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International Women’s Day 2018: protests across the world as women push for progress – live

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Powered by article titled “International Women’s Day 2018: protests across the world as Women push for progress – live” was written by Alexandra Topping (now) and Claire Phipps(earlier), for on Thursday 8th March 2018 16.40 Asia/Kolkata

Rename House of Lords, say Liberal Democrats

The Lib Dems are calling on Parliament to rename the House of Lords the House of Peers to better reflect the role women play in the upper chamber, the party said today

The bill, being laid in the House today by Liberal Democrat MP Christine Jardine, will highlight the fact that the House of Lords is a gendered title and put the issue on the legislative agenda for the rest of the parliament

Christine Jardine said:

The current gender-specific House of Lords title is no longer appropriate. It feeds into an outdated and unacceptable narrative that political decision-making is a man’s job.”

“In this centenary year of female voting and election rights, it is surely time to recognise that our upper chamber is not a male preserve.

Related: Why we’re striking for women’s rights today | Iida Käyhkö, Frankie Mullin, Susana Benavides and Rosie Ferguson

A group that supports women’s rights using music influenced by Ethiopian heritage is thriving – despite losing UK aid funding, writes Claudine Spera

Related: ‘By Ethiopians, for Ethiopians’: girl band Yegna shake off Spice Girls tag | Claudine Spera

You can watch the amazing Yegna in action in this film:

Protester arrested at the Department of Health and Social Care, say Women’s Strike UK

A protester who was taking part in an Women’s Strike UK action at the Department of Health and Social Care has been arrested, the group says.

According to the group:

Trans women and their allies were peacefully protesting the Department of Health this morning to call urgent attention to the failings in the provision of healthcare for trans people.

The group added:

  • 2K people will meet at 1pm in Russell Square, Bloomsbury, London
  • 61 University campuses across UK are on strike
  • Actions in 7 cities – London, Birmingham, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Derry and Brighton
  • The UK will be one of 56 countries on strike.

Noshin Salari Rad, one of the organisers of the strike said:

Thursday is about solidarity between all women– trans women, women of colour, indigenous, working class, disabled, migrant, sex workers, Muslim, lesbian and queer.

Women in Sport

My colleague Anna Kessel has just informed me what I’d rather be doing today (I’m joking of course, what else would I rather do then liveblog IWD???)

A groundbreaking women’s football history conference aims to blow apart perceptions of the sport is kicking off at the National Football Museum in Manchester today.

Anna writes:

The two-day conference, which begins on International Women’s Day, hosts academics, journalists and artists from around the globe. Lectures range from the acclaimed writer and sports activist Shireen Ahmed discussing football and the hijab, to a study on women and the 1966 men’s World Cup from Professor John Hughson.

Related: Groundbreaking women’s football conference highlights buried stories | Anna Kessel

If you are unfortunate enough to be an Evertonian like me, it’s worth a glance for the pictures of Elaine Shaw and friends on their trip to Rotterdam to see Everton play the 1985 Cup Winners’ Cup final.


The great thing about International Women’s Day is that is shines a light on institutional sexism is all sorts of areas.

Culture – both high and low – remains hugely dominated by men, and nowhere is that more evident that in the classical music sphere. Which is why it’s great to see movement by some institutions to address the glaring inequality.

Music college Trinity Laban has used International Women’s Day to pledgs that music by women – past and present and across many genres – will make up more than half of its concert programmes in 2018/19 academic year.

Harriet Harman MP, Chair of Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music & Dance, is launching Venus Blazing at a lunchtime concert by Trinity Laban’s Chamber Choir celebrating the 90th birthday of British composer Thea Musgrave, at 1pm in Greenwich today.

She said:

Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music & Dance is strongly committed to diversity in all elements and it has a mission to constantly challenge the status quo. Venus Blazing is a great example of just how it can do this. It will encourage and inspire its students – many of whom will go on to shape the future of the performing arts – to engage with the historic issue of gender imbalance in music by women, and ensure that it does not continue into the next generation. I welcome this bold initiative to raise awareness of the disparity that has long existed in music and shine a light on music that has so frequently been overlooked. I am also greatly looking forward to hearing some of the musical treasures by women I might not otherwise have had the chance to hear.

Radio 3 are also putting in a shift – joining forces with academics to bring to light the work of five forgotten women composers.

Labour would punish firms for not closing the gender pay gap

This Comment piece from Dawn Butler, shadow Women & Equalities secretary, is very much worth a read.

Related: Firms underpaying women should be fined. Under Labour they will be | Dawn Butler

It can be read alongside the Guardian’s story here:

Related: Labour would punish firms for not closing gender pay gaps

A New Normal

My colleague Lucy Lamble has been at the London School of Economics in London this morning, where Danish development cooperation minister, Ulla Tørnæs, one of the people who set up the She Decides movement in response to Trump’s Global Gag rule, has called for a “new normal” in the face of pushbacks to women’s rights over their sexual and reproductive rights:

International Women’s is a day to celebrate the incredible journey millions of women and girls around the world have taken. A journey towards a life in dignity, with equal opportunities, freedom and prosperity. [A hundred years ago, for the first time the British Parliament passed an act granting most women – yet not all – the right to vote. Look at you now. What a long way we have come.

But the journey is far from over. For many girls and women, the journey has not yet even started.] In several parts of the world, gender equality and women’s enjoyment of human rights is but a distant hope. And women’s rights are even under increasing pressure. Various conservative and religious movements globally are adding pressure. This needs to change. We cannot, and should not, accept the setbacks we now see. All of us have a responsibility to act. To stand up and fight for those millions of girls and women, who do not enjoy the same fundamental human rights as we do.

Last week in Pretoria, Denmark and South Africa co-hosted the first “SheDecides-one-year-on -conference’ with a special focus on youth. In Pretoria, representatives from governments, parliaments, civil society, bright academics, and – notably – young people from North and South, all committed to stand up collectively to a vision of a New Normal. A New Normal where women and girls can decide freely about their own bodies. Their own lives. And their own futures. Where SheDecides. Without question.

Action is needed for women and girls – but really to the benefit of us ALL.

Empty desks at El Pais

Spanish newspaper El Pais has posted this rather cool little video, explaining that they are not fully staffed today because of the women’s strike.

And showing the empty desks of female journalists who have not come into work today. ¡Qué bueno !

Cut price news for French mesdames

This is rather cute from French left-leaning newspaper Libération

To draw attention to the gender pay gap in France, which is 25% according to the paper, they are selling today’s edition at two different prices. Women get a 25% discount at the newsstand. Bravo!

Women’s Strike UK

If you fancy getting involved in some radical action in the UK today, it’s worth taking a look at this Facebook post from the Women’s Strike Assembly – UK and following @Women_Strike


Señoras in Spain showing the world how it’s done

Women in Spain are taking part in the county’s first nationwide “feminist strike” to mark International Women’s Day, reports Sam Jones in Madrid. Some are downing tools for the whole day, while others are stopping for a two-hour stretch (from 11.30 to 13.30 or from 16.00 to 18.00).

But the action goes beyond the traditional workplace: women are also being encouraged to abandon their unpaid work – such as cleaning, social care and child care – to show how unfairly these tasks are distributed.

There are also signs of more direct action in Catalonia, with protesters occupying streets in Barcelona, shutting down a railway line out of the Catalan capital and blocking a road between Barcelona and the town of Manresa. Protests are due to be held later today in cities across Spain.

Protests are also under way in Madrid, with workers and students picketing the city’s Complutense university. Some prominent Spanish journalists are absent from news websites, radio and TV programmes today as they, too are on strike. Spain’s health, social services and equality minister, Dolors Montserrat, has described today’s action as “a social revolution for men and women”, but stressed that it “isn’t a war between the sexes”. Montserrat told the Espejo Público programme that while she was pleased to see so many women exercising their right to protest, it was up to individual women “to decide how they want to strike” or whether they wished to go to work as normal.


Happy International Women’s Day from London!

Good morning and happy International Women’s Day! I hope all our readers have had a decent breakfast this morning – because we’ve got an awful lot of patriarchy smashing to get through.

Huge thanks to the powerhouse that is Claire Phipps in Sydneyit is so exciting to hear of the manifold ways people are marking IWD around the globe.

On that note – what are YOU doing to mark the day? I’d love to hear what IWD means to you, and what action you are taking. Get in touch via the Guardian Witness button at the top to share your stories or tweet me at @lexytopping.

It’s time for me to hand over the live blog to my colleague Alexandra Topping, who’ll take you through the next part of International Women’s Day as it rolls across the globe.

The mood this year feels different. Real change is underway: women in Saudi Arabia can now drive, or go to sports matches. Milestones have been reached: it’s 100 years since (partial) women’s suffrage in the UK. There are loud conversations around harassment, pay inequality and more. Time’s Up and #MeToo have edged beyond hashtags into palpable anger and hunger for action.

In other ways, though, it feels as if little has changed. A man who bragged about grabbing women “by the pussy” sits in the Oval Office. A prime minister is asked in a TV interview when she conceived her unborn child. Women still routinely face sexual harassment at work. Reported cases of female genital mutilation continue to rise.

Do get in touch to share what’s going on where you are: via the comments below, to Guardian Witness here or via the button at the top of the blog. And thank you for reading.

Mary McAleese: ‘Catholic church an empire of misogyny’

The Catholic church is an “empire of misogyny”, the former Irish president Mary McAleese has said ahead of a conference in Rome calling for women to be given leadership roles by the Vatican.

“The Catholic church is one of the last great bastions of misogyny. It’s an empire of misogyny,” McAleese told reporters.

“There are so few leadership roles currently available to women. Women do not have strong role models in the church they can look up to.”

She said a church hierarchy that was “homophobic and anti-abortion is not the church of the future”.

McAleese, a keynote speaker at the Voices of Faith conference, was refused approval by the Vatican, forcing organisers to relocate the event to another venue in Rome. No reason was given for the refusal, but McAleese is a vocal advocate for women’s and LGBT rights.

Two other women invited to speak at the event were also refused Vatican accreditation.

Chantal Goetz, one of the conference organisers, said: “We feel we have reached a crisis point. Young people leave the church in alarming numbers. We watch the exodus of talented, educated young women.”

Speaking of strikes, here’s Ada Colau, mayor of Barcelona, on why she is joining the nationwide feminist strike in Spain today:

To show that without women the world really does stop …

As people in public positions, we have the duty to mobilise on behalf of those who can’t go on strike. This is the century of women and of feminism; we’ve raised our voices and we won’t stop.

No more violence, discrimination or pay gap!

On the first day of the UN Decade for Women in 1975, the women of Iceland took the day off to demonstrate the importance of all their work, waged and unwaged, in the countryside and the city. Almost all women who were physically able came out of their homes, offices and factories, and even female television presenters were replaced on the screen by men holding children. Some 90% of women took part.

They called it a day off but we at the International Wages for Housework Campaign called it a strike, and took as our slogan their placard which said: “When women stop, everything stops” …

But how can you strike if you can’t risk being sacked or endangering those you care for? This has always been the dilemma, especially of the carer on whom vulnerable people depend. In countries such as Spain, where there is general recognition of the strike validity and even union backing, it’s easier for women to walk out for at least part of the day – hundreds of thousands are expected to do just that.

Where such support is not yet forthcoming, women can still publicise our situation and what we want changed in call-ins and letters to the press, returning from lunch even 10 minutes late, banging pots in the streets or at the window, as women in Spain did against the 2003 Iraq war.

Related: Decades after Iceland’s ‘day off’, our women’s strike is stronger than ever | Selma James

New figures from the TUC published today show that women in the UK effectively work the first 67 days of the year for no pay, thanks to the gender pay gap.

When all workers, full and part-time, are included, the pay gap is 18.4%. But in education, it’s 26.5%, meaning it will be 7 April before the average female worker in the sector is earning the same as the average male worker.

Related: Gender pay gap means women work 67 days a year for free, says TUC

Hundreds of South Koreans are staging a protest in support of the #MeToo movement on International Women’s Day, Associated Press reports.

Protesters, many wearing black and holding black signs reading #MeToo, gathered in central Seoul. They called for bringing alleged sexual offenders to justice, as well as action on other issues such as closing a gender pay gap.

Since a female prosecutor’s revelation in January of workplace mistreatment and sexual misconduct, South Korea’s #MeToo movement has gained major traction. The list of women who speak out is growing daily.

Several high-profile men have resigned from positions of power, including a governor who was a leading presidential contender before he was accused of repeatedly raping his secretary.


Here’s British PM Theresa May’s message for International Women’s Day in which she flags many of the prominent women now in positions of power in the UK, 100 years after some women won the right to vote.

May has also written for the Guardian today setting out details of the government’s new domestic violence bill, which will extend the definition to include financial abuse, and proposes electronically tagging those suspected of abuse.

More than a thousand female aid workers from around the world have signed an open letter calling for urgent reform across the humanitarian sector, reports Rebecca Ratcliffe:

The letter, addressed to the leaders of international charities, the UN and donors, urges organisations to treat allegations of sexual harassment and abuse as a priority. Whistleblowers must be listened to and protected, said the signatories.

“Trust in our sector can only be restored when we ask and answer the difficult questions and openly challenge those who exploit and hide behind the good work of many,” read the letter, which has the backing of 1,111 female aid workers from 81 different countries. “It is the behaviour of these men, not our complaint of their behaviour, which damages the sector’s reputation and public trust.”

The aid sector is reeling from allegations that charities including Oxfam, Save the Children and the UN mishandled claims of sexual misconduct. At a summit in London this week, the international development secretary, Penny Mordaunt, described the revelations as a “wake-up call” for the sector, and called on delegates to establish an independent body to ensure standards and scrutiny.

Thursday’s letter warns of the need for action rather than words. “We are gravely concerned that the culture of silence, intimidation and abuse will continue as soon as the media spotlight on this issue begins to dim,” said the signatories. “We need effective leadership, commitment to action and access to resources.”

Related: ‘You need to hear us’: over 1,000 female aid workers urge reform in open letter

8 March is also, of course, International Richard Herring Telling People On The Internet When International Men’s Day Is Day.

The comedian has for several years sought out commenters who – unable to access Google or other search engines – put out an online plea on International Women’s Day: “When’s International Men’s Day, then?”

The answer, as Herring cheerfully reminds them all on Twitter, is 19 November.

This year, to add extra warmth to his mission, Herring is raising money for Refuge, which supports women and girls who have experienced domestic violence. Here’s his fundraising page, should you want to spur him on.

Today the Irish government will publish details of the forthcoming referendum on a repeal of the abortion ban:

The gathering momentum among the Irish public and its country’s politicians for liberalisation of abortion rights says much about the culture wars. It tells us they are winnable and that minds can be changed. It shows us how to campaign and reminds us that female autonomy is always in jeopardy – that the goal of every fundamentalist in a culture war is to strip the female body of autonomy, be it through virginity tests or restricting access to contraception or safe legal abortion. It is worth noting that Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist party, propping up the government, is also fundamentally anti-choice …

There are so many brutal stories, I don’t need to tell them, from women who cannot have cancer treatment because they are pregnant, to the everyday ones of women begging money from friends for the price of a Ryanair flight. I have been chanting “Get your rosaries off my ovaries” all my adult life. Friends in Ireland have distributed information about abortion every way they could, for at one point even the dissemination of information was criminalised. Now a diverse young population free of the Catholic church is coming to power. What has been especially significant is that this is a once-taboo issue on which politicians have changed their minds in public. A changing demographic forces change. The popular vote in favour of gay marriage showed that demographic that they could do just that.

Related: Ireland’s abortion battle shows we must never let the fundamentalists win | Suzanne Moore

Despite the conversational shifts we’ve seen in 2018, in plenty of ways it feels as if little has changed for women:

An Iranian woman who publicly removed her veil in protest against Iran’s compulsory headscarf law has been sentenced to two years in prison, the judiciary said on Wednesday.

Tehran’s chief prosecutor, Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi, who announced the sentence, did not give the woman’s identity but said she intended to appeal against the verdict, the judiciary’s Mizan Online news agency reported.

Dolatabadi said the unidentified woman took off her headscarf in Tehran’s Enghelab Street to “encourage corruption through the removal of the hijab in public”.

More than 30 Iranian women have been arrested since the end of December for publicly removing their veils in defiance of the law.

Related: Iranian woman who removed headscarf jailed for two years

Demands for an end to violence against women, equality in the workplace and more diverse representation in positions of power are nothing new on International Women’s Day – the cry for change is as regular as the day itself. But this year, feminists argue, could be different: people may just be listening.

Since sexual harassment scandals tore through Hollywood last October, the repercussions keep on coming. In multiple workplaces, across unrelated fields, we are starting to see what change might look like.

At the start of the year 300 Hollywood employees, including many high-profile stars, launched the Time’s Up legal fund to support women fighting sexual misconduct; in less than a month, all UK companies with more than 250 employees will have to report their gender pay gaps; across the globe women are confronting repressive laws and speaking up at home and at work.

We asked leading feminist thinkers if they were hopeful this International Women’s Day – and what change they wanted to see.

See their answers here:

Related: Sexist agendas are finally exposed on International Women’s Day

In Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi has made a speech today calling on women to build peaceful democracies.

Aung San Suu Kyi has come under sustained criticism – most recently losing a human rights award from the US Holocaust Museum – over her failure to act in what has been described as an ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.

Today she spoke of the need to ensure women’s rights.

A country’s human rights values will be enhanced when women are granted their rights. Also by using women’s strength and ability, it will be supportive to the development of the economy as well.

A report from the UN Population Fund at the end of 2017 found more than half of Rohingya refugees fleeing from Myanmar to Bangladesh were women and girls.

Aung San Suu Kyi delivers a speech during a ceremony to mark International Women’s Day at the Myanmar International Convention Centre.
Aung San Suu Kyi delivers a speech during a ceremony to mark International Women’s Day at the Myanmar International Convention Centre.
Photograph: Aung Shine Oo/AP


In the UK, more than 100 MPs and peers from all parties have written to the home secretary, Amber Rudd, calling for women in Northern Ireland to be allowed access to abortion services locally rather than having to come to England.

The letter, signed by 131 parliamentarians including eight Conservatives such as the former education secretary Justine Greening and the former chancellor Ken Clarke, the former Liberal leader David Steel and the shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, follows a UN declaration that forcing women to travel for an abortion is an infringement of their human rights.

With the government advertising its support for women’s rights ahead of International Women’s Day on Thursday, the timing of the letter is likely to be embarrassing. The Conservatives govern in alliance with the DUP, which opposes abortion.

Abortion is allowed in Northern Ireland only if a woman’s life is at risk or there is a serious or permanent risk to her mental health. Rape, incest and fatal foetal abnormalities are not seen as valid reasons for termination.

Last month the UN committee on the elimination of discrimination against women said thousands of women and girls in Northern Ireland faced “systematic violations of rights through being compelled to either travel outside Northern Ireland to procure a legal abortion or to carry their pregnancy to term”.

Related: MPs from all sides call for abortion law in N Ireland to be relaxed

Here’s one of those stories, from Rebecca Solnit, columnist and author of Men Explain Things to Me, on the quiet revolution that paved the way for #MeToo and Time’s Up:

Something had shifted. What’s often overlooked is that it had shifted beforehand so that this could happen. Something invisible had made it possible for these highly visible upheavals and transformations. People often position revolution and incrementalism as opposites, but if a revolution is something that changes things suddenly, incrementalism often lays the groundwork that makes it possible.

Something happens suddenly, and that’s mistaken for something happening out of the blue. But out of the blue usually means out of the things that most people were not paying attention to, out of the slow work done by somebody or many somebodies out of the limelight for months or years or decades.

Related: Feminists have slowly shifted power. There’s no going back | Rebecca Solnit

Today’s Guardian newspaper front page is positively bristling with women and their stories:

UK Labour will fine employers who do not close their gender pay gaps, the party will pledge today.

Under a Labour government, the party said all private and public employers who have 250 workers or more would not only have to audit their pay, but prove they are taking action to close the gap or face a fine from the government.

The government has already introduced a legal requirement for all major employers to publish their data on gender pay and bonuses by April 2018. Labour said it would go further and impose sanctions on businesses that had significant gaps in the pay of male and female staff.

.International Women’s Day Dawn Butler MP, Shadow Equalities Minister 07-03-2018 Photograph by Martin Godwin
Dawn Butler.
Photograph: Martin Godwin for the Guardian

Shadow equalities minister Dawn Butler said the party believed companies needed to be sanctioned if they didn’t act on the data:

Auditing is not enough, we need action. Some of the companies are using loopholes to get out of giving the full picture, and then there’s no real enforcement if you are found to have a huge gap.

We don’t just want people to identify the pay gap, we want the pay gap to close.

Related: Labour would punish firms for not closing gender pay gaps

Spanish women stage nationwide strike

Spain wakes to International Women’s Day and a nationwide “feminist strike” that will see the mayors of Madrid and Barcelona, Manuela Carmena and Ada Colau, join women across the country in abandoning work – paid and unpaid – for the day.

The 8 March Commission, which is coordinating the action, says in its manifesto:

Today we call for a society free of sexist oppression, exploitation and violence. We call for rebellion and a struggle against the alliance of the patriarchy and capitalism that wants us to be obedient, submissive and quiet.

We do not accept worse working conditions, nor being paid less than men for the same work. That is why we are calling a work strike.

Related: Spanish women give up work for a day in first ‘feminist strike’


This morning, the all-female New Zealand Manawaora choir sang, in Te Reo Māori, a song called Nei Ra Te Karanga – I Can’t Keep Quiet – at the International Women’s Day breakfast at Wellington’s parliament house.

Nei Ra Te Karanga – I Can’t Keep Quiet

How has the world’s most popular search engine marked International Women’s Day?

Google has dedicated its trademark doodle to showcasing the female experience today, tasking 12 female artists with creating a visual narrative of a “moment, person, or event that has impacted their lives as women”.

The result is 12 unique visual stories that reflect the diverse backgrounds of the artists, but all deal with fairly universal themes, including self-acceptance, ageing, the struggle for inclusion and love.

You can read more about it here.

As well as the doodle, Google released a rather punchy video titled Searching for Gender Equality with an accompanying data dashboard, which allows users to explore how people have been searching for topics relating to gender equality over the past year.

According to Google, sexual harassment has become a top issue, being searched 99% more in the last 12 months compared with to the year before.

You can explore the dashboard here.

Indian prime minister Narendra Modi has been tweeting a lot today about IWD and the women he says have inspired him.

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International Women’s Day 2018: protests across the world as women push for progress – live


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