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The global women's struggle – and its role in winning peace and socialism

LIZ PAYNE introduces the women who will speak in the international section of next Saturday’s conference, Sisterhood, Socialism and Struggle — Communist Women Rising

OUR panellists at Sisterhood, Socialism and Struggle will join us from North and South America, Africa and Asia. 

Their lives, including decades-long roles in fighting against sexism and for women’s rights are in themselves an inspiration. 

So too are the leading positions and responsibilities in the movement they now hold and about which they will tell us more on the day. 

But beyond this, we will have the opportunity to learn from national and international struggles, in societies and environments shaped by colonialism and racism, imperialism and war, all of which have blighted the lives and potential of millions of women and their families. 

Most importantly, we will come to a better understanding of the most effective ways for us to stand in solidarity with our sisters, including by challenging the aggressive and predatory policies and interventions across the globe of our government and those with wealth and power in Britain, as well as supporting campaigns for equality, justice and peace worldwide.  

Socorro Gomes is a leading member of the Communist Party of Brazil and is renowned in the international movement as a campaigner against imperialism and war and is a voice for peace and justice. 

She has been president of the World Peace Council since 2008 and knows, perhaps better than anyone, the importance of the struggle of women worldwide for peace, without which they and their families cannot escape poverty and oppression. 

Gomes will also speak about the situation in Brazil, where, as she said in a recent interview, the people are “living from one nightmare to another” under an ultra-right government, installed with the backing of the US and supported by local reactionaries who never accepted that the people could come to power, as they did between 2003 and 2016. 

Now, Gomes says, women are the greatest victims of the economic crisis and disastrous neoliberal policies, made worse by the pandemic, in a society in which “corrosive misogynistic prejudice” is deeply rooted. 

Women’s hard-won gains are under systematic attack. But women are coming together in their communities and forming support networks and new ways of organising. 

They are determined to take their struggle for rights and justice forward.  

Annie Raja is a member of the national executive of the Communist Party of India and from 2005 has been general secretary of the multimillion-strong National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW). 

Its membership is drawn from a wide spectrum, including peasants, workers, professionals, artists and intellectuals.

The NFIW is, like the National Assembly of Women in Britain, affiliated to the Women’s International Democratic Federation, of which Raja is vice-president for Asia. 

She is revered the world over for her uncompromising stance for peace, justice and women’s rights. 

Speaking to Liberation in 2020, Raja told how India maintains its patriarchal feudal attitude, reinforced by religious teachings which peddle reactionary yet powerful stereotypes of women and their place in a society in which misogyny and abuse are the norm. 

New legislation on basic constitutional rights has excluded millions and the biggest victims are women and children. 

But the struggle for women’s rights and against endemic violence and abuse is strong, organised and determined.  

Liz Rowley joins us from Toronto. She was elected as leader (the most senior position) of the Communist Party of Canada in 2016 and was the first woman to hold this office. 

She is a veteran of many labour and people’s struggles since the late 1960s. She joined the party at 17 in 1967 and was a Young Communist League organiser in Alberta. 

Two decades later she became the leader of the party in Ontario. She has fought many local and federal elections and campaigned on women’s rights and anti-racism. 

Her stance against the Ku Klux Klan resulted in an arson attacks, including on her home. 

Under her leadership, the Communist Party of Canada has doubled its membership in the past two years. 

Rowley says that she is looking forward to speaking about problems facing women and working people in Canada in conditions of pandemic and deep economic crisis. 

However, most importantly, she wants to tell us about their mounting fierce resistance. 

Jenny Schreiner is full-time head of the secretariat of the South African Communist Party (SACP), which she describes as “a dream job.” 

In the apartheid era, Schreiner was a cadre of the ANC, MK and SACP working underground. 

She was elected to the party’s central committee in 1991 and to its Politburo in 2012. She has been a gender activist in student politics, women’s organisations, government and the SACP for five decades and has researched and written prolifically on the theory and history of women’s struggles for social emancipation, including on trade unions and the women’s question and rape as a human security issue. 

We are particularly pleased to have Schreiner with us at a time when the SACP is taking new initiatives to develop women cadres and place the organisation of women at the centre of its strategy going forward. 

Schreiner has recently written in African Communist that this commitment must be to the eradication of patriarchal oppression and to the empowerment of black working-class women within the women’s organisations themselves and within society — until gender equality becomes a lived reality. 

Liz Payne is chair of the Communist Party

The event begins at 9.45am on Saturday May 8 and the international panel will take place at 1.30pm. We hope you will be able to join us for this unique opportunity to exchange ideas and explore new possibilities of working together internationally. To book your place visit tinyurl.com/sisterhoodsocialismstruggle.

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