PRESS RELEASE:

WAGES-FOR-HOUSEWORK-50-YEARS-OF-CAMPAIGNING-3-002-1086x1536

Celebrating 50 years of campaigning to put unwaged caring work on the agenda: isn’t it time for a care income?

Throughout 2022, the International Wages for Housework Campaign (WFH) is celebrating its 50th anniversary with a programme of events online and in person. They will showcase organising done in different countries, evaluate what this has achieved and launch their archives.

WFH Campaign founder, Selma James, who will be 92 this year, and her colleagues based at Crossroads Women’s Centre in London and in other countries, are available for interview.

For information contact:
Anne Neale: 020 7482 2496  Email: gws@globalwomenstrike.net
https://globalwomenstrike.net/  @WomenStrike

EVENTS IN MARCH

24 March 2022, 6pm (online): Selma James and Margaret Prescod in conversation. Prescod co-founded Black Women for Wages for Housework and is with Women of Colour GWS. Originally from Barbados, she is an award-winning journalist with Pacifica Radio.
More information and registration here

25 March, 2pm (online): Empowering Women with a Care Income for People and Planet, UN Commission on the Status of Women. More information and registration here.

27 March 2-5pm: (in person): WFH Archives: Moving Forward by Looking Back, Bishopsgate Institute, 230 Bishopsgate London EC2M 4QH. More information here.

The first event of WFH’s 50th anniversary was on 8 March—an international survey, What Mothers and Caregivers Want, with speakers from 13 countries. More information here.

BACKGROUND

Selma James put forward wages for housework for the first time in March 1972 at the second women’s liberation conference in Manchester. Since then, she has been a point of reference for a global network campaigning from the perspective of unwaged women who, with their biological and caring work, reproduce the whole human race—whatever else they do. This work goes on almost unnoticed everywhere, in every culture. It is not prioritised economically, politically, or socially, and women are discriminated against and impoverished for doing it.

The WFH Campaign continues to organise in the UK and internationally. Since 2000, it coordinates the Global Women’s Strike (GWS) which has coordinating groups in Canada, India, Ireland, Peru, Thailand, UK and US. The autonomous groups which formed within WFH—of women of colour, queer women, sex workers, women with disabilities, single mothers—have worked to ensure that antisexism, antiracism and anti every discrimination are central to all WFH/GWS does. The network of men who share this perspective is integral to this campaigning.

ACHIEVEMENTS

The consistent work of the WFH Campaign and the GWS in a number of countries has spearheaded a movement to put unwaged work—in the home, on the land, in the community and for the planet —on the international agenda, including:

·      coined the word “unwaged” to describe the caring work women do; popularised “every mother is a working mother” and “women count, count women’s work”

·      popularised the 1980 ILO figure that “women do 2/3 of the world’s work for 5% of the income and 1% of the assets” [1]

·      United Nations decision to measure and value women’s unwaged work in national accounts at the Decade for Women conference in Nairobi (1985), confirmed and expanded at the follow up conference in Beijing (1995) [2]

·      time use surveys and legislation in several countries[3] court decisions that recognise the unwaged contribution of women to the family; [4] industrial tribunal rulings against wage discrimination based on caring responsibilities [5]

·      recognition that there is one continuum between the care and protection of people and of the planet—the care income proposed by the Green New Deal for Europe prioritises both [6]

·      guaranteed income proposals in a number of countries referencing time to care; waged workers winning time off to care

·       public debate on the “caring crisis” triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic

RECENT RECOGNITION FOR SELMA JAMES

Selma James received the Sheila McKechnie long-term achievement award for 2021.

On 8 March 2022, City of Women London launched by Reni-Eddo Lodge, Rebecca Solnit and Emma Watson, renamed London’s underground stations after women or non-binary people who had shaped the city. Selma James was chosen to represent Kentish Town—the station closest to the Crossroads Women’s Centre where she and the WFH Campaign are based. 

PUBLICATIONS INCLUDE

Sex, Race, and Class: The Perspective of Winning—A Selection of Writings 1952-2011, Selma James, PM Press (Oakland, 2012)

Our Time is Now: Sex, Race, Class, and Caring for People and Planet, Selma James, PM Press (Oakland, 2021)

Black Women Bringing It All Back Home, Margaret Prescod co-author, Falling Wall Press (Bristol, 1980)

For other publications by James and others see: https://crossroadsbooksonline.net/

PRAISE

“As the planet burns and pandemics rage, Selma James’s work with the Wages for Housework movement shows that we ignore the labor of care at our own peril…If there ever were a moment for James’s feminist vision, surely it is now.” Emily Callaci, Boston Review

“Written in James’s characteristically accessible, whip-smart and defiant voice, this collection is an important resource for anyone interested in organising for social change.” Dr Julia Downes, LSE Review of Books

“Today, ‘intersectional feminism’ is a buzzword, and the value of caring is in the spotlight thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. But before that, James and her fellow activists were prominent campaigners for the rights of sex workers, lesbians, women of color, immigrants, asylum seekers, rape survivors, and working-class people, viewing all these as part of the same struggle.” Leila Hawkins, Yes Magazine

About Black Women Bringing It All Back Home: “So many apparently unrelated aspects of women’s lives are brought together in a powerful analysis. A fascinating book.” New Approaches in Muti-Racial Education

REFERENCES

[1]ILO, Women at Work (1978/1)

[2]“The remunerated and, in particular, the unremunerated contributions of women to all aspects and sectors of development should be recognized, and appropriate efforts should be made to measure and reflect these contributions in national accounts and economic statistics and in the gross national product. Concrete steps should be taken to quantify the unremunerated contribution of women to agriculture, food production, reproduction and household activities.”
Paragraph 120, Nairobi Forward-Looking Strategies for the Advancement of Women, United Nations, 26 July 1985, http://www.un-documents.net/nfl-2.htm
“(i) Conduct regular time-use studies to measure, in quantitative terms, unremunerated work, including recording those activities that are performed simultaneously with remunerated or other unremunerated activities;
“(ii) Measure, in quantitative terms, unremunerated work that is outside national accounts and work to improve methods to assess its value, and accurately reflect its value in satellite or other official accounts that are separate from but consistent with core national accounts;”
Paragraph 206, Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, UN Women, September 1995. https://www.unwomen.org/sites/default/files/Headquarters/Attachments/Sections/CSW
/PFA_E_Final_WEB.pdf

[3] Trinidad and Tobago, spearheaded by the WFH Campaign there, was the first country to pass legislation: the Counting Unremunerated Work (2) Bill, 1995, was introduced by Senator Diana Mahabir-Wyatt. http://www.ttparliament.org/publications.php?id=398&mid=28
The 1999 Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela includes Paragraph 88, “The State recognizes work at home as an economic activity that creates added value and produces welfare and wealth. Housewives are entitled to Social Security in accordance with the law.” https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Venezuela_2009.pdf
In the US, the Unremunerated Work Act introduced by Representative Barbara-Rose Collins, October 24, 1991, was followed by time use surveys: History: Handbook of Methods: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (bls.gov) 
In Ireland, the GWS has been urging successfully for Article 41.2 of the Constitution to be reworded not deleted so the recognition of caring work in the home remains and is expanded.
Invisibility would undermine carers’ struggle for equity (irishtimes.com)
“Time to Care”, Oxfam 2020 https://www.oxfam.org/en/research/time-care

[4]  https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/value-of-homemakers-work-same-as-hubbys-at-office-sc/articleshow/80125241.cms; Find out why housewives in Kenya might start getting paid | Pulselive Kenya

[5]In 2014, a Sheehy Skeffington equality tribunal ruling noted that academic women applicants for promotion at NUIG seemed to be disadvantaged when they declared their caring responsibilities.

[6] “Open Letter to Governments: A Care Income Now!”, issued by GWS and Women of Colour GWS with the Green New Deal for Europe, 27 March 2020: https://globalwomenstrike.net/open-letter-to-governments-a-care-income-now/