Women in the Arab Uprisings

“Women’s participation during the revolution was remarkable.”

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Women in the Arab Uprisings[*]

Egyptian activist Shaza Abdel Lateef speaks against a backdrop of severe lack of women’s rights- no opening independent bank accounts, voting or driving, in Saudi Arabia, to daily police harassment in Egypt. There has been a wide range of experiences in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Yemen, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia, but what cuts across the revolts is that women have been central, and are proud of their mobilization.

In the Streets

Women in Tahrir Square were of all ages and social groups resisting poverty, brutality, corruption. They led marches and participated in human shields, in spite of sexist gender roles relegating women to be protected, kept home, and not participate in public, political, activity. This is why Nawal El Saadawi, Egyptian feminist and former political prisoner, stresses that women and girls, like men and boys, are in the streets calling for justice, freedom, equality and democracy.

As a whole, protests led by many women-based labor unions in the manufacturing cities of Egypt played a key role in catalyzing the Egyptian revolution. Benghazi fell, says Najla el Manghoush, because “both men and women, educated and not, were being humiliated. Now we are all rebuilding it together."

Read more: Women in the Arab Uprisings

AngloPlat: The Economic Propaganda War and the Battle for Democracy

platAngloPlat: The Economic Propaganda War and the Battle for Democracy

This article was first published online here: http://sacsis.org.za/site/article/1544

How soon we forget…When the striking workers were killed by the police at Marikana there was a universal sense of shock and horror. How could it have come to this? Just 18 years after apartheid and here we go again - the police mowing down demonstrators. Now AngloPlat has announced that it will retrench 14 000 workers and the mood amongst the commentariat is, "Well, what did they expect?"

Angloplat’s announcement seems to confirm our most dismal perceptions that the markets will ultimately have their way and we must all behave accordingly. But beyond this myth, a much larger battle for public opinion is being waged over the post-Marikana strike wave. Either we see this as a movement that inspires us to expand the notion of democracy and citizenship or we join the ANC-alliance and big business in their chortling at striking workers receiving their comeuppance.

Read more: AngloPlat: The Economic Propaganda War and the Battle for Democracy

The Strike Wave and New Workers' Organisations: Breaking out of Old Compromises

Over the past weekend, the striking mineworkers of Amplats gathered at a mass rally in Rustenburg and howled their defiance of a series of ultimatums issued by the company. At De Doorns, farm workers are on a wildcat strike - the latest of a series that has become a feature of the South African landscape over the last three months, knocking Mangaung off the front pages. Something is stirring from below…and it is time we got beyond the fear and trepidation that have become the stock response in the media.     

After the Marikana massacre President Jacob Zuma appointed the Farlam Commission and also convened an emergency Social Dialogue meeting of Business, Labour and Government in October. The partners released a statement calling on strikers to return to work and for the police to defend law and order and noted that “the wave of unprotected strikes…[could]…undermine the legal framework of bargaining.”    

Read more: The Strike Wave and New Workers' Organisations: Breaking out of Old Compromises

Mangaung Versus Marikana: COSATU Chooses Sides

amangIn the run up to the September COSATU Congress, the media began to float the story that Zwelenzima Vavi’s position as General Secretary was going to be challenged by NUM, NEHAWU and SADTU because of his perceived opposition to Jacob Zuma. A subtext to this was the idea of the congress as some kind of debating forum where workers would reflect seriously on critical issues facing the labour movement and where there would be the rough and tumble of debate and contestation.

Read more: Mangaung Versus Marikana: COSATU Chooses Sides

The massacre of our illusions …and the seeds of something new


marikanaThe story of Marikana has so far been painted shallowly as an inter-union spat. In the first few days after the fateful Thursday and the shock and horror of watching people being massacred on TV there have correctly been howls of anger and grief. Of course no one wants to take responsibility because to do so would be to acknowledge blame. Some pundits have even gone the way of warning at anyone “pointing figures” or “stoking anger”. That buffoon, Julius Malema, stepped forward as if scripted, and promptly lent credibility to those warnings. So Zuma’s setting up of an Inquiry and his call for a week of mourning for the deceased and their families could come across as “statesmanlike”.

 

But this is not just a story of hardship, violence and grief. To speak in those terms only would be to add the same insult to injury perpetrated by the police on the striking workers as many commentators have done - that of seeing the striking miners as mere victims and not as agents of their own future and, even more importantly, as a source of a new movement in the making.

Read more: The massacre of our illusions …and the seeds of something new

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