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Budget 2006 - 2007: Muvman Liberasyon Fam wrote to Finance Minister Sithanen


The Muvman Liberasyon Fam has written to Finance Minister Sithanen in the context of the 2006-07 budget to make proposals that address women faced with the economic and social crisis. The letter gives a glimpse of the situation of women, after the massive retrenchment of women workers in textile factories and in the sugar industry. The unemployment rate is higher for women than for men. Lalit has pleasure in publishing this letter on our website.

The Minister of Finance
Government House
Port Louis

10th April, 2006

Dear Sir,

Muvman Liberasyon Fam writes to you in context of the 2006-07 budget. As a national women's association, we are deeply concerned about how working people and in particular women are bearing the brunt of economic and social crisis.

You are aware of the large-scale redundancies for women in the free zone, and of destruction of jobs in the sugar industry where women were employed. This was a main theme of the present government in the electoral campaign. After this wave of job destruction, in all our assemblies, and meetings, we are now getting the same report back again and again: more and more women being forced into "deregulated" low-paid jobs, forced into the insecurity of the informal sector, into debt through micro-credit, or are made utterly house bound in poverty. In the remaining husks of the traditional sectors, the sugar and textile industries, work conditions are deteriorating rapidly. In the sugar industry, the amount of task work required daily for a Rs 125 daily wage has increased dramatically. In certain factories, the 8-hour shift has been replaced by a 12-hour shift without a corresponding increase in basic wages.

We are receiving reports of many women whose pay packets have been LOWERED. In the catering sector, women hired to clean, set tables, serve from midday to late night have had their pay packet lowered from Rs 250 to Rs 200. In the private cleaning sector, one woman reported receiving only Rs 2,000 a month, working from morning to night every week day, and is given only half of her travelling (amounting to Rs 42 a day). Women working as domestic employees are being laid off as their employers no longer have enough surplus to pay them.

We are witnessing the social effects of this terrible economic insecurity every day. With not just women, but many family members being threatened with unemployment and wage insecurity, the institution of the family is imploding bringing on more and more intra-familial violence. Women are not only bearing the brunt of economic crisis, we are also bearing the brunt of social crisis at one and the same time.

This will be the first budget of the newly-elected government after an electoral campaign that was centred on the hardship of working people in the first phases of economic and social crisis. You have a special responsibility to ensure that the weight of economic and social crisis is not shifted onto the backs of working people, and in particular, on women.

We call on you to introduce bold measures:

1.In order for women and children to be in a position to weather the economic and social storm, we call for the State to ensure job creation and to ensure that jobs be secure.

2.To ensure that prices stop rising. Price rises bankrupt the family.

3.That all women who are unemployed receive, as an emergency measure, unemployment benefits at a rate that her family can actually survive on.

We, in Muvman Liberasyon Fam, are aware of the special significance of this coming budget. We are awaiting measures that speak of a new alternative economic orientation that creates employment and provides the means to develop social services. Social services are instrumental as they liberate women from part of domestic oppression. At the same time, social services create the minimum conditions for more women's emancipation.

We remind you that in times past when there was less surplus in the economy, governments did believe (and rightly so) that minimum social services were a top priority. To balance your budget by just cutting back on social services, social security, and introduction of austerity measures would mean catastrophe for working people and in particular, for women.

Yours sincerely,

Rajni Lallah
Secretary, Muvman Liberasyon Fam