COSATU joins the family of nations in commemoration of the International Women’s Day tomorrow, 08 March 2019. International Women’s Day emerged from the struggles of working women and socialist women and has been observed since the early 1900s. Women in industrialised countries were entering the labour market in numbers, they experienced challenges of poor working conditions, unequal pay and most of the jobs were reserved for men.
In the community, women’s political rights were restricted and there was a lot of social turbulence and society was experiencing a crisis of inequality and poverty was on the rise. There were lots of Industrial disputes, at that time trade unions were fighting for their recognition but at the other end, there was this section of non-unionised women workers. Most of these women were members of the Socialist Democratic Party and the party used their organizing and negotiations skills to mobilise other working women for the union movement.
Women from all Industrial sectors started to debate and become more vocal on issues affecting them daily, they started to actively and radically campaign for change. They then arranged protests against poor working conditions, women’s right to work, to vocational training, an end to discrimination at work and the right to vote.
Women started to use international women day as a day to take pride, inspiration and honor the brave and powerful women who have played a role in the struggle for gender equality, take time to reflect on progress made and build up strategies to defend the gains the working class has achieved and to call for more transformation.
On International Women’s Day of 2019, COSATU is calling on all men and women to honour the struggles of women workers since industrialisation. In 1911, about 146 young women workers perished in the fire that broke out at the Triangle Shirtwaist factory in New York; many of whom were migrant workers.
Those garment workers of New York deserve our honour which we ‘ll show by acknowledging the contribution of all women workers and respecting their human and worker rights. In 2019 we are calling on all African and international governments to do this by adopting the ILO Convention and Recommendation on “Ending Violence and Harassment against Women and Men in the World of Work”.
We are calling on women to intensify their struggle for justice and equality by organising themselves in their communities and in their workplaces. The days of women workers being the most vulnerable targets for toxic masculinity and patriarchy must come to an end.
We call on women to continue educating themselves about the struggles of women and working women all over the world and to support each other at all times and give each other constructive feedback for the advancement of the women’s struggle.
We call on men to support woman leadership and to contribute to the success thereof.
We call on men to volunteer themselves for reproductive work (housework, childcare, elderly care, care for the sick) at all times and to stand shoulder to shoulder with women in eradicating patriarchy and all its ills.