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International Women's Day demonstrations in Spain
Image: picture-alliance/NurPhoto/I. Saiz

Spanish women stage unprecedented strike

March 9, 2018

Five million women across Spain are said to have taken part in the mass mobilization on International Women's Day. Union organizations called for strikes, as well as street demonstrations.


Spain marked International Women's Day on Thursday with a day-long strike and street demonstrations all across the country in support of women's rights. Mostly women, but also many men heeded the call made by 10 union organizations to strike. The mass mobilization was the first-ever nationwide strike held on International Women's Day in Spain.

While Spain's two main unions, the CCOO and the UGT, did not call for a day-long strike, they asked their members to stop work for two hours in observance of what was labeled the "feminist strike."

Read more: Women still face legal discrimination in 155 countries

Some 120 demonstrations took place all over the country and in major cities, such as Madrid, Barcelona, Bilbao, Seville and Valencia. Authorities did not provide any official figures on the number of people who participated, but the CCOO and UGT unions said more than 5 million women took part.

Women across Spain began their street protests against gender inequality at midnight with pot-banging rallies. During the day, protesters congregated in many city centers wearing purple, the color of choice of the feminist organizations. At the rallies, women carried signs with slogans that read "justice!", "no to male chauvinistic salaries" and "alive, free and together for equality."

A midnight rally in Madrid
A midnight rally in Madrid, where women banged pots and pansImage: picture-alliance/ZumaPress

Feminist groups called on women not to spend money, especially on items such as deodorant and other toiletries, which tend to cost more than they do for men, despite being the same product. Women were also encouraged to hang aprons over their balconies to symbolize a strike on domestic chores for the day.

High-profile Spanish politicians also showed their solidarity. Barcelona's city hall, led by Mayor Ada Colau, hung up a purple banner that read "Barcelona city hall supports the feminist strike."

Read more: International Women's Day: Brussels slow to react to #MeTooEU

On Madrid city hall, which is also led by a woman mayor, Manuela Carmena, banners were hung reading "now is the time for real equality" and "now is the time to end gender violence."

International Women's day idemonstration in Spain
A young woman holds a sign that reads "I am not a dog, do not whistle at me", in a rebuke to street harrassmentImage: picture-alliance/NurPhoto/I. Saiz

Women workers in Spain earn 14.9 percent less than their male counterparts. While the figure is slightly better than the European Union average of 16.2 percent, official figures also show that more women drop out of the labor force when they have children than men, reflecting lingering conservative views on gender roles.

Read more: Study: German wage gap between men and women among Europe's biggest

Spanish governments have led the fight for women's rights and against gender violence. In 2004, the then Socialist government approved a law on violence against women that the European Council has praised as an example for others to follow.

Despite these efforts, Spain ranked 15th in a list of 188 countries in the United Nations' latest Gender Inequality Index ranking of 188 countries, landing below other European nations such as Switzerland (1), Denmark (2) and Germany (9).

jcg/rc (AFP, Reuters, EFE)

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