Sunday, March 27, 2011

Women Hit Hardest by Global Crisis

Published Mar 25, 2011 7:42 PM

Based on talks given at Workers World Party forums for International Working Women’s Month in Detroit and New York; also at a Left Forum panel, “Sisterhood Across the Globe: The Anti-Imperialist Women’s Movement,” at Pace University in New York. Moorehead is a WWP Secretariat member and a Women’s Fightback Network organizer in New York. Hear her talk to the New York WWP forum in its entirety at

It is important to use International Women’s Day, a socialist anniversary, to help unite and advance the struggles today.

The capitalist crisis is a declaration of war against the working class, which has deeply impacted women. More than two-thirds of the 1 billion people living on less than $1 per day are women and children; the majority of them live in rural and agricultural areas.

Almost twice as many women as men worldwide are illiterate — 600 million women to 320 million men. More than 500,000 women die each year during pregnancy or in childbirth, 99 percent of them in developing countries.

Women are primarily responsible for the world’s unpaid work, estimated in the trillions of dollars, for raising children and caring for the sick and elderly. Insufficient access to sanitation increases risks to the hygiene of women and their families. On average women spend more than two hours a day simply collecting water.

Women grow half of the world’s food. Rural women are responsible for 60 to 80 percent of food production in developing countries. In sub-Saharan Africa, small-scale farmers are predominantly women, due to the high rates of male migration to cities to find jobs.

Exorbitant costs of food staples, along with other austerity measures, were answered by righteous revolts in Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria and elsewhere.

Women from Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean make up the vast majority of migrant workers. Remittances from their incomes account for as much as 10 percent of the gross domestic product in some countries. In 2008 remittances were estimated by the World Bank at $305 billion.

The overall status of women worldwide helps to put the status of working and poor women in the U.S. into perspective. The economic gap between women in the East and the West is not expanding but contracting.

Conditions for women in the U.S.

Public sector unions, not the banks, are being demonized for the current budget crisis. These unions are dominated by women and reflect the growth of the low-wage service sector within the capitalist economy. In 2008 women accounted for more than 45 percent of the unionized workforce. Close to 49 percent of union members are in the public sector, and 61 percent of unionized women are in the public sector, compared to 38 percent for men.

The United Federation of Teachers and American Federation of State, City and Municipal Employees are the two largest public sector unions in the U.S. The attacks against public sector unions are not only anti-union and sexist but racist. With an overall Black population of about 13 percent, 14.5 percent of all U.S. public sector workers are Black.

More than one in five Black workers are employed in public administration, as are 23.3 percent of Black women. That compares to fewer than 17 percent of all white workers. Black women in the public sector make significantly less than everyone else. Their median wage is $15.50 an hour. The sector’s median wage is $18.38, with white men making $21.24. Black workers have depended heavily on these jobs to help get out of poverty.

Passage of Gov. Scott Walker’s bill in Wisconsin dismantling collective bargaining rights signifies a war within a war against women when it comes to wages, pensions, speedups and health care, especially the right to reproductive justice. The struggle in Madison is showing the need for labor, student and community alliances in this class war.

Women have the most to gain in the struggle for social equality, which can only be won by replacing all forms of private-property relations with a socialist system based on meeting the needs of human beings, not profit. Karl Marx and Frederick Engels wrote in the “Communist Manifesto” that the working class will ultimately become the gravediggers of the capitalist system. Without a doubt women will be the most enthusiastic of those gravediggers.
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