On this March 8, the International Women’s Alliance commemorates over 100 years of the struggle of working women demanding better working conditions, gender equality and national liberation. We continue to uplift the voices of the most exploited and oppressed people around the world, the women laborers, domestic servants, landless peasants, farm workers, factory workers, urban poor, and the unemployed.
111 years ago – at the Conference of Working Women held in Copenhagen over 100 women from 17 countries – representing unions, socialist parties and women’s working clubs – united to pass a motion for an International Working Women’s Day to be commemorated every year on this day.
One year ago, women around the world – along with their families and communities, faced the early stages of the COVID-19 global pandemic. Job loss and insecurity, lack of access to resources (including educational support of children, caring for the elderly and meeting the basic needs for women and their households), quickly became a dire reality; women’s lives were further burdened by patriarchy. As the health crisis intensified, and the virus quickly spread, this further exacerbated the lives of those who were already facing economic hardship and exposed the failures of our governments to respond responsibly and comprehensively. As businesses closed and the day-to-day life shifted to accommodate stay-at-home orders, shelter in place policies, and community quarantine mandates, it is women who have borne the brunt impacts brought about by the pandemic.
Immediate impacts of the pandemic were felt by women who make up the global army of migrant workers overseas. Many women in this sector held jobs as domestic workers, frontline care home workers, health workers, food service workers, grocery workers and other essential workers. These women were immediately made vulnerable because of low regulations and government protections extended to them as businesses began to close and employers laid them off. Furthermore, class contradictions between the oppressed and the ruling class became more acute as the pandemic exposed the true and rotten nature of capitalism and imperialism.
Fascist leaders and governments around the world, used the pandemic as an excuse to curtail human rights and democracy and impose more militarism in the communities, curbing dissent, freedom of assembly, increasing arrests against activists and opposition leaders. In Myanmar, the military seized power once again after refusing to accept its defeat against the National League for Democracy (NLD) in the November 8, 2020 elections. From the time it grabbed power in1962, the military junta has plundered and corrupted the people’s wealth pushing the country to economic ruin, committed extrajudicial killings, ethnic cleansing, sexual violence and merciless attacks against civilians. We demand NO U.S. imperialist intervention in the internal affairs of Myanmar.
In India, Prime Minister Modi enacted legislation that would boost private investment as well as enhance agro-chemical transnational corporation control in agriculture, further affecting the lives of millions of farmers, invoking hundreds of millions to speak out in protest of this decision. About 75% of rural Indian women work in the agriculture sector, whose lives are in any case oppressed by patriarchy will be devastated at the hand of neoliberal laws dictated by monopoly capital.
Women of color, especially in the imperialist countries, continue to be in the forefront against systemic racism. The Black Lives Matter struggle, founded by Black trans women in 2012, has evolved into an international movement especially after the public murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police in late May 2020. Additionally in 2020, the police killing of Breonna Taylor, a young Black emergency medical technician, murdered by Louisville, Kentucky police as she lay sleeping in her bed, continues to spark outrage worldwide as the State blatantly protects her murderers. IWA expresses its unwavering solidarity to millions of forces inside the U.S. and elsewhere protesting to bring her killers to justice along with other victims of police and white supremacist terror.
In the United States, one quarter of the workforce lost their jobs as the pandemic exacerbated recession conditions. As the uncertainty and insecurity of the end to the pandemic plagues the minds of millions, Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, and other US billionaires grew their wealth by 15% in the first two months of the pandemic alone – profiting off the labor and exploitation of their workers. An estimated 6,000 workers, almost half being Black women in Bessemer, Alabama continue to fight against unfair and unsafe labor conditions, not only pushing their right to unionize but for the rights of all workers to a union. IWA stands with all women workers who are rising up against the growing exploitation and inequality of capitalism to demand better working conditions, fair wages, and an end to neoliberal practices which drive businesses to spend less and on labor in order to enhance the profits of the growing billionaire class.
Furthermore, the US has continued to claw for its place as the strongest imperialist power in the world. Just weeks into his presidency, as millions of people continue to struggle amidst the ongoing pandemic, US President Joe Biden authorised airstrikes over Syria on February 25th, following in the footsteps of his political opponent, former President Donald Trump. This airstrike served as a “message to Iran” that any attempt to threaten or harm US personnel and interests will face consequences. Only one message is clear, that no matter who steps into power, political rivalries or not, U.S. Imperialism continues to make its mark on the world, despite its declining stronghold on the global economy.
As a consequence to the airstrikes, the innocent people of Syria continue to suffer. Syria has been in conflict since 2011, making it the worst refugee crisis in the world. Over 6 million Syrian people have been uprooted from their homes, 80% of whom are women and children while the men are absorbed into battle, and forced into refugee camps. There are 25 million refugees around the world living in overcrowded refugee camps. The pandemic makes them even more vulnerable living in crowded conditions, which makes social distancing and maintaining hygiene, especially hand washing impossible. With scarce provision of basic humanitarian services, women and children as always are in the frontline bearing the brunt of multitudes of impacts of war and economic crises.
Today, more and more women around the world are taking charge and asserting their right to live free from capitalist exploitation, imperialist wars of aggression, and patriarchal domination. Women continue to serve as a source of inspiration to many resistance movements around the world as they live resiliently under the most abhorrent conditions, taking their demands to the streets, to the villages, in the fields, in the workplaces, and in the halls of parliament. We, women of IWA, will continue to fight steadfastly for the most vulnerable and the most exploited, until we shatter these chains and bind ourselves together, linked arm in arm, marching towards a new world.