IDWF Congress: Speech of the President of Women Committee of Latin America, IUF, Ms Patricia Alonzo
- IDWF Congress: Speech of the President of Women Committee of Latin America, IUF, Ms Patricia Alonzo
- 2013 Oct 26-28 Speech of the President of Women Committee of Latin America, IUF, Ms Patricia Alonzo
- Oct 26, 2013 to Oct 28, 2013 (Universal / UTC0)
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IDWF CONGRESS -
Speech of the President of Women Committee of Latin America, IUF,
Ms Patricia Alonzo:
I am speaking to you as President of the IUF Latin-American Women’s Committee (CLAMU). As well as congratulating the delegates to the 1st Congress of the International Domestic Workers’ Network, I propose to highlight some of the similarities between our organizations, which, I believe, opens up interesting opportunities for cooperation.
Since the decade of the 70s, women’s participation in the Latin-American labour market has been growing rapidly, reducing the differences between men and women yet inequality in wages and conditions of work have remained.
Moreover, it is a fact that women work more than men, but the number of hours they spend in paid work falls as the number of children under five in the home rises.
The consequence of this is a large presence of women in informal work, which tends to be more flexible and allows them to balance family life with work, although it generally means accepting subcontract work, insecure conditions of work and low wages.
In the IUF, as well as men and women workers in the food, hotels, catering and tobacco industry, we also represent those who work in agriculture. And it is in this last sector that I can envisage a potential for cooperation between our organizations.
Around one quarter of Latin American workers are concentrated in rural areas.
The majority of wage workers in agriculture are part of a labour market which in our region is characterized by the poor quality of jobs offered, and this generates the high levels of poverty found in the sector.
The number of women employed in agriculture in our region is considerable, such that their participation grew by 45 per cent in the last 20 years.
This growth is associated with the increase in agriculture for export (fruit, glowers, vegetables, etc.) which are highly capital intensive and mechanized, thus doing away with the need for labour.
In turn, the majority of agricultural workers are faced with problems at work due, among other things, to their low level of education.
The result of these conditions is that a high percentage of agricultural workers abandon the rural areas to move to the towns, where paid domestic work becomes the chief source of employment.
Of some 17 million domestic workers in our region, 95 per cent are women and a high percentage of those undoubtedly come from a rural environment.
It is a vicious circle for these women who, seeking to escape informality, the hard conditions of work and the low wages in agriculture, emigrate to the towns, only to fall back into informality and low wages.
Worse is the situation of those women of rural origin who emigrate to another country and end up being exploited as domestic workers. Very often “with bed”, i.e. sleeping in their employer’s home, which greatly exacerbates their situation.
This is only one example of areas where we can consider working together.
The chosen example also serves to reaffirm certain convictions.
According to the British feminist Lindsey German, women are not united by their gender, but divided by the class to which they belong.
Although all women suffer from oppression and discrimination, their life experiences are radically different.
Middle and upper class women benefit from exploiting the system in which we live and use it to alleviate their own oppression.
Working-class women are the ones who cook, clean and provide personal services to those privileged women, in exchange for low wages, without social security, and neglect their own families to do so.
That is why today we again ask ourselves, is equality between men and women possible at work in an unequal society?
The answer is that the female population forms part of the social classes and as women workers, we are part of the exploited class.
Thus we have to aspire to change the world, putting an end to the society of classes, which generates our oppression and exploitation.
And this means that women and men must fight together to free themselves.
This is what we set out in the Statutes of CLAMU, where, based on the principles set out in our International’s Declaration of Principles, we state:
“All social life is governed by social and economic relations which can be the subject of rational analysis and are susceptible to change by persons organized for that purpose” and that “existing social and economic relations reflect the power held by minorities which have organized social life for their own advantage and to the detriment of the great majority of the world’s population.
This unjust society is what we seek to transform, as it impedes the realization of its members, both men and women. That is why we conceive CLAMU as a trade union tool for inclusion and not exclusion. Our aim is to combine the awareness of class (discrimination as women workers) with the awareness of gender (discrimination on grounds of sex), goals which can only be achieved by men and women working together.”
I am confident that we will also find common ground in this.
Finally, on behalf of the IUF Latin-American Women’s Committee, I wish you a good Congress.
Thank you very much.