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Thousands expected to turn out for International Women’s Day strike

Feminist rallies in 2018 and 2019 drew 200,000 to Barcelona streets, but March 8 falls on a Sunday this year

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06 March 2020 04:22 PM

by

Lorcan Doherty | Barcelona

This Sunday, March 8, is International Women’s Day, a global celebration of the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating women's equality.

In Catalonia, rallies in support of feminist general strikes have drawn huge crowds the past two years, with over 200,000 demonstrating in Barcelona alone, and, although this year’s International Women’s Day falls on a Sunday, organisers will be hoping for a similar turnout again.

Feminist strike

In Barcelona, the main rally for the feminist strike will start at Plaça de la Universitat at 5pm. The march will proceed along Gran Via and Passeig de Sant Joan before finishing at Arc de Triomf where there will be musical performances and a manifesto will be read.

The rally, organised by feminist group 'Ca la dona' will march under the slogan 'Together and diverse for a decent life. Self-organization and feminist revolts against precariousness and borders.'

Two groups that represent women in precarious, low-paid jobs – Las Kellys and the Sindicat de Cuidadores sense Papers – point out that while many will join the general strike on March 8, it will not be a day off for many of their colleagues in the hospitality, retail, customer service, health, and transport sectors.

The gender pay gap continues to increase for these women on the low end of the earning scale, and according to figures from 2017, women on the lowest salaries earn over 34% less than men at the same level.

Trade union support

Trade unions have taken various approaches to International Women’s Day falling on a Sunday this year. The CGT, the IAC and the Intersindical-CSC have joined the feminist movement in calling a strike for the day itself.

On the other hand, 600 trade unionists, mainly from the CCOO trade union, held a feminist rally outside the offices of employers’ organization Foment on Friday instead. 

The organizers called on companies to publish and implement plans to tackle the gender pay gap, which in Catalonia stands at 23%.

The protesters mainly women working in typically feminised service sectors such as hospitality, retail, customer service and health care   made calls for further mobilization on Sunday, despite CCOO not officially calling a strike.

Similarly, UGT union Secretary General Camil Ros explained the difficulties of going on strike on a Sunday. "If it had fallen on a Monday, we would have called a strike like last year's,” adding it was “complicated” for traditional sectors like industry to have weekend strikes.

Cultural activities

International Women’s Day is also the inspiration behind a whole host of cultural events, both on the day itself and beyond.

Barcelona City Council has an extensive program of events devoted to women who defend nature and social justice. 'Ecofeminism is the answer,' runs between February 29 and March 21, and includes activities such as roundtables, concerts, workshops, and theater.

The Catalan National Art Museum (MNAC) in Montjuïc, Barcelona, has a program of activities running from March 2 to May 15 revolving around International Women’s Day celebrations.

Libraries in Barcelona are hosting a number of events throughout March under the banner ‘Elles canten, elles parlen’ (Women sing, women speak), where female musicians explain their "ideas, hopes, and frustrations" as well as performing live in concert.

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  • Massive turnout in Barcelona's rally for women's rights on March 8, 2019 (by Guifré Jordan)

  • Massive turnout in Barcelona's rally for women's rights on March 8, 2019 (by Guifré Jordan)

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