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On March 8: Women resist ALL global oppression

Published Mar 14, 2012 10:04 PM

Photo: Ivan Phell T. Enrile

International Women’s Day, commemorated on March 8, was founded in 1910 by European socialist women, to demonstrate solidarity with women worldwide. The special day honors struggles against inequality, oppression and war.

Many capitalist governments have tried to co-opt the day and erase its militant history and meaning, holding ceremonies and issuing proclamations. The U.S. government’s March 8 ceremony at the State Department smacked of hypocrisy, as U.S./NATO bombs and drones have devastated women and their families in Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia and elsewhere, and the war drive is only growing.

Moreover, capitalist globalization and the economic crisis have affected women enormously: 81 million are jobless, millions more have part-time, low-wage jobs, are forced to migrate and face poverty and abuse. Women and girls are 70 percent of the world’s poorest people. This is all ignored by Washington.

Yet, women daily struggle throughout the world against oppression. Many of their efforts, including for workers’ and union rights, are hidden from public view by the corporate media. However, from Honduras to Haiti, from Egypt to Indonesia, women commemorated International Women’s Day. Here are some highlights.

Carrying Palestinian flags and photographs of Hana Shalabi, hundreds of women marched in Gaza City and in the Occupied West Bank cities of Qalandiya and Burqin. They demanded that Israel free the 29-year-old political prisoner, who, since being jailed on Feb. 16, has been on a hunger strike, protesting the administrative detentions of Palestinians without charges or trials.

Israeli military troops fired tear gas and water cannons at the peaceful rally near Ramallah. The next day, the U.S.-backed Israeli military began air strikes on Gaza.

Since the Arab Spring last year, women have played leading roles challenging U.S.-supported autocratic regimes in Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain, Yemen and elsewhere in the Middle East and North Africa. This year on March 8, Egyptian women marched under the name, “Women with the Revolution,” denouncing the military ruling council in front of Cairo’s Journalist’s Syndicate and demanding full political participation at the “new” Parliament.

Women workers’ power

Elsewhere on the African continent, women also marked this special day. Their labor movement participation was recognized, as by the Ghana Trades Union Congress. The National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union — South Africa’s biggest public sector union and a Congress of South African Trade Unions’ member, which joined the March 7 strike — called for condemning “those who exploit women in their workplaces” and pushing for “equal pay for equal work.” NEHAWU reaffirmed its “commitment to fight for [women’s] full emancipation” and urged governments to respect international labor laws and ensure women full human and labor rights.

Throughout Asia, women are organizing — in and out of labor unions. In the capital of Colombo, Sri Lankan women, including left forces, railed against rising fuel costs and protested anti-woman violence. Bangladeshi women countrywide marched for equal rights, rural women’s empowerment and an end to hunger and poverty.

Jobs and decent, equal wages were rallying cries of South Korean women workers in Seoul and women unionists in Nepal. Labor unions in Bangkok, Thailand, and other Asian cities pressed for domestic workers’ rights.

Nestlé corporation’s exploitation of workers was the focus of demonstrations in six Indonesian cities and a solidarity action in Karachi, Pakistan. Women demanded the world’s largest food corporation stop anti-worker policies under the slogan, “Stop Nespressure,” and called for the rehiring of fired union members.

Thousands in downtown Manila, Philippines, organized by the women’s alliance, GABRIELA, denounced the Aquino government and the big three Filipino oil companies for price hikes. They insisted that the U.S. must end intervention in the Philippines, militarily and economically.

Women also marched in India, Pakistan and Turkey.

The Greek masses, among others, are suffering from the brutal austerity policies instigated by the so-called Troika — the European Commission, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank — and their own wealthy 1%. The Greek Parliament’s IWD statement was lip service only, and took no blame for damaging women and their families, even causing some desperate mothers to place their children under government care.

On March 8, among other protests, the PAME, a labor union front, and the Greek Federation of Women massed at Athens’ Alexandra hospital to demand free health care and maternity rights, which have been undermined by austerity. They called for the unity of women’s groups and labor unions to promote working women’s struggles.

The Athens-based World Federation of Trade Unions’ IWD statement, in light of the economic crisis’ horrific impact on women, stressed the urgency of fighting for women workers worldwide.

Women resist in Caribbean, Latin America

Also on March 8, hundreds of women and men marched from the Solidarity with Haitian Women offices through Port-au-Prince to the Parliament building, demanding no renewal of the U.N.’s mandate to occupy Haiti and for U.N. troops to get out. They called for justice to be leveled against former U.S.-backed dictator, Jean-Claude Duvalier, for all his crimes against the people and for reparations from the U.N., whose troops, Minustah, introduced cholera into Haiti. Women have been hit hard by the epidemic and by Minustah soldiers’ sexual violence, yet the U.N. has impunity.

Landless women workers marched in São Paulo, Brazil. A 10,000- strong demonstration of women’s groups, unions and other social forces took to the streets of Santiago, Chile, demanding equal rights and facing off against police tear gas and water cannons.

Honduran women have been key in the resistance movement opposing the U.S.-backed, repressive Lobo government, since democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya was ousted. Since then, women have lost rights. Even the sale or use of emergency contraception has been criminalized.

IWD saw Indigenous, Black and peasant women marching in the capital of Tegucigalpa for legal access to land and assistance for rural workers, with women’s equal participation. They demanded an end to landlord violence against rural communities and the prosecution of those — many of them coup forces — who have killed 500 women in the last 12 months.

Venezuelans celebrated IWD events countrywide and held a large march in Caracas. They highlighted women’s gains made under the Bolivarian Revolution, including for Indigenous communities, and submitted proposals for gender equality to be included in the new labor law, expected to pass on May 1.

Socialist Cuba concretely promotes women’s rights in every sphere, under the leadership of the Federation of Cuban Women [La Federación de Mujeres Cubanas]. This year’s IWD celebrations honored women workers, leaders, retirees and students. The FMC points out that progress has been made despite the U.S. blockade, the biggest source of violence against Cuban women.

Antonio Guerrero, one of the Cuban Five — heroes unjustly held in the U.S., four of them in prison — hailed the women of Cuba and the world on International Women’s Day and thanked them for their solidarity.