Women’s Struggles in the Neoliberal Era: Trends and Challenges for the International Women’s Movemen
Joms Salvador, GABRIELA Secretary – General
Warmest greetings of militant sisterhood!
The various presentations this morning all point to a manifest reality: the desolation of women’s lives has heightened and some of the gains that the women’s movement fought for through the years have been eroded.
After more than 30 years of neoliberal policies, women are facing greater challenges. Imperialist globalization, indeed, offers no hope whatsoever for any meaningful advance in women’s oppressed situation.
Reactionary governments claim women are empowered, yet the situations described by our sisters do not describe situations of empowered women. In reality, neoliberal policies do not, and will not, empower women. For how could governments that refuse to see the realities of women work to change the situation of women? In the end, the anti-people, anti-women policies and repressive laws of governments provide the push for women’s struggles.
The various forms and levels of struggle we are waging in our home fronts against imperialist globalization, foreign intervention and patriarchy and for the interest of our nation and peoples shall serve as the lifeblood of a revitalized, reinvigorated international women’s movement. And it is with women’s involvement in the struggle, in the movement, that women become truly empowered.
Empowering women through movement building
Our future will be determined by how strong we can build the women’s movement in our own countries, within our national borders, and how we can link arms with one another to develop the strength of an international women’s movement.
The current situation of women should serve as a warning sign for more desolate times ahead. It should propel us to continue with what we have started in terms of building a broad women’s movement. We should not let the struggles of women before us go to waste and be ever steadfast in strengthening the global militant women’s movement.
Under the current situation we must be more resolute, more militant in organizing, educating and mobilizing all working class women and in linking our struggle to the people’s struggles. The role of working class women is very important and their present situation provides more than enough impetus to heighten their militancy and continue to build women workers union.
At the core of the neoliberal attack on the working class is the drive to nail down wages to unprecedented lows through contractualization, wage “rationalization” and recently, the two-tier wage system. The individualization of the labor contract and the informalization of work under neoliberalism has exacerbated the ‘invisibility’ of women’s labor alongside the dramatic increase of unpaid work and work outside the formal economy with neither social benefit nor protection. Women should fight the constriction of women workers’ basic labor rights and right to free association, an attack that has deprived workers, including women, of an effective weapon in fighting for a living wage and other class interests.
Peasant women and women in agriculture should expose and fight the accelerating concentration of wealth in the hands of global and national elites that has brought greater misery with the intensification of corporate land grabbing and land conversions. Neoliberalism has hastened the concentration of land ownership in the hands of big corporations and landlords, massively displacing women and their families as primary tillers and food producers. Mining concessions and exploration have displaced countless indigenous communities, endangering indigenous cultures and traditional living. Organizations of peasant women, agricultural women, tribal and indigenous women should raise their banners and continue the fight for land and life.
Failure to sanitize Imperialism
The overall situation of majority of women has worsened with the current global financial and economic crisis. Governments, under imperialist dictate, were pushed to resort to austerity measures that have in turn aggravated poverty and hunger for millions of families, particularly in poor countries. We should continue to expose sham poverty alleviation programs such as the conditional cash transfer (CCT) scheme that only seeks to dampen our organizing, education and mobilization work. Since it was first implemented in the early 1990s in Latin America, the CCT has served the twin objectives of stifling social unrest and providing a milking cow for finance capital. Moreover, CCT funds have become a new opportunity for graft and corruption, as well as a new social instrument for exploiting women and recipient families for the political interest of incumbent politicians and governments.
Meanwhile, corporate green profiteering has led to massive conversion of forest and agricultural lands into “alternative energy sources.” Multinational corporations, the main sources of massive pollutants to our planet, shamelessly brandy about the concept of “corporate social responsibility,” often using images of women as “stewardess” of the environment, in order to hide their culpability in the destruction of the earth’s ecological system.
Women and children are often left vulnerable in times of natural disasters as food resources, livelihood and dwelling, not to mention countless lives, are destroyed. There are also cases of women and children falling prey to human trafficking and prostitution to survive in the face of governments’ criminal neglect and misuse of huge funds intended for disaster response. US military troops and their client fascist governments have not failed to use disaster situations in order to deploy troops in the guise of humanitarian efforts but in truth are part of their military basing plans and/or counter-insurgency operations.
Strengthening the International Women’s Movement
Indeed, a strong international women’s movement will give us immense strength to relentlessly expose US imperialism and other neoliberal regimes. The US has arrogated upon itself the powers of a global police. Not only has it implemented politically repressive measures in its home front but in the guise of a war against terrorism, the US has also fanned the rise of militarism, ethnic strife, proxy wars and fundamentalism to justify its interventionist wars and to feed its monstrous industrial military complex.
More than 30 years of neoliberalism has thrown the world into a crisis more prolonged and far reaching than we have ever witnessed. Contrary to promises of “global competitiveness,” “free flow of capital” and “free trade,” the neoliberal policies of liberalization, deregulation and privatization have wrought havoc on the lives of peoples everywhere.
Women detest the impoverishment and desolate conditions this system has brought upon them. Women want to change the system that has chained them to a system of exploitation and oppression.
Sisters, let us unite and fight for our liberation!
Organize! Organize! Organize!
Down with Imperialism!
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