|Women constitute half the working population in Britain and yet the gap between men’s and women’s earnings is widening despite the fact that girls perform better than boys in public examinations. (55% of girls gain five or more A-C grades at GCSE compared with 44% of boys.)
Women over 21 have had the right to vote since 1928 and yet only 27% of local authority councillors are women, 18% of all MPs and 24% of MEPs are women. In the home, up to one in 10 women experience domestic violence each year, one in four will experience this type of abuse at some point in their lifetime. An incident of domestic violence takes place in Britain every six to 20 seconds.
The oppression of women is consistently denied or trivialised by the mass media and the state. New Labour claims that they have made great progress to equalise opportunity for women – the facts do not bear this out. On the left, there is a tendency to subsume women’s issues within the general class struggle, or to relegate them to a secondary position. The right have always trivialised or ignored our concerns.
|Women’s membership of trade unions is rising. However, women are not represented in proportion to their numbers within the trade unions. The position for black women is even worse.
Women have always fought for their long-denied rights; we must do so again.
We hope to inspire a new and inclusive socialist feminist theory and practice that will motivate a new generation of women activists and revitalise the fight for women’s liberation. One of the ways of doing this is to unite around a campaigning programme. This is the purpose of the Charter for Women. It does not offer new policy but instead seeks to bring together the key demands for which progressive women are fighting in various arenas. The charter covers three broad areas, social policy, the labour market and the labour movement. It raises the main progressive concerns/ campaigning points under each heading. We want it to be discussed, adopted and promoted by all progressive women’s groups and organisations.
For us the price of progress is eternal vigilance – we must ensure that women’s demands are heard and acted on.