Call for paid breastfeeding breaks for mothers

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At the International Labor Organization confererence in Geneva women from the International Wages for Housework Campaign have won the continuation of paid breastfeeding breaks for mothers in waged work in the ILO convention. The right of mothers to breastfeed and of infants to receive the best care, which begins with breast milk - "the milk of human kindness" - has been undermined by the formula industry to the extent that currently only 1/3 of infants worldwide are fully breastfed, leading to the deaths of 1.5 million children annually. This decision in the face of global market pressure to abolish breastfeeding breaks, points to a turnaround of this life-threatening trend, and establishes that breastfeeding is work worthy of financial remuneration and social support.

As governments at UN renege on commitments, grassroots women launch Women's Global Strike 2001 and Pay Equity Petition to end "No Pay, Low Pay and Overwork"

On the heels of the success of the first Women's Global Strike in 65 countries on March 8, women from grassroots organizations in many countries attending the UN Special Session "Beijing +5", will use the occasion to kick off plans for Global Strike 2001 and to launch the international Pay Equity Now! Petition. The petition exposes and opposes a little-known policy of the US government: opposition to pay equity in international agreements.

The women charge that the UN has become increasingly irrelevant to addressing the realities of most women's lives and has retreated from its commitments on poverty and to reduce women's burden of work. The UN put forward in 1980 the then-stunning statistic that quantified women's exploitation - women and girls do 2/3 of the world's work for 5% of the income. Twenty years later, while a few women are in positions of power, most women are facing the brutality of the global market, with the majority working even harder for less.

Women opposing the global market face increased repression including rape and murder. Corporate greed reflected in policies of the World Bank, IMF and WTO including structural adjustment programs in Global South, and economic restructuring (e.g. welfare "reform") in the North, has increased women's poverty and workload. And the global market has invaded the UN itself, with numerous UN programs and departments now privatized and supported by corporate funding.

On International Women's Day, March 8, 2000, waged and unwaged women joined the first-ever Women's Global Strike, called and coordinated by the International Wages for Housework Campaign. Speakers from the following countries who took part in strike activities in their countries will discuss plans for Strike 2001: Argentina, India, Ireland, Peru, Spain, Trinidad & Tobago, Uganda, UK, US.

The Pay Equity Now! petition states that "by opposing pay equity in international forums, the US government enables multinational corporations to underpay women everywhere in the global economy". The US has consistently opposed other rights women in waged work including paid breastfeeding breaks, two issues that are at this moment being fought out at the International Labor Organization meeting in Geneva. The International Women Count Network is in Geneva and a representative will give an update at today's press conference and workshop. The US is the only wealthy country where women get no paid maternity leave.

$800 billion a year is spent on military budgets, less than $20 billion on the essentials of life. Strikers are demanding a total change of priorities, to build a world without sexism, racism, ageism or any discrimination. Women's Global Strike:

  • Wages for all work, including caring work. What is more valuable than raising children and caring for others?
  • Pay equity for all, women and men, in the global market.
  • Abolition of 'Third World debt' which falls heaviest on women. We are owed much more we owe.
  • Accessible clean water and non-polluting technology - we all need cookers, fridges, washing machines, computers . . .
  • Paid maternity leave, breastfeeding breaks and other benefits - stop penalizing us for being women.
  • Affordable and accessible housing and transport.
  • Protection from all violence, at home and outside.


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