March 5, 2014
Equality for Women is Progress for All
For over a century, March 8 has been the international day to honour the women in all countries who strive to achieve full equality. On IWD 2014, the Communist Party of Canada and the Young Communist League of Canada send our warmest greetings to all women in the fight against poverty, austerity, violence, misogyny and war. As the United Nations has declared for this year's IWD, "equality for women is progress for all."
Here, the ruling class claims that Canada is a country of equality, fairness and social justice. Yet recent years have seen huge struggles around issues such as access to education, pay equity, union rights, jobs, devastation of the environment, deportations of migrants. Women have played a leading role in the Quebec student strike, the Idle No More movement, grassroots environmental struggles, and defence of labour and social rights.
IWD is particularly significant for working class women, oppressed by the "double burden" of exploitation in the workplace and the major share of domestic labour. Women's unequal status in Canada is reflected in a 30% "wage gap" and other indicators.
Aboriginal women and girls suffer the racist burden of higher rates of poverty, unemployment, and incarceration, and dramatically shorter life spans. Hundreds have been murdered or disappeared, and appalling conditions in many First Nations communities have been condemned internationally.
The rights of all women to a decent job, education, child care, employment insurance, etc. are increasingly undermined by the corporate/government neoliberal agenda. Across the capitalist world, women are paying the price for bailouts of the banks and major corporations, austerity cuts to social programs and public services, and massive tuition increases.
Yet the Harper Conservative government dares to pose as "defenders of women's equality rights", internationally and at home. For example, the Tories say they want to "protect" women, yet they have slashed virtually every federal agency or service which supported women's equality, closed Status of Women Canada offices, eliminated funding of women's organizations which engage in advocacy, and blocked legal avenues to fight for pay equity. Governments refuse to provide adequate funding for emergency shelters and support services for victims of violence and abuse.
Women are disproportionately affected by changes to prevent unemployed workers from accessing EI benefits, and the "restructuring" of Canada Post will cost thousands of jobs now held by women. If the Conservatives win another majority in the 2015 election, the growing power of the most extreme anti‑women forces in Parliament could pose a serious threat to reproductive rights.
The attack on equality extends to the provincial arena, including cuts to welfare, health care and legal aid, abolition of women's equality ministries, tuition increases, and unaffordable child care.
The unequal status of women has been condemned by virtually every United Nations body that reviews Canada's human rights performance, including the CEDAW Committee, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Human Rights Committee, and the Human Rights Council.
On a global scale, women and children are the most frequent civilian victims of war and armed conflicts. From the Middle East to Afghanistan to Colombia, wars fuelled by transnational corporations, western imperialist powers and local elites increasingly create health catastrophes through the destruction of power plants, water supply systems and hospitals. Trillions of dollars are wasted on militarism instead of providing education and economic opportunities, clean water, health care, and more human rights protection, including personal security, choice in marriage, and reproductive choice.
Global environmental devastation impacts women and children, from those near Alberta's tar sands, to millions living in drought stricken sub‑Saharan Africa. Changing material conditions goes hand in hand with changing social attitudes.
We express our full solidarity with all women involved in the struggle for survival under difficult conditions, such as the heroic women garment workers of Bangladesh, who are fighting for a living wage, safe working conditions, and the right to organize into trade unions. We demand that Israel abandon its apartheid policy of territorial expansion, violence and economic strangulation of Palestine, which imposes terrible hardships upon the women of Gaza and the West Bank. We condemn the drive for new wars against Iran and Syria, and the U.S.‑backed attempt to launch a coup against the progressive and democratically elected Bolivarian government of Venezuela.
A united fightback can win
In recent years, the popular fightback against the Harper/corporate attack has been hampered by the lack of a truly pan‑Canadian voice for women's rights. The organized women's movement has been deeply wounded by systematic cuts to funding.
There have been important struggles by women's and pro‑equality movements, and the Canadian Labour Congress's Women's conferences have helped keep the fight for women's rights alive. But the re‑establishment of an organization like NAC, to bring together women from labour, youth and students, and Aboriginal and racialized women, and from organizations that fight for legal rights, reproductive rights, disability rights, and child care, would be an important advance.
We welcome the development of initiatives to identify barriers and current issues relating to women in the labour movement. Moving these findings into action can help to reinvigorate a more democratic and equity‑ driven labour movement.
The response to the economic crisis by working people of all genders and backgrounds must be to build a People's Coalition to demand a genuine alternative to corporate greed. Led by the labour movement and its allies, such a Coalition could fight to win sustainable jobs, improve social services and gain increased opportunities for women. To protect jobless workers and their families, EI payments must be set at 90% of previous earnings. Evictions and utility cutoffs against all families affected by unemployment must be banned. The labour movement must focus on organizing unorganized women, the most important way to combat poverty and income disparity.
But while capitalism survives, it will always generate poverty, inequality, exploitation, environmental degradation and war. These outrages are inherent in a system based on maximizing profit in private hands. Only socialism, based on democratic, collective ownership and working class power, can liberate the enormous creative and productive potential of the people for human needs.
The real alternative for gender equality and human survival is socialism. As the tiny island of Cuba demonstrates, when social equality is a priority, huge advances in the status of women can be achieved. Unlike Canada, for example, Cuban women are elected to almost 50% of seats in their National Assembly.
For a century, since IWD was adopted by a Socialist International women's conference in Copenhagen in 1910, the full participation of women has been essential for the success of working class and democratic movements.
On March 8, the Communist Party of Canada and the Young Communist League of Canada extend our warm solidarity to all those who stand for peace, equality, democracy and social progress. A better world is both possible and necessary ‑ the world of socialism, which can guarantee full equality and a future for humanity!
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