Below the speech of MATHAPELO KHANYE, Coordinator Of WFTU Women’s Committee
Greetings comrades, I send fraternal greetings from WFTU representing Working Women all over the continent. Bringing a message of support under the theme “Challenges of Neo-Liberal Economy – Adverse impact on Working Women – The role of Trade Union”
As working women and women in particular daily we are faced by challenges that emanates from The neoliberal economic tendencies that is deemed unsustainable, this is because imperialism doesn’t allow peoples of many countries to have access to their resources and benefits. In addition, capitalism does not fully account for gender and racial divisions of labor that is an obvious feature in the global economy.
Comrades, I believe we will agree that there’s no place on Earth where capitalism has not poisoned. It has allowed a handful of private interests to control as much as possible of social life in order to maximize personal profit. It has poisonous effects especially in the Third World, where imperial powers continue to pirate natural and human resources to fill the pockets of transnational capitalists. For the last two decades, neo-liberalism has become the dominant economic and political trend for much of the leftist (so they identify themselves) governments as well as the right.
However, as women fighting against global capitalism and its new phase, as women yearning for a better world where we will not be exploited and abused, we must go a step further into looking into this ‘neo-liberalism’ through the experiences of women. And it is not just about how women linearly experience it – we must go into the depths to manifest how capitalism operates in a very gender-biased way
Neo-liberal globalisation has also impeded the widening of gap between different classes of women. The living standard in both working women of developed countries and women living in the Third World are far below today’s expectations and production possibilities. Studies by women’s organizations have found that domestic abuse has increased, as husbands and fathers who have lost jobs turn to expressing their anger at their daughters and wives, and resort to violence.
The establishments of unions are very significant and to always put across the gender agenda in the history of the labour movement and also in the women’s movement. Just as the strategies of capitalists change, the organisation of the working class also much change to resist effectively. The essence of capitalism and its gender-bias cannot be resisted through the traditional method of organization concentrating on male, regular workers from big enterprises.
Many women activists and unionists have started to address the issues of gender discrimination and sexual violence inside the people’s movement, which up until now had been covered up. Over the years, many fervent and militant women activists have had to leave the movement because of discrimination and violence. It was always considered women’s fault, or victimized women were forced to ‘forgive’ for the ‘greater cause’. Many women activists, workers and unionists are uniting themselves and are calling upon the movement to tackle the problem of hierarchy, discrimination and violence.
However, women must know and accept that this is not a matter of women merely being affected ‘more’ – we must look at the mechanisms of capitalism that operate in a gender-biased way. Indeed, neo-liberal globalisation itself feed upon gender discrimination and effectively use traditional patriarchal values to exploit women further. Patriarchal ideologies act to crush any attempts of women to politicize and form resistance.
However, the essence of neo-liberalism is slowly being manifested and women have begun to fight back. Capitalism, under all its forms, signifies increased exploitation of women, but precisely because of that, provides the possibility for organization and resistance, nationally and internationally. Women must now go forth as subjects in uniting the people in our fight against neo-liberal globalisation. Instead of being incorporated into a ready-made movement of men or middle-class elite women, instead of taking the problems of discrimination for granted, women workers, farmers, indigenous peoples, migrants and other grassroot peoples of the Third World must form a broad solidarity. We must analyse globalisation from women’s perspective, plan strategies that conform with the particular needs of women, propose alternatives that include women as equal subjects, keep to the principle of internationalism, and unite with other oppressed groups in the mass resistance in the fight against capitalism – and go beyond in creating a world based on equality
In closing, formed women’s unions still have further developments to make and many obstacles to overcome, in their struggles against national and international capital. The unions must question the role of capitalism and its strategy of incorporating.