Return International Women’s Day to its Radical Roots

This is no time for moderate calls for equality and balance, write Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah and Ana Inés Abelenda.

By Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah in Accra and
Ana Inés Abelenda in Montevideo
Inter Press Service

The theme for International Women’s Day 2019 doesn’t resonate with us. #BalanceForBetter brings to mind slow gradual change, and assumes that if you provide women and girls with equal access then the society will automatically be better. We know that’s false. 

Access to a broken capitalist system that privileges the richest 1 percent over the rest of the world means that the most marginalized communities (including women, girls, trans and gender nonconforming people) exist in unjust, precarious and fragile societies. This coupled with the increasing privatization of what should be common resources for everyone (including the basics of land and water), as well as the corporate takeover of many public services endangers the lives and wellbeing of poor people.

In a recent submission to the United Nations Secretary General, the African Women’s Development Network for Communications (FEMNET) and the Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID) stated: “Neoliberal economic policies promoted around the globe by a growing majority of governments with the support and pressure of international financial institutions (including through conditional loans), have intensified the commodification of life through privatization of basic public services and natural resources.”

Corporate Takeovers

This corporate takeover of services meant to benefit everyone, of the health and education sectors in particular, primarily affect women and girls. In a 2017 report, the United Nations special rapporteur on the right to education, stated: “Women and girls are frequently excluded from education. Families often favor boys when investing in education.”

School girls in Pakistan. (Jacques-Edouard Tiberghien via Flickr)

School girls in Pakistan. (Jacques-Edouard Tiberghien via Flickr)

The rights of girls to quality education, particularly those from the most underprivileged communities, are infringed when public schools are privatized. Research by feminist and women’s rights organizations has demonstrated the ways in which gender biases affect the choices parents make when they need to pay for education, and have to choose which children to send to school. 

It’s in this light that one must view with great concern the increasing trend of handing over the education sector to the private sector. Ghana for example, recently announced that it was seeking to privatize the management of some basic schools. This decision is being disputed by a number of teachers’ unions including the Teachers & Educational Workers Union of Ghana, the Coalition of Concerned Teachers the National Association of Graduate Teachers and the Ghana National Association of Teachers.

The general secretary of the Ghana National Association of Teachers described the move “as subtle and eventual privatization, commercialization and commodification of public education in Ghana.” This trend of government reaching out to the private sector to manage the education sector has also been witnessed in other parts of West Africa including Liberia.

1932 Soviet poster for 8th of March holiday. Red text reads: “The 8th of March: A day of rebellion by working women against kitchen slavery.” Grey text at lower right: “Say NO to the oppression and vacuity of household work!"” (Wikimedia)

1932 Soviet poster. Red text: “The 8th of March: A day of rebellion by working women against kitchen slavery.” Gray text: “Say NO to the oppression and vacuity of household work!”” (Wikimedia)

There is no doubt that significant investments in the education sectors are required. Sadly, governments in the Global South are looking for these resources in the wrong places. The landmark report by the High Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows from Africa (also known as the Mbeki report) indicated that Africa is losing more than $50 billion per year in illicit financial flows.

As highlighted in a report by AWID, IFFs have a severe impact on the development of the continent. These resources that are lost to the continent should rather be harnessed and invested into the social sector, including education and health.

Privatization of social services and reduced social protection is at the heart of South America’s wave of neoliberal governments promoting austerity policies that deepen structural gender inequalities. Coupled with the rise of the conservative right in South America — including Brazil’s fascist new government — feminist movements from the South understand this is no time for moderate calls for equality and balance.

In Uruguay, the #8M call to action states: “Ante el fascismo, más feminismo” (In the face of fascism, we need more feminism!). It is a call for international feminist solidarity to resist daily threats that aim to bring us back centuries when it comes to social and gender justice and rights. It is also a warning that feminist movements are forging new realities not only about equality, but about radical change.

So on this International Women’s Day we call for a return to its radical roots centered on workers’ rights and justice. This doesn’t call for balance. It calls for a radical transformation of society based on the twin principles of equity and justice.

Nana  Darkoa Sekyiamah is director of information, communications and media,  Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID)

Ana Inés Abelenda is economic justice coordinator, Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID)

13 comments for “Return International Women’s Day to its Radical Roots

  1. Red Robbo
    March 19, 2019 at 09:12

    Sylvia Pankhurst: “Our aim is Communism. Communism is not an affair of party. It is a theory of life and social organisation. It is a life in which property is held in common; in which the community produces, by conscious aim, sufficient to supply the needs of all its members; in which there is no trading, money, wages, or any direct reward for services rendered” (1923).

  2. Ottmar Straub
    March 11, 2019 at 13:46

    What a horror to see women so far away from any femininity. Feminism is just another -ism, another distortion in human’s minds.
    As long as the mirror of our subconsciousness will not be recognized and the nessessary homework gets done we will see many more -isms all the way to totall death and destruction – there are hardly any people yet who have done their homework but there is hope. More and more people are seeing behind the facade of “me-myself-I” and all its self-betrayals.

  3. Carax
    March 11, 2019 at 00:51

    No mention, as usual, about the rights of women in Muslim countries.

  4. Susan Siens
    March 10, 2019 at 10:52

    As soon as you include transgender your argument begins to fall apart. Transgenderism, the effort to actually erase the female sex, is the apex of neoliberalism, a philosophy in which none of us have anything in common and all of us are simply discrete atoms floating about in space. What have been some of the effects of transgender philosophy? It’s transphobic to say certain words: we are non-men (the UK Green Party), uterus-havers, chest-feeders, and men make better women than we do so it’s important we listen to them about how to be better non-men. Meanwhile, children are being given puberty-blockers and cross-sex hormones (Dr Mengele at work), young women are taking testosterone and having their breasts removed (they then have to have hysterectomies because taking testosterone spells death to the uterus which can then become septic), and men who call themselves women are fully intact and have no intention of being otherwise. International WOMEN’S Day was for women, and here’s a hilarious take on what it has become (much better than article above):

  5. Brian James
    March 9, 2019 at 12:18

    Nov 17, 2011 FEMINISM, PT 1 – “Defining the Feminist Problem” by ChristyOMisty – Good stuff!

    What is feminism, really? You may be surprised to find it’s only the tool of a much larger, more dangerous global agenda.

  6. March 9, 2019 at 03:14

    Ladies, Your comments deserve to be heard wherever the public trust is being challenged by the “privatization interests” of the top
    1%, who claim to speak for the good of all of us. It is this slick public relations scam that is bamboozling and defocusing us – and thank you for shining light on it. We need to hear more from you!

  7. Miranda M Keefe
    March 8, 2019 at 16:12

    Capitalism and it’s current venomous iteration of NeoLiberalism have a long history of taking radical ideas, including radical days set aside for radical ideas, and turning them into propaganda events dedicated to Empire and Consumerism.

    Memorial Day- at first a day to remember the dead of the Civil War, dedicated to it never happening again, and to taking care of the wounded survivors, now a day to spend money on flowers on loved ones’ graves and picnics.

    The Fourth of July- at first a day to remember how people can rise up and overthrow their rulers, now a day to swear undying fealty to the military and the government rulers and spend money on beer and fire works.

    Labor Day- at first a day to organize the workers and remember the dead martyrs of strikes the capitalist government crushed, now a day to spend money on beer and barbecues.

    Veterans Day- at first a day to remember the horrors of WWI , work to never forget, and work for peace, now a day to white wash America’s wars and propagandize everyone that unless you consider veterans heroes instead of victims you are a creep.

    Martin Luther King, Jr. Day- at first a day to remember how oppressed Blacks were, are, and how much it cost a great leader to speak out against it, now a day to celebrate the few Blacks who’ve sold out to be promoters of Wall Street and the Empire.

    St. Patrick’s Day- at first a day for an oppressed minority to celebrate their heritage and resist the English oppressors, now a day to buy beer and get drunk and sell clothes that have green in them.

    May Day- at first a day to celebrate and recommit to the international workers’ revolution, now a day to buy flowers.

    Cinco de Mayo- at first a day to celebrate the indigenous people of Mexico kicking out white, foreign Imperialists, now a day to buy beer and Tequila and sell Tacos.

    Mothers’ Day- at first a day for mothers to organize for peace, now a day to buy flowers and cards and go out to brunch.

    • March 8, 2019 at 23:19

      thank you miranda.

    • Lois Gagnon
      March 9, 2019 at 11:00

      Great post.

    • Diana Farris
      March 10, 2019 at 03:07

      Well said, Miranda!

  8. rosemerry
    March 8, 2019 at 15:52

    Neoliberal reforms-deregulation, downsizing, privatization are the effective methods to ensure that the 1% continue to be in charge and that the rest of the society, especially women and girls,poor people, those with handicaps or medical problems, isolated and rural people are left to fend for themselves as profit is made on their needs.

  9. mike k
    March 8, 2019 at 14:41

    Gradualism is one of the false memes of the capitalist system, which is always promising those it abuses that there will be relief for them “just a bit down the road.” Just hang in there and do as we recommend, and everything will turn out OK. Trust us. Not!!

  10. Janet Morgan
    March 8, 2019 at 12:45

    Women are leading the charge for a better world!

Comments are closed.