I am privileged to have consolidated some notes on my experience as a women political activist while into a graduate program in social work. To mark the women’s month, this column runs a series on gender-specific dimension of social development work. Needless to say, a framework of analysis carries a critical function of any social worker and social development practitioner. As a student of Marx attempting to apply it amidst eclectic tendency of social work, here is a third part of a piece featuring basic elements of Marxism in the work with grassroots women.

Marxism provides a scientific materialist foundation, both for socialism and women’s liberation. It sees that the roots of women’s oppression lie on the mode of production. It is rooted in a system of production based on private property and a society divided between a class that owned the wealth and a class that produced it (Engels and Bebel in Waters, 1972; Ofreneo, et al, 1997)

Achieving women’s liberation has been paved way by Marxism. It explains how the abolition of private property would provide a material basis for transferring to society as a whole all those onerous social responsibilities today borne by the individual family – the care of the old and sick, the feeding, clothing, and educating the young. When women are relieved of these burdens, Marx pointed out, the masses of women would be able to exercise their full capacities as creative and productive – not just reproductive – members of society.

Marxism provides the materialist analysis and scientific perspective for women’s liberation. The materialist analysis on the women question highlights the gender perspective in the class struggle. Women’s oppression has a material base (ownership of private property- the means of production – by the ruling class) as well as an ideological and cultural superstructure, but that these are not immutable and in fact change along with the more sweeping transformations of the social order (Waters, 1989 and Ofreneo, et al, 1997).

Moreover, Marxism enlightens the women activists in the struggle for democratic reforms as in the victory of the suffrage movement. The fight for democratic reforms is also in the interest of the working class, especially, the working class women. The relation between democracy in general and capitalism is such that the conditions provided by capitalist society do not make it possible for the oppressed classes to “exercise their democratic rights” as they are subjugated economically. It is typical of the capitalist system. And Marxists know that democracy does not abolish class oppression. It only makes the class struggle more direct, wider, more open and pronounced. The more democratic the system of government, the clearer will the workers see that the root of all evil is capitalism, not lack of rights (Lenin in Waters, 1989). The struggle for democratic rights is thus important for the oppressed to appreciate the connection between the fulfillment of the democratic rights and the class struggle.

There is a growing concern of women activists and to some extent social workers in social development work to engage in rights-based approach to women question. In fact the global women’s movement has been into women’s rights advocacy campaign that educates the public that women’s rights are human rights. It may be argued that rights-based approach to the women concerns sprang from the fact that the needs-response analysis had been inadequate in addressing comprehensively the conditions of women so that a shift became necessary and inevitable.

To a great extent, combining needs-response and rights-affirmation/denial analytical frame is contributory to the analysis of the woman question. I surmise this is attributed to the influence of the global socialist movement that recognizes that small victories are necessary to consolidate experience for a qualitative leap towards women emancipation.

While all feminist theories may agree on the goal of sexual egalitarianism, gender discrimination is neither the sole nor primary locus of the oppression of Third World women, particularly, Filipino women.

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