IN THIS POSTING
– Report on International Working Women’s Conference (IWWC) — Paris, 29 October 2022
– Call for 8 March 2023
– Committee for the Defence of Afghan Women
– The message of the “Spontaneous Movement of Afghan Women” to the International Conference of Working Women
– Afghan Women Delegates Speak Out: “We want to know what other women are going through in other countries”
– Some of the presentations to the International Working Women’s Conference: Mya Shone (US), Desiree Rojas (US), Myrlène Thelot (Haiti)
NOTE: Transcription and translation of other speakers to follow.
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Report on IWWC: A Fierce Struggle in All Countries to Win and Regain Rights (published in Tribune des Travailleurs, newsweekly of the POID, France)
On 29 October the International Working Women’s Conference was held, followed by the World Conference Against War and Exploitation, For a Workers’ International. Both of these initiatives were taken within the framework of the International Workers’ Committee (IWC). The conference brought together delegates from 19 countries. It was convened by a joint appeal from Rubina Jamil, General Secretary of the All Pakistan Trade Union Federation (APTUF), and Christel Keiser, National Secretary of the Democratic Independent Workers Party of France (POID). It had been postponed due to the COVID epidemic.
Opening the meeting, Christel Keiser began with a historical reminder:
“In 1907, Rosa Luxemburg and Clara Zetkin, two activists of the German Socialist Party, founded the Socialist Women’s International, as part of the Workers’ International.
“Three years later, the Second International Conference of Socialist Women, meeting in Copenhagen (Denmark), unanimously passed a motion stressing the need for an international women’s rights day. In 1915, in the midst of the imperialist war, the Socialist Women’s Conference met in Bern (Switzerland). It was an anti-war conference. It brought together 28 delegates. And on 8 March 1917, on International Women’s Day, Russian women demonstrated in St Petersburg to demand bread, peace and freedom. It was this demonstration that was to be the starting point of the Russian Revolution, which would lead to October 1917.”
This reminder is necessary because “it was more than a hundred years ago and women are still in the vanguard of the fight against war”. In a word: “Much has changed in terms of the status of women, but equality between women and men is far from being achieved…”.
In Iran, weeks after the death of Mahsa Amini, the mobilisation continues despite the bloody repression. It’s a mobilisation that first developed against the terrible fate reserved for women by the regime and that has broadened to include demands relating to the disastrous living conditions imposed on the entire population. Once again, the link between the democratic demands of women and the social demands of the vast majority of the population was confirmed. More than 250 demonstrators have been killed. But women continue to demonstrate, supported, it should be noted, by many men.
In Iran, Afghanistan and all over the world, women have no choice but to wage a relentless struggle against the patriarchal yoke, which is inseparable from the struggle against capitalist exploitation.
It’s a hard fight to prevent backsliding. The right to abortion is seriously under attack in the United States, as it is in Argentina, where it was legalised in 2020 thanks to a huge mobilisation of women, but where, on a daily basis, there are many obstacles to this right. In France, abortion centres are closing down one after the other, along with the maternity wards in which they are based. We can never say it enough: A right without means is not a right!
Why are the advances in women’s rights systematically under attack? “The capitalist system,” noted Christel Keiser, “which is in constant decay, is increasingly leading to the destruction of productive forces, and in particular the main one: labour power. In this context, the most vulnerable sectors of the working class, women, young people, and immigrants, are the first victims of the policies of governments in the service of the capitalists.”
This is particularly true for immigrant workers, and even more so for immigrant women. “They suffer the double penalty, that which is linked to their “status” as women and that linked to their “status” as immigrants, or even a triple penalty when, in addition, and this is often the case, they are victims of racism.
In France too, women are victims of double oppression (at work and at home). “In my country,” Christel Keiser continued, “even if the Labour Code guarantees equal pay for women and men, we know that the reality is quite different: overall, women earn 28.5% less than men. For equal working hours, women earn 16.8% less than men.
“As for domestic violence, in a country as supposedly civilised as France, the figures are chilling. 122 women were killed by their spouse or ex-spouse, compared with 102 in 2020. Of course, everyone condemns these murders, including the government. And yet, the means deployed by this same government to combat these murders are very inadequate. It would be enough to take a tiny part of the billions offered to the capitalists over the last two and a half years to create, for example, the thousands of housing units needed to shelter women victims of violence.
“We must also talk about the violence against women used as a weapon of war. This is true in Ukraine where women are raped by Russian soldiers. Let us add to this horror the impossibility for these women, refugees in Poland, to have an abortion. For although abortion is permitted in the case of rape, it is still necessary to prove the rape within the allotted time. To do this, you have to present a certificate from the prosecutor attesting that you have been raped. And before that there is an investigation…
“The struggle of women for their specific demands, the struggle for equal pay, for legal equality, the struggle for the conquest and re-conquest of democratic rights, and the struggle against patriarchy require that they be closely linked to the struggle for the defence of the labour movement as a whole, to the struggle against capitalist exploitation.
“That is why the work and conclusions of our conference will be put forward for discussion by all delegates to the World Conference Against War and Exploitation.
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Rubina Jamil spoke about the situation of women in South Asia, who suffer oppression, are killed and are subjected to domestic violence. Afghan women are victims of the Taliban who control them and prevent them from going to school. “I am worried about the repression of young girls who demonstrate in Iran and are repressed by the men’s police. The mobilisation is growing and we support it.”
“In the first three months of 2020, violence against women has increased by 200% in Pakistan. Women, who make up an increasing proportion of the workforce, are targets of sexual harassment in the workplace; 93% of women working in the public and private sectors say they face forms of harassment. They also suffer the consequences of so-called ‘black laws’. Sharia law makes women second-class citizens. Any woman who is raped must provide two men as witnesses. In the name of honour, she can even be murdered. Women who fight against these laws can be arrested for blasphemy.
“Women also have to fight against difficult working conditions, aggravated by the economic situation, with the government denying all basic rights, such as the right to unionise, despite their governments’ signing International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions. They are subjected to forced labour, they want to get out of this slavery, to have job security, to have access to a salary equal to that of men.” Rubina Jamil concluded by saying: “We refuse war, we want peace, we want to be able to organise our lives, our work, we don’t want this feudalism and patriarchy anymore. We want to defeat patriarchy and capitalism. This conference must be a point of support for the struggle of women and girls!”
Many presentations pointed to the situation of women workers, victims of double exploitation, as exploited women workers, but also as mothers and as women.
For Liliana Plumeda, an activist from the Political Organisation of the People and Workers (Mexico), “patriarchy and capitalism are two sides of the same coin”. Myrlene Thelot (Haiti), returning to the situation in her country, recalled that “the situation in Haiti is the result of 200 years of political and social marginalisation of women, considered as second-class citizens in the capitalist system”. She concluded with a call to “fight against this capitalist system that exploits in blood, sweat and tears”.
Patriarchy in India is based on the denial of maternal descent. On a child’s birth certificate, only the father’s name appears, on the pretext that he brings money into the home,” explained Maruti Aba Patil, a trade union leader.
The women bear witness to the ravages of the decaying capitalist system which, in order to ensure its survival, spreads war, worsens the conditions of exploitation, calls into question rights, imposing considerable backward steps in all areas. Thus, not only has the right to abortion not been acquired for all women, but it is even being challenged, brutally or insidiously, in many countries.
In Spain, Reme Martin explained, the right to abortion is recognised, but there are still entire provinces where it cannot be applied because doctors refuse to do so, under strong pressure from the Catholic Church. In the Philippines, it took twenty years for women to gain access to contraception; they are now fighting for the right to abortion, insists Judy Ann Miranda, secretary general of the Workers’ Party. “In Italy,” stated Monica Grilli, a member of Tribuna Libera’s women workers’ commission and national trade union leader in education, “Giorgia Meloni, a fascist and the first woman elected head of government, is a woman against women”. The Ministry for the Family has become the Ministry for Natality and the new minister denounces abortion as “the dark side of motherhood”.
Mya Shone, a member of the Socialist Organizer executive committee in the United States, denounced the fact that “millions of American women are now being denied the right to an abortion right in some states, even in cases of rape and incest. It is a war on women that forces unwanted births on them. It is a class issue because this challenge primarily affects working class women. The Supreme Court’s decision against abortion concentrates the whole bankruptcy of the political system.”
Mya Shone highlighted the silence of the Democratic Party, which has not taken any of the necessary measures even though it has the means to do so. In Benin, says Liliane Gnonlonfoun, a nurse’s aide and national leader of the National Health Services Union, the right to abortion exists, but nothing is in place to implement it. This leaves women open to illegal abortions and risks their lives.
Many delegates raised the issue of the war and its consequences. The Scholz government, denounced Vera Schade, member of the Die Linke party (Germany), is pushing for war. “A special fund of 100 billion euros has been created to finance the war at the expense of the social sector, education, women and migrants. Instead of financing armaments, we should finance education.”
The issue of the exploitation of the working class, and in particular women, ran through the conference. 59% of Haitians live on $2.42 a day. Women’s wages are 32% lower than men’s. “There are 50 million workers in the Philippines, 20 million of whom are informal workers, the majority of whom are women, who have no social protection,” said Judy Ann Miranda. According to Aime, 77% of part-time jobs in Belgium are held by women. Isabelle Michaud, a trade union leader in France in the field of social services, recalled some figures: 59% of employees paid at the minimum wage are women, 79% of part-time employees are women, a third of female employees are victims of harassment at work… She stressed this point: “Work sharing would be the solution. That way, agreements and benefits would remain the same for employees in the same job, whether they are men or women.
In Germany, women’s wages are on average 18% lower than men’s. As elsewhere, the pandemic and its chaotic management by the government have made the situation worse. Unpaid domestic work has put an even greater burden on women. They have suffered redundancies in many sectors. Domestic violence has also increased significantly in 2021.
Marioara Cretan, member of the Women’s Committee of the Workers’ League (Romania), reflected on the link between crisis situations and the fate of women: “Poverty, discrimination, violence, exploitation, this is what is offered to women. Male labour migration destroys families. The risk of war is real, endangering the lives of men and children. The fight for women’s emancipation is also the fight for life, against war”. In Benin, women are harassed at work by their bosses and male colleagues:
“If you don’t keep up, you quit! Pinar Erol, a member of the Workers’ Own Party (Turkey), denounced the precarious work imposed on women in Turkey. According to the OECD, 59% of women are in paid work, but this figure falls to 29% in Turkey. Domestic violence is terrible: 229 women were killed by their partners in 2021! The regime is increasingly repressive, but women are not giving up.
We are the continuity of the Socialist International, the workers’ movement must integrate the struggle for women’s independence. Lula (Mexico), one of the first women welders in the oil sector, rejected the patriarchal system, the repression and violence suffered by women, abused, assaulted by corrupt union leaders. A meeting was held at the factory gates for democracy in the union. The scab (company) union was rejected. Judith Somi warned of the dire situation of the Rom population in Hungary and explained the help she was giving to a colony of 300 people living on one site in very precarious conditions. The women have to fend for themselves because the men go off to work far away on the black market.
Violence against women is increasing everywhere: murders, rapes, kidnappings and war-related suffering. “58% of femicides in Latin America occur in Mexico,” explains Liliana Plumeda. “Young and poor women are the most affected. Women are out in the streets to denounce this situation. The government, which claims to defend the poor, is embarrassed by these social movements. It spends more money on monitoring these movements than on fighting drug trafficking. Many comrades are arrested. We demand the release of these women, as well as those imprisoned for having abortions.”
In the Philippines, activists and trade unionists are persecuted by the government. A member of the Workers’ Party was shot in the head in broad daylight. Ana (Colombia) recalled that on 21 April 2021, “Colombia was on strike and that young people and women rose up against the regime that serves capitalism, which denies young people any future, tramples on our rights and destroys our lives.” She sounded the alarm: “Misery, rape, the denial of women’s rights provoke social explosions that are repressed in blood. Young people have lost their lives, many are imprisoned. We have no news of those who have disappeared. We are calling for help to prevent the murder of the imprisoned youth.
Olga (Belgium) is the mother of a 25-year-old son who lives in Russia. She testified on behalf of Russian and Ukrainian women, victims of the war, who not only suffer a decrease in their income but also rebel against the loss of a son, a husband, a brother and “no longer fear anyone”. “Military mobilization [forced conscription] is socially unjust”, it affects peasant and working-class families in the poorest regions, where there is no work, by offering good wages! For Olga, “the war will end thanks to the protests and mobilisations of Ukrainian, Russian and international women”.
Young people are particularly affected by the governments’ war policy. Camille, a student and activist of the Federation of Young Revolutionaries (FJR) in France, described “the precariousness that particularly affects students: food precariousness, lack of housing, lack of means in the universities, undermining of the value of diplomas… To all this can be added the menstrual precariousness for female students, the underhanded assault on the right to abortion, the lack of childcare for young student mothers, forced to stop their studies, the problems of aggression or harassment… What perspective does this government offer?” She added, “The youth sees their future compromised in the labour market. The fact that most precarious jobs are already held by women doesn’t help. Ironically, the only area where women are now included and welcomed with open arms is the army. It is for these reasons that the young people of the FJR are fighting against the war abroad and the war here at home.
Gazal Aziz had to leave her country, Afghanistan, a few months ago, “with a broken heart and a mountain of sadness, but also a will to fight and live!” She testified to the consequences of the Taliban’s return to power: “The Taliban are pushing for forced marriages of children with older men, parents are selling their children because it is a source of income. This strengthens my determination to fight them, this conference must be translated into real life”.
Faced with these difficult situations, women have not given up the fight. On the contrary! From the demonstrations of Russian women on 8 March 1917 for “bread, peace and freedom”, the starting point of the Russian revolution, to the demonstrations of Afghan women in front of the Iranian embassy in Kabul with the slogans: “Iranian women have risen, it’s our turn”; “Say no to dictatorship, from Kabul to Iran”, women are at the forefront of mobilisations for their rights and against capitalism.
In Colombia, Ana reports, “in the neighbourhoods, the inhabitants, led by young people, are organising themselves in a national popular coordination”. Reme Martin recounted the struggle of Spanish women, who were kept out of work during the Franco dictatorship and afterwards, to receive a pension of 1,800 euros. Pascal Corbex, FO leader in social action (France), explained the situation of women in his sector: “Women make up 90% of the social action sector. This professional sector is characterised by underemployment and part-time work, most often forced. Our current trade union battle is mainly about pay issues, as pay scales are often below the minimum wage. We are calling for wages to be raised in line with inflation. The lack of financial means in the social sector is related to the system of capitalist exploitation, and its counterpart, the unprecedented increase in war budgets.”
In Haiti, women in the textile industry are the first to demonstrate for better working conditions. In Mexico, in the face of the U.S. government’s war on migrants at the border with Mexico, in the face of exploitation in the maquiladoras, women are also mobilising. The oil workers’ struggle was launched by women. Liliana Plumeda stated: “We refuse to fight only under the flag of gender. We are against patriarchy and against the exploitation of the bosses. But it is crucial to build the women’s movement in struggle for their demands in connection with the workers’ movement and to build independent organisations that take charge of them. I
In Germany, women are in the vanguard of the struggle against redundancies, against understaffing. Marisela Ortega (Mexico) is an activist in the Mexicali Resiste organisation, which fights against the maquiladoras [border sweatshops), “these subsidiaries of foreign companies, mainly American, which benefit from tax exemptions”. She recalled the five years of struggle in the factories for a better life for women.
Stéphanie Faury (France), union delegate and POID activist, is “sensitive to the condition of women, as a mother, nurse and political activist working in working-class neighbourhoods”. Gynaecology centres are closing. Many women are in a very precarious situation and receive low wages. “We help particularly exploited women to become aware of their right to defend themselves and to organise, to understand that only a workers’ government will be able to take measures against precariousness, to open crèches, to increase wages…
Report prepared by Martine Dupuy, Catherine Liscoet, Nicole Mas and Jeanne Sauvage
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Rubina Jamil (APTUF-Pakistan) at microphone
International Working Women’s Conference
29 October 2022
Call for 8 March 2023
We, delegates to the International Working Women’s Conference, held on 29 October 2022, call to uphold the continuity of the conferences of the Socialist Women’s International, especially in the fight for the defence and the conquest of our rights, but also the fight against war.
Every day we see more and more the incapacity of the capitalist system to obtain effective equality between men and women and to enable the emancipation of women.
On the contrary, all our governments, in different forms, are constantly undermining our rights in all areas (democratic, social, legal, etc.).
The struggle of women for their specific demands— the fight for equal pay, the fight for the conquest and re-conquest of democratic rights, the fight against patriarchy and for our emancipation —requires that our struggle be closely linked to the fight for the defence of the workers’ movement as a whole, to the fight against capitalist exploitation.
We propose to carry this message in our respective countries in appropriate forms, on 8 March 2023, International Women’s Rights Day in the framework of the initiatives taken (public meetings, rallies, demonstrations, etc.).
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International Working Women’s Conference
29 October 2022
Constitution of the International Committee for the Defence of Afghan Women
We, the delegates to the International Working Women’s Conference, held on 29 October 2022, having received the message of the Spontaneous Afghan Women’s Movement addressed to our conference, decide to form an International Committee for the Defence of Afghan Women who are demonstrating against the regime.
The message describes the persecution of Afghan women by the Taliban regime as well as the protests against the regime by women targeted by these attacks.
We hereby decide to make the message of our Afghan sisters widely known in our respective countries, particularly the six demands that appear in the conclusion of this text (see below). In order to implement the demands that they have put before us, we call on all women and men committed to the defence of democratic and women’s rights to join the international committee in order to organise the campaign.
The International Committee to Defend Afghan Women was formed by:
AIME Emilie, teacher;
DARMONT Eléonore, student;
K. Olga, social worker;
GNONLONFOUN Liliane, trade unionist;
LAPERTE Marcela, Independent Movement for the Rights of the People (MIDP);
KEISER Christel, POID national secretary;
BAHLOUL Maïa, student, FJR (Federation of Young Revolutionaries);
TIZZI Djemilla, trade unionist and POID member;
MAS Nicole, member of the POID national bureau;
ADOUE Camille, student, FJR member;
LISCOËT Catherine, retired, member of the POID national bureau;
DUPUY Martine, national secretary of the POID;
MICHAUD Isabelle, CGT trade unionist;
TEMPEREAU Lucile, young worker and POID member;
SAUVAGE Jeanne, professor and researcher;
FAURY Stéphanie, CGT-union officer at the Nemours hospital, South 77 Hospital Centre;
ROUDIL Isabelle, trade union officer in social work;
CORBEX Pascal, trade union officer in social work;
FAUCHEUX Patrice, trade unionist;
ALBERT Lara, member of Die Linke, IG Metall trade unionist;
SCHADE Vera, member of Die Linke;
THELOT Myrlène, Haïti Liberté;
SOMI Judit, working-class activist;
GRILLI Monica, teacher, delegate and trade union leader;
PANTELLA Agata, teacher;
DIAZ CRUZ Maria de Lourdes, Movimiento Nacional por la Transformacion Petrolera;
ORTEGA Marisela, Institute of political education of MORENA;
PLUMEDA Liliana Aguilar, Internationalist Communist League;
SUAREZ Lidia, Professor National Teachers University;
JAMIL Rubina, All Pakistan Trade Union Federation;
MIRANDA Judy Ann, Workers’ Party (PM);
CRETAN Marioara, League of Romanian Workers;
MARTIN Reme, retired, working-class activist;
BACCHUS Natalia, assistant to the President, Baltimore Teachers Union (Maryland)*;
DIAMONTE Brown, President, Baltimore Teachers Union (AFT, AFL-CIO) (Maryland)*;
KHONSARI Niloufar, lawyer and immigrant workers’ rights activist;
KNOX Lisa, lawyer and immigrant workers’ rights activist;
ROJAS Désirée, President of the Sacramento Chapter of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (AFL-CIO);
SHONE Mya, Socialist Organizer.
* in a personal capacity
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The message of the “Spontaneous Movement of Afghan Women” to the International Conference of Working Women
Today, Afghan women live under the most misogynistic regime, where they are deprived of all their human and civil rights. For this reason, Afghan women activists formed their own protest movement after the Taliban rule in August 2021, which has been organizing women’s protests in the cities of Kabul, Jalalabad, Herat, Mazar-e-Sharif and Bamiyan with the slogans (bread, work, freedom).
When women protest and demonstrate against the violation of their rights, the Taliban police brutally suppress them, beat them and threaten them with prison and death. Taliban security forces prevent journalists from filming, taking pictures and reporting the Taliban’s violent behavior with protesting women.
Taliban intelligence identifies women activists and participants in demonstrations, arrests them during demonstrations, at the end of protests or later from their homes and imprisons and tortures them in their official or private prisons. (The new report of the United Nations September 2022: confirms the existence of private Taliban prisons and the torture of prisoners)
The Taliban usually attack the houses of protesting women at night, after arresting them, they transfer them to unknown places and then deny the responsibility of the arrest and attack. It is not known how many women protesters and freedom fighters are imprisoned in the official and private prisons of the Taliban and in what condition they are. Because domestic and foreign human rights organizations and the families of prisoners do not have access to them. Some women who were released from Taliban prisons spoke of torture, sexual assault, threats to kill family members, lack of access to a lawyer, and lack of communication with family members.
In addition to dozens of women fighters and protesters who are in terrible Taliban prisons, or tens of others who have been killed by people affiliated with the Taliban, there are currently hundreds of other fighting women as socialist, secular, feminist, civil society activists, women’s rights defenders, journalists, teachers, university and high school students, and housewives under the prosecution of the Taliban and they are forced to live in hiding. While the intelligence of the Taliban is in control of all the cities and regions of Afghanistan, it is possible to identify their whereabouts at any moment, and for this reason, the lives of wanted protesting women are in serious danger.
Therefore, the demand of the “Spontaneous Movement of Afghan Women” from women fighters and progressive forces in France, Germany, America, and other countries of the world is as follows:
1. Forming an International Committee for the Defense of Afghan Women Protesters
2. Requesting support from major international organizations defending women’s rights and human rights in order to identify women imprisoned in official and private Taliban prisons
3. Launching an international campaign for the release of protesting women from Taliban prisons
4. Lobbying for the protection of wanted and endangered women in Afghanistan
5. Creating international women’s solidarity with women fighters in Afghanistan
6. Collecting financial aid for the families of imprisoned and wanted women
— Spontaneous Movement of Afghan Women
October 28, 2022- Kabul
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Afghan Women Delegates Speak Out: “We want to know what other women are going through in other countries”
Ghazal and Sodaba Aziz left Afghanistan a few months ago and live in France. At the crossroads between these two countries, they give their point of view.
G: My name is Ghazal, I come from Afghanistan and I am 22 years old. We arrived in France five months ago. I was a second-year dental student when the Taliban came to power.
S: I am Sodaba, I am 30 years old and I am a doctor. When the Taliban came to power in 2021, we went to Pakistan before coming to France.
G: We are independent activists and we were activists in our country when we lived there.
S: The themes of the International Working Women’s Conference – war, exploitation, and the living conditions of women workers – is something I experienced first-hand. We wanted to know what other women were going through in other countries.
In my country, Islamic law is imposed. If a girl is raped, she needs the testimony of four innocent men to be heard so as not to go to jail. It is the men who decide whether she can have an abortion.
When I was working as a doctor, I met a woman who already had four or five children and had just given birth to triplets. Her family was congratulating themselves, because they were all boys. Because it was dangerous for her to become pregnant again, a hysterectomy had to be performed. But it was not her decision. Her husband was not there, her husband’s brother decided for her and refused.
It was terribly difficult to face such a scenario. It’s her body, but she couldn’t decide, and her health was put at risk because she is seen as a machine for producing children and she has to continue to be able to produce. We need practical solutions, we can’t accept the Taliban government.
G: The US and NATO are the main culprits. In 2021, NATO had an agreement with the Taliban and Qatar. A “peace” delegation was sent, which was supposed to bring peace to Afghanistan. The Taliban regime was re-established. The U.S. came and went, leaving things in an even worse state. NATO is responsible, but so are all the countries that support the war and fund NATO rather than schools or education.
S: They came here supposedly to bring peace and destroy the Taliban regime. It lasted twenty years. That’s a very long time. When they came, my sister was an infant, now she is a young adult and nothing has changed. Things are even worse.
S: Education is a central issue, because allowing all girls to go to school is essential. If a woman knows her rights, she can pass that on to her children. It is because I was able to study, and because my mother explained to me that men and women are equal, that I was able to have this awareness. It is important to be able to educate women, because they are the ones who look after the children and can pass on what they know.
But at the moment, we can’t give such education to girls in Afghanistan. The Taliban have banned women from schools, girls only go to school until they are 11-12 years old. In September, there was a suicide attack in a school, twenty-five girls died. The Taliban closed the school. Since they have been there, the Taliban have been opening and closing schools, one after the other.
G: Yes, education is central, because many women are not aware of the rights they should and could have. For them, it’s a norm, a tradition, they don’t know what they could have or achieve. We must also raise awareness of the situation, because too few women know what is happening in Afghanistan. But we also need to find solutions, because you can’t fix things just by talking about them.
S: I hope we can continue to work on these issues in the future, we must not limit ourselves to the conference.
G: Yes, talking is not enough, that’s why we have to find concrete solutions. That’s why it’s important to be here and to be able to be with other women who are going through similar situations and to look for solutions for our future.
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Presentation by MYA SHONE (Socialist Organizer – United States) to the IWWC
Mya Sone (Socialist Organizer, United States) at microphone
I salute all of you gathered today for the International Working Women’s Conference. I recognize women throughout the world who struggle against oppression and for their rights as women and as workers: in Iran where women sparked a national uprising; in Afghanistan where girls defy the Taliban to attend school; in Russia where mothers and wives state unequivocally that their sons and husbands are not cannon fodder for war; here in France where women lead labor strikes and walk picket lines; in Palestine, Mexico, Africa, Latin America, and Asia.
I also honor the million women throughout the United States who demonstrated for the right to abortion as well as the women of Kansas who successfully waged a campaign for their state constitution to guarantee this fundamental right.
A great divide was created when the Supreme Court on June 24th overturned Roe v. Wade, the constitutional protection for reproductive rights that had been accepted law for half a century. The Court then left it to each of the 50 states to determine when a woman could terminate her pregnancy, including giving the states the option of banning abortion entirely even in cases of rape and incest.
As a result, more than 100 million women, including those living in nearly every Southern state and many throughout the Midwest, have already or soon will lose access to legal and safe abortion.
To state it bluntly: This is a war on women compelling pregnancy, involuntary childbirth, and forced parenthood as well as denying women equal citizenship. The Supreme Court in its majority decision relegated women specifically to property status in keeping with the societal values and laws of 17th century England when women were burned as witches.
Access to all reproductive services including abortion is essential healthcare for women. Nearly one in four U.S. women will have an abortion in their lifetime, most of them between the ages of 20 and 45. At issue then is not if women will have abortions, but rather whether the procedure will be safe and legal.
It is a class issue. Poor women — most of whom have children already — have been and continue to be the overwhelming majority of those who seek an abortion to terminate an unintended pregnancy.
It is, additionally, an attack on people of color. Black women’s sexual subordination and forced pregnancies were foundational to slavery. Michelle Goodwin, a professor of law, notes: As relating to Black women’s bodily autonomy, liberty, and privacy, the Amendments to the Constitution that abolished slavery and guaranteed all people equal protection under the law “extended beyond freeing them from labor in the cotton fields to shield them from rape and forced reproduction.”
We in Socialist Organizer conclude that the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe is the concentrated expression of a failed political system. The decision exposes the reactionary institutional framework established with the 1789 Constitution — notably the compromise with the slave-holding states — that remains intact to this day. Here is a capitalist system in advanced decay that will go to any lengths to preserve and enrich the propertied ruling class at the expense of the many, including denying women the right to bodily autonomy.
To this day what has this bourgeois republic offered women? Not equal rights or an equal seat at the table. While women are the majority of college and advanced degree graduates, only 32 women (6.4%) are Chief Executive Officers of the 500 leading U.S. industrial companies. Only nine of 50 governors are women and of those women only five took office by popular vote.
What then has the Democratic Party, supported by most labor officials and women’s rights organizations, done to preserve abortion rights during the 49 years since Roe? For the most part, it stood silently by as access to reproductive care became difficult and, in many places impossible. Now with Roe overturned, the Democratic Party still has not taken the steps necessary to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act which would guarantee the right to abortion, just as it has failed to enact essential voting rights and labor legislation.
This is why we in Socialist Organizer have been persistent nationally with our efforts towards the formation of an independent working-class party rooted in labor and oppressed communities and internationally towards the formation a Workers’ International.
We will not stand by quietly. It is only our mobilization, our power and our collective control over our lives that will create a society that fulfills our individual and collective needs, one in which our aspirations will thrive.
Here’s to women in struggle. Long live the international working class!
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Presentation by DESIREE ROJAS, President Sacramento LCLAA (United States)
Desirée Rojas at microphone
It is a pleasure and an honor to be a participant in this event.
My name is Desirée Rojas, I stand before you as a Native Woman, a Chicana- Mexican of Zacatecas, Pueblo tribes, and relative to California Miwok, Maidu, and Tule tribes to say WE STAND WITH THE BRAVE WOMEN AND PEOPLE OF IRAN.
I am the daughter of Al Rojas and Elena Jamila Rojas, who were the descendants of four generations of farmworkers.
My parents were farmworker children who lived in dire poverty.
They would travel from one farm to the next and labor in harshest conditions picking cotton, fruit, and nuts from every tree grown in California.
They experienced the burning hunger in their bellies, the suffering of working with no breaks, no bathrooms, living intents, and being sprayed with formaldehyde and other toxic pesticides.
Later in their lives, after the Civil Rights Movement, my father and comrades established the 1st independent farmworkers union on the west coast of California.
This union later merged with two other organizations into the Farm Workers Union, tied to the National AFL-CIO labor federation. Unfortunately the UFW later became co-opted by the Democratic Party and is unable and unwilling to organize farmworkers.
I spent over 50 years of my life at my father’s side organizing labor and helping to build and strengthen the “labor bridge into Mexico from the US”.
It wasn’t an easy task. Our family was terrorized by a rain of bullets that shot up the farmworker hiring hall with the intention to murder my parents and their children. It was all designed to make us stop organizing farmworkers. It was a full-fledged battle between the workers and the capitalists.
Today I am the President of the Sacramento chapter of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement. Today I stand in spirit with my father, and right here right now I stand with you to End the Modern form of slave labor of the Working Class!
Today in North America the powers-that-be signed an agreement called the US Mexico Canada Agreement, or USMCA. We call it NAFTA 2.0, because it’s not basically different from the original anti-worker and pro-corporate NAFTA treaty. Linked to the USMCA are so-called “guest-worker” agreements that provide the agricultural industry with cheap labor from Mexico — cheap labor with no labor rights. It’s a modern-day “Bracero” program that continues to enslave workers and pit-worker against worker. It’s a program that often results in children being torn from their mothers’/parents’ arms. It isolates and separates children by gender, much like they did in the Nazi camps. Reports of child abuse are rampant.
Due to the destruction by NAFTA of farms and ejidos, or cooperatives, south of the border, and due to climate change, more indigenous people are crossing rivers and deserts to seek a new life for their families. There they are met with brutal repression and discrimination, made to feel invisible. This is the direct result of the diabolical “free trade” agreements. And if they do get across, the farmworkers are reminded at every moment that the Land Owner/Grower controls their life with the daily threat of being deported.
The Mexican newspaper La Jornada reported that “the Mexican federal agency had counted 6,480 Mexican migrants who perished while attempting to cross the border from 2004 to 2021.”
Another speaker from our U.S. delegation will deal with the issue of migrant workers in greater detail.
Promoting international solidarity of farmworkers, workers, and women in all fields of labor has never been as important as it is today. Latina workers are the most underpaid in the United States, and Latina farmworkers are even more underpaid.
How did we arrive at this situation?
We have reached this place with the help of the two-party system, with two capitalist parties that are faithful only to the laws of capitalism and its quest for profit.
Today in San Quintin BC, Mexico over 70,000 farmworkers are harvesting the Driscoll and Andrew Williamson berries for a day wage equivalent to the cost of a box of their own berries. Reports of women being accosted in the fields are too many to count. The farmworkers are living in make-shift houses, no running water, no electricity, and with their own children harvesting berries at their side. This is the norm.
These berries are sold internationally, but the farmworkers in San Quintin, BC, Mexico have yet to get to the negotiating table. As a result, they called for the Boycott of Driscoll and Andrew Williamson Berries. They are still on this Boycott.
What we do know right now is this:
• We must End the exploitation of the WORKING CLASS, which is essentially the same exploitation in every country!
• We must End the oppression of the Working Class, which is essentially the same in every country!
• We must put an end to imperialist Wars and Racism!
This is why the solidarity of the international working class, especially women in labor, workers MUST emphasize our similarities.
As Vice President of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, People, and 2-Spirit of California I say to you that our Native women and 2-Spirit Women are being murdered at a high rate in the American continent, and we are educating women to understand how to fight back. Native women continue to fight back with actions, marches, protests, and even forcibly taking down statues of colonizers who raped women, and murdered the Original People of our the Americas.
MUJER. VIDA. LIBERTADA.
ZAN. ZENDEGI. AZADI
Cihuat-latquitl. Yoliliz Ameyalli. Tlaca Xoxouhcayotl.
VIVA LA MUJER!
VIVA LA VIDA!
VIVA LA LUCHA INTERNACIONAL DE LA CLASE OBRERA!
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Presentation by MYRLENE THELOT, Haiti Liberté (Haiti)
Myrlene Thelot from Haiti
Good afternoon comrades and friends of the International Working Women!
As a working woman, I am happy to be invited to participate in such important events as the International Working Women Conference (IWWC) and the World Conference Against War and Exploitation. I appreciate the opportunity, the time, and the service offered by the organizers of these international organizations to reflect and share with the global world sisters and brotherhoods of social change the calamities of women, more precisely, those women fighting for equality for all in the working class.
Today I stand before you perceptively speaking through the voice of a female peasant worker in Haiti. Throughout the history of my country, Haiti, politics have consistently undermined the freedom, authority, and struggle of Haitian women in the pursuit of social change. The current position of the women living in the countryside (rural area of the land) is the result of more than two hundred years of active marginalization from political and social spheres.
Let’s think, for example, of the recurring governmental instability, combined with the dominating roles of the world cops’ powers, that have prevented women’s organizations from fully participating in active politics at the national level.
It has always been the norm in Haiti; at any given residential unit, you will find a woman serving as a housewife, a mother, or a housekeeper. It is also customary in Haiti that women and girls are the backbones of Haitian society. Almost half of the Haitian households are headed by women; they are also the pillars of Haiti’s economic life. As they make up the majority of street vendors and support the agricultural supply of the food chains, the women peasants have no significant value in Haitian society. They are considered inferior compared to men and the 10% of elite working women.
Obviously, in all societies under the influence of the capitalist production system, women are treated as subordinates or second-class citizens in the background. More specifically, Haitian women (les madams Sara from the mountains side) are not exempt from this kind of treatment: they are demeaned and looked down on.
The country’s occupation by the United States in the 20th century has advanced these retrograde ideas of masculinity and male dominance as a link to colonialism.
Most women are victims of double-sword exploitation: they struggle with a system built to fight them, devalue them, and a capitalist mode of production that exploits their blood, sweat, and tears. In addition to being taken advantage of by their own husbands and other males in this dog eats dog’s society. These two forms of exploitation are linked, but the exploitation of women in the capitalist system is the leading cause of gender inequality because it desensitizes the relationship between women and men.
The capitalist mode of production, based on the exploitation of workers, has meant that women workers, whether at home as housekeepers better known as (ti bonne or ti sentaniz) or outside in specific companies, have never been given the economic status they are supposed to have. Women have always faced inequality with low importance and a lack of opportunity in the national financial system.
For example, workers in the textile industries are primarily women and girls. They are always the first to take to the streets to demand decent working conditions and an increase in the minimum wage. Keep in mind that Haiti’s poor economy, high unemployment rate, and severe inequality are the roots of its poverty. If the World Bank can estimate that 59 percent of Haitians live under the national poverty limit of $2.42/day, that today, 62 percent of households make less than $75 per month, and 36 percent make less than $15 per month, and that wages for women are 32 percent lower than wages for men. They know precisely what they are saying because they are the bank of the capitalist system.
The working masses also take to the streets to denounce the dizzying rise in fuel prices. This adjustment will create more misery and suffering for the most vulnerable when the cost of living is higher. In reality, this increase in fuel price is an attack by the government against the interests of the weakest strata, particularly women traders and workers whose cost of public transportation and necessities will increase while salaries remain the same.
The very fact of employing a woman gives a certain predominance of the bosses over this woman. As a result, women are often victims of sexual violence and gender injustice by their bosses, supervisors, and others in authority.
Women face all sorts of difficulties, and those who live in unemployment face a lack of access to family planning and prenatal and obstetric care. Very often, necessity and precariousness push them to accept sexual relations as a means of survival to buy food for themselves and their children.
Mortality among women and girls during pregnancy and childbirth reached alarming levels in Haiti. They also faced high levels of domestic and sexual violence, extreme poverty, and significant disparities compared to men in access to education and employment.
The trauma associated with rape is a form of suffering for these women living in disadvantaged neighborhoods.
The question that deserves to be asked now is what system and mode of production can allow working women and men to control output, to rule their country?
Presently we are suppressed by a system where a small handful profits off the lack of a majority; for example, the control of the production of goods is not in the hands of the workers, it is not in the hands of the majority of women, and men also suffer from this excessive exploitation.
It is the fight for the total liberation of the country, for a fundamental change of the whole society that can guarantee a better life for women and men and put an end to the exploitation of women and men. In short, to all worker’s in general!
The only solution to solve the problem of the exploitation of women is to overthrow the capitalist system, this rotten system. As we have seen, the end of slavery made way for the feudal system, which again ended up making way for the capitalist system. This system has been sustained but will eventually end to make way for the neo-socialist system.
A system where women will fight side by side with men to establish the socialist system, a system where whoever has planted is who will reap, where women work like men to control the production of goods, and where workers will no longer sell their courage for peanuts.
A neo-socialist system is the dream of the Haitian working women in Haiti, a vision that is shared throughout the world, a vision that brings us together today with a common goal. The US does not want this dream to come to fruition and is now strategically maneuvering tricks to send its military troops to Haiti to stop the vision. My comrade Berthony will have more up-to-date information on this imperialist scam tactic to invade Haiti tomorrow.
Nonetheless, I will say the imperialist system can deploy a military coup to delay the process but can’t stop it, long live the Haitian working women struggle!
Power to women workers!
Long live the International working women and World Conference against war and exploitation with their common objective of unifying the global workforce!
(l. to r.) Desiree Rojas (USA), Lilian Gnonlonoufoun (Benin) and Liliana Plumeda (Mexico)