined and committed fighters in the struggle
to defend living standards, wages and working conditions. This was highlighted
by the heroic strike of nursery nurses across Scotland. Around 4,000, mainly
women workers, took part in a nine-week all-out strike.

This shows the change in consciousness and gives a glimpse of the
determination of women workers in action.

In Belgium, Linkse Socialistische Partij – Mouvement pour une Alternative
Socialiste (LSP/MAS), has initiated a youth march for jobs, free education and
against racism for 19 March.

LSP/ MAS calls for decent wages, the right to a full-time job, proper
funding of public services such as nurseries and an end to sexism and racism
in the workplaces.

By doing so, LSP/MAS will try to encourage young working-class women to
make their voice heard on that day.

New workers’ party

Today, there are still women internationally who do not have the right to
vote. But where they do, working-class women, like the working class in
general, find it difficult to find a party to vote for that defends their

The elections in Afghanistan held in September 2004 were used as one reason
to legitimise the invasion of the country after the horrific 9/11 attacks.
Special attention was given to the fact that 40% of the registered voters were

This was presented as a huge step forward for women’s rights in
Afghanistan. While we welcome the fact that women could vote, the situation
for women in Afghanistan is still largely determined by feudal traditions and
remnants of the Taliban implemented legislation. The same is true for other
parts of the world.

The Socialist Movement in Pakistan, which is affiliated to the CWI, pays
particular attention to women’s rights. They hold public meetings and special
workshops on domestic violence. They are also involved in a campaign to
abolish so-called Islamic laws.

As a consequence, activists of the campaign have received threats from
religious fundamentalists.


A very important part of the work is the unionisation of women in the
informal sector and the campaign for a mass working-class party which would be
at the forefront of campaigns for women’s rights.

Working-class women are not represented by existing female MPs, ministers
or presidents. US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, Gemany’s health minister
Ulla Schmidt, the British education minister Ruth Kelly or the Sri Lankan
President Chandrika all attack the working class.

The two Belgian ministers that have most viciously attacked the strikes by
the largely female health sector are women.

Socialists welcome and strive for a greater participation of working class
women in politics and political activity.

But for women to live life free from poverty, discrimination, fear of
violence, sexual harassment etc., it is necessary to overthrow the
profit-ridden capitalist system.

This can only be achieved by a mass movement of the working class that will
nationalise and take into public control the big corporations and companies
which have accumulated enormous wealth by exploiting the working class

Working-class women will be vital in this struggle that will eventually
lead to the emancipation of humanity and true equality between men and women.