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Women urged to fight Greek austerity measures

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Julie Tomlin
WVoN co-editor

We are already seeing signs of the despair many Greek women feel as a result of recession and the austerity measures imposed by the European Union as bailout conditions.

Women have also played a part in the protests against the Greek government’s acceptance of the austerity measures and the ferocious cuts in living standards they imply.

But some women’s rights activists are now calling for a movement that will focus on fighting the erosion of women’s rights as they  not only face unemployment and hardship, but also bear the brunt of cuts in state activity.

Sonia Mitralia, a member of the Greek Committee Against the Debt and the Women’s Initiative Against the Debt and Austerity, insists women need to join together to fight the cuts because“the debt crisis and the subsequent austerity measures affect us women first, in every aspect of our lives. So if we women don’t organise ourselves to resist, no one else will do it for us”.

Unemployment has already risen sharply among women  as public sector jobs disappear –  20.9 per cent were out of work in November last year, compared to 14.9 per cent among men, the latest figures show and more than half of young women between the ages of 15 to 25 don’t have a job.

The impact of cuts to services is also being felt as cash-strapped Greeks find themselves cut out of subsidised healthcare –  pregnant women are reported to have have been turned away from hospitals because they can’t afford to pay at least €900 up front in order to give birth there.

After two years of political and financial turmoil, the future for Greece looks extremely bleak, with more cuts, including  a further 3.2 billion euros in spending and pensions due this week.

Women will suffer a double whammy because they are often the ones who take on the work of caring that the state no longer provides, Mitralia claims:

“Not only are we condemned to poverty and precarity, but they also burden us with the tasks that were the job of the State, with all that it brings in terms of fatigue, stress, premature ageing, unpaid work and additional expenses!”

Suicide rates have doubled since the beginning of the crisis and prostitution and domestic violence are also said to be increasing.

Overall, women could lose “the few rights and victories they’ve obtained through the struggles of the last few decades” as the agenda of the IMF and European “modernisers” seems to be also serving the interests of the “misogynous patriarchal” establishment  that wants to see women return to more traditional roles.

Urging people across Europe to work together to fight the cuts, Mitralia said women needed an independent and autonomous women’s movement against debt and austerity:

“Not only because no one can do it for us, but also because capitalism and patriarchy are so closely intertwined that any fight against one of these tyrants will be a shaky one if it is not also fought against the other.”

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