By Diane Dewing, Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (Canada)
Women across the world face the double jeopardy of economic inequality and of violence. The two are inexplicably linked, mutually reinforcing and reproducing each other. Both are strongly rooted in patriarchal systems which seek to control women.
Driven by poverty to seek work outside the home, women with little education gravitate toward low-paying jobs. Often these are precarious contract situations where overtime cannot be refused and working conditions are unsafe. Managers frequently bully, harass and assault many of these women whose poverty and lack of education make them submissive. Women displaced by war or political turmoil face similar problems. As both the primary income earner and primary caregiver they accept violence and abuse to avoid deportation. Spousal abuse is high when males find few opportunities for employment.
Walking home late on unlit streets exposes women to danger. Arriving home unexpectedly late exposes them to domestic assault. Being too tired to care for house and family risks further domestic assault. Few woman risk expanding their choices through continuing education -- night classes place them at further risk of assault.
Government policies that disallow women from owning land further contributes to their inability to rise on their own. Lack of free and meaningful education opportunities further restricts them. Poverty drives women to tolerate intolerable conditions. Taxes based on consumer goods rather than taxes on the rich or on business further oppress women while robbing the state of resources to put in place social services such as health and education.
Economic power allows women to negotiate their relationship in their family or to leave an intolerable relationship. To do this, unions and communities of women must challenge governments and insist on -- Equal Pay for Work of Equal Value.
- Sexual harassment policies
- Safe and affordable childcare
- Legislation and policing that supports women from violence at home, on the street, or in the school or workplace
There is much to do but women are learning from other women how to effect change.