Women: International Women’s day – Brazil

March 8th around the world is the celebration of International Women’s Day. For us, this is not just a celebration, it’s more a day of struggle, of fighting spirit. The struggle to end the oppression of women is a fight against the capitalist system which means exploitation for us and making profit for the bosses.

International Women’s Day. Report from Brazil.

A day of struggle and fighting spirit

In Brazil, the workers as a whole have been hit by a series of government attacks, as they attempt to take away historic conquests of the class, to continue with their corruption and with fattening the bank accounts of international speculators.

Women are the hardest hit. In the debate on Pensions Reform, for example, the government wants to eliminate women’s earlier retirement, claiming that this "privilege" involves huge problems for the country’s finances. The government refuses to acknowledge the fact that toiling women in fact are often doing two jobs, work overtime at housework, and are much more exploited than men.

In the rural areas, this is still worse. About 57% of women begin work before they reach the age of 10 and 90% before they are 15. So they have to take care of the home, wash and iron clothes, make meals and take care of children. These women have no access to contraceptive information and methods. They become pregnant very young (61% before they are 21) and they have large families: 50% have five or more children, 24% have nine or more.

In addition, women’s health is ignored by the authorities. In cities, 10% of women suffer a miscarriage and in the rural areas, 42% due to the lack of adequate prenatal and health services Even during pregnancy there is no let-up in their lives of hard physical labour. Half the women surveyed didn’t have even one rest day in a week. Over 67% of rural workers say that they have never been informed of the high risk of agricultural fertilisers. As many as 63% of them continue to use the drums or barrels that contained these chemicals to store water, groceries and cereals.

One of the basic demands raised by the Movement of Rural Working Women is the right to free registration for identity documents, which are vital for citizens’ rights and for survival generally. Without identity documents, access to retirement pension is very difficult and it is estimated that about 500,000 women missed getting retirement benefit last year, mainly for this reason. Today, only 3 million of the 18.5 million rural workers have a formally recognised job skill. Most rural workers only have their voting card (compulsory in Brazil) and their birth certificate.

Only 1% of rural properties are in the name of women. Rural women tend to do jobs in the more informal sector, making cheese, conserves, manual crafts, selling greens and vegetables, eggs, etc. So they have no social legislation or retirement rights.

Despite so much inequality and oppression, rural workers are in the front line, struggling against exploitation. Women with kids in their arms or hanging onto their skirts have played leading roles in land occupations and in clashes with the big landowners’ thugs. They are courageous women, exemplary and determined fighters and their struggle should be commemorated this 8th of March!

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March 1999