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Spain marks International Women's Day with five million on strike
OVER five million workers in Spain have downed tools today (Thursday) for the International Women's Day strike – around a third of the country's workforce – including a number of men.
International Women's Day, first celebrated in 1911, is marked this year in 177 countries worldwide with 41 of them going on strike.
In the West, where issues such as female genital mutilation (FGM), child marriage and being barred from education, employment or freedom of movement without a male relative as a companion are extremely limited and generally outlawed, March 8 is partly about celebrating women's achievements throughout history and partly about calling for solutions to aspects of gender equality that remain unresolved.
Figures show that on average, across European countries including the UK and Spain, it will take until the 22nd century before the gender pay gap is closed, based upon progress to date.
Statistics for Spain show that, according to region, between a third and a half of women who work are in part-time jobs – either because they need to in order to look after children and other dependents, or because they cannot find a full-time job – that the number of women unemployed exceeds that of men, and that on average, ladies earn 30% less than their male counterparts.
And this trend is not unusual in Europe.
Protesters will be on the streets across Spain at various times of the afternoon and evening, wearing purple and carrying banners demonstrating against domestic violence, sexism and inequality in the home and the workplace.
Rail board RENFE has cancelled around 300 trains due to the strike, and numerous celebrities have joined in – at least one prime-time TV show will not be broadcast because the presenters have downed tools.
Spokeswoman for the reigning PP government and Parliamentary chair, Ana Pastor, has joined the strike, insisting it is 'about women, not politics', and her fellow party member and Madrid regional president Cristina Cifuentes was expected to follow suit.
Health and social welfare minister Dolors Montserrat, however, said she intended to keep working 'for equality'.
Male 'allies' can be found all over Spain, too: the mayor of the town of Roda (Albacete province) has resigned today 'so a woman can have the job', which he has given to his first assistant, Belén Botella.
Tens of thousands of protesters have already been gathered in Madrid most of the day, and similar numbers are expected to march through Barcelona later this evening.
In general, strikes are being staged in 'slots', with two hours this morning observed and another two hours between 16.30 and 18.30 this evening.
The main marches will take place at 18.30 in Valencia, Barcelona and Toledo; from 19.00 in Madrid and Santa Cruz de Tenerife; at 19.30 in Sevilla, and from 20.00 in Bilbao, A Coruña and Salamanca.
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