Over 5 million women went on strike on Thursday in Spain in commemoration of International Women’s Day. The figures were provided by ten of the country’s top unions with the strike also supported by a large number of female politicians.
Women were to be found marching through the streets of many major city’s, including Madrid, Barcelona, Bilbao, Valencia and even Torrevieja and Orihuela where they joined together in shouting “if we stop, the world stops”. Indeed in Barcelona police were called out to restore order after protesters blocked many of the city’s main roads.
March organisers, who called for women to spend no money, do no household chores, cooking or shopping, said they were delighted with the turnout which they said was well supported in over 200 Spanish towns and cities.
A poll of 1,500 people that was carried out by the El Pais daily newspaper suggested that 82% of the population supported the strike, while 76% thought that women in Spain had harder lives than men.
The organisation in Spain had the backing of most trade unions. Ten unions called for a 24-hour strike, while others called for two-hour work stoppages. Service on Madrid’s metro system was significantly disrupted after the Transport Ministry announced that 300 trains would not be operating. Renfe, the national railways company, cancelled more than 100 long-distance trains because of the strike.
However the ruling Partido Popular said that events were aimed only at feminist elites and did not represent the wishes of the average working woman.
Two of Spain’s most powerful women disagreed, Manuela Carmena and Ada Colau, the mayors of Madrid and Barcelona respectively, said that they were also backing the strike, refuting claims made by the Government which they described as nonsense.
Locally there were more than 200 women that joined with the call of different feminist groups of the Vega Baja to gather in the Plaza del Carmen de Orihuela, next to the city town hall. Demonstrators displayed a variety of banners as they read out a statement claiming “there is still a lot that remains to be achieved this year, because of the situation of violence, marginalization and invisibility with which women are treated. We have to strike in order to highlight the fact that the contribution we make to the maintenance of life, needs to be valued and considered”.
A number of men also took part in the rally, most of them quite young, because they wanted to show that they support women as they strive for gender equality and protest against the discrimination that they suffer in the labour market and social framework.
In the Plaza del Ayuntamiento in Torrevieja the Councilor for Equality, Fabiana Ibarra, was joined in reading a statement emphasising the rights of women by a representative of Workers’ Commissions, Juan Antonio Moya, while the mayor, José Manuel Dolón, highlighted the importance of the rally saying “Today is a day of no return and many people, women and men, have decided that they cannot continue in a world that is so unequal, and where the sex of a person is discriminated against”.
Meanwhile in Elche the call was heeded by over 300 women including a majority of the town council and approximately 50% of its staff, who were also joined at the demonstration by the mayor, Carlos González.