Forum Hosts Workshop On Building A Working Class Health Movement

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Community Healthcare Workers (CHWs) from Gauteng, North West and Mpumalanga, together with Khanya College (staff, interns and community monitors) held a three-day workshop from the 15-18 May 2021 with the theme was: “Building A Working Class Health Movement”. The workshop was held at the House of Movements in Johannesburg.

The workshop looked at what is primary health care and role it plays in the context of the global health crisis that working class people are facing. After this, the workshop broke up into groups and focused on specifically on the South African collapsing health system and the three epidemics we have been experiencing even before COVID-19: the crisis in women’s health, the crisis in children’s health and the crisis of violence against women (VAW).

In group and plenary discussions, comrades looked at what are the main health challenges facing women and children in South Africa, especially the social factors that are responsible for the ill health of women and children in South Africa. They also looked at the main social factors that are the responsible for violence against women (VAW) in South Africa. The groups discussed some of the source of these problems such as poverty, poor living conditions and lack of education.

The comrades read the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Declaration of Alma-Ata (at the International Conference on Primary Health Care). Afterwards the groups discussed if they agreed with the WHO’s declaration as a vision of healthcare and what they thought should be part of the vision for quality health care for the working class health. This was used to guide the way we think about building a working class health movement that fights for a quality healthcare system and for government to prioritise working class communities and people.

The workshop also talked about how to feminise the working class’s struggle and organisations. The groups brainstormed what short term and long term demands a working class health movement should make in its campaign like raising awareness about children’s safety, building school for special needs learners, developing skills for women and children, making sure women can get proper reproductive medical treatment without being judged.

To open the next session, a few comrades participated in an exercise involving a blanket while the rest of the workshop observed. In the exercise six participants were asked to stand on top of a blanket laid out on the floor. Then they were asked to turn the blanket over onto the other side without any of the participants touching the floor or putting their feet on the floor. The exercise illustrated the importance of people working in solidarity, communication and listening skills, but especially the importance of coming together, looking at the problem or challenge, and then making a plan about how to deal with it together.

On the last night of the workshop comrades watched a movie called ‘Bread and Roses’, which is about the struggle of exploited office cleaners in Los Angeles for better working conditions, fair treatment from the manager and benefits. In the short discussion the next morning, comrades shared how through the movie they learned more about what organising and mobilising means, and how to take action in their own struggle.

The last half-day of the workshop had presentations from cde Oupa who spoke about building a working class campaign and the importance of strategy and tactics in the working class’s struggle, and from cde Maria who spoke about the experience of the anti-privatisation campaign that the South African Municipal Workers Union (SAMWU) organised in the mid- to late 1990. In the closing session of the workshop, many shared how they had learnt a lot about the healthcare system and the need for us to struggle and fight for our rights as the working class.

This article was submitted on 5 May 2021. You may republish this article, so long as you credit the authors and Karibu! Online (, and do not change the text. Please include a link back to the original article.

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