Events around the world put spotlight on progress and failings in achieving gender equality
Millions of women gathered across the world to strike, protest and party to mark International Women’s Day on Thursday.
Trains stopped in Spain as female workers went on the country’s first “feminist” strike, newspapers dropped their prices for women in France, and the IWD flag flew over the UK parliament.
In India, women marched in several cities including Delhi, Karachi and Kolkata, and women also took to the streets in Bangladesh, Belarus, Nepal, Pristina and Ankara among many others.
It was a day of celebration and a day in which the message was spelt out that much work still needed to be done to achieve global gender equality.
In London, an International Women’s Day flag flew over parliament for the first time as MPs and peers marked the day with a debate in both Houses of parliament.
The shadow equalities minister, Dawn Butler, said she had been inspired by the flag flying over the Transport for London building on Monday and had approached the Speaker, John Bercow, about a flag for parliament. He approved the plan with less than 24 hours to go, as the House commemorated 100 years since the first women in the UK got the vote.
Bercow said: “We must not sit smugly and think job done; there are still issues of unequal access to the labour market, occupational segregation, women and members of minority groups scaling the heights professionally, there is a substantial gender pay gap.”
More than 100 MPs and peers from all parties wrote to the home secretary, Amber Rudd, calling for women in Northern Ireland to be allowed access to abortion services locally rather than having to go to England.
Women tweeted about the global #WikiGap event, organised in partnership with the Swedish foreign ministry. The idea was to get more women contributing to the Wikipedia website to address the gender imbalance on the world’s largest online and user-generated encyclopaedia. The Swedish foreign ministry said: “Knowledge is power and Wikipedia has the potential to colour our view of the world. But there is great imbalance between men and women on the website, like in society at large.”
It said 90% of those who added content to Wikipedia were men and there were four times more articles about men than women. “The figures vary regionally but, no matter how you look at it, the picture is clear: the information about women is less extensive than that about men. Regardless of which language version of Wikipedia you read. We want to change this.”
UN Women Europe &CIS (@unwomeneca)
On Int’ Women’s Day, more than 50 countries organized #Wikipedia edit-a-thons in partnership with @SweMFA to make the internet more gender equal. UN Women in Georgia, Kosovo and @unwomenbih support the action to close the #Wikigap. https://t.co/fXooqriOLJ #TimeIsNow #IWD2018 pic.twitter.com/6J9NkDlkGd
Campaigners seeking to repeal the eighth amendment celebrated a “historic and momentous” step forward in their campaign to allow access to abortion. The wording of a national referendum to overturn the constitutional ban on abortion was agreed by the cabinet on Thursday.
Ailbhe Smyth, convenor of the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment, welcomed the news as a significant milestone, adding: “It has been a very long time coming … We need abortion care that is safe and regulated, in line with best medical practice, and today brings us a crucial step forward in trying to achieve this important goal.”
Meanwhile, the former Irish president Mary McAleese said the Catholic church was an “empire of misogyny”, ahead of a conference in Rome calling for women to be given leadership roles by the Vatican. “There are so few leadership roles currently available to women,” McAleese said. “Women do not have strong role models in the church they can look up to. [A church hierarchy] that is homophobic and anti-abortion is not the church of the future.”
Comedian Richard Herring continued his tradition of responding to Twitter users who ask “when is there an International Men’s Day?” This year he used his tweets to raise money for the domestic violence charity Refuge, which supports women and girls.
Richard K Herring (@Herring1967)
In the outback town of Tennant Creek, Indigenous Australians women and girls marched to call for an end to alcohol-fuelled violence.
Meanwhile, the Australian Council of Trade Unions used three billboards to demand paid domestic violence leave and an end to gender-based violence in the workplace. The 27th prime minister of Australia, Julia Gillard, gave a speech at the Royal Women’s Hospital, in Melbourne, in which she said more work needed to be done to counteract unconscious bias against women.
Hundreds of South Koreans, many wearing black and holding black #MeToo signs, rallied in central Seoul. The movement has gained significant traction in the country since January when a female prosecutor began speaking openly about workplace mistreatment and sexual misconduct.
Several high-profile South Korean men have resigned from positions of power, including a governor who was a leading presidential contender before he was accused of repeatedly raping his female secretary.
On the eve of International Women’s Day, protesters in Seoul gathered outside the Japanese embassy to highlight the plight of so-called “comfort women” – a euphemism for the 200,000 girls and young women who were forced to work in Japanese brothels before and during the second world war.
Demonstrators called for supporters, including men, to down tools in their workplaces at 15.40 in solidarity with their female colleagues. Research has shown women in France earn 24% less for the same work as their male colleagues, leading to calculations that they are working for free each day after 15.40pm. Members of the sénat suspended their session at that time after André Chassaigne, a member of the Communist party, requested a brief halt in proceedings.
The French prime minister, Edouard Philippe, presented 50 measures to promote equality and combat violence against women, resulting from a nationwide consultation, entitled the Equality Tour de France. They include an equal pay task force and fines for companies not offering the same remuneration to staff.
More than five million workers took part in the country’s first nationwide “feminist strike”, according to trade unions who said the “unprecedented” action was intended to highlight sexual discrimination, domestic violence and the wage gap.
Huge crowds surged into streets and squares to call for change and equality in a demonstration coordinated by the 8 March Commission umbrella group which demanded an end to Spain’s enduring machista culture. It was supported by some of Spain’s best-known female politicians, including Madrid’s mayor, Manuela Carmena, and the mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau.
Under the slogan “If we stop, the world stops”, protesters congregated in cities including Madrid, Barcelona, Bilbao, Seville and Pamplona, to make their voices heard. The online Spanish newspaper eldiario.es marked the day by dotting its homepage with blocks of solid purple and the explanatory note: “This is a space that would be filled with a story from one of our female reporters who are on strike.”
Spain’s transport ministry announced that 200 intercity trains out of 568 would not be operating, while 105 long-distance trains were cancelled. The underground in Madrid was also affected.
Hundreds of activists in pink and purple shirts protested against Rodrigo Duterte, the country’s president, whom they claimed was among the worst violators of women’s rights in Asia. Protest leaders sang and danced in a boisterous rally in Manila’s Plaza Miranda where they handed red and white roses to mothers, sisters and widows of several drug suspects slain under Duterte’s deadly crackdown on illegal drugs.
More than 1,000 female aid workers from around the world signed an open letter calling for urgent reform across the humanitarian sector. The letter, addressed to the leaders of international charities, the UN and donors, urged organisations to treat allegations of sexual harassment and abuse as a priority.
The aid sector is reeling from allegations that charities including Oxfam, Save the Children and the UN mishandled claims of sexual misconduct. The letter warned of the need for action rather than words. “We are gravely concerned that the culture of silence, intimidation and abuse will continue as soon as the media spotlight on this issue begins to dim,” said the signatories. “We need effective leadership, commitment to action and access to resources.”
At rallies in the capital, Islamabad, the largest city, Karachi, and the cultural capital, Lahore, women denounced violence against them in the country where yearly nearly 1,000 women are killed by close relatives in so-called honour killings. Pakistani women have largely been deprived of their rights since the country gained independence in 1947.