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12 March 2019

ETUI celebrates International Women’s Day

Women and men working at International Trade Union House marked International Women’s Day on Friday 8th March with strikes and speeches. Women’s Day is held every year across the world to raise awareness of women’s political and economic marginalisation.

The day saw women all across Belgium striking in various ways: by not going to work; by not taking care of others; and by not doing housework. Men were called upon to show support by taking over responsibility for these tasks. The aim of the strike, coordinated by the Collectif 8 Mars, was to demonstrate that ‘when women stop, the world stops’.

At 1.30PM staff at ITUH showed their commitment by leaving their workplaces and gathering to hear speeches explaining why Women’s Day is still necessary.

Montserrat Mir, ETUC Confederal Secretary, began by stating that “We live in a word designed by men”, adding that women could not expect change to happen on its own but would have to fight for it. Referring to demonstations calling for equal rights across Europe she said that “The visibility of women on the streets is critically important in the runup to the European elections.”

Sotiria Theodoropoulou, ETUI Senior Researcher and Head of Unit for Economic, Employment and Social Policies, said that progress had been made in some areas, for some women, but the gains had not been spread equally. “At the ETUI, I’ve never had to choose between my career and looking after my kids. But my hairdresser, on the other hand, is being denied the opportunity to leave a bad marriage because she is poor and so lacks financial independence.” She added that socialising people to expect and accept equal rights should begin early, and that achieving gender equality required boys to be trained to realise that it was normal for domestic duties to be shared between men and women.

Bernadette Segol, former ETUC General Secretary, urged campaigners to think beyond their own lives in Western Europe and consider the plight of women in developing countries. “A lot of women simply don’t have the rights that we have”, she said, pointing to the horrors of women under Islamic State, or girls in Yemen married off at the age of ten. “Respect for Human Rights is paramount”, she said, adding that education and other public services must be made available to working women in all countries. 

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