Following the successful demonstrations on Jan. 21 — when 5 million women and their supporters in the U.S. and 40 global cities expressed solidarity and resistance to racist, anti-woman President Donald Trump — globally coordinated protests were planned for March 8, International Women’s Day.
The call went out for an International Women’s Strike; many called it “A Day Without a Woman.” Some call signers said events would not promote so-called “pro-corporate feminism,” but rather would kick-off a new global anti-racist, anti-imperialist, multigenerational, multigendered, and anti-heterosexist feminist movement.
This mobilization posed the question of whether capitalism can support real gender equality. It cannot. The system is based on racism, national oppression, women’s oppression, homophobia, global theft of resources and exploitation of workers.
Corporate globalization impoverishes and exploits women and girls, who are 70 percent of the world’s poorest people. Women migrants face abuse. U.S./NATO wars devastate women and their families, and refugees flee imperialist-caused wars and poverty.
These horrific conditions necessitate increased solidarity with working and oppressed women abroad. This is true to IWD’s legacy as intended by its socialist founders, led by Clara Zetkin of Germany, in 1910.
The global strike took place in more than 50 countries, with various themes and demands. Many actions focused on the gender pay gap and misogynist violence, including in France, Spain and Italy; 20,000 marched in Rome. The government of Iceland mandated pay equity for all workers. Some 1,000 childcare workers walked off the job in Australia.
In England, women protested government plans to increase women’s retirement age and cut services for domestic violence survivors. Demands for reproductive rights and health care prevailed in Ireland, where women stopped traffic in Dublin calling for repeal of the abortion ban. Women in 80 Polish cities marched for reproductive rights and against gender discrimination, following last year’s successful fightback against an abortion ban.
From Yemen to the Philippines
In other IWD events, women protested outside U.N. headquarters in Sana’a, Yemen’s capital, against the U.S.-backed Saudi coalition’s brutal war in Yemen, which has killed civilians and destroyed homes, hospitals and infrastructure.
Yemeni human rights activist Mason Iryani stressed, “We came out today to send a message to the United Nations and the whole world to stop their blockade of Yemen and let the Yemeni people live. Yemeni women have suffered enough.” (almasdarnews.com, March 8)
Hundreds of Palestinian women marched to the U.N. office in Gaza, calling for the agency to pressure U.S.-funded Israeli occupation troops to stop violations against Palestinian women. They honored the 44 Palestinian women and 12 female children, now brutally held in Israeli jails. Israel has imprisoned 10,000 Palestinian women since its occupation began in 1967. (Addameer, March 7)
In Istanbul, Turkey, tens of thousands of women marched for their rights; many opposed President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s expansion of powers. Organized by women’s rights groups, participants included LGBTQ individuals and youth. Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party members attended; some of its leaders are imprisoned.
Women marched in Japan, Thailand, India, and Indonesia. A major issue was sexual abuse and misogynist violence. In Dhaka, Bangladesh, women garment workers also rallied for equal treatment and improved working conditions. Women in Seoul, south Korea called for equal pay and reproductive rights and stopping gender discrimination. Their signs read, “3 O’Clock. Stop,” referring to the gender pay gap; women say they work for free after 3 p.m.
Gabriela Women’s Party and the Gabriela National Alliance led protests throughout the Philippines, criticizing President Rodrigo Duterte’s failure to improve women’s lives. They marched to the U.S. Embassy in Manila with a banner that read, “Women of the world unite! Resist against U.S. imperialism.” Outside the presidential palace, a large rally demanded jobs, land, justice and peace.
Gabriela Rep. Arlene Bosas said Duterte is intensifying “fascism and militarism, targeting activists, civilians and critics” and called for peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front.
Activities were held throughout Africa, from Mali to Zimbabwe. Women marched in Nairobi, Kenya and in Dakar, Senegal, with a banner reading, “Solidarity is our weapon,” as part of the global strike.
The Organization of Angolan Women met in early March to celebrate its 55th anniversary. The OAM participated in the liberation movement that won independence from Portugal in 1975, and now it promotes literacy programs and educational opportunities for women.
The African National Congress celebrated the achievements of women, thanks to the policies of the ANC, “working with the people of South Africa.” Problems, including poverty, still exist for African women; however, women have “proven to be strong and resilient in the face of challenges and triumphs.” The ANC remains confident that “led by women and working with all progressive allies, South Africa will do more to dismantle patriarchal structures, and accelerate gender parity and economic inclusion.”
The Congress of South African Trade Unions called for global economies to refocus on “economic redistributive measures … to ensure the poor, mostly women, are empowered to access decent jobs and to live decent lives with decent benefits and comprehensive social security nets.” COSATU called on governments to eliminate poverty, workplaces abusive to women, gender violence, trafficking and other inequities.
The African Union said it is time to “appreciate the significant contributions that African women have made to the continent’s development and especially the fight against colonialism, the elimination of apartheid and eradication of gender inequalities, discrimination and injustices against women.”
Latin America and the Caribbean
Indigenous women lead environmental movements worldwide, including in Latin America. There, women mobilize to protect natural resources, land and human rights and face repression and violence.
“Berta hasn’t died; she’s multiplied!” chanted thousands of Indigenous people and other protesters from Honduras and elsewhere, as they flooded Tegucigalpa on the first anniversary of the assassination of Berta Cáceres, the Indigenous leader and environmentalist. The Council of People’s Indigenous Organization of Honduras (COPINH), which Cáceres founded, co-organized the protests at the start of March.
Demonstrators defied a new “anti-terrorism” law criminalizing public protest that was “pushed through by the U.S.-backed Honduran dictatorship.” (Honduras Resists, March 1-4) Thousands marched to the Supreme Court, chanting, “Long live Berta. The struggle continues.” They also honored National Front of Popular Resistance Coordinator Margarita Murillo, who was murdered in 2014.
Miriam Miranda, representing the Garifuna people, called for punishment of those behind Berta’s murder. So far, eight people have been charged.
Thousands of women stormed government offices across Brazil and marched against reactionary President Michel Temer’s austerity measures, including raising rural workers’ retirement age. A popular chant was “Against Capital and Agribusiness.” The Movement of Landless Rural Workers organized protests in Sao Paulo and other cities. In other actions, women stopped working in 60 cities for an hour to protest misogynist violence.
Temer led a parliamentary coup against Dilma Rousseff, the country’s first woman president, named an all-male cabinet, closed the Ministry of Women and slashed funds for gender equality programs. Women condemned his insulting IWD talk.
In Quito, Ecuador, a march of 10,000 women acknowledged the thousands of women who suffered in the 1999 banking crisis and called for social justice. They denounced presidential contender and banker Guillermo Lasso as an accomplice in the banking crisis.
Erika Toala, a youth from the Afro-descendant province of Esmeraldas, told Telesur, “We are women who struggle, revolutionaries, so we demand respect and our place.” (March 8)
Thousands of women, including Indigenous activists, marched through Caracas, Venezuela, to celebrate the inclusion of legendary Indigenous warrior Jefa Pacuana and Afro-Venezuelans Hipolita Bolivar and Matea Bolivar in the National Pantheon of Heroes mausoleum. This fulfilled a promise made by late President Hugo Chávez.
An IWD demonstration affiliated with the global strike and held outside a maternity hospital demanded ethical treatment during childbirth and an end to femicide. Trans women participated and addressed transphobic violence.
At one activity in Haiti, the Movement of Women of the Homeland in Action (MOKALAK) and KOD15 called on politicians to respect the 30 percent quota for women’s participation in government agencies. “The somber tableau [that the political situation presents] shows the necessity for the women who live in Jerusalem and Canaan [two Port-au-Prince shantytowns] to rise up to take their destiny in hand. We must act as long as we are able because societal change concerns all of us,” they said at a press conference.
Women’s organizations in Puerto Rico shut down a main avenue in San Juan during “Women’s Week.” They also tried to close Milla de Oro (Golden Mile), a site of many banks, to oppose their squeeze on the island’s workers and poor people. In Guaynabo, women pushed though a police barricade and entered City Hall to oppose sexual harassment and assault by municipal bureaucrats.
In socialist Cuba, Federation of Cuban Women founder and “eternal leader” Vilma Espin Guillois was honored for her contributions to women’s equality at the mausoleum for revolutionary heroes in Santiago. (Granma, March 9)
In Bayamo, women celebrated their gains and honored late President Fidel Castro, who wholeheartedly supported women’s struggles for equal rights and opportunities. Federation of Cuban Women General Secretary Teresa Amarelle recognized Fidel’s role and expressed the country’s solidarity with women worldwide.