Social emancipation of SA women not possible under capitalism – SACP – POLITICS – Politicsweb

Forward to complete, universal emancipation, forward to women’s emancipation and gender equality
SACP statement on 2021 National Women’s Day
Put people before profit: Socialism is the Future—Build it Now.
We mark 2021 Women’s Month in the context of 100 years of unbroken communist struggle for equality, people’s democracy, and human development. The theme of the SACP centenary, PUT PEOPLE BEFORE PROFIT: SOCIALISM IS THE FUTURE—BUILD IT NOW, aptly reflects our strategic tasks regarding gender equality.
Gender equality, universal emancipation
The social emancipation of South African women is not possible under capitalism. What it requires is embedded gender equality and anti-patriarchal struggle in the organs of people’s power from community level to the state, in the family and cultural institutions, in the education and training sector, in the economy and world of work, and in the building of the socialist institutions and practices.
The struggle against patriarchal oppression and gender inequality is far from over. We commit to build on the shoulders of communist women who have gone before us, in full appreciation of the class and national content of the gender struggle and the gender content of the class and national struggles. True to their contributions, we will ensure that women are never relegated or pigeonholed to particular roles and tasks in society.
We are proud of the communist women who served as trade unionists: Ray Alexander, Liz Abrahams, Sarah Carneson; who contributed to people’s journalism: Ruth Firs; who organised childcare in their communities: Dora Tamana; who fought for better human settlements: Josie Mpama; who built community organisations and resisted the Group Areas Act: Fatima Seedat; who resisted the pass laws: Lilian Ngoyi; who contributed to the Freedom Charter: Hilda Bernstein, Florence Mkhize; who organised women across class and across race; who took their place in leadership in South African and international organisations; who fought in the armed struggle against apartheid oppression: Dorothy Nyembe; who mobilised for world peace and against fascism and repression: Rica Hodgson, to name but a few.
In the past century, South African women stood firm against repression, against state violence, against lawlessness, and for peace. Women joined the armed struggle, Umkhonto weSizwe (MK) and self-defence units precisely to build a society based on the Freedom Charter, which commits us to “Peace and friendship amongst all our people shall be secured by upholding equal rights, opportunities and status for all.”
As our nation reflects on the failed July 2021 insurrection, violence, and looting, and as we rebuild our communities, local economies and infrastructure, women, of all races, must re-establish our collective voice, with working class and peasant women building and advancing a leading role. 
Now is the time for women’s inclusivity, for defence of the non-racialism that the SACP has championed from its inception. Now is the time to ensure that the strong voice of women is heard in preventing destruction of public property, damaging economic activity resulting in loss of jobs and more hardship, in preventing inter-personal violence and killing. The organs of people’s defence against looting, arson and violence, the community driven initiatives to rebuild the stores and township and village economies, must actively include women.
The struggle on two fronts
The struggle on two fronts—against parasitic networks that have looted state coffers and against the neo-liberal austerity agenda—must address the disproportionate impact of poverty, unemployment and inequality on working class and peasant women.
The voice of South African women must ring out against the things that are wrong in society and strengthen the revolutionary moral compass of the nation. The billions of rand that have been looted from state coffers has severely impacted on programmes that should directly improve the quality of life for the majority of women, who are the poorest of the poor. In 2015, 51 per cent of female headed households in South Africa lived in poverty.
Austerity has reduced funding to programmes that are critical for gender equality. The National Health Insurance, employment of community health workers, a minimum income guarantee which includes as its component part a universal basic income grant, public employment programmes, and co-operative development support, school feeding schemes, to name but a few, will change the burden that the majority of women bear.  
The South African labour market is characterised by a structural gender division of labour, despite legislation making unfair discrimination illegal, such as the payment of different wages for the same work, based on racial, gender or other discrimination.  Women are disproportionately represented in the most insecure forms of work in the agricultural sector, such as seasonal work; in domestic work; in care work; in major sectors of the informal economy such as informal trade, including informal cross-border trade and home-based work—not to mention the unpaid work which still goes largely unrecognised in labour market analyses. 
The COVID-19 pandemic has hit South African women particularly hard, being more likely than men to lose their jobs in the Level 5 lockdown and experiencing a slower recovery rate in the later lockdown periods. Women have not benefitted from the COVID-19 income support measures in the same way that men have. In addition, the increased childcare responsibilities due to the COVID-19 regulations fell more on the shoulders of women than the men in the household. The pandemic has increased gender inequality in South Africa and some of the gains of the democratic period have been reversed.
Self-employed women in the informal economy who went back to work found that their earnings were diminished as a result of COVID-19.  Informal traders were no longer able to earn the same income, due to loss of markets and customers who had lost jobs and disposable income.  Waste pickers found that the prices of recyclable materials had dropped, resulting in drastic decreases in their incomes.  New forms of work which increased during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns, such as platform work in the gig economy, particularly in food and online shopping deliveries, provided more opportunities to vulnerable male workers who are more digitally equipped and more likely to be in possession of drivers’ licences than vulnerable women workers.
Membership-based organisations
In this context it is important to strengthen independent membership-based organisations of vulnerable workers, including in the informal economy and new forms of work, and build strong women leadership in these membership-based organisations. It is critical to train women negotiators in the membership-based organisations of vulnerable workers, including in the informal economy and new forms of work, to negotiate with the authorities or entities who control their working conditions for better income and working conditions. We need to prioritise the upskilling of women and girls with due regard to reversing the deterioration of the gender division of labour.
The freedom of society and the unique life cycle of women
The freedom of a society can be judged by how it manages the unique life cycle of women. It is a state responsibility, for instance, to ensure basic sanitary dignity in the form of access to sanitary products, to facilities for menstrual hygiene.
Where women do not have or have control over a personal income sufficient for their needs, and are living in abject poverty, the public healthcare system, public education institutions, public places of work, public social services must ensure that women have access to essential and appropriate menstrual hygiene products. This is a most basic condition that bedevils the lives of working class and peasant girls and women monthly for the greater part of their lives.
The SACP and the YCLSA continue to support the sanitary dignity campaign.
Food security and access to land
Women must be enabled to play a greater and a co-operative role in food security, both in rural and urban agriculture.
The issues of cultural traditions that disempower women’s access to and security of tenure on land must be addressed. As women are progressively given access to land, knowledge, implement, seed, and livestock support must be addressed to enable sustainable farming.
The government support to the development of co-operatives in the land and agricultural sector must be embedded in the integrated District Development Model.
Equal access to education
The social emancipation of women and gender equality requires equal access to quality education for girls and young women. While we have as South Africa made significant gains in girls’ access to education, the inequality between rural and urban schools means that working class girls are not able to benefit from quality education.
Peace and stability
It is widely known that during conflict and conditions of social distress, women face heightened domestic violence, sexual intimidation, human trafficking, and rape. As the Communist Party, we stand firm that there is no place for inter-personal violence, gender-based violence and femicide in society, and through our Red October Campaigns and in the Joe Slovo White Ribbon Campaign we strive to ensure that girls and boys learn to live with respect for each other, and that social conditions are created conducive to eradication of gender-based violence, as the most abhorrent form of inter-personal violence.
Socialisation of care
Many women work what is called the double day, often also characterised as doing unpaid work. For most women, in addition to economic activity to bring income into the household, they carry a disproportionate burden of the household chores and invisible care work, such as childcare, care for the sick, care for the elderly, in households and communities. Many aspects of the care economy must be socialised.
Climate change
The devastating impact of climate change, be it droughts, floods, coastal erosion, sea level rise or rising temperatures, put greater pressure on women to shoulder the adverse consequences on the households. We cannot let working class and peasant women and children be the shock absorbers of the climate change and environmental degradation crisis.
International solidarity
The SACP stands in solidarity with women across the world who struggle for their freedom against imperialist forces.
We commit to continue our solidarity with the women of Swaziland struggling for democracy and socialism, with the women of Western Sahara struggling against occupation by Morocco, with the women of Palestine, Venezuela, Syria, and Cuba in their struggles against imperialist aggression.
The impact of the United States blockade on Cuba impacts directly on women, whose interests are addressed by the Federation of Cuban Women. We salute the women of the Communist Party of China, which celebrated their Centenary on 1 July 2021.
Issued by the SACP, 9 August 2021


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