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AMY GOODMAN: From Afghanistan to the Philippines to Mexico to Spain, women across the globe are taking to the streets today to mark International Women’s Day. In Spain, women have launched the first nationwide feminist strike in Spain’s history.
WOMEN ON STRIKE: ¡Aquí estamos, las feministas! ¡Aquí estamos, las feministas! ¡Aquí estamos, las feministas!
AMY GOODMAN: “Here we are, the feminists!” they’re chanting, banging pots and pans, and refusing to work for 24 hours. Organizers say its supporters include Ada Colau, the mayor of Barcelona, and Manuela Carmena, the mayor of Madrid. Organizers published a manifesto reading, quote, “Today we call for a society free of sexist oppression, exploitation and violence. We call for rebellion and a struggle against the alliance of the patriarchy and capitalism that wants us to be obedient, submissive and quiet. We do not accept worse working conditions, nor being paid less than men for the same work. That is why we are calling a work strike,” the manifesto said.
Speaking in Madrid, 21-year-old Eva Gutiérrez explained why she joined the strike.
EVA GUTIÉRREZ: [translated] We are protesting for equality, for the rights of women, to show we are not inferior. We want to work, live in peace, to have the same rights as any man, because we are people. And as people, we have the same right to protest, to go on strike. We cannot be demeaned, and we must not be afraid to go out, say what we feel and what has happened to us in our lives, what we have had to suffer, just because we were born as women.
AMY GOODMAN: In South Korea, International Women’s Day rallies were held in Seoul, as the #MeToo movement sweeps the country. Earlier this week, a leading South Korean politician, who was seen as a possible presidential candidate, Ahn Hee-jung, resigned his post as a provincial governor, after his secretary said he raped her multiple times. Organizers of today’s rally in Seoul said the #MeToo movement is inspiring more women to speak out.
RALLY ORGANIZER: [translated] Last year, although we did not ignore this issue of sexual discrimination, it was not widely mentioned. But the change this year is that people are more vocal, though some still do not dare to speak out. We should try to encourage people to speak out, and take actions to make practical changes in our society. This is very different from what we encountered last year.
AMY GOODMAN: In other International Women’s Day actions, Filipino women have rallied in Manila to protest the policies of the Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. Afghan women held a rare public rally in Kabul. In Kenya, African women are meeting today to discuss ending violence against women and girls with disabilities. Meanwhile, in England, women organized a major march Saturday to mark the 100th anniversary of women getting the vote. Speakers included Helen Pankhurst of CARE International, the granddaughter of suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst.
HELEN PANKHURST: This opportunity is to say how far have we got over a hundred years. And actually, surprisingly, the issues that they were campaigning on, that my grandmother and great-grandmother were campaigning on a hundred years ago, they’re still so similar today. You know, getting the vote didn’t resolve everything. So it’s up to this generation now to do as much as they can. That’s why we’re out here.
AMY GOODMAN: Here in the United States, rallies are scheduled to take place across the country. But we go now to Madrid, Spain, where we’re joined by María Carrión, independent freelance journalist.
María, can you describe this first-ever feminist march across Spain that has just taken place?
MARÍA CARRIÓN: Hi, Amy, and thank you so much. It’s great to be with you.
Well, you know, organizers of the strike were declaring victory, even before midnight rolled around here in Spain, just because this announcement of a first feminist strike ever has thrown the debate into the forefront of the media, politicians. Everyone is being forced to react to this and to talk about this enormous inequality that exists here in Spain between men and women.
At midnight, as we saw in the images, women came out banging pots and pans. And that’s how the strike began. Newsrooms are empty here today. Actually, you know, some talk shows went dark, talk shows that had women leading them. And you don’t—you only hear women’s voices on the radio if they’re being interviewed. For the most part, women have walked out of their jobs, if they possibly can. They’re out in the streets. And what’s really extraordinary is the amount of very young women that you see on the street claiming their rights. This is a very young movement, and it’s a very hopeful movement. Women who have not been able to go on strike, especially those who are caring, because this is not just a strike where people are going—leaving their workplace, but also they are stopping the caregiving, if they can, and asking the men to replace them. The idea is for Spaniards to understand how critical women’s work is and what happens when women don’t show up at work. And women who cannot leave their caregiving duties are hanging aprons on their balconies to show support. You see the streets are full everywhere in Spain. Just in Madrid, there’s over 100 rallies, marches, gatherings. And as you mentioned, our two women mayors of the largest cities of Spain, Ada Colau and Manuela Carmena, have both also walked out of their jobs. So they are also on strike.
There’s an 82 percent support, public support, of the strike, so people understand the reasons why women are going on strike this year. You know, our wage gap is at around 22 percent. Women doing exactly the same work as men are earning 22 percent less, on average, and also heavily underrepresented in top positions in companies and the government and the public sector.
AMY GOODMAN: As part of today’s strike in Spain, hundreds of women took part in a bike protest in Madrid. This is Noemi Sánchez, an engineer in Spain.
NOEMI SÁNCHEZ: [translated] We are here to claim our rights and to make visible all the inequalities of our role in society, which apparently doesn’t count that much. We are here to make the problems visible and to give strength. This is an historic moment, and we are here to support it. … What we are lacking is for the whole of society to start really realizing that there is a part of the population which has more privileges than the other. When people, from young children to adults, get to understand this, then it would be evident we don’t really have the same privileges and opportunities.
AMY GOODMAN: So, María, can you describe how this movement and the #MeToo movement around the world—is it affecting the politics of Spain? We just heard, in South Korea, one of a possible presidential candidates had to resign, after his secretary accused him of repeatedly raping her. In the United States right now, President Trump is engulfed in yet another scandal around sexual harassment, and, in this case, being involved with or denying been involved with an adult film star and her fighting being silenced.
MARÍA CARRIÓN: Well, in terms of government policy and effects on government leadership, unfortunately, all that we’ve had here so far in the central government of Spain has been a pushback. The governing party, the PP, is not supportive of this feminist strike. In fact, this health, social services and equality minister went so far as to say that this strike is like a declaration of a war between sexes. We’ve heard also from the Catholic Church mixed views, but the bishop of San Sebastián said the devil has gotten into feminists. And in general, there’s been no support, practically, for this mobilization, on the part of the government.
However, I think that they are being forced into a corner. They’ve had to walk back some of the declarations that they had initially made, when they’ve seen the massive response of Spanish society with this strike. And we are hoping in Spain for a change. However, we are not expecting it from the PP. The PP has been very regressive when it comes to women’s rights. We are seeing change on the local level. We are seeing—you know, and the fact that also the PP does not have a majority rule means that it can’t pass regressive laws in Spain, because it doesn’t have the support. But at the same time, for real significant change, political change, to happen in Spain, we’re going to have to change governments. So, we’ll see. There’s just—there’s a few years left for the elections, general elections.
We have not seen—we’ve seen a #MeToo movement in Spain in film and the media; however, male aggressors have yet to fall. We have not seen the Harvey Weinstein effect happen in Spain quite so much yet. I think that’s still to come.
AMY GOODMAN: But this is an unusual period where you have two women heads of two major cities in Spain, in Madrid and Barcelona, both expressing support for these rallies, being part of them. Is that right?
MARÍA CARRIÓN: That’s right. And they and all of their female staff have gone on strike. So there are no women in the Spanish city halls right now, in—sorry, in Barcelona and in Madrid. And they are very significant women and leaders in this country, because these are the two largest cities. And this is what I’m referring to, that locally we can expect to see continued policies change in terms of equality, but on the national level we still see the PP being extremely reluctant to, for instance, put money behind laws. You know, because we have equality laws. There’s just not enough resources to investigate and to prosecute cases of inequality. And that’s where the change has to come, really.
AMY GOODMAN: María Carrión, we want to thank you very much for being with us, independent journalist and filmmaker and former Democracy Now! producer, speaking to us from Madrid, Spain.
When we come back, we’ll be joined by the head of the International Women’s Strike here in the United States, Tithi Bhattacharya. Stay with us.
AMY GOODMAN: Malian singer Fatoumata Diawara, singing “Boloko,” a song that denounces female genital mutilation.