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8 March 2017
This celebration is taking place at a time when women live in privation. We also still face oppression of various kinds both at home, work, tertiary institutions and the society- such as the refusal to legalize abortion (abortion rights), divorce rights, rape/harassment and so on. All these cannot be disconnected from the system (capitalism) - a system that creates inequality and discrimination that women suffer. A system that survives mainly by oppressing and exploiting the majority, especially women, to further enrich the tiny minority. Indeed, for women it is a double tragedy. In addition to being exploited as workers in a capitalist society just like men, women again suffer gender oppression in a patriarchal society as ours.
Women are discriminated against in mostly all areas because we are viewed as the 'weaker sex'; in education system, health, political representation, labour market and in many other areas.
Discrimination against women is not only limited to work and home, we also face oppression in the education sector. For instance, there is a case of Auchi Polytechnic, Edo state, where male students hire prostitutes at a cost between N10, 000 and N20, 000 to sleep with lecturers on their behalf to pass courses or plead with their girlfriends to sleep with the lecturers if they cannot afford the cost; while the female students have no other choice than to fulfill the desire of the lecturers or keep failing the courses.
Underfunding of the health sector implies an increase in mortality rate of women during childbirth, pregnancy period and deaths of women with curable diseases.
In some cases, in both manual and non-manual works (work of equal values) women earn less than men, this shows the double exploitation women experience under the capitalist system. Women face lots of challenges in the workplace such as insecurity, sexual harassment, inequality in pay, insufficient maternity leave. Insecurity is a main issue that affects women because the managements hardly provide enough security for women in their workplaces which may lead to rape and sexual assault.
Also, male employers harass the female employees either for promotion or increment of salary/wages that they ordinarily deserve on merit. Insufficient maternity leave affect women greatly such that it leads to physical and emotional stress. It also affects the efficiency of women.
One in five women will experience sexual assault at some point in their lives. Research shows that 75% of rape is planned in advance. This implies that the way women dress has nothing to do with rape, rape is about power and control not just about sex. The act of blaming the victims of rape and not the rapist should also be fought.
Also, women with low income may not have the ability of leaving violent relationships due to the inability of affording decent housing and adequate means of livelihood, something that may eventually lead to their deaths. In other words, poor women are in greater risk of suffering domestic violence. Also, marital rape should be recognized as a crime.
Cases of women being brutalized for infidelity cannot be overlooked. Whereas if their male counterparts commit the same "offence" they are never questioned rather they are celebrated, defended and welcomed as a way of showing their power and control. All these are rooted in patriarchal view and way of life which has to be fought.
The NLC, TUC, ULC and all industrial unions should raise campaigns not only for issues affecting workers in general but also female workers in particular such as unequal pay for work of same value, the need for organizations to have nursery schools/day care for female workers (mothers), the need for tertiary institutions and organizations to have special department that deals with legal, psychological, medical aid for women that face any sexual harassment and assault.
Furthermore, there is need to enlighten women on their rights and for them to report to necessary quarters when they are being violated. When these are done, they will assist in raising the consciousness of women and may help further reduce the level of discrimination facing us.
However, it should be noted that no matter the struggles won against discrimination, oppression and assault on women, it will not be possible to win full freedom for women unless and until the capitalist system is overthrown. There is need for women to organize and fight for a different kind of society - a socialist society without divisions of class, race, gender and run in the interest of the majority instead the tiny rich minority.
Today, attempts are being made to blur the socialist origin of the International Women's Day which is located in the pivotal role played by women in the 1917 Russian revolution. Exactly 100 years ago, on 8 March 1917 (23 February 1917 according to the old Russian Calendar), women textile workers took spontaneous strike actions to protest food shortages and demand bread and peace. Their actions detonated the February revolution which is the precursor of the October Socialist revolution led by the Bolshevik party. Before Stalinism (a totalitarian regime) took hold and eventually destroyed the achievements of the revolution, the workers state implemented measures which enormously advanced the conditions of women far beyond what was even possible in many advanced capitalist countries at the time.
As we mark the centenary (100 years) of the Russian revolution this year, we must remember the accomplishment that socialism made possible for women back then in Russia so that it can inspire us, while we absorb the lessons, to fight for a democratic socialist society under which true liberation is only possible for women.