Standing in Solidarity with the International Women’s Strike

By Bethan Cansfield (Head of Oxfam's Enough Campaign) and Rowan Harvey (Gender Advisor, Oxfam Campaigns)

Recently, we’ve had the privilege to work with and learn from women around the world coming together to organize one of the largest women’s strikes in history. As Oxfam campaigners we stand in solidarity with the International Women’s Strike to be held on International Women’s Day, March 8th 2017.

Who will be striking?

Strike action is planned in over 40 countries, led by grassroots women’s movements. Strikers will take a range of actions depending on where they are, from walking out of work (from one hour to 24 hours), to not taking part in unpaid care work, to wearing a certain color, not withdrawing money from the bank, not shopping and sharing the messages of the strike on social media. Some countries are also organizing protests and events.

Why are women striking?

Violence against women alone is a global crisis: more than a billion women worldwide will experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime – that’s one in three women. This figure doesn’t even include coercive control, including psychological and economic control.  Women and girls experiencing multiple discriminations including because of race, disability, gender identity and sexuality and poverty, are impacted most.

Women continue to be marginalized in the economy, overrepresented in the lowest-paid most insecure jobs. At the current rate of progress, it will take 170 years for women and men to be employed at the same rates, paid the same for equal work, and have the same levels of seniority. At the same time, women continue to do considerably more unpaid work than men, such as caring for children, the sick and the elderly. Issues such as tax dodging by wealthy individuals and corporations mean governments have less money to spend on the essential public services that poor women need.

Rising fundamentalisms have seen increased attacks on sexual and reproductive health and rights, particularly in women’s access to safe and legal abortion. Women, particularly indigenous women, are seeing their land rights eroded. And in times of conflict, women and girls suffer disproportionately.

Women are striking to say enough is enough – if our rights are not respected, protected and fulfilled then we will stop contributing to economies that exploit us, stop carry the burden of unpaid care work and instead stand in solidarity demanding our rights our recognized.

Why is Oxfam supporting the strike?

We are supporting the strike:

  • In solidarity with women around the world, both those striking and those who are unable to strike, either due to job insecurity, fear of violence and intimidation, because they are burdening the unpaid care work of caring for children, the sick or elderly, or due to other causes.
  • In solidarity with the women’s rights organizations and movements leading the strike. They are vital partners in our work and key actors in a global movement for change, empowering women and men to create a future that is secure, just, and free from poverty. In supporting their efforts we seek to respect their leadership and to amplify their voice and impact.
  • Because we recognize that without the concerted effort by governments that the strike leaders are calling for, it will be impossible to realize our mission to create lasting solutions to the injustice of poverty. Poverty is gendered and governments, corporations and institutions have been too slow to recognize this and too slow to take action.

Collective action in the face of injustice is a central principle in Oxfam’s campaigning and programing, whether in our work to end women’s economic inequality, end violence against women and girls, end the exploitation of women’s labor or to support those facing and fleeing conflict and insecurity.

Do women’s strikes have impact?

The organizers of this strike are building on similar successful strikes by women in different parts of the world, including:

  • In Iceland, women in 1975, which was credited with paving the way for the election of the country’s first female president, who was also the first woman in the world to be democratically elected as a head of state.
  • In Poland, women in October 2016 that halted plans for criminalizing abortion and miscarriage on 3 October 2016. 

  • In Argentina, women in October 2016 in reaction to femicide and brutal repression of police of the Women’s National Meeting. The protests that followed led to the establishment of the International Women’s Strike platform.

Ways to support the strike

You can also help raise awareness of violence against women and girls by sharing this video:

This entry posted by Bethan Cansfield @BethanCansfield (Head of Oxfam's Enough Campaign) and Rowan Harvey (Gender Advisor, Oxfam Campaigns), on 2 March 2017.

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