MADRID – Over 5 million women across Spain observed a mass strike on Thursday to protest against pay inequality and highlight continued discrimination and gender violence as the country marked International Women’s Day with huge demonstrations planned for most towns and cities, according to major trade unions.
The Workers’ General Union (UGT) and the Workers’ Commissions (CCOO) reported that 5.3 million women observed general or partial walkouts in what was the first ever nationwide feminist strike for paid and unpaid work in a country where women earn on average 22.9 percent less than men and where 924 women have been killed by domestic violence since 2003.
“If we stop, the world stops,” read the manifesto for the strike as published by the 8th of March Commission, a feminist organization. “Women all over the world are called to the feminist strike.”
Thousands of people were expected to join a march through Spain’s capital Madrid on Thursday evening, while over 200 other demonstrations were planned for towns and cities across the nation.
Major trade unions and international organizations such as the United Nations have backed the feminist strike and called for limited strike action across several industries, including transport.
“Achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls is the unfinished business of our time, and the greatest human rights challenge in our world,” said UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres in a statement.
State rail company Renfe told EFE that around 300 train services would be canceled over the course of the day.
Metro services were also running with limited trains running and many inter-city services were operating with skeleton staffing.
The action brought about the inevitable political debate.
The mayors of Madrid and Barcelona, Manuela Carmena and Ada Colau, have both put themselves firmly in support of the strike action and Madrid’s city hall is to be illuminated in purple light to show solidarity with the marches Thursday evening.
Left-wing party Podemos was also to observe the strike, while the Socialist Party (PSOE) would observe the partial strike action.
The governing right-wing Popular Party and the smaller center-right Citizens Party recognized the necessity for gender equality but opposed the strike as a means to achieve it.
“Happy Women’s Day. The government is working for real equality: we have to count on the collaboration to afford women the same societal conditions as men,” Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy wrote on Twitter.