ON INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY 2006, the Young Communist League stands together with the women's movement as we celebrate the victories of all girls and women in the past – and focus on the fights ahead.
A month ago, and with only 36% of the vote, Steven Harper's new cowboy Conservatives rode into Ottawa along side the old Mike Harris gang, re-loaded. The Harper agenda will be very sweet and profitable for big business (and Uncle Sam). Harper will attack the equality rights of women and girls. We must push back!
Young women workers and students, both women and men, will have an important role to play in the fight-back for women's equality rights, by mobilizing and protesting.
Women and young women are being hit hard by THE SEXIST CORPORATE AGENDA and Harper's plans will make life harder. We must mobilize and fight back to stop education and health care being further privatized, prevent the small steps towards national child care from getting stomped on, and halt billions of dollars wasted on corporate tax-evasion, tax-breaks and US wars.
Turn on the TV. Ever seen advertisements, music videos and song lyrics serve up our sisters as "bitches" and "hoes"? Women become degraded things, not people. The big businesses owning these stations (like Bell Canada) don't stop violence against women. They put it in the TV guide.
Bulimia and anorexia: why is it reality in all Canadian high schools today? The corporate media knows that body pride and women's well-being won't sell. CONTROLLING OUR BODIES is a right!
Women's health programmes get pennies, while Canadian corporations keep fortunes from tiny taxes. But millions go to brand promotion! Sexist brand wars come from the capitalism. Driven by greed and competition, capitalism can't make a social plan to benefit women and working people. Women's bodies and dignity before profits!
This is a class and gender issue of CAPTIALISM AND PATRIARCHY AGAINST DEMOCRACY, of who is in charge, and who benefits. Take February's headlines: South Dakota Outlaw's Abortion. Women in Canada are justifiably to be outraged by the right-wing drive against reproductive freedom in the US. The best solidarity with our American sisters is a strong united campaign, blocking such a reactionary push in Canada. No "free vote" on abortion in Canada 2006!
Education about birth control and healthy sexuality is a right. Free condoms and daycare in all schools, including Catholic schools! Instead of abstinence and hetro-sex ed, young women have a RIGHT TO PRO-FEMINIST, PRO-SEX, PRO-QUEER EDUCATION.
Instead, Ontario schools present the view of the ruling class. The stories of working-class women role-models, like militant trade union leaders such as Annie Buller (a Communist, unjustly jailed in the 1930s and 40s), as well as aboriginal woman, and women of colour must be recognized and taught. Expand curriculum against rape, harassment, relationship abuse, ableism, and homophobia. Every space, including all workplaces, must be a safe space free from discrimination.
Look what young women just did at the Torino Olympics – and at the unequal support women's hockey gets. Expand women's sports in and out of schools; make them equally funded and accessible. It's time to end cut backs. A new high school funding model must be implemented and funding restored, now!
Women who want a university education, meanwhile, find that it is becoming more and more expensive, and their student debt is crippling. POST-SECONDARY EDUCATION MUST BE EQUALLY ACCESSIBLE! Harper's Conservatives privately support "Income Contingent Loan Schemes:" lifelong repayment of student debt. Students, including the CFS, are right to denounce this longer debt sentence as sexist. It takes women longer to pay-back loans. Child or elder care make you quit your job (but the interest on your student loan still grows).
Women in Canada make 28% less than men. They are the last hired and first fired. True, the pay gap has narrowed over time –and now men's wages are falling. That's an ass-backward way to get equality. Canadian corporations make billions off pay inequity. And as corporate profits hit record levels in 2005, women's poverty hit a twenty year high.
Over the past ten years in Ontario, for every $1 increase in the incomes of the poorest 10% of families, there was a $108 increase in the incomes of the richest 10%. The poorest of the poor in Canada are women, including young women.
It's about winning better work and better wages. Ontario's minimum wage, up to $7.75 this February, legislates poverty (see chart). Weekly grocery costs alone in Ontario have gone up $13.25 cents over the past five years! It is time to RAISE WAGES. We need a wage that lifts women above the poverty line, to $12 an hour. That's the rate a single mother would need to hit the poverty line – and they said it back in 1999!
JOBS NOT BOMBS! The military budget just saw its biggest increase in twenty years. Canadian troops are being deployed in more high-danger zones in Afghanistan. As the Communist Party of Canada recently stated, imperialism and its allies are the worst enemies of women's rights:
Over 100,000 Iraqi civilians, mainly women and children, have died under the illegal US-led occupation. "Liberated" Afghan women still face threats and violence for working outside the home. The flawed recent "elections" in Haiti took place two years after the overthrow (with Canadian participation) of democratically-elected President Aristide, an advocate of genuine women's equality. The women of Palestine live in poverty, while the US pours billions of dollars in aid and arms into Israel.
"The Bush White House cooperates with patriarchal religious forces in a global offensive against women's reproductive rights. After the restoration of capitalism in the former European socialist countries, women face a stark choice between ghettoized low-wage jobs, or entry into the global capitalist sex trade." The War on Terror is also a war against women's equality rights.
If youth unite, we can push Harper back. To combat the assault on women's rights in Canada, we need unity of all progressive forces. Youth have an important role to play here.
Youth and students are one of the most dynamic and progressive forces in society. Time and time again in Canada, young people have been at the front pushing for change.
Youth in the trade union movement, as well as the Canadian Federation of Students and many other youth cultural -- including a re-invigorated NAC (holding its AGM in May 2006) – could form a powerful and formidable resistance. Our proposal for common action is a Charter of Youth Rights.
Together, we can defeat the drive to the right and the big business push against women and the working class. Together with the Communist Party, the Young Communist League demands:
* block the Harper government's attacks on equality rights.
* end all Canadian participation in the phony "war on terrorism." Solidarity with the women of Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Palestine, Colombia, Venezuela, Cuba, the Philippines, Korea and other countries facing imperialist occupation and violence.
* safe, public, accessible abortion clinics in all parts of Canada.
* allocate 1% of the federal budget to the creation of social, affordable and subsidized housing.
* protect and expand equality gains by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people.
* replace the student loans program by student grants; eliminate post-secondary tuition fees and pay students a stipend; massively expand trade programmes, including young women.
* a universal, affordable, non-profit childcare system with Canada-wide standards.
* a 30 hour week with no loss in pay and no reduction in public services; full benefits for part-time workers; raise the minimum wage to $12 an hour.
* intensify efforts to organize part-time workers and female dominated workplaces.
* restore and extend employment and pay equity legislation; expand job creation programs, especially for disadvantaged young women; remove barriers to EI coverage; expand parental leave benefits to 52 weeks.
* reinstate and expand core funding for equality-seeking women's organizations, including NAC; full funding for grassroots, feminist services to deal with violence against women.
* enshrine within the constitution the rights of Aboriginal peoples, Quebec, and Acadians to self-determination and self-government, and guarantee the full economic, social and political equality of Aboriginal women.
The root cause of this assault on women's rights is CAPITALISM. Sexism is a divide and rule tactic. Corporations have a lot to gain by paying their female workers less than men. But women not only work: they do the bulk of domestic labour. Ultimately, sexism and the double oppression of women can only be ended with the elimination of capitalism – and its replacement by real democracy, where the working people (the majority) call the shots: socialism. This is the aim of the YCL. Join the struggle today!