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23 Mar 2018 18:15
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  •   Home > News > International

    Spanish women strike for International Women's Day

    Women around the overtly masculine nation down tools — closing schools and universities, reducing public transport to holiday schedules and cutting essential services to a minimum — as they demand fair treatment.

    Women in Spain have just staged the country's first national "feminist strike" and politicians are taking notice.

    For decades, Spanish women did what women all over the world do on International Women's Day — held protests, seminars and marches.

    But this year they tried something different: Taking part in an unprecedented national strike.

    "Yearly demonstrations are not enough to make the situation for women improve," journalist and feminist Cristina Mas said.

    "Like all workers in the world, a strike is the way for us to defend our rights and so we chose to use it."

    The two main trade unions supported half-day stoppages and estimated that nearly 6 million people took part.

    Unai Sordo, general secretary of Comisiones Obreras, a union with more than one million members, called it a "historic day".

    The result was felt across the nation, with many schools and universities closing, public transport reduced to holiday schedules and essential services cut back to a minimum.

    "The idea is [that] if women stop working, the country stops," Ms Mas said.

    "Even in the sectors where we weren't expecting much, [the turnout] is bigger than we expected."

    Women without jobs were also urged to withhold labour.

    'Take out your aprons'

    A social media campaign "Take out your aprons" called for a 24-hour moratorium on housework.

    Many women responded literally, hanging aprons from balcony windows.

    Popular support for Spain's first women's strike was evident in mass marches held across the main cities.

    In Barcelona, Mayor Ada Colau led a 200,000-strong crowd through the centre.

    The demands at all the protests were the same — fair promotions for women, the closure of the gender pay gap and an end to sexual harassment.

    By one estimate, women are paid on average of 12 per cent less in the public sector and 19 per cent less in the private sector in Spain.

    Spanish cities have a long record of militancy but the size of the strike still took many by surprise.

    This is a country dominated by "machismo", a strong sense of masculinity, in which many still see women's main functions as child rearing and being decorative.

    But Ms Mas believes the Government is now on notice that women have had enough.

    She hopes the rest of world will follow their lead next March.

    "I feel that there is a really worldwide offensive against women's rights. You see it in [US President Donald] Trump's speech, the role of the Church, how we are using our bodies," Ms Mas said.

    "If women in other countries see what we're doing I think they could reproduce it."

    © 2018 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved

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