One year after the arrival of the pandemic, the living conditions of working women have worsened. Economic and labor precariousness, inequality and violence against women are the other pandemics that have been growing day by day in combination with the health crisis and the capitalist economic crisis.
We, women, are the majority of those who find themselves in informal and subcontracted work conditions, without any labor rights, social security, or job stability, while working for starvation wages. We are the most vulnerable in times of crisis, the very first ones to be laid off and to suffer reduced wages; we are forced to break the confinement to go out to work and seek sustenance, putting our health and that of our families at risk. Bosses, in collaboration with governments, take advantage of the pandemic to overexploit us, imposing even more precarious contracts and labor flexibility. This particularly affects female workers around the world, as is the case in the entire Latin America where informality is widespread, particularly among young women.
In the health sector, we are the majority of nurses, doctors, and personnel who have been on the front line of the battle against the pandemic without sufficient protective equipment and supplies. Another strongly feminized sector is education, where women are the ones who are at the forefront of providing distance learning. Nowadays, in countries like Argentina and Turkey we are being forced to return to in-person education without the necessary resources or budget. Added to this is the increase in care and domestic work, which mostly falls on our shoulders, compelling us to do double or triple shifts every day, making our days more and more strenuous. In the industrial sector as well, we are the majority of the workers in the lowest paid branches, such as the textile industry, to name one, where we receive the lowest possible wages.
Gender violence has increased atrociously; femicides have multiplied due to the politics of impunity and complicity of governments. In Mexico, for instance, the number of women murdered each day has gone up from 10 to 11 in the middle of the pandemic. The UN reported that 243 million women had suffered from sexual or physical violence by April of last year and it was predicted that this number would only increase in the following months of the pandemic. During confinement and lockdowns, calls to emergency numbers for gender violence increased five-fold in several countries. Hate crimes against communities of gender and sexual diversity did not stop either.
In the midst of the pandemic, just like before, millions of women have been forced to migrate, fleeing the persecution of authoritarian regimes, wars, or poverty. They are forced to work informally under extremely precarious conditions and the UN estimates that up to 80% of migrants suffer sexual violence during transition or are victims of sex trafficking and exploitation. Hence migrant and refugee women, just like other female workers, are condemned to economic and physical insecurity, unemployment, and poverty, whose effects on their lives are much more severe. Lack of access to basic health services due to civil wars, conflicts, imperialist attacks, mobility, social and structural discrimination, and poverty left them deprived of even basic prevention measures or treatments against Covid-19, let alone vaccines.
Meanwhile, governments have continued to take advantage of the pandemic to enrich the large pharmaceutical companies through vaccine patents, leading to an inequitable distribution of the vaccine and restricting the right to health of many. It will be the poorest countries and the working class as a whole that will pay the cost of these criminal designs with their health and life. For this reason, we are part of the international campaign “Vaccines for All,” demanding the elimination of vaccine patents, which have been in the hands of a few laboratories that stand against the establishment of a massive and free vaccination plan in all countries.
As International Workers’ Unity – Fourth International (IWU-FI), on this March 8, the International Day of Working Women, we call on every woman to strengthen the organization and mobilization of feminist struggles independent from governments in all countries, to fight against the austerity policies of the governments. As these governments try to unload the cost of the capitalist crisis on our backs, strip us off our rights, refuse to address the violence and inequality that plagues us, and instead choose to care for the profits of large companies and continue paying external debts to imperialist organizations like the IMF, we demand: Stop the payment of external debts! A greater budget for health, education, work and the eradication of gender violence! The working women will not pay the cost of the crisis!
We call on all working women to not stop mobilizing and organizing in defense of our rights, given that the governments, the Church and all other religious institutions, and multinational companies continue to impose reactionary policies against our rights, as is the case in Honduras, where the absolute prohibition of abortion was reinforced, or in Turkey, where Erdogan’s government has been threatening to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention, which is a gain won by women to prevent gender-based violence. All these reactionary measures attack the rights of women and accentuate their criminalization. It is increasingly clear that in this capitalist and patriarchal society, we, the women must not stop fighting.
We call to unite around international campaigns that would allow us to join and strengthen the feminist movement. Let’s stand against all forms of violence against women. Let’s make this 8M a historic day of mobilization and demonstrate that despite the pandemic, women will continue to take the streets, raising their voices to not have one more dead, politically imprisoned, or more missing woman, to say “not one woman less” (#NiUnaMenos). Let’s provide all the support we can to health workers in their struggle to have decent working conditions that would allow them to fight the pandemic effectively. Let’s fight against vaccine patents so that there will be universal immunization and vaccines for all.
May the green tide that rose from Argentina flood all the continents with strength so that we can keep demanding on the streets that the governments legalize abortion. Let’s defend the rights of migrant and refugee women to open borders! And let’s unite our struggles against racism, xenophobia, and all forms of criminalization and repression of our movement. They will not stop our mobilization for the full defense of our rights! We will not allow it! They will not shut us up!
We call on working women, precarious young women, migrants, and the popular sectors to organize in workplaces, schools, unions, and neighborhoods and to participate en masse in the mobilizations as well as following (feminist) strikes wherever they were called despite the restraining role of trade union bureaucracies. For an anti-clerical, anti-capitalist, anti-racist and anti-patriarchal feminist movement against all forms of exploitation and oppression, this March 8, we will be taking the streets for our rights and so that the capitalists pay the cost of the crisis!
Women from IWU-FI