Women trades unionists fight to be heard at UN

UNCSW_picOne of the largest and most representative delegations of women trades unionists is currently attending the 54th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations. But they have been blocked from raising key issues. Read their Open Letter to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Visit the delegation blog. View the draft resolution of the UNCSW. Sign the letter for ACTION.

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IWD Ruth First biography and links

Ruth First, born in Johannesburg in 1925, was a lifelong Communist and a formidable foe of the apartheid regime. Her parents were founder members of the Communist Party.
Ruth joined the Young Communist League in her teens and soon proved to be a dynamic speaker and organiser. She carried on the underground work of the Party after its banning in 1950, became a prominet figure in the ANC-led alliance, and made an outstanding contribution as a journalist, writer and theorist.
She served on all the movement`s newspapers from The Guardian to New Age, was instrumental in exposing the farm labour scandal and edited Fighting Talk. Together with her husband, Joe Slovo, she was a Treason Trialist (1956-61). After a period of solidarity confinement under the 90 day legislation, she was forced into exile in 1964. shhe wrote and edited several books, including 117 Days, an account of her detention.
Ruth First became an international authority on South Africa, a leading campaigner for the Anti-Apartheid Movement and the ANC. In 1979 she was appointed Director of Research in the Centre for African Studies in Maputo, Mozambique.
Loved and respected by our people, she was feared by the Pretoria regime who assassinated her in Maputo on August 17, 1982. Heroine of our Party and liberation movement, her life serves as an inspiration for all.

Ruth First was an outstanding campaigner for the rights of South African women and one of the best known campaigners against apartheid.

Find out here about the Ruth First Trust at Durham University

Read here an article about Ruth's work.

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IWD Eleanor Marx on May Day

Eleanor Marx
We have not come to do the work of political parties, but we have come here in the cause of labour, in its own defence, to demand its own rights. I can remember when we came in handfuls of a few dozen to Hyde Park to demand an Eight Hours' Bill, but the dozens have grown to hundreds, and the hundreds to thousands, until we have this magnificent demonstration that fills the park today. We are standing face to face with another demonstration, but I am glad to see that the great masses of the people are on our side. Those of us who have gone through all the worry of the Dock Strike, and especially the Gasworkers' Strike, and have seen the men, women and children stand round us, have had enough of strikes, and we are determined to secure an eight hours' day by legal enactment; unless we do so, it will be taken from us at the first opportunity. We will only have ourselves to blame if we do not achieve the victory which this great day could so easily give us. There is in the park this afternoon a man whom Mr. Gladstone once imprisoned– Michael Davitt; but Mr. Gladstone is now on the best of terms with him. What do you suppose is the reason for the change? Why has the Liberal Party been so suddenly converted to Home Rule? Simply because the Irish people sent 80 members to the House of Commons to support the Conservatives; in the same way we must kick these Liberal and Radical members out if they refuse to support our programme. I am speaking this afternoon not only as a Trade Unionist, but as a Socialist. Socialists believe that the eight hours' day is the first and most immediate step to be taken, and we aim at a time when there will no longer be one class supporting two others, but the unemployed both at the top and at the bottom of society will be got rid of. This is not the end but only the beginning of the struggle; it is not enough to come here to demonstrate in favour of an eight hours' day. We must not be like some Christians who sin for six days and go to church on the seventh, but we must speak for the cause daily, and make the men, and especially the women that we meet, come into the ranks to help us.
"Rise like Lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number,
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you–
Ye are many–they are few."

Eleanor Marx was a guest speaker at the first May Day march in 1890. This is her speech. 2010 is the centenary of International Women's Day and the 120th anniversary of the first May Day march for the eight hour day.

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  1. IWD Charter for Women