International Women’s Day: so many issues, is one day enough?
I’m conscious of the potential irony of posting a round up of the issues taken up by trade unions on International Women’s Day (on Friday) on a day which in Britain has the dubious title of ‘Mothering Sunday’. My own mother staunchly refused, in her words, to be fobbed off with ‘just one day’. The number of issues taken up by unions around the world last Friday strongly suggests that ‘just one day’ isn’t nearly enough!
Top of the issues raised by unions for International Women’s Day (IWD2013) this year were violence against women and austerity. But there were also calls for jobs, access to education, better representation and respect in the media, women’s rights and the need to organise, as well as dual calls such as the ETUC attack on the twin evils of austerity and inequality. Some unions simply took the chance to raise an industrial issue of relevance to women members, as the Moroccan postal workers did.
In Britain, the TUC held its annual eve of IWD event, jointly compered by President Lesley Mercer and General Secretary Frances O’Grady. We focused on women and the Arab Spring, but were sadly not joined by Bahraini teachers’ union leader Jalila al-Salman, who was refused a visa. Lesley Mercer’s speech to the mainly female audience paid tribute to
“the work you have all done to get us to this position – a TUC led by women, an international trade union movement led by women – it wouldn’t have happened without your work over many years, and there is still an awful lot to do before women get the respect we deserve, wherever we are, whatever we do.”
Both Frances and Lesley drew attention to the TUC Women’s Conference taking place this week in London, and the TUC pre-budget rally being organised in Westminster on Wednesday, which will focus on austerity’s particularly damaging effect on families. In her IWD2013 message,
Frances drew the links between violence to women and austerity, paying tribute to the work being done in New York this fortnight by trade union women like Diana Holland at the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW57) which is seeking to reach agreement on measures to end such violence. Education International, the IUF and Public Services International echoed this priority.
As the agenda for next week’s Women’s Conference demonstrate, there are so many issues that need our attention. We’d better start making every day International Women’s Day…