Manila Declaration of Unity
[Adopted by the IWA First General Assembly on July 5, 2011 in Manila, Philippines]
I – Our Legacy
Toiling women of the world have long been in the forefront of people’s resistance against capitalism and imperialism from the level of grassroots organizing expanding to global networks. For the past century, women all over the world have been fighting against exploitation, patriarchy, inequality, multiple intersecting oppressions and discrimination based on class, caste, religion, nationality, land and property rights, political beliefs, and sexual orientation and gender identity. In most parts of the world our persistent struggles for political, economic and cultural rights have won us victories such as the right to suffrage, to property, to equal wage for equal work, to maternity leave, and to unionize and to organize.
Despite the extent of imperialism’s attack on women’s rights and welfare, in 1910 – the Second International Conference of Socialist Women held in Copenhagen – women forged a class-based unity to fight for justice and peace. In establishing International Working Women’s Day as an annual militant celebration, we can draw lessons from the resistance of women at the global level to struggle against imperialism. Class consciousness becomes the basis for women to fight for economic equity, political rights, freedom of association, and to oppose colonial and imperialist wars.
Further, women have organized themselves to campaign on a myriad of issues: to oppose “development” aggression and its attendant ecological destruction; to assert their rights to reproductive health care as a basic human right that includes right to services and information on maternal and child healthcare; and to raise public awareness on the rights of women and girls against sexual exploitation, domestic violence, sexual harassment, rape and all other forms of sexism.
The collective struggle of women – a majority of the world’s oppressed, poor and working class – in the past century has advanced women’s rights and interests despite the exacerbation of the crisis of monopoly capitalism. Thus, the legacy of militant women continues to inspire us in our struggle to oppose imperialist wars and to support and participate in the struggle for national and social liberation. As the global economic, political, social and environmental crises deepen, there is urgency for us women to unite, heighten our militancy and join the wave of the peoples’ struggle to defend our hard won rights and advance our liberation.
II – The Crisis
People all over the world are suffering from the worst economic, financial and ecological crises of the capitalist system the world has ever known. More than ever, the people of the world suffer from the corporate monopoly capitalism’s control on peoples’ lands and resources, in cahoots with local elites and national governments. The so-called relief measures taken by financial oligarchy, the United States and other imperialist countries, have served only to protect ruling class interest to the further detriment of the poor and working people of the world. The wars waged by capitalist and imperialist countries have not only created further suffering but also exacerbated the world’s ecological crisis.
Consequently, the vast majority of the world’s women, especially in the countries of Asia, Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean and the Middle East, suffer exploitation under the yoke of feudal-patriarchal relations in societies ruled by landlords, warlords and oligarchies propped up by the imperialists. Among the worst exploited are indigenous and rural women whose labor, lands and produce of the land are consistently being grabbed, degraded and threatened.
In capitalist countries, increasing joblessness, austerity measures, union busting and homelessness and the erosion of an already limited social safety net worsen the exploitation of working women. All over the world, including in capitalist countries, huge cutbacks in government spending in education, health and other social services are being implemented. Aside from multiplying the burdens of working women, these policies have reduced access to education and health and have led to retrenchments and loss of job security of education and health workers, many of whom are women.
While the industry for domestic labor expands, women workers in this informal sector have become even more vulnerable. The huge increase in a new form of women’s labor namely home-based women workers working on piece rate wages is one example. The neo-conservative turn in the socio-political climate are pushing women back to traditional gendered roles and into the space of home, carrying the multiple burdens of home and child care, as well as economic earners.
Women from the oppressed and exploited classes are among the worst affected by the crisis. Women workers the world over suffer discrimination as they are among the first to be laid off when companies cut costs, shut down or relocate. Under the so-called flexible labor schemes, companies take advantage of the cheapest labor, mostly of children and youth, and subject them to insecure and extremely harsh working conditions in sweatshops and home-based jobs under contractualization and sub-contractualization schemes. Rural and indigenous women face landlessness, militarization, ethnocide and dislocation as mineral and other natural resources in their ancestral lands are targeted for capitalist expansion.
So-called poverty alleviation projects like micro-finance or dole-out programs like the conditional cash transfer sponsored by the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and other major banks serve as vehicles to intensify the cycle of debt and poverty at the grassroots level, weaken the self-reliance of communities and undermine the mass movement.
The economic crisis has led to the erosion of educational opportunities for girls. Working women continue to bear the double burden of housework and employment. Moreover, the capitalist crisis has generated neo-conservatism and religious fundamentalism that further subordinate women.
The crisis of monopoly capitalism has forced millions of women in exploited semi-colonial and semi-feudal countries to leave their homes and migrate to other countries in search of livelihood, thus, opening them to trafficking and other forms of exploitation. The governments of labor sending countries collude with the governments of labor receiving countries to profit from the crisis: Governments of labor sending countries further institutionalize and intensify labor export programs that mainly target women in order to stave off high unemployment, earn revenues through women’s remittances and pay off national debts incurred from capitalist greed, while governments of receiving countries use the opportunity to further exploit the cheap labor and vulnerability of toiling women around the world.
The remittances of migrants sustain bankrupt economies in Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Remittance coursed through governments and international financial agencies have been used to fund anti-people programs and projects in various nation-states.
Migrant and refugee women are often relegated to dirty, difficult, dangerous and devalued jobs in the informal economy. Women migrants suffer discrimination, racism, xenophobia and sexism on the societal, institutional, judicial and legal levels in their host countries. Undocumented migrants suffer doubly from capitalist greed as even after both their countries of origin and host countries have profited from their labor, they are inhumanely cracked down, mistreated, incarcerated without trial in jails not fit for humans, and expatriated back to their countries. The social cost of forced migration of women is unprecedented: the breakdown of social and cultural fabrics in the countries of origin and the wreckage of families and communities.
The US-led global “war on terror” propels violations of peoples’ basic rights and freedom and justifies militarization and state terrorism. Under the guise of security, states carry out extrajudicial killings, torture, enforced disappearances, illegal detentions, and the demonization especially of the Muslim people. Economic crisis, ethnic conflicts, and civil wars cause the forced displacement of people and entire communities, including those of indigenous and native peoples, and create the conditions for the trafficking of women and children.
The imperialist-sponsored war on terror also causes the destruction of the environment and the plunder of natural resources, further endangering the lives of the people by propelling natural disasters and calamities and food shortage, and miring people, most especially women, in deep poverty and hunger.
Women and children are the victims of imperialist war on terror. They are subjected to rape as a tool of war, killed in acts of femicide and forced into prostitution to service the armed forces and become victims of genocide. On the one hand, imperialist forces victimize, exploit and attack women under Islamic fundamentalism; on the other hand, fundamentalist patriarchal forces push women into further spirals of oppression and subordination. Still, the US-led “global war on terror” is an extension of a domestic war within imperialist countries as the rest of the world embrace neo-liberal laws that produce forced displacement, police brutality, imprisonment, joblessness, break-up of families, drug trafficking and more. The war on terror isolates swaths of peoples and populations as enemies without regard to the structural failures of the neo-liberal regime it relies on.
Living under the weight of multiple intersecting oppressions, various forms of discrimination and violence, women work more for less pay, bear the main burden of family responsibilities, and are subjected to patriarchal laws, policies and values and to backward social systems. Thus, women must intensify and link their struggle with the rest of the people for survival, land, jobs, education, healthcare and shelter, the right to self-determination and basic human rights, and to break the chains of women’s oppression and exploitation.
III – Resistance
Let us unite the world’s oppressed and exploited women and organize ourselves to fight and resist the economic, political and military aggression of imperialism. Let us draw inspiration and strength from the victories of women’s liberation struggles all over the world. Let us mobilize ourselves as women and add our strength to the peoples’ struggle against US-led military intervention, aggression, war and occupation, genocide and forced migration. Let us unite to fight such reactionary currents as neo-liberalism and neo-conservatism; racism, xenophobia, homophobia and patriarchy; and environmental and ecological degradation and exploitation.
We join the peoples’ movement for sovereignty, national liberation and self-determination, bringing in the voice, position and analysis of women. Local and grassroots struggles inspire our global unity to highlight oppressed women’s unyielding resistance to the pillage and plunder of imperialism as well as their perseverance to build an alternate system founded on genuine democracy, liberty, equality, peace, freedom and justice, where the world’s resources serve the needs of the world’s people and not for the profit of a few elite. As an anti-imperialist alliance, we recognize the role of the working class women in strengthening this alliance.
This vision compels us to link ourselves and our struggles to fight our common enemy, imperialism which reinforces feudalism and patriarchy; to stop the economic and political domination of the capitalist system; and to end imperialist wars of aggression and fascist measures against the oppressed peoples of the world. We work towards the continuing legacy of our sisters to fight imperialism with unity, strength and resolve.
The time has come for us anti-imperialist women of all races, communities, nationalities and countries to form an anti-imperialist alliance that will allow us to support and advance our struggles in our respective communities and countries to destroy imperialism.
A hundred years since the declaration of the first International Toiling Women’s Day, we, women from all over the world have come together to constitute the International Women’s Alliance (IWA) as an anti-imperialist, anti-patriarchal, anti-racist, anti-sexist and anti-homophobic alliance committed to advancing a militant global women’s movement in the 21st century as part of the movement for national and social liberation.
We unite to advance the peoples’ movement for freedom, equality, social justice, democracy and peace! We shall resist all forms of reactionary currents and attacks against women, our communities and our people! We shall advance genuine international solidarity!
Unite for a global militant, anti-imperialist working and oppressed women’s movement!
Oppose capitalism and all attacks on women!
Advance the movement for social transformation, democracy, freedom, equality and peace!