(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
October 06, 2013
Sharp Decline in Women’s Participation
In the Labour Force
THE tenth convention of the All India Coordination Committee of Working Women (CITU) that concluded on October 1 called upon all working women in the country to come together to fight for their basic rights and to join the other sections of the working class to defeat the anti-worker and anti-people policies of the government.
The tenth convention of the AICCWW (CITU) was held in Puri in Odisha from September 29 –October 1, 2013. 262 working women from 20 states, working in a wide variety of industries and sectors including steel, coal, electricity, IT, insurance, banking, state and central government departments, BSNL, public and private transport including as auto drivers, construction, brick kilns, handloom, garments, home based work, traditional industries like coir, cashew, fisheries, plantations, beedi, different central government schemes like Integrated Child Development Services, National Rural Health Mission, Mid day meal Programme, National Rural Livelihood Mission, National Child Labour Project, etc, domestic workers, private hospital employees, shop employees, street vendors, etc participated in the convention. In addition, the presidents/ general secretaries of 13 state committees and office bearers in charge of working women from another 4 state committees of the CITU participated in the convention.
A presidium comprising Ranjana Nirula (CITU centre), K Madhavi (AP), Surekha (Haryana), Padmavati Shetty (Karnataka), VV Presenna Kumari (Kerala), Usha Rani (Punjab), M Mahalakshmi (Tamilnadu), Indubala Das (Tripura) and Neelima Maitra (West Bengal) conducted the proceedings of the convention. An eight member resolutions committee with A R Sindhu, secretary, CITU as convenor and a six member credential committee with Shubha Shamim as convenor were also elected.
Lambodar Nayak, president of the reception committee welcomed the delegates.
Inaugurating the convention, Tapan Sen, general secretary of the CITU said that women’s contribution to the economy of the nation is not recognised despite their great contribution. The CITU, as a class conscious trade union organisation has decided to pay special attention to organise working women and bring them into the main stream trade union movement. Today, women members constituted around 32% of the total members of the CITU. In several states, women comprised more than half of the total mobilisations of the CITU. The number of women in the decision making bodies of the CITU has increased considerably. However, there were still several weaknesses which were noted by the 14th conference of the CITU, which reiterated the need to overcome these weaknesses at the earliest. It has decided that either the president or the general secretary of all the state committees of the CITU should participate in the tenth convention of working women.
Tapan Sen said that the government was adopting policies that favoured only the big national and multinational corporations and a few rich, while imposing huge burdens on the toiling people. There was no difference between the major political parties in the country, the Congress and the BJP, as far as their commitment to the neo-liberal policies is concerned. The BJP was projecting Modi as its prime ministerial candidate and hopes to come to power by polarising the society on communal lines. He warned of the danger to the unity of the working class and the united struggle against the neo-liberal policies, by such polarisation.
Tapan Sen said the attacks of the ruling classes on the toiling people in the country cannot be defeated unless the united struggle against the neo-liberal policies is intensified. This requires bringing more and more sections of workers into the struggles. The struggle cannot be effective unless all sections of working women are also brought into the struggle. Organising women workers was not a charity of the trade union movement towards women but a basic requirement for effective struggles against anti-people policies of the government. He said that it is necessary to fight against the prevalent patriarchal attitudes in the society, including within the organisation. He urged upon the delegates to participate in free and frank discussions and give their suggestions to strengthen the work of the CITU among working women.
Hemalata, convenor, AICCWW (CITU) placed the report. The report expressed concern at the sharp decline in the labour force participation of women in the last few years. The loss of employment for women in agriculture has not been compensated by commensurate increase in employment opportunities in the other sectors. Around 85% of women were economically dependent and were without any wage or income, though vast majority of them were contributing to production. This was one of the most significant factors in the inferior status of women in the society and was expressed in the persistent discrimination and increasing violence etc. Neo-liberal policies with their focus on commodification and commercialisation of everything including human relationships, feelings, and women’s bodies etc have highly aggravated the violence against women, already prevalent in the patriarchal society. Intolerance against women claiming public spaces and joining the shrinking jobs under the neo-liberal regime is also being reflected in the increase in the violence against women.
Working women continue to be discriminated. The gap between the wages of men and women has widened in some sectors. Not only in the unorganised sector, but even in the organised sector, working women were being denied maternity benefit and crèche facilities. Sexual harassment and violence against women have increased. But these specific issues of working women were not being adequately addressed by the trade union movement including by the CITU and its affiliated unions.
The report also noted that though women comprised around 32% of the CITU membership and around half of its mobilisations in most of the states, they were not adequately represented in the CITU conferences. Women’s presence in the decision making bodies, particularly in states where it was organisationally strong, was very low. Most of the decisions of the CITU related to working women remain unimplemented because the CITU state committees do not pay much attention to their implementation. The report underlined the importance of the CITU committees in taking up the specific problems and demands of working women from the trade union platform and ensuring that working women activists are trained, developed and promoted to the decision making bodies of the CITU and its affiliated unions.
26 delegates participated in the discussion. The state level leaders of the CITU also expressed their observations. Many of them felt that it was a learning experience for them. Hemalata summed up by the discussions, after which the report was adopted unanimously.
The convention decided to conduct a country wide campaign on the specific demands of working women focussing mainly on equal wages, maternity benefits and crèches, constitution of complaints committees against sexual harassment in all establishments and districts, provision of separate toilets and rest rooms at all work places and minimum wages of not less than Rs 10,000 per month as demanded by the joint trade union movement. It has decided to approach all sections of working women, from both the organised and unorganised sectors through a massive country wide campaign on these demands for three months, culminating in demonstrations, dharnas, rallies, mass deputations etc at the district level on December 23, 2013. It also decided to approach the women’s sub committees of all the fraternal trade union organisations and involve them in the campaign.
Besides the campaign programme, the convention adopted different tasks to strengthen the work of the CITU among working women. It was decided to concentrate on organising the private hospital employees, garment workers, and domestic workers, by allotting suitable cadres, with the priority being decided by the state committees of the CITU. The need to conduct a workshop on working women involving the state leaders of the CITU and the convenors of the state coordination committees of working women was stressed. The workshop would be held in January 2014. The need to recruit women full timers for work among working women was also emphasised by the convention.
Amongst thunderous slogans, the convention unanimously adopted the resolution that called for massive participation of working women in the ‘March to Parliament’ and demonstrations at district headquarters on December 12, as per the call of the joint trade union movement. The convention also unanimously adopted resolutions on minimum wages and social security benefits for all working women, supporting the call for alternative policies as proposed by the Left parties, demanding adoption of the bill on women’s reservation by the parliament, on agrarian crisis, condemning attacks on the Left in West Bengal, on food security, against dowry, and on the social issues of the workers.
Shubha Shamim placed a detailed report of the credential committee which stated that 206 out of the 262 delegates were below 55 years with the youngest delegate being 21. 206 had education of matriculation or above. 101 were full timers of the CITU.
Sumitra Chopra, assistant secretary of AIDWA, Geeta Shant from the All India Insurance Employees’ Association, Kalyani Chakraborty from Bank Employees’ Federation of India, Munir from the All India Rural Regional Bank Employees’ Association, Jyotsnamoni Dei from the All India State Government Employees’ Federation, Shobhana from the National Federation of Postal Employees, Geeta Goswal from the Confederation of Central Government Employees and Workers, Arpita from the Federation of Medical and Sales Representatives’ Associations of India participated in the convention and greeted the delegates.
A 34 member All India Coordination Committee of Working Women (CITU) with Hemalata as the convenor was constituted in the convention. The tenth convention highly appreciated the contribution of the members of the AICCWW (CITU) constituted in its ninth convention, who were getting relieved from their responsibilities in the AICCWW due to various reasons.
Tapan Sen delivered the concluding address. He urged upon the delegates to use the documents adopted by the CITU conferences and the AICCWW conventions as weapons in the struggle to overcome patriarchal attitudes within the CITU and ensure that the decisions of the CITU related to working women are effectively implemented. Tapan Sen also released a memento prepared by the Odisha state committee of the CITU on the occasion of Jyoti Basu birth centenary.
The convention highly appreciated and congratulated the Odisha state committee of the CITU, which made excellent arrangements for the stay of the delegates and their food, and for the successful holding of the convention.
Puri town, famous for Rath Yatra in which large numbers of people participate, witnessed a different type of mobilisation on September 29, 2013. Around eight thousand working women - anganwadi employees, mid day meal workers, ASHAs, mines workers, beedi and construction workers - participated in a massive rally and public meeting. Thousands of male workers from all over the state also joined their sisters in the rally. Such a massive mobilisation of working women was unprecedented in the town. The colourful procession with the workers carrying CITU flags, festoons, and the banners of their unions marched on the same route taken by the Rath Yatra - from Jagannath temple to the Gundicha temple, where it culminated in a public meeting.
The public meeting was presided over by Lambodar Nayak and was addressed by Tapan Sen, Hemalata, Bishnu Mohanty, general secretary, Shivaji Patnaik and Janardan Pati, and Samhita Rai, vice presidents of the Odisha state committee of the CITU.