World Congress Of Working Women

(The paper presented by Comrade Bhuvana at the WCWW will be published in Liberation in the January 2016 issue.)

In its 70th anniversary year, WFTU held the World Congress of Working Women in Cyprus on 2015, November 1 – 2. The congress was hosted by PanCyprian Federation of Labour (PEO) of Cyprus, a federation of 8 trade unions of the country.

73 delegates from 45 unions in 28 countries participated in the congress. From India 7 delegates of AICCTU, AITUC, CITU and AIBEA participated.

Delegates from Vietnam, which gave a fitting rebuff for imperialist aggression, Greece, which resisted anti-austerity measures of imperialist economy, Pakistan and Nepal, the neighbors, Venezuela and Chile, which are inspiring anti-imperialist struggles, Palestine and Syria, which are ravaged by imperialist wars, Panama, Somalia and Congo, where people are fighting against imperialist loot of natural resources, shared their view on onslaught of neo-liberal policies, on the exploitation and inhuman working conditions women workers are facing every day, the urgent need to organize them in trade unions to rise up against the capitalist onslaught and raise their demands, the need to bring the issue of unpaid labour of women at home to the fore and the need to strengthen left trade unions to protect the interests of women workers.

On November 1, a rally and public meeting was held on the beach. The message of the congress reached the people of Cyprus who were gathered in the beach-side restaurants in large numbers. The meeting began and concluded with performances of a cultural team which rendered songs in the beginning and traditional dances toward the end.

The session continued on November 2 with delegates from various countries delving into the issues of women workers in their countries and called for a resolute struggle against neo-liberal policies.
Along with passing resolutions on many issues of protecting the rights of workers in general and women workers in particular, the congress called for reunification of Cyprus which was divided by Turkish aggression, immediate withdrawal of imperialist military troops from Palestine and Syria and called for an end to imperialist war.

The congress decided to observe March 8 every year on behalf of WFTU from 2016 and bring focus on various women workers’ issues. On March 8 2016 WFTU will raise the issue of ensuring maternity benefits for women workers. It was also decided to form a women secretariat for WFTU in the forthcoming conference of WFTU which will be held in South Africa and to bring out a publication with the papers presented by the delegates in the congress.

The delegates then visited PEO office in Larnaca. PEO runs a museum in this office which portrays the conditions of workers of Cyprus before trade unions were formed, the history of struggle of Cyprus working class, important milestones in the history of PEO including significant collective agreements reached by PEO. The museum also has a collection of tools used by workers during different periods on display. The delegates then visited a hospital in a nearby building which is run by PEO. Members of PEO and their family members are entitled for treatment in these hospitals. PEO has entered into an agreement with a panel of doctors throughout the country for attending patients in PEO hospitals. Fund for running the hospital is raised by a contribution from the management and the workers through a collective agreement.

The delegates then visited Nicosia, capital of Cyprus where they were taken to the ‘green line’. This is the area in Nicosia which demarcates North Cyprus which is occupied by the Turkish forces and is under the rule of Turkish Cypriots from the South Cyprus which is ruled by Greek Cypriots. The Greek Cypriots have built a monument of the devastating conditions of war in their part of the city and have also displayed the aerial view of Nicosia showing the broken city. Cypriot delegates said their main demand is reunification of the country into a united Cyprus.

Liberation Archive