Delivered by Martha Roberts
Alliance for Peoples Health
in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery
Women Be Brave, Stand on the Side of Justice!
Today as we rally to celebrate March 8th International Women’s Day, the Alliance for People’s Health salutes the brave and tireless leadership of women at the forefront of liberation movements struggling against US and Canadian-led imperialism across the globe.
Now more than ever it is urgent that we declare our opposition to imperialist globalization; that we decry capitalism as a corrupt and fundamentally unjust system. It is imperative that we join the progressive forces of the world in commanding a serious consideration of socialism as a viable and a necessary solution.
As oppressed and exploited women, we know that economic exploitation and capitalist patriarchy underpins the crisis women face today. Capitalism promotes patriarchal policies and practices, thriving on the cheap labour of women. In Canada women comprise the vast majority of migrant workers from Asia, forced to migrate by neoliberal economic policies increasing the global wealth divide between the imperial north and the global south. Canadian migrant women form a source of cheap labour, often providing privatized health care and modern-day domestic slavery to the Canadian middle and upper classes. Migrant women in Canada face a double-burden of racist and profit-driven state and corporate practices designed to extract maximum profits from marginalized women.
Women’s reproductive labour continues to form the basis of capitalist profits. After a life-time of work in the home and raising children and caring for our families, the only compensation working class women receive for our labour are the occasional flowers and chocolates on Mother’s Day. Are flowers and chocolate enough to compensate for a life-time of struggle?
On top of providing privatized labour in the home, women continue to be segregated into ‘women’s work’, teaching, nursing, preparing food, serving, and managing households. Our work is devalued, and despite decades of struggle, women in Canada continue to be paid only 70% of what our male counterparts earn.
Our daily lived experiences speak to our economic situation under capitalism:
The majority of those who live in poverty in Canada are women and children: one in seven women in Canada lives under the poverty line.
Given our role as the providers of under and un-paid reproductive labour, women are far more reliant upon government services, and more deeply impacted by the escalating government cutbacks and slashing of public services such as health care, education, community-based services, childcare, and welfare. Upwards of 60% of single mother families will be reliant upon welfare at some point.
Women are often segregated into public sector jobs such as teaching and nursing, and therefor face a double-impact of privatization and neoliberal globalization. As the conditions of our work continue to worsen, and our relative pay continues to drop, and our jobs are contracted out and privatized, we have fewer social services to fill the gaps.
And in the ultimate irony, as women we bear the greatest brunt of the health impacts of poverty, suffering from greater rates of many chronic and infectious diseases, depression, anxiety, and increasing social isolation.
As our daily lives are dominated by capitalism’s need for profits, our communities are increasingly being destroyed. Environmental injustice abounds: from tar sands, oil pipelines, and mining projects that plunder indigenous territories, to the ever-escalating imperialist drive to wars of aggression, women are the most deeply impacted by imperialist globalization.
The Way Forward
We are approaching a turning point in history. As the global Occupy Movement has demonstrated, increasingly people are fed up with the fundamental injustices of capitalist economics!
We can no longer accept an unceasing drive for profits as the fundamental organizing principle of our society. We must continue to speak out about the experiences of and consequences of capitalism in our lives, and yet we must start to take the necessary steps to build a viable solution to capitalism.
It is not enough to increase women’s access to jobs, higher wages, or pay equity with working class men – we must reject our exploitation as workers!
It is not enough to increase women’s access to capital through such NGO and finance schemes as micro-credit – we must reject our exploitation as producers! There is no room for the private sector and patriarchal corporations in our future!
It is not enough to talk about policy change at the governmental level, as history shows us that what we fight for today, without concrete structural and fundamental economic change, we will be fighting for tomorrow – we must struggle towards a world beyond partial solutions!
It is time for women to rise up against imperialist wars of aggression, profiteering, and economic exploitation!
From Palestine, to the Philippines, to the unceded Coast Salish territory upon which we stand today, women are at the forefront of liberation struggles that ultimately seek to oust capitalism and replace it with collaboration, cooperation, and a society that values health, the fulfillment of human potential, and the survival of our planet.
Alliance for People’s Health: http://aphvan.wordpress.com
International Women’s Alliance: https://internationalwomensalliance.wordpress.com/
International League of People’s Struggle – Canada: http://ilps-canada.ca/
Women’s Poverty in Canada: http://www.criaw-icref.ca/WomenAndPoverty
Asian rural women speak out: Rights, empowerment and liberation: http://iboninternational.org/resources/pages/EDM/67/162