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Tuesday 20th March 2018

International Women's Day: Strikes, Protests and Holidays


7Dnews London

Fri, 08 Mar 2019 19:28 GMT

March 8th saw marches and protests across the globe to mark International Women's Day under the slogan #BalanceforBetter, with calls for a more gender-balanced world. The day, first sponsored by the United Nations in 1975, celebrates women's achievements and aims to further their rights.

In Spain, where women's rights have become one of the hot topics in the run-up to a general election in April 2019, thousands of women walked off their jobs, joining millions more around the world demanding equal pay with men and an end to violence and widespread inequality.

In neighbouring Portugal, the Cabinet observed a minute of silence on March 7th as part of a day of national mourning decreed for victims of domestic violence. Portuguese police said 12 women have died so far this year in domestic violence incidents, the highest number over the same period in 10 years.

About 300 people gathered on Mykhailivska Square in central Kiev, Ukraine, on March 8th for a women's rights demonstration. Several dozen far-right demonstrators stood nearby, holding placards reading "God! Homeland! Patriarchy!" and "Feminism is destroying Ukrainian families."

Pope Francis hailed the "irreplaceable contribution of women" to fostering peace, adding "Women make the world beautiful, they protect it and keep it alive." He also vowed to give more decision-making roles to women in the Catholic Church, where the priesthood —and therefore the highest ranks of authority— is reserved for men.

In Germany, topless feminist protesters went to one of the country's most famous red-light districts in Hamburg and pulled down a metal barrier wall intended to keep out women, other than prostitutes.

In France, the inaugural Simone Veil prize went to a Cameroonian activist who has worked against forced marriages and other violence against girls and women. Aissa Doumara Ngatansou was married against her will at age 15 but insisted upon continuing her studies as a young wife. She has since turned her attention to victims of Boko Haram extremists. The French award is named for the trailblazing French politician and Holocaust survivor Simon Veil, who spearheaded the fight to legalise abortion.

Meanwhile in Russia, International Women's Day is a public holiday but it mostly lauds gender roles that are now outdated. As is his custom every year, President Vladimir Putin gave a speech thanking women for their patience, good grace and support.

In Turkey, four female members of Turkey's gendarmerie units found an unusual way of marking the day: rappelling down on ropes from Istanbul's 15 July Martyrs' Bridge connecting the city's European and Asian sides into the waters of the iconic Bosporus.

In India, hundreds of women marched on the streets of New Delhi demanding an end to domestic violence, sexual attacks and discrimination in jobs. Thousands of Indian women are doused in gasoline and burned to death every year because the groom or his family feel the dowry she brought to the wedding was inadequate.

In Indonesia's capital, Jakarta, several hundred men and women carried colourful placards calling for an end to discriminative practices, such as the termination of employment for pregnancy and exploitative work contracts.

Both Koreas marked the day. In the South, women wearing black cloaks and pointed hats marched against what they describe as a "witch hunt" of feminists in a deeply conservative society. But in the North, Women's Day is one of the few national holidays where people dressed up for family photo shoots or bought roses for their mothers or wives from bright orange street stalls in central Pyongyang selling flowers.

In the Philippines, hundreds of women in purple shirts used a noisy march and protest in Manila to call for the ousting of President Rodrigo Duterte, whom they rebuked for the often sexist jokes he cracks and authoritarian moves they say are threatening one of Asia's liveliest democracies.

In North America, on the eve of International Women's Day, US first lady, Melania Trump, saluted women from 10 countries for their courage.

The recipients of the International Women of Courage Award included human rights activists, police officers and an investigative journalist. They came from Bangladesh, Djibouti, Egypt, Ireland, Jordan, Montenegro, Myanmar, Peru, Sri Lanka and Tanzania.

In Africa, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who named one of the world's few "gender-balanced" cabinets last year, told a gathering on March 8th that "women are the pillars of the nation and the least recognised for their sacrifices."

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