Today (March 8) marks International Women’s Day, Zoe Hennessy General Secretary of the YCL has issued this statement on behalf of the YCL Executive Committee.
It is a time to reflect on and celebrate the past and current contribution of women to the struggle for socialism and equality, and look forwards to the struggles of the future.
Currently women in Britain have faced massive setbacks in the struggle for female emancipation. Research by trade unions and other organisations has shown that austerity has had a devastating impact on the lives of women. Almost two thirds of low paid workers are women and there has been a 74% increase in women’s underemployment. Women are stuck at the bottom end of local government pay scales and the problem is getting worse after a three-year pay freeze, followed by two below-inflation pay offers and cuts. Job losses, low pay and underemployment mean that women have little chance to progress at work. Cuts to benefits have hit women particularly hard and as cuts to care provision bite it is women who are picking up the pieces.
In comparison, the women’s movement after the socialist revolution in Cuba continues to develop apace. Since the revolution women’s equality has been guaranteed by law and the Federation of Cuban Women work ministries, trade unions and organisations to provide equal opportunities for women, develop community services, draw women out of the home and mobilise women to engage in political and governmental work. At grass roots level the FCW mounts campaigns relating to women’s issues, such as community health and education programmes, civic rights campaigns and programmes promoting equality in different aspects of the lives of women. Currently 85% of women over the age of 14 are members of the Federation and over 73,000 branches across Cuba. In 1956 (before the revolution) women made up just 17% of the workforce, and mostly in areas such as domestic service. Prostitution was widespread and often the only means of survival for women. Women have made huge gains in Cuba not only entering the workforce (women make up 44%) but also in the careers they now have access to, for example, over 50% of doctors are women. All women are guaranteed maternity leave and the state provides high quality childcare at a low cost from 3 months until children reach school age.
Compare this to Britain, where childcare for 2 children is estimated to cost around £11,700 a year, it is no wonder that women are having to give up their careers in order to look after their children. The universal provision of healthcare in Cuba has meant that the burden of care has been lifted from women, whilst access to contraception and abortion has allowed women to pursue their careers and educational ambitions.Whilst the progress women have made in Britain is eroded by the ideology of austerity, it is important to take courage and learn lessons from our sisters in the socialist countries.
The proletariat will be able to attain its liberation only if it fights together without the difference of nationality and profession. In the same way, it can attain its liberation only if it stands together without the distinction of sex. The incorporation of the great masses of proletarian women in the liberation struggle of the proletariat is one of the prerequisites for the victory of the socialist idea and for the construction of a socialist society.” – Clara Zetkin
The struggle for socialism and the fight for women’s equality are interconnected, and one cannot take place without the other.
Forward to women’s liberation! Forward to Socialism!