PARIS: Countries around the world mobilised on Thursday for International Women’s Day with Spaniards on an unprecedented strike, France threatening to “name and shame” firms that pay women less and Iraqi women running a shortened ‘marathon’.
The #MeToo and #Timesup campaigns that went global with allegations of sexual misconduct in Hollywood galvanised this year’s celebrations amid surging demand from women for respect and equality.
Hundreds of trains were cancelled in Spain over the work stoppage and countless protests in defence of women’s rights held across the country.
Ten unions demanded gender equality as the 24-hour strike sought to emulate Iceland’s 1975 work stoppage, when women took a day off to demonstrate their vital contribution to the economy and society.
Female television and radio presenters went off air, and Spain’s state TVE channel ran repeat programmes to compensate. Police said 200,000 people rallied for womens’ rights in Barcelona.
Spain’s two main unions, however, refused to join the 24-hour strike and called on their members to stop work for just two hours.
Some 5.3 million people took part, they said.
In Paris, President Emmanuel Macron pledged to “name and shame” companies that pay women less than men for the same work.
French daily Liberation found a novel way to get a man’s attention by hiking the paper’s cost by 25 percent for all males. French women earn on average 25.7 percent less than men, according to a 2017 watchdog report.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel put out a video saying women should not rest on their laurels.
“The fight for equal rights continues,” she said. Much remained to be done “so that women have the same rights as well as the same duties as men… we will get there.”
In Iraq’s second city Mosul, 300 women ran a symbolic marathon of 900 metres down the main street.
“With this marathon we want to give women their place back after being kept at a distance for a long time,” said organiser Fatima Khalaf.
Some of the women carried placards saying “I have the right to speak freely”.
Islamic State group fighters were bombed out of the city in July after a brutal occupation.
Thousands of women thronged central Istanbul chanted slogans including: “We are not silent, we are not scared, we are not obeying” and “Women are strong together”.
Female activists have long accused the Islamic-rooted government under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of not doing enough to stop violence against women.
In Cairo, the Egyptian museum put on display three artefacts to highlight the role of women in antiquity. They include a red stone head of Nefertiti, the queen who held a key political and religious role alongside her husband the Pharaoh Akhenaten 3,300 years ago.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle celebrated the day by encouraging young female students to pursue careers in subjects such as science and maths.
Meanwhile BBC staff gathered outside its London hub to demand equal pay.
Journalists including Carrie Gracie, who resigned as its China editor earlier this year over pay inequalities, stood holding sheets of paper displaying equal signs as they chanted “equal pay for equal work”.
In Pristina, three red billboards like those in the Oscar-winning movie “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” were placed outside the Kosovo police headquarters.
“How many more missed calls?” read the first, followed by the names of two women — Diana Kastrati and Zejnepe Bytyqi— who were killed by their husbands.
Kosovo’s Haveit Group created the banners to criticise the police system, which failed to respond in time to save the victims.
The New York Times meanwhile published obituaries of ‘overlooked’ women including novelist Charlotte Bronte who died in 1855, poet Sylvia Plath who died in 1963 and photographer Diane Arbus who died in 1971.
The newspaper said that in looking back at its archives it found that the “vast majority” of obituaries over the years “chronicled the lives of men, mostly white ones.”
In a timely announcement, the EU police agency Europol named Belgium’s Catherine De Bolle as its first female head.
Bolle hailed her gender’s advances in the workplace but said many women still chose family over careers.
“When I started six or seven years ago in my position as commissioner general, I thought the glass ceiling is broken now. But it wasn’t true,” she said.
With #internationalwomensday2018, trending worldwide, a new report called “An End to Manels”, or all-male panels, found female speakers are outnumbered by men by three to one at Europe’s top international meetings.
The survey of world leaders and businesspeople addressing top conferences over the last five years shows a “huge gender gap” with 74 percent of speakers male, the Open Society Foundations group said.
Gloomier still, the UN labour agency warned that gradual progress toward parity between the sexes in the workplace was expected to soon grind to a halt and could even reverse.
“On average around the world, women remain much less likely to participate in the labour market than men,” the International Labour Organization (ILO) said.
Today, 48.5 percent of women and girls over the age of 15 are part of the global workforce — 26.5 percentage points below the rate of male participation, the report found.
Thus, for every 10 men in a job globally, only six women are employed, it said.
At the Geneva Motor Show “booth babes” have almost disappeared this year in a notable change as manufacturers try to clean up their image.
The recent trend seems to have gained significant steam in a world reeling from revelations of sexual abuse, harassment and discrimination across all industries.
Meanwhile, Iran’s top legal authority reportedly wants to prosecute the organisers of a party in Tehran City Hall to mark Iranian Women’s Day on Tuesday.
Islamic law in Iran prohibits public dancing.