A whopping 5.3 million women, including some of the country’s top politicians, reportedly went on strike in Spain as the country’s women celebrated International Women’s Day by raising awareness about sexism and the gender pay gap. In conjunction with the strike, which was backed by 10 unions, hundreds of thousands of women protested in the streets, chanting: “If we stop, the world stops!”
Women marched in more than 200 locations in a nationwide call for “a society free of sexist oppression, exploitation, and violence.” According to a poll of 1,500 people by Spanish paper El Pais, 82 percent of respondents supported the strike and 72 percent felt that sexist behavior was widespread in the country. The strike, which called on women to not do any work for 24 hours — including domestic chores — mirrored a similar effort organized by the Women’s March in the U.S. on International Women’s Day last year, known as “A Day Without a Woman.” The ‘A Day Without a Woman’ strike, in turn, was inspired by Polish women’s “Black Monday” strike, which helped prevent the Polish government from passing a complete abortion ban.
The mayors of Madrid and Barcelona — Manuela Carmena and Ada Colau — both participated in the strike, even as the country’s conservative ruling party, the Partido Popular, denounced the movement as disrespectful to “real women with everyday problems.” Two of the central government’s five female ministers, Agriculture Minister Isabel García Teresina and the president of the Madrid region, Cristina Cifuentes, did appear to participate in the strike in their own way. The two women pledged to work longer hours for the day, in a move that they said was meant to demonstrate the fortitude and value of women in the workplace.
The 8 March Commission, the umbrella group that organized the strike, declared in a manifesto that women would no longer “accept worse working conditions, nor being paid less than men for the same work” and would reject the “alliance between patriarchy and capitalism that wants us to be docile, submissive and silent.” According to Eurostat, Spanish women are paid 19 percent less than men in the private sector, and 13 percent less than men in the public sector, and reports of violence against women are on the rise.
Watch video coverage of the International Women’s Day protests in Spain below.