From Sat Nov 22 07:15:06 2003
Date: Fri, 21 Nov 2003 12:36:52 -0600 (CST)
From: johnmy <>
Subject: Thousands debate how women can win their liberation
Article: 168757
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Thousands debate how women can win their liberation

By Helen Shooter, Socialist Worker, [21 November 2003]

THE WOMEN'S Assembly was five times bigger than had been expected. Around 3,000 attended the event, held just before the main ESF discussions.

There was warm support for the initiative, which came at a time when women are told they have achieved liberation. As a statement from one of the workshops put it, We don't only have to be opposed to the effects of neo-liberalism. Without any real equality between men and women there will not be another world.

The debates at the Women's Assembly were not separate from the general concerns of the anti-capitalist movement. A packed workshop on Employment, insecurity and poverty heard ordinary women describe their experiences of leading in the working class movement.

A French trade unionist spoke about the strike wave that swept across France last summer: We have seen many struggles this year, particularly by public sector workers. Many of those on the streets were women. They faced having their rights to retirement and pensions taken away and women were going to lose out even more because of cuts to child benefit.

And women described the miseries inflicted on them by capitalist globalisation. Claudine used to work in a factory making Levi's jeans. Its two factories in Belgium and France were closed in 1999 and 1,400 workers, mainly women, were thrown out of work.

Claudine explained, I used to work on the production line. We tried to keep our jobs, but the sky fell in on us. I studied sales, but I have not been able to find a job in that area. I have been told I am too old for many jobs-some say they don't even want people who are over 30! My husband committed suicide after the factory closed. Maybe my unemployment helped make him depressed. I now have a job working overnight. I work 12 hours on Saturday and Sunday. If I don't work those hours I don't get any work at all. It's like something from the 19th century. So many other factories are closing. I hope we can do something to solve it.

A Belgian shop steward at a Nike factory said, I work in the Nike distribution centre for Europe. The story from the women at Levi's sounded familiar. This so called flexibility is a real problem for us. It means we are asked to do more and more. There are a lot of young women who have to deal with children. Yet at the peak season in June, July and August they have to work from 2pm to midnight in the school holidays. But it's very important that those of us in those companies fight. Strikes can be very hard, but you are not alone. A lot of people are fighting back together.

The assembly showed how women are a key part of the anti-capitalist movement. Many spoke out about wanting to take on sexist ideas and discrimination in society.

But there was a real debate about the cause of women's oppression, with some women arguing that men are responsible rather than the system.

During the report-back from the Women and power workshop to the plenary a woman from the platform said, We are sleeping with the enemy.

This phrase did not get much of a response from the audience, as it clearly jarred with their experiences.

Gill Hubbard from Globalise Resistance in Britain said, We should not say that all men are our enemy. They are not. They are here with us at the ESF and in the movement. There is one man who is the enemy of us all-George Bush. His war has united people in Britain against him. We had two million people on the streets led by Muslim women alongside other people.

The assembly ended with a determination to carry on building the movement and to campaign to raise the profile of women within it.