Keith Standrin (itusc@gn.apc.org)
Thu, 10 Apr 1997 22:23:36 GMT

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Comrade Liz Leicester (ITUSC Committee member and Chair, Camden UNISON) welcomed the packed meeting on 10 March. She explained that International Women's Day was started in 1910 on the initiative of a well-known German socialist, Clara Zetkin, in celebration of the successful struggle of 30,000 women garment workers in New York the year previously. In calling the meeting 'A celebration of women in struggle', the ITUSC was reclaiming the history of International Women's Day. Jenny Paine of Fuscailt (pronounced 'Fushkilt), the campaign for Irish political prisoners, spoke of the extreme conditions under which Irish political remand prisoners, particularly in Belmarsh were held. She spoke of Roisin McAliskey, who had not been charged. Roisin had been in solitary confinement since November 1996, notwithstanding that she was also pregnant. Jenny spoke movingly of her own experiences when taken into custody and of the difficulties of being separated from her young daughter.

Frances McHugh, the sister of a Belmarsh prisoner, told how remand prisoners were held in their cells for 19 hours per day, with no natural light and no proper association.

Affiong Southey of the Pan-Afrikan Women's Network and the ITUSC Committee, spoke passionately against the propensity of bourgeois women to reduce the women's struggle to single issues. The meeting was celebrating women in struggle not promoting a 'victim culture'. Drawing on her own experiences she said that the liberation of Africa and the liberation of African women was indivisible. Women quite naturally played a large part in that wider struggle and she predicted that the 21st century would be called 'the century of women'.

Doreen McNally of the Women of the Waterfront spoke of the determination of the dockers wives and girl-friends to continue to support the Liverpool dockers struggle until victory was achieved. She stated emphatically that after 18 months in struggle, not one of the Women of the Waterfront would make a different decision if they had their time over again.

A substantial delegation of women strikers from the Hillingdon Hospital attended the celebration with a number of supporters. Balbir, one of those on strike spoke of their experiences of racial and physical abuse during their 18 months on the picket line. Despite the forcible removal of the picket's material by the management, the picket remains in place. This had followed shortly after their union, UNISON, had signed an agreement with the employer without consulting with the women and terminated their strike pay.

Mina Mahmodi made plain that every woman in Iran struggles against Islamic fundamentalism. She appealed for the maximum support for the women's resistance.

In a general discussion which followed these speakers, there were contributions from women from Bangladesh, Germany, Sudan, India and many more. Jill Oxley (National Union of Teachers) spoke for all when she declared how encouraged she had been by the breadth of experience expressed by all those that had spoken.

The ITUSC Committee has decided to initiate regular meetings for women and will establih a work group with the aim of publishing a report on women under Islamic fundamentalism. ________________________________________________________________________ International Trade Union Solidarity Campaign (ITUSC) at:- PO Box 18, Epsom, Britain KT18 7YR Tel/Fax: ++44 (0) 1372 817778 e-mail: itusc@gn.apc.org URL: http://www.itusc.org.uk The ITUSC is an international and internationalist association of organised workers and communities, dedicated to rebuilding the workers' movement and to overcoming sectarianism and division in working class organisations. It was founded in 1991 on the following principles: 1) trade unions independent of the state and employers; 2) democracy within trade unions, and; 3) workers' internationalism. Any individuals or organisations that accept these principles and are prepared to work for them, are regarded as comrades by the ITUSC. ________________________________________________________

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